A team of Chicago chefs was recently invited to cook dinner at the prestigious James Beard House in New York. Lindsey Cavanaugh spent nine hours photographing them.
She’s the social media and communications manager at Chicago’s DineAmic Group restaurant group, whose chefs prepared a meal at the culinary institution in August.
When it came time for Cavanaugh to send the photos to the chefs — executive chef David Blonsky, “Top Chef” alum Fabio Viviani of Siena Tavern and Public House’s Jeremy Tannehill — she used a new product, PointDrive, to make the photos into a slideshow and send it in a single hyperlink and without attachments. And she was able to see what the recipients were viewing in real time.
“It’s great to be able to see who is viewing and when, especially when we’re facing an important deadline and the right person needs to be looking at it,” she says.
The time it takes to attach, send and open big files can be a pet peeve in today’s tech-frenzied work world. Which is why Chicago entrepreneur Bill Burnett started PointDrive, a service that enables people who use graphics-heavy presentations to email eye-pleasing images in one sleek message.
Then, like Cavanaugh, the sender sees in real time whether the recipients open the email and how they interact with it.
Perhaps the solution’s biggest asset is getting to the recipient in the first place. Because the email has no attachments, it’s more likely to land cleanly in the recipient’s mailbox, says Burnett, PointDrive’s CEO.
The recipient gets an email telling him or her that a presentation is waiting by clicking the link. The recipient sees a thumbnail preview of the presentation content, and can zoom in to read it online or download it. The content can include maps, links, documents, images or videos.
“We are allowing the presentation to be front and center” the moment an email is opened, Burnett says. “At the same time, the receiver gets the sender’s photo and LinkedIn information so he knows more about you too.”
The targeted users are salespeople, designers, freelancers, entrepreneurs, wedding photographers and job seekers promoting themselves to potential employers.
PointDrive employs 10 at its River North headquarters at 351 W. Hubbard, and has raised “in the seven figures” from angel investors and friends and family, says Burnett, who started his first company, sales consultancy Missing Link Solutions, six years ago.
So far, 1,000 people have signed up to use PointDrive, which is free through the end of the year.
A professional version of PointDrive, available starting Jan. 1 for $10 a month or $99 a year, is “just the tip of the iceberg” of products the company intends to roll out to reduce daily technology frustrations, Burnett says.
Patrick Stakenas, research director at Gartner, says the market for what he calls “sales content management” — salespeople are among the biggest users of the tools — is growing quickly because tablets and cloud computing make it easy to get real-time information.
“Tablets are replacing laptops, and tablets are ‘always on,’ always have a Web connection, let me go to my mobile connection and look at stored documents,” he says.
Stakenas says PointDrive and its rivals must confront challenges in the evolving space. The next step could involve linking attachment-free emails to social media so everyone in an email string knows more about each other than they may need or want. Potential clients expect a salesperson making a pitch to “know all about them and their partner,” he says.
ABOVE: PointDrive co-founder and CEO Bill Burnett