Remote work has been thrust upon us, but are business leaders ready for it?
More than half of U.S. companies now plan on making working from home a permanent option. However, most of us still don’t know what an optimal business machine with remote operations looks like simply because reaching that point requires years of trying, testing and adapting.
One major thing we haven’t all realized yet is that, without the visibility of face-to-face contact, data is essential in tracking employee progress and well-being, as well as the company’s overall health.
And not just any data — granular (ideally automatic) data is needed to give us accurate insights and stop us from making burdensome mistakes, especially in tech companies where even more of the work effort is purely digital. Take productivity. If we were to focus on people’s work hours alone, we’d likely get the wrong picture. Half of software developers have been working more during quarantine. But what does this tell us about the toll this workload is taking on their mental health? Or the quality of their work, and how much extra time is going toward bringing their tasks up to scratch? Nothing at all.
Putting data at the core of project management is not about Big Brother; far from it. Data isn’t inherently good or bad; it just gives you the tools to implement intelligent strategies and reduce errors. If anything, it will minimize the number of times you have to interfere with employees to ask for updates and micromanage.
Embracing data to create your new remote-ready project management strategy will enhance you and your team’s work lives in the following ways.
Reduce wrong decisions
Managers don’t have accurate visibility into remote employees’ productivity. Radio “silence” from team members can be misinterpreted to mean they’re not working enough, especially independent workers like software engineers. You might think you wouldn’t notice if they spent half their work hours on a coffee break, and your mind can run away with you. (The opposite — for those who talk too much — is also true).
However, a digital lifestyle produces digital indicators. Data-driven project management tools such as Wrike can tell you about employee output, but also about iterations and quality indicators on the same task. Such as how many times a pull request went back to a developer, why (due to error or for minor improvements?), or how many other employees stepped in to help before the final product was achieved.
Remote work is anything but a new concept. Professionals in all kinds of niches have been doing it for a substantial period of time. However, with the ongoing state of the Coronavirus health emergency, the majority of organizations are required to let their entire workforce support business remotely. This is something the world hasn’t experienced before.
According to one recent finding, 88% of organizations have encouraged or required their employees to work from home amid the COVID-19 crisis. Moreover, 71% of executives are concerned about the continuity of business and productivity of employees during the pandemic.
Once your employees are on their own, it is only natural for them to struggle a bit, while still trying to adjust to the new normal. Unfavourable work conditions and increased pressure of completing the task at hand can often leave a lasting impact on their productivity levels in the long term.
But then again, organizations can aid them in a number of ways and keep this from happening. Read on to know what you can do to boost employee productivity within your organization when teams are working remotely.
1. Leverage Technological Solutions
With so much time being spent on the administrative side, especially since your teams are working remotely amidst the Coronavirus crisis, there’s an evident need for the inclusion of automation tools. These tools will help your employees get rid of some of the repetitive, unproductive tasks so that they can concentrate on the more important ones.
Not only can tools provide you with a brief overview of all the tasks in progress within your team at a single glance, other important features such as client contacts and reminders are also automatically organized and embedded within them so that your team always knows what’s going on and what they should be doing next. Every member on your team has complete access to everything that is happening on the work front, even when working remotely, this further leads to better coordination and increased productivity. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is an excellent example of such a tool.
Another technology that can help your organization in more ways than one is transcription. This is especially true if your company deals with huge troves of data on a regular basis. Transcription software can help you convert audio into text files and vice versa, which helps you better manage data. For instance, you can easily convert your client calls to written text and drive pointers from it to better comprehend client requirements.
Some other technological solutions that can help businesses boost employee productivity are time tracking tools, work schedulers, mobile applications, and communication tools.
2. Promote Flexibility
Known as the ability to work at any given time, and from anywhere, remote work was a complete global movement by itself even before the coronavirus pandemic forced professionals around the globe to work from their homes.
If one takes a brief look at remote-work policies, they usually cover factors such as working eligibility, expectations, legal considerations, and technology issues. However, during this highly uncommon situation, flexibility is paramount for any organization that wishes to emerge out of it with minimum losses.
At present, we’re experiencing one of the greatest changes in the history of remote work. Under these circumstances, the policies shouldn’t be thought of as managing productivity, but more a set of norms as well as guidelines for managing people and working in a brand-new way.
The best way to do just that is by taking a look at your current remote work policy and changing what doesn’t do justice to this scenario. If you still aren’t sure if those changes will work, try leaning toward a flexible work environment and trusting your employees as opposed to constantly monitoring and measuring results. If flexibility isn’t promoted, it will get difficult for them to manage everything at once and they might end up feeling burnt out.
