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.

Huddle, a London, UK-based software-as-a-service startup, was founded in 2006 as an online collaboration platform for businesses. A simple and elegant solution, Huddle allows users to collaborate with others both within and outside their companies. A network of secure online workspaces, users can share files, collaborate on ideas, manage projects and organize virtual meetings. Huddle is available on the desktop, online, via mobile devices and social networking sites such as LinkedIn, and via Microsoft Office applications.

With the Huddle Office Plug-In, users can access their Huddle files directly from within Microsoft Office. This allows users to save their local files directly to Huddle with one click, view and edit them, add new versions, request approvals, and send notifications, all from the Microsoft Office environment.

Huddle’s founders took a business approach to their idea from the very start. While working in their jobs in product management, marketing and operations, they found it hard to collaborate with partners. I second this. I’m a Huddle user and love the flexibility it gives me in establishing workspaces with partners I work with. I can set up multiple workspaces, one for each of my projects. Each workspace can permit collaboration with a different set of people.

Huddle’s founders started off building the user experience for their web-based application, contacting potential customers and writing marketing collateral, all before engineering had begun. They partnered with a software development company who provided them with engineers for an equity stake. As Andy McLoughlin and fellow co-founder Alastair Mitchell stated, “We thought big from the very start. Our vision was to be a global business and so we worked closely with customers and partners early on to build a horizontal platform that could be used in all industries and by companies of all sizes.”

Huddle’s business-approach is visible in their success. Hewlett-Packard will include the Huddle collaboration application on commercial PCs and laptops sold around the world. Huddle also debuted within HP Connect Solutions, a new desktop collection of HP and partner software aiming to help small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in their day-to-day activities. Huddle is one of only two third-party applications available on Connect Solutions, alongside Symantec’s Norton Online Backup.

Huddle was named in the Visionary Players quadrant in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace. Gartner positioned Huddle in the Visionaries quadrant because of the speed at which its product evolved through partnerships and its innovative viral adoption model.

Huddle was also named the Internet Product of the Year in the UK IT Industry Awards.

I asked Andy for tips for other startups.

• Talk with everyone in your network of contacts and ask them for referrals – great for finding customers, partners and staff.

• Give away your solution to your first few customers; their feedback is invaluable and will help you improve your product.

• Be realistic & up-front when talking with customers; don’t over-promise and under-deliver!

• Focus on customer service. In Andy’s words, “It doesn’t take a lot to make customers feel special… We make it a point to try and solve all customer problems quickly.”

• Target investors who are involved and interested in your space; raising capital takes time and you don’t want to spread yourself too thin.