Cotap, an enterprise messaging startup founded by ex-Yammer execs, launched last year with ambitions to be the "WhatsApp for the workplace" -- a free app that was as ubiquitous as the popular messaging service bought by Facebook in February for $19 billion, used not just by "road warrior" white collar workers as an extension of their desktop but all employees to keep in touch. Today, Cotap is turning on new paid, premium services as the next chapter in the growth of its business: analytics, security features and a new mobile alert system. While the basic app on iOS and Android, offering unlimited messaging, will continue to remain free, Cotap is adding two more tiers at $5 per user, per month and $10 per user, per month. These will give users the ability to add customer mobile alerts, and, at the higher tier, compliance, administration, and premier support for those users. It's the more expensive of these that will include the analytics and monitoring; user management to add and remove users; and data management. Jim Patterson, Cotap's co-founder and CEO, tells me that for now, while the ability to monitor and receive messages will be delivered downstream via the apps, to create messages or initiate any other actions, administrators or group managers will need to use Cotap's web app. The idea, he says, is to keep the app streamlined and easy to use. There may be at some point in the future a separate administrator app developed, too. The custom mobile alerts, meanwhile, is an interesting development in how Cotap is evolving. These are meant to replace SMS alerts and SMS messaging at work in general -- which turns out to be one of the key ways that employees communicate with each other, both in person-to-person situations and also for group messaging. He notes that one early adopter of the service -- a large hotel chain -- found this to be a convenient way to send secure messages with daily WiFi password updates to team members so that they can pass them on to guests. In the past these would have in the past been delivered by word of mouth or something equally cumbersome. "The first version of the messaging will be text only and later we will add rich media," he says. Going forward, Cotap's future developments on the premium front are likely to include integrations with third parties to expand storage capabilities as well as integration with other software. For example you can imagine the unnamed hotel chain integrating its reservations system so that employees can access this to note when they've seen to a guest's request. He would not comment on whether Yammer might become one of its future partners. To date, Cotap has picked up 7,000 businesses as customers, with at least two employees per business, Patterson tells me.
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