With the rise of cloud-based services and mobile devices, mobile workforces have become increasingly popular, as people realize they don’t have to be chained to their desks in order to be productive. NYC-based startup Lua Technologies, which recently graduated from the TechStars startup accelerator program, is looking to give mobile workforces to stay connected with their new web and mobile communications tool. Aimed primarily at the media and entertainment industries, the app, which is currently available for iOS and on the web with an Android app launching within the next few weeks, is in testing with eight companies this summer with a full release slated for the fall.
Lua co-founder Eli Bronner got the idea for the company while working on the set of an upcoming Terrence Malick film with his two co-workers in 2010. That set, along with other productions they had worked on in the past, operated off of paper schedules, and they set out to build something that would connect everyone involved in the production through the technology they already had in their pockets. They built a one-way messaging system specifically for that film’s crew, which gave people the ability to blast text messages out to the cast and other crew members. Bronner said that by the end of the production everyone from the makeup artists to the actors were using it, which gave the trio the idea to turn it into a full-fledged product. “We wanted to build a communications product that very simply connected everyone through the technology in their pockets, which was their phones,” Bronner said about that initial product, and since then the vision has expanded beyond entertainment. “The thesis and goal of Lua is and was to build software for people that are away from their desks.”
Since then the team has built the product into a more robust communication platform, which can be used for mobile workforces in any industry. Features include two-way messaging, contact management, and a file-sharing center. Everyone on set gets a vCard, which adds all the contact details for a production into the app, separate from a user’s personal contact list. Users can broadcast messages, conference call everyone on set with no dial-in or password required, or upload the latest versions of call sheets and other documents. The company is also building permission settings into the app, so the director or manager would have access to more robust features.
Bronner said that though it works for any industry, the company is very focused on media and entertainment, because it’s a big market, and it’s what the founders know and are passionate about. But Bronner said that after their initial push they’ll focus on other industries, with the hospitality industry being a likely next target. Right now the pricing is a standard $20 per seat per month, meaning that it could get expensive for movie productions or other organizations with hundreds of mobile workers. Bronner said they will be looking at adding bulk discounts in the next few months to help offset the cost for larger organizations.
There are big players in the online collaboration space looking to get mobile workforces online, and there are also startups like SetKick that are looking to reinvent mobile communication specifically on movie and television sets. SetKick offers a $99 per month plan, with volume licensing for larger productions. But while SetKick focuses exclusively on the entertainment industry, Bronner wants to expand to any company with a mobile workforce. “In the way of competitors we think about Cisco and Salesforce trying to do what we’re trying to do, which is communication networks not bound by space or time or device,” Bronner said.
Bronner said the focus for the next few months will be on building out the team, and finalizing the product before opening up the self-serve platform to the public. With the team’s background in the entertainment industry, they should be able to get film and TV productions in the pilot program easily. Whether they can find audiences in different industries, and convince them that their solution is better than any of the mobile workforce solutions already out there, will remain to be seen after this fall’s public launch.