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Tag: remote

2021 Will be the year brands make winning experiences out of remote interactions

March 3, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • In line last year’s changes, customers’ behaviors and expectations have also evolved dramatically over the past year
  • 31 percent more likely to purchase online in 2021 than they were just a year prior
  • Cutting through the clutter and creating meaningful experiences for valued customers will be a priority for brands
  • Donna Tuths, Chief Transformation and Innovation Officer at Sutherland foresees four key trends playing out in 2021

2020 has forced brands to completely transform the way they operate in the wake of the pandemic, and it is evident that some of the changes we are experiencing will be permanent. Brand relationships that were once defined by visiting stores or face-to-face conversations with salespeople are now being reimagined as remote interactions. Mandatory physical distancing around the world, coupled with the rise of digital connectivity, has resulted in many brands transitioning from brick-and-mortar to online.

In line with this change, customers’ behaviors and expectations have also evolved dramatically over the past year. For instance, consumers were 31 percent more likely to purchase online in 2021 than they were just a year prior.

While online or remote interactions are not an entirely new concept, the challenge brands face is cutting through the clutter and creating meaningful experiences for their valued customers. Here are the four key trends I foresee playing out in 2021 to make that a reality.

Customer care will shift to a business driver

Marketers are taking notice. In the battlefield of experience, remote interactions with customers have become key. With the vast majority of them now taking place in the contact center, companies have come to recognize these interactions are gold. With the omnichannel capabilities available today, marketers have terabytes of data generated every day by their interactions with their customers that could be mined to hyper-personalized interactions, wow their customers, and make every contact count.

Investments in employee experience will have a greater impact on customer experience than ever before

Happy employees equal happy customers. The more brands invest in the employee experience, the more the customer benefits. AI-enabled tools used for recruiting can turn the power of data into creating a perfect match between their target consumers and the people they entrust to interact with them day in and day out. Furthermore, AI-enabled tools can enable those humans to provide the support that is frictionless, with less effort.  

This year will take brands much closer to getting the human-machine balance right

Rather than replacing humans, machines are elevating what humans do, giving them powers that reach beyond space and time. This delivers benefits to consumers and employees alike. While humans are busy interacting with customers, AI-enabled bots trained on sentiment data analysis and more can scour chat, email, and other channels to identify customers that need help and fast.

2021 may be the year AI-enabled marketing explodes

This would literally give the term “marketing automation” a new meaning. With huge amounts of interaction data available to many companies and advances in machine learning, brands could see next-generation, real-time, AI-enabled marketing where signals are detected and hyper-personalized messages and offers are instantly dispatched without nary a marketer or marketing operations person lifting a finger.

2021: A renewed focus on creating winning experiences

For brands to be more intentional about creating winning experiences across their multiple customer touchpoints, they need to improve on the way they leverage data, deploy aiding technologies and empower their employees to drive these interactions.

It is only by striking the right balance between the three that brands can deliver the kinds of experiences that ensure success in driving increased consumer delight and loyalty.

Donna Tuths is Chief Transformation and Innovation Officer and Chief Marketing Officer at Sutherland.

The post 2021 Will be the year brands make winning experiences out of remote interactions appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Wall Street needs to relax, as startups show remote work is here to stay

November 28, 2020 No Comments

We are hearing that a COVID-19 vaccine could be on the way sooner than later, and that means we could be returning to normal life some time in 2021. That’s the good news. The perplexing news, however, is that each time some positive news emerges about a vaccine — and believe me I’m not complaining — Wall Street punishes stocks it thinks benefits from us being stuck at home. That would be companies like Zoom and Peloton.

While I’m not here to give investment advice, I’m confident that these companies are going to be fine even after we return to the office. While we surely pine for human contact, office brainstorming, going out to lunch with colleagues and just meeting and collaborating in the same space, it doesn’t mean we will simply return to life as it was before the pandemic and spend five days a week in the office.