Over the years, various experts have agreed that the assessment of a remote worker’s performance should be done on the basis of their work output and completion rates rather than on time-based factors. Therefore, companies should let their remote employees work during the hours they feel most productive so long as goals are achieved and deadlines are met.
An appropriate level of communication between managers and their teams should be spelled out, including expectations of responsiveness, availability, and what modes of communication work the best for both participants.
This gets us to our next important productivity hack.
3. Communicate Often
With the pandemic showing absolutely no signs of settling down anytime soon, fine-tuning your organization to this new scenario will require supplemental care to ensure business operations are carried out in an error-free manner and communication is not traded off.
For companies that solely depended on in-person interactions in the past to collaborate on projects and get their job done, comprehending how to keep your team engaged and continue working together constructively when you’re apart is going to be the biggest challenge right now.
Communication is truly the framework on which the foundation of a good remote work culture rests. It helps you remain on the same page as your employees. Also, with the added pressure of the unique situation, we find ourselves in right now, communication will help keep teams productive and cohesive constantly.
While adapting to the unanticipated work from home setting may feel tiring at first, there are several communication-related strategies you can implement into your work culture to make the shift as seamless as possible:
- Be proactive in communicating with your team,
- Schedule daily huddles,
- Set expectations from the start,
- Ask for communication preferences,
- Avoid the temptation to micromanage,
- Adopt new communication tools,
- Watch your tone,
- Prioritize more video or touch-based calls,
- Give more lead time on tasks,
- Keep the office culture alive, even remotely.
4. Conduct Team-Building Activities & Encourage Teamwork
You need to strengthen your remotely working sales team by investing in exciting and fun-filled activities to encourage camaraderie and friendly competition. You can easily do this in a number of ways, one being using a newsletter to ask weekly questions and assign quizzes.
Also, team-wide adventures, for example, an online storytelling workshop for remote teams, are sure-fire ways to strengthen all aspects of your sales team. Through these methods, your team will get to learn new techniques and tips for telling engaging stories that appeal to your target audience.
Leaderboards are one of the most efficient ways to keep your team members aligned with your goal at all times and keep them motivated. They encourage healthy competition and improve engagement.
Managers must at all times remember that their true strength lies within their team’s overall performance and to achieve maximum productivity out of each of your team members, you constantly need to innovate and create strategies that will keep them motivated and from killing time.
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Scotland-based video interview startup Willo has scored a £250,000 (~$ 320k) seed round of funding after watching demand for its asynchronous Q&A style video platform leap up during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Guernsey-based VC firm 1818 Venture Capital is investing in the seed round, with Willo board members Steve Perry, Stefan Ciecierski and Peter Preston also kicking in a smaller chunk of the capital.
Willo says usage of its SaaS platform has grown at least 80% each month since April, after the UK went into a nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Customers have also been finding new uses for the product beyond video interviews — such as for reviews, training, and learning and development — as remote working has been supercharged by the pandemic.
“We have over 1,000 users in 60+ countries — growing 2x faster this month than previous months!” says CEO and founder, Euan Cameron. “Core industries are recruitment, customer research, learning and development and non-profits for volunteers etc.”
The seed funding will be put towards accelerating Willo’s international growth — with a recruitment drive that will add 24 members of staff planned, in addition to spending on further product development.
Cameron confirms it’s working on adding real-time video to the platform, when we ask — so it’s gunning to go after a slice of Zoom (et al)’s lunch.
“Our core product offering is simple, affordable async video communication. However, we are currently in development of a realtime (Live) interviewing option so that organisations can seamlessly flip from an asynchronous video into a realtime one,” he says.
Currently Willo offers an interface that let employers pose questions for candidates/staff to respond to by recording a video response. The platform stores all videos in a dashboard for easy reviewing and sharing.
For the recruitment use-case it also offers a question bank — letting employers choose from “hundreds” of pre-written questions to shave a little friction off the recruitment process.
Expanding on some of the additional uses customers have been finding for the platform during the pandemic, Cameron tells TechCrunch: “We have an education charity in the UK (worktree) who use Willo to ask people in successful careers around the world about their job and their career path. Worktree then provides these videos to kids in schools to help them make career choices.
“A business in Europe uses Willo to identify niche influencers who have potential and bring them on board a training and development program.”
Another example he gives is a university in India that’s using it to find and enrol software engineers for a degree course. Businesses are also using it to obtain customer testimonials and for customer research. And of course Willo’s own VC investor is a user — having adopted the platform for all new business pitches.
