You Tell Me If This Word Processing App Is Worth $15 Million

The Valley is trapped in a bubble. And just because it hasn’t popped doesn’t make it any more removed from reality.

It has a clever four-letter name–Quip. It was co-founded by Bret Taylor, the ex-CTO of Facebook (who is also the co-creator of Google Maps and the architect of FriendFeed). And it has $15 million in series A funding from Benchmark Capital.


It’s a word-processing app.

Now you may think to yourself, Haven’t we had word processing figured out for like 30 years now? Well, we did, but into the era of touch screens, the simple, essential act of typing really has become quite difficult.

So Quip solves the typing problem? you think next, heart racing in your chest, imagining some phantom keyboard exuding from your iPad with the smell of strawberries.

No. Quip makes writing collaborative.

Like Google Docs?

Well, sort of. It also adds a chat window on the side of a document if you want–


Like Google Docs or iMessage or–

Right. But! BUT! Are you EVEN listening? It also adds little shreds of paper into the feed if you or a friend quotes something. And there are these yellow folders that organize all of your documents, just like they do in a real office filled with paper.

You’re just messing with me now.

I’m not. This is the feature list. You can also auto-tweet updates and make lists.

Should I really bring up Windows 3.0, the original Macintosh, or, heaven forbid, skeuomorphism?

Maybe not.


Well at least the tech press has called them out.

Actually, the tech press loves it.

Well, at least the founders are pretty cool about it all, realizing that the last thing you should do when building incrementally innovative enterprise software is gloat about it.

I guess this is the part of the conversation that gets a bit awkward. Taylor actually told AllThingsD–you know, the tech arm of The Wall Street Journal–that “There’s been so much effort around social and messaging (on mobile). I don’t mean this in a negative way, but those are time-wasting applications.”

Oh dear. So what’s he think is important? We shouldn’t be talking to one another?

No no, I think he feels that we SHOULD be talking to one another, but only while writing documents for $12 a month, tearing out excerpts on little digital scraps of paper–which isn’t silly and skeuomorphic as you probably assumed, but actually a post-modern commentary on the nature of communication itself in the tablet era.


Ahh! This is finally making sense. This app is deep. It should go in the MoMA.

I think so. Because the alternative–and it’s a pretty dark one, I warn you–is that the Valley is filled with so many absurdly rich people who are living in such a removed caste of society that they’ve forgotten what real problems look like. So they sink a lot of money and effort into designing task-management apps and productivity software. But I use the term “design” very loosely in this case, because design is about making solutions for real people to solve real problems, not making apps that just glue a few other apps together for an enterprise-level microcosm built on gluing apps together just to look good to investors and bigger companies who might buy out the idea.

And this whole microcosm has grown so large that investors are now handing out $15 million to a build a white box that you type in. Because as much as anyone in this whole faux-innovation chain could afford to retire tomorrow, building these white boxes as an alternative to someone else’s white boxes is actually how they get their kicks. These are the mighty challenges that drive today’s digital entrepreneurs, that wake them up at 3 a.m. in a sweat, that keep them in the office too late, that they pursue when they could do anything else in the whole entire universe.

Now that’s just crazy talk.

Oh, totally. And we should probably finish this conversation over on Quip.


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach