Edmonton-based startup Edistorm continues to grow

edistorm One of the things we need to do more of in Edmonton (especially in the tech sector) is celebrate our successes (storytelling). Reg and I talk all the time, but not always about our respective projects. Recently though, I had the opportunity to ask Reg about Edistorm, his web-based, collaborative brainstorming solution. He first previewed it to the local community at DemoCampEdmonton4 back in October 2008, and has been steadily improving it ever since, demoing again at Launch Party in March. Reg said the feedback he received and introductions that he made at Launch Party were particularly useful. I asked him how the service has been doing since then.

Edistorm has been getting a lot of traction lately, largely from customers outside of Edmonton. In the last 30 days alone, Edistorm has had visitors from 103 countries and has signed up over 1000 new users. There are registered users from over 60 countries now (one of the great things about Edistorm is that it doesn’t contain a lot of text that needs to be translated…the short intro video on the website is enough for people in any language to get the idea and start using it).

For those of you new to the service:

Edistorm takes the metaphor of sticky notes on a boardroom wall and brings it online allowing anyone, anywhere to brainstorm with only a web browser.

After you login and create a storm, you’re presented with a nice blank canvas. You can add ideas (on sticky notes, natch) both manually and from “idea bots” that brainstorm with you, then you can organize and vote on them. If you invite others to join your storm, they can add ideas to the canvas and vote in real-time as well.

I asked Reg what was new with Edistorm. Turns out there’s a number of things the team has added recently:

  • You can now get daily email summaries to see which ideas have been added or commented on in your storms.
  • One of the coolest new features is templates, which help your organize your ideas on the storm canvas. When creating a storm, you can choose from SWOT analysis, pros vs. cons, domain names, and more. The team is open to ideas for more templates too!
  • Sharing storms is even easier – you can simply provide a key now, instead of having to invite via email.
  • A new iPhone app will be available in the app store within the next two weeks!

Brainstorming is something everyone does, and Edistorm makes it easy to brainstorm online with others. Reg sounds pretty excited about the growth he’s achieved so far (with very little marketing) and about where the service is headed feature-wise. Best of all, it sounds like some bigger organizations are starting to take notice. I think it’s great that another local startup is doing well, and I know Edistorm will continue to grow!

If you haven’t tried Edistorm yet, you can sign up for a free account here. Be sure to follow @edistorm on Twitter too!

Mind Mapping with MindMeister

mindmeister If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s brainstorming. Sometimes I would rather come up with a bunch of new ideas than actually work on existing one! Since I do most of my brainstorming on the computer, it makes sense that I’d seek out software that makes it easier. I use OneNote a lot, and lately, I’ve started using MindMeister too.

MindMeister is an online mind mapping application that I’ll talk about in a moment. First, what’s mind mapping? From Wikipedia:

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.

It’s basically a way of visualizing ideas and concepts in a non-linear way. A list can only take you so far. Once you get used to the idea of creating a mind map, it can become very addictive!

One of the most popular mind mapping software packages is MindManager from MindJet. I played with a trial version a while ago, and I really liked it. I especially liked that it worked with ink on my tablet – that’s very neat! Unfortunately, it isn’t cheap ($99 for “Lite” and $349 for “Pro”). As much as I might enjoy it, brainstorming isn’t my primary gig, so that’s a bit pricey.

So I started looking for alternatives, and came across MindMeister. From their about page:

MindMeister brings the concept of mind mapping to the web, using its facilities for real-time collaboration to allow truly global brainstorming sessions.

Users can create, manage and share mind maps online and access them anytime, from anywhere. In brainstorming mode, fellow MindMeisters from around the world (or just in different rooms) can simultaneously work on the same mind map – and see each other’s changes as they happen.

Right away I liked the look of it (sorta Web 2.0 I guess) and decided to give it a try. I was surprised to find that mind mapping can work so well on the web! MindMeister doesn’t contain all of the whizbang features that MindManager does, but I think it includes just enough to make it really usable. Some of my favorite things about MindMeister:

  • It works in Opera! This despite a warning telling me I may notice weird things because I am not using IE or Firefox. Exceeding expectations is a good way to get me using your product.
  • All I need is a browser. The one major negative about MindManager is that you need to install it on every computer you want to use it on. I have three computers that I use regularly, so having my mind maps on the web is really handy.
  • You can export to other formats. Notably MindManager’s MMAP (with a premium account) and PDF.

Currently I’m using the free account, which gives you up to 6 mind maps and most of the other features. A premium account is just $49.90 per year, and adds unlimited mind maps, SSL encryption, exporting to MMAP, and the ability to work on maps offline.

I’m going to continue using MindMeister for a while, but I might give their competition a try too. Currently they look like the online app to beat. There’s a good list of mind mapping software at Wikipedia.

Have you used MindMeister or any other mind mapping software? Any suggestions?