“Every new business must go through Willo as part of what they have branded their ‘Ten Minute Pitch’. They connect Willo to Calendy to automate this workflow which is cool,” he notes, adding: “What is most interesting is that all of these examples previously used to rely on face-to-face meetings or video calls, but they had to adapt.”
Willo is also putting a tentative toe into the waters of artificial intelligence for the hiring use-case, although he says its roadmap has shifted to focus more on chasing growth as a result of the pandemic lockdown effect.
Its website trails an “AI-powered” beta feature that’s doing keyword analysis with the aim of identifying personality and behavioral traits, based on how candidates speak.
Asked about this, Cameron says: “Currently, our AI which is in beta is purely focused on the transcription of the audio, we are working hard on not only transcribing accurately but also creating keyword trends. For example, if you are an analytical person we can identify that and call it out to the organisation by looking at common words and themes within your interview.”
“This is very much in its infancy as COVID-19 has pushed us to focus on delivering what we already do at scale and for the many additional use cases [mentioned previously],” he adds.
Applying algorithms to automate elements of the hiring process is something a growing number of startups have been dabbling in in recent years. Although there can be legal risks around bias/discrimination when applying such tools — given the varied and often complex patchworks of applicable laws in different jurisdictions. (In the UK, for example, equality, employment and data protection law may all need to be considered.)
Asked how Willo is avoiding the risk of AI-powered keyword analysis leading to unfair/unequal effects for interview candidates, Cameron says: “Regarding UK equality law we have been working with organisations on a 1-to-1 basis around training and development of their own staff to ensure that they are using Willo as a tool for good. We believe that the same bias and discrimination would occur in a face-to-face or live video interview so it is a case of eradicating that from the individuals through training. We partner with an HR consultancy to help deliver this training when requested.”
“We are working with an incredibly experienced data and compliance expert to ensure we introduce AI effectively, legally and to the benefit of both interviewer and interviewee,” he adds.
“Our core values are always to be transparent and ensure that we are adding value for all users. One of the challenges with AI at Willo is to ensure that we continue to enhance the human interactions at scale — the number one piece of feedback we receive from users is that they loved seeing and hearing from people — so we never want to automate that out of the product.”
On the competitive front, Cameron lists Sparkhire, Vidcruiter and Recright as “key” competitors though he notes that Willo, which offers a freemium tier, is positioning itself to be accessible for a wider range of users.
“They all focus primarily on recruitment and are prohibitively expensive for most SMEs and start-ups. I believe that video interviewing should benefit everyone, not just large multinationals,” he adds.
Today Lokalise, the Latvian localization software startup, has announced closing an approx. €5 million Series A funding round, one of the largest ever first-time investments for a Latvian-founded startup. Previously bootstrapped, the team decided to raise external capital to hire top SaaS talent globally in order to accelerate its growth, as the company goes fully-remote….
Medtech startup uMotif has an app that allows patients to monitor themselves for treatments or drug trials, which then feeds into a platform, allowing a much faster approach to clinical studies. It has now raised £5 million in a Series A investment round led by existing U.K. investor AlbionVC, with participation from Oslo-based DNV-GL and existing angel investors. This latest round takes it to a total funding size of £7.5 million.
The platform is sold into life sciences companies which are gradually replacing centralized studies where patients have to go to a site, such as a hospital, to submit their data. The trend has obviously been catalyzed by COVID-19. The platform is now used by studies taking place in 26 countries, from clinical to real-world settings, and across more than 25 therapeutic areas — from dermatology and rare disease to oncology and cardiology. The largest study involved more than 13,000 participants tracking their pain levels and the weather. This was featured on the BBC and published in Nature.
Its competitors are almost entirely U.S.-based and include organizations such as SnapIOT, Medable and Clinical Ink, as well as other large platform companies.
“We’re excited to help our customers implement patient-centered research designs by using the uMotif platform to capture high-quality data,” said Bruce Hellman, CEO and co-founder of uMotif, in a statement. “This new funding will rapidly accelerate our development and will ultimately help our customers to get new therapies to patients faster.”
Dr. Andrew Elder, deputy managing partner at AlbionVC says: “Now more than ever, having access to reliable patient data during clinical trials is crucial. uMotif’s platform is built with patients in mind; designed to help academics, researchers and healthcare professionals to capture the best quality data in a way that suits the participants. It’s a win-win for all stakeholders and the platform has the potential and momentum to revolutionize the speed and efficiency with which therapies can reach and help millions of patients.”