One thing is clear in my discussions with startups born or growing up during the pandemic: They have learned to operate, hire and sell remotely, and many say they will continue to be remote-first when the pandemic is over. Established larger public companies like Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, Shopify and others have announced they will continue to offer a remote-work option going forward. There are many other such examples.

It’s fair to say that we learned many lessons about working from home over this year, and we will carry them with us whenever we return to school and the office — and some percentage of us will continue to work from home at least some of the time, while a fair number of businesses could become remote-first.

Wall Street reactions

On November 9, news that the Pfizer vaccine was at least 90% effective threw the markets for a loop. The summer trade, in which investors moved capital from traditional, non-tech industries and pushed it into software shares, flipped; suddenly the stocks that had been riding a pandemic wave were losing ground while old-fashioned, even stodgy, companies shot higher.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Remote work helps Zoom grow 169% in one year, posting $328.2M in Q1 revenue

June 3, 2020 No Comments

Today after the bell, video-chat service Zoom reported its Q1 earnings. The company disclosed that it generated $ 328.2 million in revenue, up 169% compared to the year-ago period. The company also reported $ 0.20 per-share in adjusted profit during the three-month period.

Analysts, as averaged by Yahoo Finance, expected Zoom to report $ 202.48 million in revenue, and a per-share profit of $ 0.09. After its earnings smash, shares of Zoom were up slightly Update: Zoom shares are now up 2.3% ahead of its earnings call; investors had priced in this outsized-performance, it seems.

Zoom grew 78% in its preceding quarter on an annualized basis. The company’s growth acceleration is notable.

Investors were expecting big gains. Before its earnings, shares in the popular business-to-business service were up by more than 3x during the year; Zoom has found itself in an updraft due in part to COVID-19 driving workers and others to stay home and work remotely. Zoom’s software has also seen large purchase amongst consumers hungry for a video chatting solution that was simple and that works.

If the company could sustain its valuation gains going into this earnings report was an open question that has now been answered.

Gains

Zoom’s growth in its Q1 fiscal 2021 generated some notable profit results for the firm. The firm’s net income, an unadjusted profit metric, rose from $ 0.2 million in the year-ago quarter to $ 27.0 million in its most recent three months.

And Zoom’s cash generation was astounding. Here’s how the company described its results:

Net cash provided by operating activities was $ 259.0 million for the quarter, compared to $ 22.2 million in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020. Free cash flow was $ 251.7 million, compared to $ 15.3 million in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020.

It’s difficult to recall another company that has managed such growth in cash generation in such a short period of time, driven mostly by operations and not other financial acts. Zoom’s customer numbers were similarly sharp, with the firm reporting that it had 265,400 customers with more than 10 seats (employees) at the end of the quarter, which was up 354% from the year-ago period.

Though not all news for Zoom was good. Indeed, the company’s gross margin fell sharply in the quarter, compared to its year-ago result. In is Q1 fiscal 2020, Zoom reported a gross margin of around 80%. In its most recent quarter that number slipped to around 68%. In short, the company managed to convert many free users to paying customers, but still had to carry the costs of free usage of its product, something that has exploded in recent months.

Looking ahead, Zoom expects the current quarter to be another blockbuster period. The company noted in its release that it expects “between $ 495.0 million and $ 500.0 million” in revenue for Q2 of its fiscal 2021 (the current period). Looking ahead for the full fiscal year, Zoom anticipates revenues “between $ 1.775 billion and $ 1.800 billion,” numbers that take into account “the demand for remote work solutions for businesses” and “increased churn in the second half of the fiscal year” when some customers might no longer need Zoom if they can return to their offices.

Its shares might have priced in these results, but the numbers themselves are simply massive. Just three months ago Zoom turned in revenues of just $ 188.3 million. That’s less than it generated in free cash flow during its next three months.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Challenges of remote work during COVID-19: Talking with nomad marketer Jason Barnard

April 18, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • With the COVID-19 virus striking, the world has been subjected to “self-quarantine”, “social distancing”, and “remote work”, there’s a high chance that remote working is here to stay for a lot of people.
  • Karina Tama, founder of Senior Care Clicks caught up with Jason Barnard, the Brand SERP guy and keynote speaker to talk about the challenges of remote work during COVID19 and share some tips.
  • It takes a lot of self-discipline (and understanding co-home sharers) to stick to your daily work plan.
  • Get dressed for meetings and webinars – getting dressed up changes my state of mind and encourages me to take things seriously.
  • Take a 10-minute break every two hours.
  • Dive in for tips, tricks, and advice on video call meetings, and more.

