By Alpa Agarwal

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 SocialFest, an event led by the Emerging Business Team of Microsoft in Silicon Valley, will feature seven startups who are building social-oriented applications on Microsoft Sharepoint 2010.

Calinda Software’s MindUP is a software-as-a-service solution that helps workgroups collaborate more efficiently, within the email environment, that most of us are used to. A user would set up a MindUP group, including identifying its members, and start by sending an email message to the group. The MindUP software splits the email into topics (issues or items being discussed in the email), and sends the email to the group. Team members can respond via email to the specific topic that is relevant to them. At any time, team members can get a global visual map of the status of the various topics. This enables the team to stay on top of action items, all within the comfort of their familiar email environment. All email attachments are centralized and stored in the specific MindUp group, so team members can easily access them. MindUp also generates status reports, thereby helping users manage projects and deliverables more efficiently.

MindUP for Microsoft Sharepoint is a plugin that installs on any SharePoint Server (MOSS or WSS), and connects SharePoint sites to MindUP groups. The result is that all attachments are automatically stored on Microsoft Sharepoint. Users are able to utilize the features of Microsoft Sharepoint to manage their workflows. In this way, users are able to stick with applications they are familiar with such as email and Microsoft Sharepoint, while being able to benefit from the efficiencies enabled by Calinda’s MindUp.

Calinda was founded in 2007 in Marseille, France. In this interview with Alex Mermod, co-founder & CEO, Alex openly shares growing pains and learnings.

As luck would have it, or as luck comes to those who persevere, Calinda started out with a signed customer contract. How many startups begin with this advantage? However, as luck would take a turn, the customer cancelled the contract. This too happens to many startups. Today however the perseverance has paid off. Calinda has 15 organizational customers. The integration of MindUP with Microsoft Sharepoint gave a boost to Calinda’s sales. In the words of Mermod, “Market traction started with the integration with Sharepoint, when IT managers saw the solution holistically.”

How did Calinda acquire their first three customers? They went after early adopters within companies, cold calling and utilizing their network of contacts. And, what tips do they have for other startups?

• Don’t try to look like a large corporation. Be who you are.

• Target early adopters within companies. Many employees are partial to entrepreneurs and will champion your application within their companies.

• Contact customers sooner to get their feedback. Calinda had to discard 60% of their code over time.

• Acquire sales skills. Calinda invested in sales training and marketing consultation for the development of their value proposition and pitch. Being engineers, the sales training taught them how to sell their product.

• Get paying customers as it makes it easier to get funding.