Nearly one year ago, a Cessna 172 Skyhawk stealthily made aviation history when it landed at a small airport in Northern California, marking the completion of the first successful remote-piloted flight of a passenger airplane in the United States.
The company behind this milestone in commercial aviation history is Reliable Robotics, a startup founded in 2017 by former SpaceX and Tesla engineers who previously brought autopilot to the electric vehicle auto driving masses and made the Dragon rocket soar.
The company has raised $ 33.5 million in venture funding from investors including Lightspeed Venture Partners, Eclipse Ventures, Pathbreaker Ventures and Teamworthy Ventures, and is now making its pitch to potential customers in the logistics and shipping industry.
Robert Rose, the co-founder of Reliable Robotics, comes from a family of flyers. Both of this grandfathers flew in World War Two, and he has done stints as a pilot himself. In fact, the company’s origins stem from Rose’s attempts to get back in the cockpit and behind the yoke.
“Flying’s hard,” Rose said. “It requires a lot of cognitive ability.”
But a lot of that cognitive ability are tasks that Rose, with his experience designing Tesla’s autopilot system and the flight systems for both the Falcon and Dragon spacecraft, knew could be automated. Helping Rose to automate these tasks is Juerg Frefel, the company co-founder, vice president of engineering and the former leader of the team behind the computing platform for the Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecrafts.
Reliable’s systems aren’t fully automated, there’s still a pilot behind the scenes, but that pilot is monitoring systems and controlling the plane remotely, rather than sitting in the cockpit.
Reliable started its experiments with retrofitting existing planes with autonomous systems in much the same way that Tesla began its journey into manufacturing, by using existing frames for aircraft rather than designing its own.
“We spent the first portion of our flight test program focused on the C172. We thoroughly tested every aspect of our system in simulation and conducted rigorous safety checks before operating the aircraft without a pilot on board and are now proud to share what we’ve been working on,” said Rose, in a statement.
The company started with the Cessna 172 Skyhawk but graduated to the larger Cessna 208 Caravan. The Caravan, which is designed as a passenger plane, is also used by logistics companies like FedEx for shipping. In June, the company demonstrated a fully remote landing for the Caravan over the San Jose approach path — a particularly heavily trafficked route.
“There’s never been a privately funded program that’s ever done anything like that before,” said Rose.
Enabling remote piloting and automating certain aspects of flight has tremendous potential to drive down costs and improve efficiencies in an industry that’s struggling with multiple stresses.
“Automated aircraft are going to fundamentally shift the entire airline business, and Reliable Robotics is well positioned to be a key player in this new market,” said David Neeleman, a founder of several commercial airlines, including JetBlue (and an investor in Reliable Robotics).
The company’s autonomous platform can be applied to any fixed-wing aircraft, but Reliable’s co-founder and chief executive doesn’t expect to be selling components. Instead, Reliable Robotics will retrofit and operate aircraft as a service for its customers, Rose said.
“Initially, by necessity, we’re going to have to operate this as a service,” said Rose. “The certification of systems for air. If you want to operate in the airspace you have to certify your maintenance plan, your procedures… the entire business needs to be certified by the FAA… If for the first time someone operates an aircraft with no pilot on board that entire business is going to have to be certified. At least for the first several years we see this being operated as a service.”
Reliable conducted its first retrofit and flight on a Cessna Caravan owned by FedEx, which operates around 235 planes in its fleet, according to Rose. Several other shipping companies also use the Caravan for air logistics.
“There’s a communication component, a ground network, a control center for operating the thing. It’s entirely a vertically integrated enterprise,” Rose said. “Integrated hardware that allows us to control flight systems and get telemetry and data [and that’s] integrated into a custom computer that can process this and fly the aircraft and integrated into a ground network so a pilot in our control center can oversee the operations of the plane.”
Rose said the pitch to customers is increasing pilot utilization. “How could the economics change if [pilots] could teleport from one aircraft to the next after they’re done flying?” Rose said. “Our system enables you to more efficiently utilize the pilot and more efficiently utilize the aircraft.”
Like other companies, since the pandemic began, my current company started working from home and I saw that the quality of our communication went down since then.
- Most of our conversations are work-related.
- No more casual small talks happening in the kitchen, hall-way or lobby.
Sure, we have a "#random" slack channel, but the use case is normally like this: Someone shares a news (breaking news), after a while a few others comment about the content and that's it. The conversation flow is not natural, doesn't trigger more conversations. People think more before writing something down.