With the COVID-19 virus striking, the world has been subjected to “self-quarantine” and “social distancing”, there are several businesses across the globe that have been compelled to support remote working. While some of them struggle and some are successfully able to adapt to the “temporary” new normal there’s a high chance that remote working is here to stay for a lot of people.

Karina Tama, founder of Senior Care Clicks caught up with Jason Barnard, the Brand SERP guy and keynote speaker to talk about the challenges of remote work during COVID19 and share some tips.

Jason Barnard1. How did you start your digital nomad journey, working remotely?

I have never had a proper job in a stable office. After leaving university, I joined a touring folk-punk band and lived a nomadic life. Then I started a website for kids in Paris but moved to Mauritius (in the Indian Ocean, just off Madagascar) to build and run it. Less nomadic, but very remote.

I worked from home, right there on the beach, with the business end of things in Paris and the servers in the USA. That taught me a lot about self-motivation, work-day structure, separating work from family life, dealing with long-distance communication and even working with people you have never met.

Since then, I have combined remote work and nomadic living – without a home, constantly travelling and working remotely.

In the current situation, I am obviously no longer changing country on a weekly basis – it’s now AirBnB on monthly contracts and staying in France.

For me, in terms of working, nothing much has changed. For many people, remote working is new, difficult and perhaps scary. Hopefully, I can provide some tips, tricks, and advice to help.

2. In your opinion what is the advantage of working remotely?

You set your own timetable and can organize yourself in a way that suits you. If nobody is standing, looking over your shoulder, then that obviously brings freedom. I find that it makes me more productive since I don’t need to fit in with someone else’s vision of how work time should be organized.

Also, you avoid interruptions from work colleagues which can easily distract your flow – “fancy a coffee”, “can you just help me with this”, “that doesn’t look right” and so on.

3. Do you think working remotely has disadvantages and what are they?

Although it saves you from work-related distractions, it is so easy to get distracted by home and family stuff. It takes a lot of self-discipline (and understanding co-home sharers) to stick to your daily work plan. It is tempting to do the washing up, or cleaning, or turn on the TV, or play with the kids. That’s not a problem as such since they make a nice break. But this can easily become hours of missed work-time that become difficult to catch up on.

4. During COVID-19 most of the people are working from home for the first time. What advice will you give to them?

Probably the biggest is to have a dedicated workspace if possible. Obviously not on the kitchen table (you’ll get interrupted and moved elsewhere on a regular basis), at least on a desk that serves only that purpose, and if possible in a room alone. One frequent problem is that when people see you in a home environment, they have a tendency to forget that you are working. If you are in another room, they forget about you until you reappear.

Get out of your pajamas, take a shower and put on clothes. Maybe even shoes. I don’t follow that particular rule – I often stay in pajamas all day and it works fine. But I do get dressed for meetings and webinars – getting dressed up changes my state of mind and encourages me to take things seriously.

Take a 10-minute break every two hours. This helps with concentration during the other hour and 50 mins and will make the work time more productive. Importantly, do something that isn’t on a screen. Even more importantly, do something that only takes 10 minutes. Starting a game of monopoly with the kids is a bad idea. Playing three rounds of pen and paper hangman or I spy is a good idea. If you get other people involved, (a good idea if you can since the social aspect is a great brain-changer) make sure it is very clear to them that this is a 10-minute activity – especially important with children. It isn’t easy, but if you say “10 minutes now, then 10 minutes in 2 hours” and you stick to it 100%. For the first few days, everyone gets into the habit and it becomes easy, fun, and much less terrain for disagreements.

