Podio, a Danish started formerly known as Hoist (see our story here), launched and announced a new CEO. Tommy Ahlers invested in the young startup at the same time as he took the helm as their new CEO. Ahlers is one of the most successful Danish entrepreneurs. He founded ZYB in 2005 and sold it for €31 million to Vodafone in 2008.

Podio is all about working smarter. Think Basecamp, but without the complexity. Huddle and Jive are close too, but according to Ahlers, the closest competitor will be the soon-reborn Yammer that is about to launch. Also a Finnish Flowdock comes close, but they were never able to emerge from the early Beta to full fledged product (see our story here). In a word Podio is a souped-up social platform with messaging, calendar, tasks and contact management with a proprietary Appstore for all the other tools for a smooth workflow.

For everyday work I currently use increasingly Goole Docs, Skype chat (several different channels), Dropbox and bits of 37Signals offering (the company behind Basecamp). Even though I love each of them compared to what I had before, my tool box in large is broken to the bone. If Podio can combine even two or three of the tools I depend every day into a one that works I’d be ever grateful. After a few days of usage the service seems a little slow and rough around the edges, but I believe they have the right idea and the right level of simplicity. I can’t wait for them to get really going.

Last time I had as good feeling about an invitation-only beta from the Nordics was with Spotify when it was really really early days for it. A good sign is that I can’t wait for the team to make it better so I can incorporate the service into my daily routines even stronger. That, and I hope they eat Yammer 2.0 alive if it gets into their way.

Not only is the product very promising after a little polish, but there’s also a strong team behind it. Both Ahlers and the Podio Chairman Thomas Madsen-Mygdal are experienced entrepreneurs and most importantly have the balls to go head on with the fat cats. Ahlers told me that they don’t see Podio as another productivity tool, but rather an opportunity to change the way people work: “People work too much with documents, too much email. Work needs to more fun, more social and above all smarter”. Amen!

All this means is that they are really up against services like Google Docs, Microsoft Share Point and other half baked habits we call tools.

Unlike 37Signals gang who insist on hating business models build on free or freemium, Podio aims for viral growth and has priced itself accordingly. They are free for small under 10 people companies and charge subscription fees from bigger companies. This is especially smart if they want to grow beyond a small shop and challenge the giants in the space. One needs volume, lots of it.

They also have an Appstore, but unlike Apple’s their apps are simple and easy to build. Just today I build two apps that I needed. You can have apps from CRM tools to Events to Milestones. Ahlers told me that there’s already up to 2000 apps created (although I only found a handful of them from the Appstore). The workflow apps they don’t have at the moment, you can literally create in two minutes for yourself.

Another interesting aspect of the company is the way they are hiring talent. The company was born and is still based in Copenhagen, but it has already attracted one German, two Brits, one Frenchman and one Dutchman to relocate and work for the company. This goes to show that if you have a interesting enough problem and company build around that, you can start building a real company even in the Nordics. Again, Spotify is the other company that comes to mind when trying to find a startup that people are ready to relocate for. When asked about the future, Ahlers admitted that naturally they need commercial offices close to the markets they want to enter, but at the moment they are not in a hurry to relocate any of their core operations anywhere.

I could go on about the product, but instead I’ll let you to bombard their email boxes by asking an invite. It’s worth it!

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