Crocodoc Raises Cash, Upgrades Web-based Document Review Service

Today, many documents are not only born digital, they’re also born social. Companies like Adobe, Microsoft, and Google provide online tools where documents of many different types can be collaboratively generated and edited. The problem is that online editing is still a fragmented affair: If you want to mark up an Adobe PDF document with a group of officemates, for example, you have to use Adobe’s Acrobat. If you want to mark up a Microsoft Word document, you have to use Microsoft’s Web-based viewer. Et cetera.

Crocodoc, a small San Francisco- and Boston-based company that emerged this spring from the Y Combinator startup school in Mountain View, CA, is working on solving that problem. The first version of Crocodoc’s online service, introduced in February, allowed users to collaborate on a few types of documents such as PowerPoint files and PDFs. Today, the four-man startup debuted a new version of its free service that can handle more types of documents, including PDFs, Word documents, JPEG and PNG images, PowerPoints, and Photoshop files. Crocodoc “2.0” also features an overhauled user interface with an improved set of reviewing and commenting tools. The virtual sticky notes that formerly plastered collaboratively edited documents, for example, have been replaced by a comment stream in the margin where revisions can be shared in real time.

The overall goal, says founder Ryan Damico, is to help users circumvent the proprietary walls between document types and collaborative editing experiences. “Adobe is only good for Adobe documents, and Microsoft is only good for Microsoft,” Damico says. “We want to be the universal tool that people use for any kind of markup and review and collaboration for documents of any type, and eventually on any platform or any device.”

Crocodoc screenshotCrocodoc, whose team consists entirely of recent MIT graduates, was originally formed in Boston in 2008 around a previous product called WebNotes. As part of the company’s evolution, it also announced today that it has closed its first major round of post-Y-Combinator angel investor funding. Damico isn’t saying how much money is involved, but he’s definitely crowing about the investors, who include prominent Silicon Valley names like Paul Buchheit (lead developer of Gmail and founder of FriendFeed, acquired last year by Facebook), Steve Chen (co-founder and former chief technology officer at YouTube), Dave McClure (former director of marketing at PayPal, now with Founders Fund), Joshua Schachter (creator of Delicious, acquired by Yahoo in 2005), and XG Ventures (a group of four ex-Googlers including Pietro Dova, David Lee, Greg Lee, and Andrea Zurek).

These are all folks Crocodoc met through Y Combinator, Damico says. “We’re really psyched,” he says. “This group has been a huge help to us already.”

Crocodoc’s small team—two of whom are setting up shop in San Francisco, and two of whom are still based in Boston—had lots of experience with the idea of annotating online documents. WebNotes was all about letting users attach personal notes to live Web pages. But true collaborative editing is … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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