If you are on your own, ideas might be a walk around the garden, looking out the window and inventing stories for people you see, or playing a musical instrument (that’s mine – a strict regime of “three tunes on the ukulele, and back to work”)

5. Can you share some of your proven strategies to work remotely and be productive?

Video meetings become tetchy affairs if anyone at the meeting has a bad connection – dropped sentences, misunderstandings, interruptions, it all builds up quickly to ruining a good meeting. So a great internet connection, if only for those is something that could make or break a deal, keep or lose you your job.

Tip one for online meetings:

Don’t be afraid to cut the video to make sure everything is heard – great audio is the single most important thing in a conversation.

Tip two for online meetings:

If everyone in the house is on the same internet connection at the same time, your bandwidth might be limited. Rather than shouting at everybody in the house to get off, which causes frustration and isn’t very family-friendly, try your mobile phone as a hotspot, or get a dedicated mobile hotspot. As a nomad, I use Ubigi because it’s reliable and works internationally. That isn’t part of the equation right now, so I bumped my mobile plan up to 100 Gigs/month and use that. Last week, I appeared on over six hours of webinars. I did them all on my laptop, using my mobile phone as a hotspot – not a single glitch, and my video and sound quality were actually better than with the house wifi as you can see here. So experiment with that. Do a try-out meeting with your parents or your friends. Or a virtual pub.

You can do a test speed – My example: 8MB on the house wifi (just about enough for video, but not great), and 40 MB/sec using my mobile phone as a hotspot (easily enough to broadcast on a webinar in HD with great sound).

When I was in Mauritius, I had a young family. Small kids need your attention and don’t understand that you can’t break off from work every time they want you to. Here is my method for dealing with that. My daughter would ask for my attention, and I would systematically ask her to wait two minutes. I could then either finish the immediate task or write down what I needed to remember in order to carry on where I left off. Then I could give her my full attention. But anything she wanted me to do that required more than five minutes had to wait for the “official” 10-minute break, lunch or after work.  I found that by being very consistent with the system and making sure I always kept my word, a mutual understanding settled in and it ceased to be a problem for either of us.

When you think “coffee” or “snack” double-ask yourself whether you even really want them… or is it boredom? Probably boredom. Allow yourself a couple of quick 2-minute stretch-and-look-out-the-window breaks in between official 10-minute breaks.

But when the time comes, force yourself to take that 10-minute break. Do something different to switch off your work-brain. Physical, if possible. Get some fresh air if you can. If not, look at the world from your window and think about what you see there for a moment. Perhaps play a musical instrument (perfect time to learn) or a game – it reboots the brain, and keeps you sane (sounds like a song I could play on the ukulele).

6. What’s your suggestion for people on balancing life while working from home?

Going to work is important. Have breakfast, announce you are going to work, and stick to it on weekdays.

Go home for lunch (it’s not far). Maybe make a joke about it – I started singing to my daughter “I’m home for lunch” and she LOVED it.

Going home is important. At the end of your working day, close the office door (or put the computer away) and disconnect from work in a similar manner to when you went to the ‘real office’. My phrase was “home again, home again, jigged jig” – that was the signal for every day that my attention became 100% family.

Separating work and home is the single most important strategy for keeping both of an even keel.

7. What do you think will happen after COVID-19 with companies that didn’t allow their employees to work from home earlier?

I am not the best person to ask since I have no experience of “the other side”. But, assuming the boss is smart, I would hope that if the work people are doing from home is as good and valuable to the company, more companies will allow people to work from home a part of the time.

And that could just be one thing to help motivate people working from home for the first time. This is perhaps an opportunity – if it goes well for you and for your boss, you may well be able to choose to switch to a mixture of office and home-work.

It has been a learning opportunity for me to talk with Jason, and I will definitely put into practice his tips. I am working from home for a while now. But I still sometimes face the fact of losing focus and get easily distracted at home. I think that now due to the pandemic, a lot of people that are new at working from home will go through the same challenge. I can only say that it is a learning opportunity and an adapting process.

