Remote working is no longer a new topic, as much of the world has been doing it for a year or more now due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Businesses – large and small – have had to respond in multiple ways. Many of the initial challenges focused on workflow, productivity, etc. But one aspect of the entire remote shift that doesn’t get as much attention is the cultural angle.
A 100% remote start-up that was tackling the problem long before COVID-19 existed, is now seeing a surge in demand for its offering which aims to help businesses meet the “human” challenge of remote working. He started life with the name Icebreaker to reflect the goal of “breaking the ice” with the people you work with.
“We designed the initial version of our product as a way to connect people who had never met, a kind of virtual speed dating,” says co-founder and CEO Perry Rosenstein. “But we realized people were using it for a lot more than that.”
So over time, its offering evolved to include a bigger goal of helping people come together beyond a first meeting – hence its new name: Gatheround.
“For remote businesses, a big challenge or problem that now borders on a crisis is how to build connection, trust and empathy between people who don’t share a physical space,” says co-founder and director of exploitation Lisa Conn. “There are no five-minute conversations after meetings, no shared meals, no cafeterias – this is where the connection is organically built.”
Organizations should be concerned, argues Gatheround, that as we move further away, this work will become more transactional and people will become more isolated. They can’t ignore that humans are largely social creatures, Conn said.
The startup aims to bring people together online through real-time events such as a range of chats, videos, and one-on-one and group conversations. The startup also provides templates to facilitate cultural rituals and learning and development (L&D) activities, such as show of hands and workshops on diversity, equity and inclusion.
Gatheround video chats aim to be a refreshing addition to Slack chats, which, while performing the function of communication, still don’t bring users face to face.
Since its inception, Gatheround has quietly built up an impressive customer base, including 28 Fortune 500s, 11 of the 15 largest US tech companies, 26 of the top 30 universities, and over 700 educational institutions. Specifically, these users include Asana, Coinbase, Fiverr, Westfield, and DigitalOcean. Universities, academic centers and nonprofits, including the Georgetown Institute for Policy and Public Service and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, are also clients. To date, Gatheround has had approximately 260,000 users who have held 570,000 conversations on its SaaS video platform.
All of its growth so far has been organic, mostly from referrals and word of mouth. Now, armed with $ 3.5 million seed funding that builds on a previous round of $ 500,000, Gatheround is poised to aggressively enter the market and build on the momentum that ‘he see.
Venture capital firms Homebrew and Bloomberg Beta co-led the company’s latest raise, which included the participation of angel investors such as Stripe COO Claire Hughes Johnson, Meetup co-founder Scott Heiferman, Li Jin and Lenny Rachitsky.
Co-founders Rosenstein, Conn and Alexander McCormmach describe themselves as “seasoned community builders,” having previously worked on President Obama’s campaigns as well as companies like Facebook, Change.org and Hustle.
The trio points out that Gatheround is also very different from zoom and video conferencing apps in that its platform gives people prompts and organized ways to get to know and get to know each other, as well as the flexibility to customize events.
“We’re basically a connection platform, here to help organizations connect their employees through real-time events that are not just really fun, but meaningful,” Conn said.
Homebrew Partner Hunter Walk says his business has been drawn to the match between the founder and the company’s market.
“It’s a really interesting combination of founders with all this community development experience on the political activism side, combined with very good product, design and operation skills,” he said. at TechCrunch. “It was quite unique that they weren’t from a corporate product experience or a pure social background.”
He was also drawn to the personalized nature of Gatheround’s platform, considering that it has become clear over the past year that the software that powers the future of work “needs emotional intelligence.” .
“Many companies in 2020 have strived to make remote working more productive. But what people want more than ever is a way to connect deeply and meaningfully with their colleagues, ”said Mr. Walk. “Gatheround does this better than any platform. I’ve never seen people come together in much the way they do on Gatheround, asking questions, sharing stories and learning as a group. ”
James Cham, partner at Bloomberg Beta, agrees with Walk that the founding team’s knowledge of behavioral psychology, group dynamics and community development gives them an edge.
“More than anything, however, they care about helping the world come together and feel connected, and have spent their entire careers building organizations to make this happen,” he said in a statement. written statement. “So it was obvious to support Gatheround, and I can’t wait to see the impact they have on society.”
The 14-person team will likely grow with the new capital, which will also help add more functionality and detail to the Gatheround product.
“Even before the pandemic, remote working accelerated faster than other forms of work,” Conn said. “Now it’s even more intensified.”
Gatheround isn’t the only company trying to tackle this space. Last year Ireland-based Workvivo raised $ 16 million and earlier this year Microsoft launched Viva, its new “employee experience platform”.