Grouply has launched!

I’m happy to report that Grouply, an extremely high-potential startup on whose Advisory Board I sit, has just launched. Grouply allows you to access all your online groups like Yahoo Groups in one place with a much better user experience.

Like Meebo, Fuser, and Orgoo, Grouply enables you to access complementary services from one place. And like Ning and Facebook, Grouply helps you build an interactive, social community. What makes Grouply unique, however, is that it works with and improves your existing online groups. Grouply effectively converts your old-style mailing lists into modern social networks.

By the nature of Nitron Circle of Experts‘ business model, we are heavy users of online groups— alumni associations, teams, professional organizations, neighborhood associations, discussion boards, mailing lists, Yahoo Groups, Google Groups, etc. But for each of our team members, keeping up with all the events, announcements, classified ads, job postings, and questions and answers piling up in our inboxes is not feasible. As a result, we (like the vast majority of Internet users) do not take full advantage of our online groups.

With Grouply, you can keep up with your existing online groups in 80% less time (according to the company’s research). You receive a “Smart Digest” email each day that summarizes what’s going on across all your groups, highlighting what’s interesting to you and hiding what’s not. You can view a single cross-group event calendar, see what’s popular among fellow group members, and quickly search or browse across all your existing groups from one place. Grouply works with Yahoo Groups currently and support for more systems is on the way.

There are several reasons why I’m so excited about Grouply:

+ Grouply is addressing a very large market of unsatisfied users. There are more than 300 million users of online group systems such as Yahoo Groups, Google Groups, and Classmates.com. Eighty-four percent of American Internet users have used the Internet to contact or get information from a group–more than have used the Internet to read news, search for health information, or to buy something. Grouply is starting with Yahoo Groups because they’re the market leader, with 108 million users in 8.7 million groups.

+ If Grouply succeeds, it will be well-positioned to generate substantial online ad revenue. By analogy, perhaps the most powerful touch point that Microsoft has on the typical office worker’s day is Outlook, since so many of us spend so much of our day in Outlook. Think of the highly-customized advertising that Grouply can sell on its platform. Grouply has the ability to target ads based not just on the content of the pages you view but also on your individual interests, including the groups you belong to, the types of messages you search for and interact with, and the geographic location of you and your groups.

+ Grouply has the potential to be extremely viral. Traditional social networks grow one “friend” at a time. But Grouply leverages the millions of existing online groups and communities. In just a few seconds, a user registers and begins to access and participate in all of her existing online groups through Grouply. She soon finds that her Grouply experience improves dramatically as more of her group members use it, and this network effect compels her to invite even more of them to try Grouply. Grouply both motivates and enables her to invite all of the members of all of her existing groups to try Grouply at once.

+ No migration required. While Ning, Facebook, and others offer compelling group platforms, they all face the same major challenge that many of the most interesting and active groups are already running on systems like Yahoo Groups. No group leader wants to deal with the hassle of trying to move all their members and years worth of messages archives from one system to another. Fortunately, Grouply handles all this automatically. Group members individually register with and begin accessing their groups through Grouply, and all message archives are brought over when the first group member signs up. Transforming your existing, old-style online group or mailing list into a modern social network is a painless automatic process, not a maintenance nightmare.

About a year ago, Mark Robins, co-founder and CEO of Grouply, asked me to join their Advisory Board. I’ve been honored to be a very, very small part of this.  Rich Reimer, another co-founder, and Mark are both business school classmates.