Karina Tama is the founder of Senior Care Clicks and a contributor for Forbes, Thrive Global and the El Distrito Newspaper. She can be found on Twitter @KarinaTama2.

The post Challenges of remote work during COVID-19: Talking with nomad marketer Jason Barnard appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Replace non-stop Zoom with remote office avatars app Pragli

April 14, 2020 No Comments

Could avatars that show what co-workers are up to save work-from-home teams from constant distraction and loneliness? That’s the idea behind Pragli, the Bitmoji for the enterprise. It’s a virtual office app that makes you actually feel like you’re in the same building.

Pragli uses avatars to signal whether co-workers are at their desk, away, in a meeting, in the zone while listening to Spotify, taking a break at a digital virtual water coooler or done for the day. From there, you’ll know whether to do a quick ad hoc audio call, cooperate via screenshare, schedule a deeper video meeting or a send a chat message they can respond to later. Essentially, it translates the real-word presence cues we use to coordinate collaboration into an online workplace for distributed teams.

“What Slack did for email, we want to do for video conferencing,” Pragli co-founder Doug Safreno tells me. “Traditional video conferencing is exclusive by design, whereas Pragli is inclusive. Just like in an office, you can see who is talking to who.” That means less time wasted planning meetings, interrupting colleagues who are in flow or waiting for critical responses. Pragli offers the focus that makes remote work productive with the togetherness that keeps everyone sane and in sync.

The idea is to solve the top three problems that Pragli’s extensive interviews and a Buffer/AngelList study discovered workers hate:

  1. Communication friction
  2. Loneliness
  3. Lack of boundaries

You never have to worry about whether you’re intruding on someone’s meeting, or if it’d be quicker to hash something out on a call instead of vague text. Avatars give remote workers a sense of identity, while the Pragli water cooler provides a temporary place to socialize rather than an endless Slack flood of GIFs. And because you clock in and out of the Pragli office just like a real one, co-workers understand when you’ll reply quickly versus when you’ll respond tomorrow unless there’s an emergency.

“In Pragli, you log into the office in the morning and there’s a clear sense of when I’m working and when I’m not working. Slack doesn’t give you a strong sense if they’re online or offline,” Safreno explains. “Everyone stays online and feels pressured to respond at any time of day.”

Pragli co-founder Doug Safreno

Safreno and his co-founder Vivek Nair know the feeling first-hand. After both graduating in computer science from Stanford, they built StacksWare to help enterprise software customers avoid overpaying by accurately measuring their usage. But when they sold StacksWare to Avi Networks, they spent two years working remotely for the acquirer. The friction and loneliness quickly crept in.

They’d message someone, not hear back for a while, then go back and forth trying to discuss the problem before eventually scheduling a call. Jumping into synchronous communicating would have been much more efficient. “The loneliness was more subtle, but it built up after the first few weeks,” Safreno recalls. “We simply didn’t socially bond while working remotely as well as in the office. Being lonely was de-motivating, and it negatively affected our productivity.”

The founders interviewed 100 remote engineers, and discovered that outside of scheduled meetings, they only had one audio or video call with co-workers per week. That convinced them to start Pragli a year ago to give work-from-home teams a visual, virtual facsimile of a real office. With no other full-time employees, the founders built and released a beta of Pragli last year. Usage grew 6X in March and is up 20X since January 1.

Today Pragli officially launches, and it’s free until June 1. Then it plans to become freemium, with the full experience reserved for companies that pay per user per month. Pragli is also announcing a small pre-seed round today led by K9 Ventures, inspired by the firm’s delight using the product itself.

To get started with Pragi, teammates download the Pragli desktop app and sign in with Google, Microsoft or GitHub. Users then customize their avatar with a wide range of face, hair, skin and clothing options. It can use your mouse and keyboard interaction to show if you’re at your desk or not, or use your webcam to translate occasional snapshots of your facial expressions to your avatar. You can also connect your Spotify and calendar to show you’re listening to music (and might be concentrating), reveal or hide details of your meeting and decide whether people can ask to interrupt you or that you’re totally unavailable.

