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Introducing Trello Business Class (trello.com)
188 points by lispython 1422 days ago | hide | past | web | 69 comments | favorite

I developed a similar product over the last few years (http://www.thetaboard.com) and have been waiting to see how the FogCreek guys were going to monetize Trello. I had resigned to leaving my product as free in the face of such a free, strong market leader. Now that Trello has established a price/feature point, I'm tempted to to crank out some features and see if I can't monetize it.

Trello have been pretty transparent that they would eventually offer some sort of premium package in the future but they kept adding so many free features that it was getting harder to imagine what kind of features they could actually charge for. The features they are charging here are nice but they aren't real game changers and I thought they had already offered some of them (data export, Google integration).

All that being said, I think Trello is a great product and I'm sure they'll pay for more than a few nights at the pub with this new revenue stream!

Regardless of Trello's pricing plan, I think you should and have the opportunity to charge.

1) even though everyone on HN seems to, not everyone in the world knows about Trello.

2) Trello isn't your only competitor. The most popular online project management tool in the traditional, offline world is probably Basecamp. They charge (and make a killing).

3) many people who do know about Trello don't want to use it for one reason or another. Before today the biggest reason I saw was their lack of a monetization strategy, but there are still likely a good number of folks on HN who want something similar but aren't satisfied with Trello.

One potential route for you to take, that I've noticed any time Trello comes up here, is to offer customers installation of ThetaBoard on their own servers.

Perhaps make it more specific? Trello for ___ ?

This is the route I'm taking at ClinchPad (http://www.clinchpad.com) which is basically Trello for Sales. It was originally inspired by Trello. :)

looks neat. is it doing well?

Yes, I'm pretty happy with the progress so far! :)

Trying out ThetaBoard right now. It's funny, it's sort of like Trello with everything I want to change about the Trello design – no pop-ups (edit in place), black/grey color scheme, cleaner typography – but then it ends up feeling more complex and busy.

I think click anywhere to open/close a card would be a huge help. Having two or more cards is confusing and destroys the 'overview' feeling that makes kanban great.

We could use more kanban products anyway – keep it up and monetize!

Thanks. Yeah, I really really wanted to avoid popups and modals etc, but it introduces new problems.

Double clicking on the background will close all of the cards.

ThetaBoard looks great, well done!

The model that seems to be working for social collaboration software and what Trello has announced, is the majority of user features are free while admin/control features fall into the paid version. Yammer's business model is not too different with admin/control features at the core of the paid version.

Organizations are willing to pay for control while users are less willing to pay for features.

If you can get widespread adoption by free users there's increased pressure on Management to signup for the control features. Someone else coined this as "Enterprise sales by the backdoor".

We're looking at a simliar model with http://www.taskmessenger.com

* edit for spelling

Cool. I hadn't really considered going this route--was always trying to use a combination of: # of collaborators, # of projects, # users per organization, etc and none of them really felt right. Will give the increased admin features some thought.

Task Messenger looks slick.

Looks really great. I'd optimize for some specific niche. What did you use for client-side? Love the drag and drop.

Thanks! I wanted to avoid optimizing. When I started working on it (before Trello came out) I wanted something really general purpose with no forced workflow, etc. I could customize it but that's not what I really wanted to build so I've resisted.

It uses backbone.js models/views, Jquery UI, and some Twitter Bootstrap JS.

I'm trying to remember why I didn't like Trello, and IIRC I didn't like how it looked/worked after you had 10+ cards per column. Perhaps optimize for people that have many cards? I don't know if having many cards happen in the Scrum process though...

Mmm, Trello. It's the ONLY software Kanban implementation I've used that's worth a crap. All the rest either feel like broken toys, or suffer from feeping creaturitis, or both.

Note to other Kanban software developers... features suck. "Features" are the antithesis of Kanban.

That said, though, even Trello isn't as good as a board with Post-It notes attached. Its only real advantage is that Trello is portable.

A big part of Kanban is Work-In-Progress (WIP) limits on columns - something that most tools leave out.

It is a pain in the butt when a column is at the WIP limit - but that is kind of the point. It forces you to help move blockages before overloading a column.

Blossom.io does this and is similar in functionality to trello. I was using it for a few weeks on their early adopter $9/mo plan but got tired of having to reload the app a dozen times a day when they pushed new versions.

Thanks a lot for the mention (Blossom co-founder here). We care a lot about keeping things simple while encouraging a great Kanban experience (including WIP limits, cycle time, …). I think of Blossom as the minimum viable Kanban experience with emphasis on the philosophy, not the 'features'.

