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Crisply, startup devoted to making timesheets less vexing, moves HQ to Cambridge

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 13, 2014 09:00 AM

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"Most people don't know where their time goes at work." — Ross Kudwitt, CEO, Crisply

An eternal truth, right? Darkness falls and you're not exactly sure what became of your day. Friday arrives, you're required to fill out a timesheet, and you start clicking back through the calendar, trying to remember what Tuesday was all about.

Kudwitt's Connecticut startup, Crisply, has spent four years hacking away at the problem of making timesheets not just more accurate, but easier to fill out. "Time sheets," he says, "are just hard to do. Bosses are always nagging. You don't get good data. People just naturally forget what happened earlier in the week."

To grow the company, and to raise additional funding, Kudwitt just moved Crisply's headquarters from New Haven to Cambridge, and he hired Adam Ferrari, formerly CTO and chief software architect at Endeca, as Crisply's head of engineering. Kudwitt says the New Haven office will endure, but he and chief scientist Adam Marcus, formerly a math professor at Yale, are now based in Cambridge. (From left in the photo: Ferrari, Marcus, and Kudwitt outside their office in the Cambridge Innovation Center.)

Crisply starts by asking you to define the various projects you're working on, or the clients you support. It then monitors your activity and documents uploaded with services like Dropbox, Salesforce, Google Apps, and Microsoft Exchange, and based on what it sees Crisply comes up with a draft of your timesheet. It can track activity on desktop computers and also Android-based mobile devices. When it makes mistakes — assuming, for instance, that a slide presentation was for the wrong client — you train it. You can also designate certain e-mail correspondence or calendar items as personal, and it won't track those. There's a free version of Crisply for independent contractors and freelancers, but pricing for teams starts at $10 per month, per user.

"What we discovered with most of the existing timesheet software is that the most popular button people use is 'Make this week's timesheet the same as last week's,'" says Ferrari. "That gives you really low-resolution data." Crisply's mission is to gather not just better data from people who already track their time, but enable organizations to figure out how even more people spend their time at work. "Every company has accounts or customers where you put all of your energy and don't get enough revenue from them," he says. "This lets you see that more clearly."

When I asked about devious things management might like to do with Crisply — like figure out who spends more time managing their fantasy football team or shopping flash sales than doing work — Kudwitt had an answer ready. "Managers already know who the slackers are. We don't want to be Big Brother. This is about understanding where people's effort is going." Also, Crisply's desktop software can be turned on and off by users. "This needs to feel helpful, as opposed to invasive," Ferrari says.

The company has so far been funded by Kudwitt, but it has been selling its product since March 2013, with "hundreds of companies using it" already, he says. Kudwitt says the company envisions its product growing into a kind of "Fitbit for business," radically simplifying the process of gathering data about what happens during the day.

Boston, Kudwitt says, "has a great tradition of developing business-to-business software, and leadership in big data." Priority #1 for the company, he says, is hiring more engineers. He also says Crisply is in the process of raising a first round of venture capital.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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