The consequences? People feel isolated and disconnected at work, weak team bonding, lack of team culture (esp for new hires).
I'm trying to create some solution for this problem, but first I would like to hear your feedback, understand how people are handling this.
- What do you guys do to bring water-cooler talks into your remote work setup?
- How did the setup go in the last few months? Working? Not working? why?
- What if you can see your teammates around while working on browser (say, you're on Confluence and your teammates are also opening Confluence), and being able to "wave" at them and start real-time conversation, how does it feel to you? What do you think about "the context" here? Is it something that can trigger conversations to you?
The emergence, and now seemingly extended presence, of the novel coronavirus health pandemic has made remote working into a pretty standard part of office life for so-called knowledge workers. Today, a startup that has built a labor marketplace to help companies source and develop teams of remote developers is announcing some funding as to looks to double down on the opportunity and new demand resulting from that.
Turing, which helps source, vet and ultimately connect developers with tech companies that need them for either short- or long-term engagements, is today announcing that it has picked up $ 14 million in seed funding.
The gap in the market that Turing is addressing is two-fold: companies need to hire more developers but are facing tight competition (and high rates) for finding qualified people in their immediate vicinity; and on the other side, there are talented developers living in many more places than just the world’s biggest tech centers who may not want to or cannot (especially right now) relocate to live elsewhere and are unable to connect with the right opportunities.
“Talent is universal, but opportunities are not,” CEO and co-founder Jonathan Siddharth said in an interview. He and his co-founder Vijay Krishnan (CTO) are both from India and relocated to the Valley for school (both have post-graduate degrees at Stanford) and eventually work, but know all too well that there are plenty more talented people who don’t. “We love that we can take Silicon Valley outside of the area and to have all of them participate in it while still helping local communities grow.”
The funding is notable for a couple of reasons. One is the calibre of the investors. It’s being led by Foundation Capital, with individuals participating including Adam D’Angelo (the first CTO at Facebook and also the co-founder of Quora); Cyan Banister of Banister Capital; Ashu Gard of Foundation; and Beerud Sheth, the founder of another labor marketplace, Upwork (formerly known as Elance). Other backers include executives from Google, Facebook and Amazon that are preferring not to be named right now.
Two is that it’s coming on the back of some significant growth for the company. Since coming out in general availability a year ago, Turing has gone from $ 17,000 to $ 10 million in annualised revenue, CEO Johnathan Siddharth said in an interview. The company now has some 150,000 developers spanning 140 countries on its books, who are taking on roles at a range of seniority levels at startups that include Lambda School, VillageMD, Ohi Technologies, Nexxus Events and others.
Everything is distributed
Siddharth and his co-founder and Vijay Krishnan (CTO) were most recently entrepreneurs in residence at Foundation Capital, a stopping-over point after their previous startup, content discovery app Rover, was acquired by Revcontent (a recommendation platform that competes against the likes of Taboola and Outbrain). But Siddharth said that they got the idea for the startup before then, when they were still building Rover.
“Our last company was essentially built on a remote team, and we ran it like that for eight years,” he said, describing the distributed workforce they had developed. “All our competitors in Palo Alto and the wider area were burning through tons of cash, and it’s only worse now. Salaries have skyrocketed.”
As with other areas like e-commerce and the shift to cloud-based architectures, the idea of building a company around a distributed workforce has also drastically accelerated since the arrival and stubborn persistence of the coronavirus pandemic, Siddharth said. “We knew where the world was headed, but in the last six months there’s been an even more dramatic shift,” he said. “If I looked at Facebook and Google working from home, I would have thought I was dreaming. I knew startups would make the shift but didn’t think larger companies would.”
Other talent recruitment platforms have identified the disparity between the global distribution of the talent pool of engineers, and the fact that the companies that want to employ them are relatively concentrated in specific geographical areas. They include the likes of Andela sourcing developers specifically in African markets; Terminal for helping build remote teams (not just individual developers); Triplebyte for building innovative ways of evaluating developers and then connecting them with jobs that fit their expertise; and more established platforms like Upwork and Fiverr.
And then there are companies like LinkedIn, which has built an impressively large “work graph” comprised of hundreds of millions of people around the world, but is still trying to figure out how best to focus that for specific verticals and job opportunities. It has launched its own learning hub, and a number of tools to improve how people identify and improve their skills to match them better with employment opportunities (critical because LinkedIn’s business model is heavily built around recruitment services). You could see how it might also potentially dabble in more structured evaluations to better match people up — or potentially try to integrate with or simply acquire companies like Turing that have already built them.