From there, you can by audio, video or text communicate with any of your available co-workers. Guests can join conversations via the web and mobile too, though the team is working on a full-fledged app for phones and tablets. Tap on someone and you can instantly talk to them, though their mic stays muted until they respond. Alternatively, you can jump into Slack-esque channels for discussing specific topics or holding recurring meetings. And if you need some down time, you can hang out in the water cooler or trivia game channel, or set a manual “away” message.

Pragli has put a remarkable amount of consideration into how the little office social cues about when to interrupt someone translate online, like if someone’s wearing headphones, in a deep convo already or if they’re chilling in the microkitchen. It’s leagues better than having no idea what someone’s doing on the other side of Slack or what’s going on in a Zoom call. It’s a true virtual office without the clunky VR headset.

“Nothing we’ve tried has delivered the natural, water-cooler-style conversations that we get from Pragli,” says Storj Labs VP of engineering JT Olio. “The ability to switch between ‘rooms’ with screen sharing, video and voice in one app is great. It has really helped us improve transparency across teams. Plus, the avatars are quite charming as well.”

With Microsoft’s lack of social experience, Zoom consumed with its scaling challenges and Slack doubling down on text as it prioritizes Zoom integration over its own visual communication features, there’s plenty of room for Pragli to flourish. Meanwhile, COVID-19 quarantines are turning the whole world toward remote work, and it’s likely to stick afterwards as companies de-emphasize office space and hire more abroad.

The biggest challenge will be making comprehensible enough to onboard whole teams such a broad product encompassing every communication medium and tons of new behaviors. How do you build a product that doesn’t feel distracting like Slack but where people can still have the spontaneous conversations that are so important to companies innovating?,” Safreno asks. The Pragli founders are also debating how to encompass mobile without making people feel like the office stalks them after hours.

“Long-term, [Pragli] should be better than being in the office because you don’t actually have to walk around looking for [co-workers], and you get to decide how you’re presented,” Safreno concludes. “We won’t quit, because we want to work remotely for the rest of our lives.”


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Replace non-stop Zoom with remote office avatars app Pragli

April 14, 2020 No Comments

Could avatars that show what co-workers are up to save work-from-home teams from constant distraction and loneliness? That’s the idea behind Pragli, the Bitmoji for the enterprise. It’s a virtual office app that makes you actually feel like you’re in the same building.

Pragli uses avatars to signal whether co-workers are at their desk, away, in a meeting, in the zone while listening to Spotify, taking a break at a digital virtual water coooler or done for the day. From there, you’ll know whether to do a quick ad hoc audio call, cooperate via screenshare, schedule a deeper video meeting or a send a chat message they can respond to later. Essentially, it translates the real-word presence cues we use to coordinate collaboration into an online workplace for distributed teams.

“What Slack did for email, we want to do for video conferencing,” Pragli co-founder Doug Safreno tells me. “Traditional video conferencing is exclusive by design, whereas Pragli is inclusive. Just like in an office, you can see who is talking to who.” That means less time wasted planning meetings, interrupting colleagues who are in flow or waiting for critical responses. Pragli offers the focus that makes remote work productive with the togetherness that keeps everyone sane and in sync.

The idea is to solve the top three problems that Pragli’s extensive interviews and a Buffer/AngelList study discovered workers hate:

  1. Communication friction
  2. Loneliness
  3. Lack of boundaries

You never have to worry about whether you’re intruding on someone’s meeting, or if it’d be quicker to hash something out on a call instead of vague text. Avatars give remote workers a sense of identity, while the Pragli water cooler provides a temporary place to socialize rather than an endless Slack flood of GIFs. And because you clock in and out of the Pragli office just like a real one, co-workers understand when you’ll reply quickly versus when you’ll respond tomorrow unless there’s an emergency.