Too many people building project management tools don't realize that features often just support anti-patterns and having more of them doesn't help.

I believe people building software tools should internalize that a huge part of providing a good solution is helping people get better at their craft & day to day on top of providing the software itself :)

Have you ever used http://www.kanbanpad.com ?

Nothing wrong with features themselves, it's just the human propensity to develop new workflows around those features. Keeping the features away won't keep the new workflows away... I've seen an Excel spreadsheet used for "extra tracking" of Trello cards.

tl;dr - Jira

If they included some kind of offline support, I would pay $200 in a heartbeat.

I often have work that I do offline, and I disconnect the internet so as to avoid having to use willpower to stay away from the internet.

I'm sure they're aware it would be useful, but concluded the number of users it would apply to doesn't justify the effort. But, in case they're considering offline support, wanted to add my anecdote.

I don't necessarily need to access all my boards and cards while offline, I'd like like to be able to add cards or modify cards I had open without losing those changes.

Trello works in offline mode. Just create cards or edit existing ones and it gets uploaded when you have an Internet connection. Tried it today and it just works.

Oh, is this a recent change? The last time I tried, it had a message along the lines of 'connection down, changes you make now may not be saved'

And then some of the changes were not saved, I tested.

Trello does not support offline operation. It may work sometimes but offline sync is not a feature of any of the official clients.

Correction: on review this is not the case as none of the changes I made were actually permanently saved to the cards. Sorry about the incorrect information.

I agree. I actually use trello more like a onenote replacement than anything else. An offline app would be really nice in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, there are still some places I go with my laptop that doesn't have wifi available.

Plus a standalone app would be nice too, having it as a separate application outside of my browser window, but I digress.

Starting chrome with --app=https://trello.com works as a standalone app.

I confess to being one of the non-programmer types that nonetheless gets a lot of value out of hacker news...

...how do you do this, or what does it mean? I'd google it myself, but I didn't catch the reference and can't.

You start Chrome from the command line with that parameter. So, if `path_to_chrome` starts chrome from the command line, you would use something like `path_to_chrome --app=https://trello.com`. Without knowing your operating system, I can't be much more exact than that. I hope that points you in the right direction!

Search for "make shortcut with arguments" plus your OS and you should find something.

That is perfect! thank you!

Now do you send subsystem $200 ;)

I googled how to do it and found the fluid browser for Mac. It's great, it lets you create standalone apps.

I'm curious why they priced the ceiling at just $200/year for organizations, no matter how large.

Are they targeting smaller businesses?

Can be put on someone's corporate card w/o budget approval. Dramatically cuts down red tape, so dramatically increases the number of corps that will readily sign up.

Not to mention different teams within a corporation will probably have their own accounts due to communication issues.

They could still offer another tier or two above that, including an unpriced enterprise tier. They've effectively put a $200/yr cap on earnings from a given client.


We have much more flexibility at lower limits.

First, Kanban tends to be a small-group thing, even within large businesses. I'm sure someone in IBM is going to pay $200/year for a site license, but I doubt IBM is going to make a strong, centralized license control. Heck, it's not worth the TIME for a team to have the three meetings and twenty emails required, not for $200.

And really, why should they have a complex pricing model? It's not like Trello is expensive to develop/support/operate. If they can get 10k organizations to buy a $200 license, they make a cool $2M for a not-complex piece of software with a not-complex business model. That's a very high profit margin, and still cheap enough to repel price-based competition (even free).

"If they can get 10k organizations to buy a $200 license"

Some organizations are not only willing to pay more but they will perceive a higher value with paying more.

At the very least why not offer some extended handholding or support for people how have the budget to pay for that?

This idea that everything needs to be free or cheap is not correct. Some people will pay more to be treated differently.

There is an epidemic going around these days where people believe that if you charge for something, you're evil.

People are happy to pay for things that make their lives easier. Many are willing to pay a lot.

Love using Trello at work, and this makes it even better.

My one gripe (that many people have) is the lack of built-in metrics/analytics on progress. You can hack it together with a combination of the Trello Scrum extension and their API, but it would be great to have it built-in (and something I would pay for).

There is a full-featured API... it shouldn't be too hard to code up some open-source (or even paid) apps that pull stats out of Trello...

Totally agree. It wouldn't be too hard for someone to build a lightweight frontend to their API with a d3/raphael charting capability.

I would happily build this, but I'm not currently a heavy Trello user. Are you envisioning a browser plug-in or a separate site? What sort of stats would you want to see?

http://trellograph.com/ comes to mind

I was hoping this would be an announcement about self-hosting, but alas... That's still the barrier-to-entry for the company I work for; can't use any "cloud" products. JIRA is just so painfully bloated.