For now, Turing is building what Siddharth describes as a “talent cloud” and he believes that it’s distinct from others tackling the same market in a couple of ways.
The first is around how it vets developers and matches them with opportunities, by way of a platform that Turing has built that includes not just tests of a person’s skills but practical applications similar to those the engineer would be expected to work on in an actual gig.
“We use data science to evaluate developers at scale,” Siddharth said, noting that it’s not just about individuals but how they work in clusters and teams. He said that those that are particularly good at solving specific issues in their groups will often be deployed en masse across different businesses.
Another is around how they help companies feel secure around their infrastructure. Employees are contractors for Turing, which pays them after Turing gets paid by the vendor. But given that sometimes engagements are short and companies will be keen to protect their IP, Turing has built a “sandbox”, a secure environment on a virtual machine where its contractors work on code that cannot be removed as soon as the engagement ends. The sandbox also means Turing and the company can oversee and manage how work is progressing.
A third difference is in how Turing sees its longer-term role as a middle-man. While engineers and developers that it works with are essentially working for clients via Turing as an agency, Siddharth noted that it’s already been the case that several people have crossed over from being “temps” and contractors into taking full-time roles with the vendors, cutting Turing out of the equation altogether. (It gets a fee in that case, it seems.)
Given how big the talent pool is, this doesn’t seem to be an issue for the company, and if anything, fits Turing’s wider ambitions to help bridge that gap between talented people, wherever they live, and interesting job opportunities. “We encourage that,” Siddharth said. “It’s just more Turing evangelists. We want alums everywhere.”
You’d imagine that, as companies become even more decentralised and accustomed to the idea of even their previously in-office employees working from anywhere, the likelihood of crossing over from remote contractor to remote full-timer might become even more common.
And in any case, it’s to the benefit of the company that it continues to bring more people into its marketplace, since the engine that it has built continues to get more sophisticated as more engineers go through it.
“Turing’s Machine Learning system for developer vetting and matching helps accurately predict the probability of a collaboration succeeding, which helps Turing make high-quality match recommendations,” said Krishnan. “Recent fast growth has resulted in more performance data, which has in turn led to rapid improvements in Turing’s vetting and matching accuracy. The result has been even faster growth in both the number of developers on the platform and the number of customers.”
The current state of the market has really turned the idea of “technology hub” on its head, and it’s about time that we see more startups emerging that also push the concept of how to extend that to talent hubs, which now live in the cloud, not in a specific location.
“When the Indian outsourcing and IT revolution was in its infancy, I predicted that the market would grow 100X over the next decade. People thought I was crazy at the time and, in retrospect, my prediction seems like a gross underestimation,” said Garg at Foundation Capital. “I feel the same way about Turing. We are creating a new category around remote and distributed work. The future of work is remote, and we’re just getting started.”
Yac, the digital voice messaging service that launched last year, has raised new money from the Slack Fund as it continues to gain ground among companies looking to give their employees new communication tools for remote working.
The Florida-based startup initially spun out of a pitch at Product Hunt’s Maker Festival. Developed by the digital agency SoFriendly, Yac’s digital voice messaging service won the startup competition at the event and attracted the interest of Boost VC and its founder, the third-generation venture capitalist Adam Draper .
Yac officially launched in March and had 900 teams sign up within the first week. The company’s product now includes one-to-many messaging, Slack integration and an improved desktop app. It also managed to attract the attention of the Slack Fund.
The investment from Slack comes two years after Yac’s founder Justin Mitchell first reached out to the company, Mitchell said.
Instead of a cold call, Mitchell found himself as the object of Slack’s attention thanks to an introduction from Jim Rand, an entrepreneur whose Synervoz Communications was also working on new voice communications applications.
Rand and Mitchell had connected through LinkedIn and bonded over the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship. As they continued talking, Rand, whose company makes an API to connect audio applications to other services, asked if Mitchell wanted to talk to Slack about collaborating.
Slack reached out and Mitchell responded via the Yac app. Essentially all of the due diligence was conducted over a series of voice messages that Mitchell left responding to questions from the Slack team, Mitchell said.
The publicly traded messaging company came in with a small investment of $ 500,000.
Yac now has a bit over 5,000 users on its service and charges per seat, in the same way Slack does. Mitchell said he will use the funds to integrate more closely with Slack’s own messaging service. Some Yac features will automatically be integrated into Slack, where users can turn their call button into a Yac button to deliver audio messages instead of doing real-time phone calls.