“In Pragli, you log into the office in the morning and there’s a clear sense of when I’m working and when I’m not working. Slack doesn’t give you a strong sense if they’re online or offline,” Safreno explains. “Everyone stays online and feels pressured to respond at any time of day.”

Pragli co-founder Doug Safreno

Safreno and his co-founder Vivek Nair know the feeling first-hand. After both graduating in computer science from Stanford, they built StacksWare to help enterprise software customers avoid overpaying by accurately measuring their usage. But when they sold StacksWare to Avi Networks, they spent two years working remotely for the acquirer. The friction and loneliness quickly crept in.

They’d message someone, not hear back for a while, then go back and forth trying to discuss the problem before eventually scheduling a call. Jumping into synchronous communicating would have been much more efficient. “The loneliness was more subtle, but it built up after the first few weeks,” Safreno recalls. “We simply didn’t socially bond while working remotely as well as in the office. Being lonely was de-motivating, and it negatively affected our productivity.”

The founders interviewed 100 remote engineers, and discovered that outside of scheduled meetings, they only had one audio or video call with co-workers per week. That convinced them to start Pragli a year ago to give work-from-home teams a visual, virtual facsimile of a real office. With no other full-time employees, the founders built and released a beta of Pragli last year. Usage grew 6X in March and is up 20X since January 1.

Today Pragli officially launches, and it’s free until June 1. Then it plans to become freemium, with the full experience reserved for companies that pay per user per month. Pragli is also announcing a small pre-seed round today led by K9 Ventures, inspired by the firm’s delight using the product itself.

To get started with Pragi, teammates download the Pragli desktop app and sign in with Google, Microsoft or GitHub. Users then customize their avatar with a wide range of face, hair, skin and clothing options. It can use your mouse and keyboard interaction to show if you’re at your desk or not, or use your webcam to translate occasional snapshots of your facial expressions to your avatar. You can also connect your Spotify and calendar to show you’re listening to music (and might be concentrating), reveal or hide details of your meeting and decide whether people can ask to interrupt you or that you’re totally unavailable.

From there, you can by audio, video or text communicate with any of your available co-workers. Guests can join conversations via the web and mobile too, though the team is working on a full-fledged app for phones and tablets. Tap on someone and you can instantly talk to them, though their mic stays muted until they respond. Alternatively, you can jump into Slack-esque channels for discussing specific topics or holding recurring meetings. And if you need some down time, you can hang out in the water cooler or trivia game channel, or set a manual “away” message.

Pragli has put a remarkable amount of consideration into how the little office social cues about when to interrupt someone translate online, like if someone’s wearing headphones, in a deep convo already or if they’re chilling in the microkitchen. It’s leagues better than having no idea what someone’s doing on the other side of Slack or what’s going on in a Zoom call. It’s a true virtual office without the clunky VR headset.

“Nothing we’ve tried has delivered the natural, water-cooler-style conversations that we get from Pragli,” says Storj Labs VP of engineering JT Olio. “The ability to switch between ‘rooms’ with screen sharing, video and voice in one app is great. It has really helped us improve transparency across teams. Plus, the avatars are quite charming as well.”

With Microsoft’s lack of social experience, Zoom consumed with its scaling challenges and Slack doubling down on text as it prioritizes Zoom integration over its own visual communication features, there’s plenty of room for Pragli to flourish. Meanwhile, COVID-19 quarantines are turning the whole world toward remote work, and it’s likely to stick afterwards as companies de-emphasize office space and hire more abroad.

The biggest challenge will be making comprehensible enough to onboard whole teams such a broad product encompassing every communication medium and tons of new behaviors. How do you build a product that doesn’t feel distracting like Slack but where people can still have the spontaneous conversations that are so important to companies innovating?,” Safreno asks. The Pragli founders are also debating how to encompass mobile without making people feel like the office stalks them after hours.

“Long-term, [Pragli] should be better than being in the office because you don’t actually have to walk around looking for [co-workers], and you get to decide how you’re presented,” Safreno concludes. “We won’t quit, because we want to work remotely for the rest of our lives.”

Mobile – TechCrunch


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