Knowing what I do about Fog Creek (which includes no specific information on this particular question) I would very much doubt they would ever do that. The support costs for self hosting are just too high to justify the expense. Often these costs come in more than a support tech's time, as certain problems require code base changes to fix.

Do you have some sort of governmental regulation that keeps you from using hosted products?

Even secrecy-minded orgs like the CIA are moving apps to these platforms. Typically a regulation won't say "no cloud", but e.g. FISMA would require an online infrastructure to pass certain third-party assessments.

Does your org use Salesforce? (not being obtuse, just trying to figure out if your organization really doesn't use any cloud products, or if there are certain exceptions).

It's fairly common in large organizations, even progressive internet-focused ones, to have a rule of "no sensitive/confidential data on third-party systems that haven't been through a security audit."

Unfortunately, some less-progressive companies leave off the last bit and just ban everything.

This is a great move by Fog Creek! $20/month is so cheap that I can consider getting Trello Business Class without much thinking.

As opposed to Asana, where I try to stay within the limits of the free offering, because their cheapest paid offering is still expensive at $100/month ( http://asana.com/product#pricing ).

We (Asana) just introduced a cheaper tier today: http://asana.com/pricing for $50

Wait, did you just reduce the max number of free members from 30 to 15, and start charging $50/month for 15-30 members. Something that was free till now. That's definitely not the right way to respond to the Trello announcement.

We've been working on www.kanbanpad.com for a while (before Trello). If you're looking for an alternative check us out. We are free.

Perfect timing. I was looking to make a recommendation to move away from a current method of maintaining a Google Docs spreadsheet as a project tracker (not good). I really wanted to suggest something simple like Trello (which I use a ton internally at my own business).

My congratulations to the Trello team. They are doing a great job there.

I am surprised they decided to monetize Trello that way rather than selling Power-ups (add module like time tracking to your boards), they would be able to reach a broader market.

Because I run a product that takes some inspiration from the Trello UI (http://weekplan.net), I find it interesting to follow how they monetize Trello. I went with the freemium model with a paid plan (like Evernote) because I want to enjoy the free marketing I get from my free users and it is working ok for me at the moment. I am itching to go the "X weeks trial then have to pay" route as an experiment though as everyone is doing that these days.

That's what they are doing. This is the first power-up.

Is there currently a way to get bulk data out of Trello using the API?

If you append .json to the URL of a Board you can download it as json. Not really an answer to your question but...

I did not know that, and it definitely helps! Thank you.

Hoping that they publish some registration numbers after the Business plan has been around for a little bit, interested to see how many people will opt to pay.

Now, the really interesting question will be how much time do they spend adding free versus business features in the coming months? Does free start to get no new features? What makes a feature a business feature over a free feature?

EDIT - Removed my surprise about no backlash since I am geting negative points for it.

They have always been open about it, why would there be any backlash? http://help.trello.com/customer/portal/articles/887713-how-m... They have stuck to their promises.

Joel wrote a blog post* today about the introduction of Business Class. He says:

"In the future we'll continue to add free features to Trello (there is a lot of exciting stuff in the hopper)—anything that is a common feature, useful to anyone, will be free. We’ll also continue to develop new Business Class features that help large organizations manage Trello, and we may come up with other things to sell to people who are getting a lot of value out of Trello. "

* http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2013/04/30.html

I read the post and it doesn't mention the split. It's great that they have more features to dev and I am sure FogCreek will do right by its customers. The point I am interested in though is how they will now balance their time between the feature sets.

Why would there be a backlash? It's not like they're taking features away and making them pay-only.

Yes, they are not taking features away or making things pay only but the bigger question is now on how they split their time going forward.

They have effectively created two classes of users which they will support differently. Business is going to get features that the free plan will not. Deciding how they will split their time between the two users bases will be one of their biggest concerns going forward.

Joel spells it out in his announcement[1].

In the future we'll continue to add free features to Trello (there is a lot of exciting stuff in the hopper)—anything that is a common feature, useful to anyone, will be free. We’ll also continue to develop new Business Class features that help large organizations manage Trello, and we may come up with other things to sell to people who are getting a lot of value out of Trello. In the meantime, we sure appreciate the cookies!

[1] http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2013/04/30.html

The current version of Trello is pretty feature complete as far as I'm concerned. More stuff just creates reason to mess around with Trello instead of doing actual work.

I agree. I feel like they could leave free alone and it would be great for practically any use case.

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