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Unique Redliner features create a powerful, collaborative document-editing system

If you collaborate with others on contracts, agreements, leases, press releases, copy for your website or any other activity where multiple people have to touch an electronic document, you know all too well the incredible frustration that results from trying to track changes to any of it! Redliner is a new offering, still in beta, that not only eliminates that frustration but does so with enough unique aspects that you'll likely stop using Google Docs, emailed Word .docs or other means to collaborate with clients or colleagues.

Jerry Grabowski, Redliner's CEO, carved out time recently to sit down with me to talk about Redliner, its target markets and a bit about the features of the product that's delivered as software-as-a-service (SaaS). To say that folks at the Wayzata-based company have got a unique opportunity is an understatement.

All the things you'd expect in an online collaboration space are here and then some you wouldn't expect: document editing like we've all come to know; an audit trail of who has edited the document and when; and even simultaneous editing by multiple users. What I haven't seen as well executed as Redliner has done is the ability to accept or reject changes.

Probably my favorite feature is the ability to make private comments about a proposed change to someone else. I can't tell you how often I could've used this when I was managing dozens of contracts simultaneously while running strategic alliances at Lawson Software and how it would have been enormously useful to be able to coach one of my alliance managers on some salient point within the agreement before our company would propose a change.

A screenshot of a Redliner document being edited

Another key feature I saw as critical (especially for those of us managing multiple documents) is a personal dashboard. Not only can you set up workspaces for a wide variety of projects, initiatives, agreements and documents with multiple different people, the moment you log into Redliner, it explicitly details what you need to pay attention to right away and redlines what you're waiting on from others.

A Redliner personal dashboard showing collaboration workspaces one has set up, 'redlines' needing your attention, and edits still pending for others with whom you're collaborating

How big is the market for a strong player like Redliner?

Jerry Grabowski was very clear about the very real market opportunity. With 84,000 agency and 488,000 marketing communication personnel, the initial potential user base is significant yet targeted. Adding in the PR client user potential, such as client management and audit firms, adds another 336,000. With more than 840,000 attorneys and their business contacts, the total user potential grows to more than 4 million, creating a market in the billions of dollars.

One thing Grabowski mentioned during our meeting was the obvious word-of-mouth marketing that is already occurring with the beta of Redliner. When one early adopter begins to use it — and drags others into it because it's so remarkably useful — these others see its benefit and features and sign up for it themselves.

In most agreement collaborations I've been in, for example, there are typically a client and a legal team member along with one of us and our lawyer, which equals typically four or more people who'd have to log in to collaborate on the agreement (usually from different locations). Each would instantly see the benefits, and the viral spread of Redliner is pretty clear to any of us who participate in this web/internet/SaaS space.

In my view, the only missing element right now inhibiting an explosive rollout of Redliner is a security model implementation, but that will be in the commercial version at launch. Upon Redliner's commercial release, both a secure socket layer (SSL) and in-workspace document encryption will be deployed and will certainly give warm fuzzies to anyone who'd harbor concerns over whether sensitive agreements could be tampered with or cracked.

That said, when I've brought up Redliner to two lawyers I know who've said, "So you're saying Redliner is NOT yet secure?" I question them> and I'm soon able to point out that they often attach highly sensitive agreements and documents to an email and that by doing so, they're sending those critical documents around through insecure mail relay servers where the documents can either be stored or intercepted by God knows who or where.

Then comes their reaction: "Oh." It's clear that once people are educated on their current insecure practices and see how powerful, simple and secure Redliner is, they'll sign up in droves and you can, too here.

Grabowski has assembled a solid management team and board, and from everything I've seen and know in the SaaS space (and with their potential competitors like Google Docs, Zoho or Adobe BuzzWord) Redliner has very strong competitive differentiators. With intent for a premium user offering (perhaps $50/month for a license which I would've happily paid at Lawson!) and the casual user/collaborator with a free "lite" version facilitating a quick adoption.

See a quick run through of a portion of their features by viewing this video or the others here:

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