Trello is signing up 120,000 new users per week, says CEO Michael Pryor (video)

20 Nov 2015

Michael Pryor, CEO, Trello

Engaging and popular productivity and collaboration app Trello has surpassed 10m users and is now signing up 120,000 new users every week, says CEO Michael Pryor.

The New York-headquartered software company boss is a bit bemused when he thinks about how it is being used: “People use it to plan their weddings and vacations!”

His bemusement belies the reality that Trello is one of the fastest growing productivity apps on the planet, part of the ‘next productivity’ class that is empowering new generations of workers in the same way that Microsoft Office used to in past decades.

Alongside apps like Slack, Wrike, Wunderlist, Sunrise and many others, Trello gives an attractive visual clarity to the maelstrom of communication, collaboration and all other things we are meant to be aware of, and that is before we even do our jobs.

It resembles a whiteboard and, thanks to deft design, users just move the cards around the screen with the idea that everyone can see what is going on in terms of projects and plans.

Born of necessity

Like all good inventions, Trello emerged out of necessity when Pryor and co-founder Joel Spolsky were working on their original software company Fog Creek.

“About five years ago, my business partner and I were thinking about new products and problems we were facing. One of the things we had a difficulty with was what was going on in our company. A lot of people were doing work, but we were trying to get a high-level perspective on what was happening. It was hard to see that, especially with all the different tools they were using.

‘We’ve just recently passed 10m users and we are adding 120,000 a week so it is growing pretty rapidly’

“Because we were a software company, there were software engineers with whiteboards everywhere and they were moving notes around and it morphed out of that idea.

“We decided we would take that visual metaphor and put it into software and allow everyone to use it so anyone can get a perspective on what they’re team is doing.”

Released in 2011, the app’s easy and enjoyable interface caught on and most people to this day still say they heard of it through word of mouth. Wired Magazine named Trello One of the 7 Coolest Start-ups You Haven’t Heard of Yet, and within a year it had 500,000 users.

“We’ve just recently passed 10m users and we are adding 120,000 a week, so it is growing pretty rapidly.

“We are seeing a lot of growth outside the US now. Because it is a collaborative app that people love it is spreading organically by word of mouth.

“And so we started from a core group of people that know our background is mostly in tech, and now we are seeing it being used by folks in all kinds of roles like marketing, HR, sales and even people are using it in their personal lives to organise weddings and vacations, it is really cool.”

Last year, Trello raised $10.3m in funding from Index Ventures and Spark and the company has just launched in Brazil, Germany, Spain and France.

Because people are using it in all walks of business, Pryor says the next stage for Trello is to integrate it smoothly with other tools people like using, whether it is Slack, Google Docs or Salesforce.

He says that the new generation of productivity apps are resonating today because work habits have changed.

“I think the old model of Office, where you had documents passed around people to fit a particular timeframe where people had to go to their workplace and sit at a computer that held all of their documents are over.

“Now you have smartphones, tablets and other devices and that accessibility means we can start with collaboration first and build the productivity on top of that,” Pryor concluded.

“That’s where we are coming from: assume everyone is connected and how do we make them more powerful in what they are trying to accomplish.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years