While a large proportion of white-collar workers have adapted to the new normal of home-based videoconferencing, that doesn’t mean they – or their bosses – necessarily like it. According to a Showpad poll, 76% of employees report being more distracted by video calls than face-to-face meetings. In a separate study, staffers — especially new hires — say the need for video during virtual meetings increases their work fatigue.
Ed Stevens thinks he has the answer. He is the founder of Scoot, a platform that aims to reimagine video meetings with a dynamic chat interface. Formerly known as Preciate, Scoot recently launched its new brand and recently completed a $12 million Series A funding round led by Woodland Capital, bringing the total amount raised to more than $16 million.
“Most CEOs in the world would agree: All-hands virtual meetings hosted on static legacy platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are terrible at replicating the energy and value of face-to-face meetings,” Stevens told AapkaDost in a statement. email interview. “CEOs are dissatisfied with their virtual all-hands platforms and desperately need something better.”
Scoot’s conceit isn’t new. The startup is one of dozens trying to reinvent video conferencing for the post-pandemic workforce. Even before the pandemic, video conferencing was a lucrative segment, with funding for video conferencing startups reaching $250 million in 2017, according to Crunchbase.
Backed by Tope Awotona, CEO of Calendly, Vowel offers what it calls a “conference operating system” with analytics and searchable on-demand recordings. Read AI provides a real-time shared dashboard to alert meeting participants when things are going well or not. There’s also Venue, which offers a host of personalization and other features, such as emoji bursts, the ability to set background music, and more, to try and make conferences more engaging.
So how is Scoot different? In some ways it isn’t. Like a few of its rivals, Scoot lets customers choose custom background themes and music for meetings. An administrator can specify which features are available to participants and secure rooms with participation settings. Meanwhile, hybrid conferencing features allow users to live stream content into a virtual room that can be joined via Scoot’s iOS and Android mobile apps.
Admins also have access to analytics such as who attended a meeting and how long they were there. When asked if Scoot keeps this data indefinitely — an important question given the surveillance potential of video conferencing apps — Stevens says customers can choose to delete it at any time.
“Not only can you share a screen, have a Q&A session or DM someone in the chat, but you can also move around in a 2D space decorated with your logo, colors and images,” explains Stevens. “Before, during, and after the formal part of the meeting, attendees can find colleagues and clients, have sidebar conversations, and just be human.”
“At Scoot, we are redefining online virtual meetings, gatherings and networking,” Stevens continues. “Gone are the days of static images pinned to the screen. Scoot unlocks a new dimension for virtual meetings by mimicking what happens when a group of people (small or large) get together in person to network, share ideas and discuss. The benefit is a level of engagement and productivity similar to physical meetings, but with the flexibility, speed and cost savings of a virtual meeting.”
But Scoot has more unique features, such as “spontaneous conversations,” which allow meeting participants to break up into smaller groups for more intimate chats. Stevens sees Scoot’s small group functionality as particularly useful for larger organizations, where meetings can exceed hundreds or even thousands of attendees. Administrators have some control over it, he notes, in that they can purposefully “group” employees with other employees within the context of a larger meeting.
“Once you give people the social freedom to move around during a big corporate gathering, you can drive … corporate goals. For example, you can ensure that a senior leader is placed in the socially oriented arrivals and departures section of the agenda for each group of employees,” says Stevens. “Scoot unlocks a new dimension for virtual meetings by mimicking what happens when a group of people, small or large, get together in person to network, share ideas and discuss.”
Another notable feature of Scoot is what Stevens calls “crowd noise technology,” which allows a presenter – and spaces up to thousands of people – to hear reactions (e.g. laughter, cheers) in real time. While it may not be a huge selling point, Stevens says it makes meetings “more engaging and interesting” than they normally would be. (I’m not convinced that the average person is inclined to cheer during a virtual meeting, but maybe I’m the odd one out.)
Scoot, which provides APIs for developers to build on, makes money by charging for basic service access. Stevens declined to disclose the size of Scoot’s customer base (or revenue), but said the company counts several Fortune 50 companies among its customers.
“Due to the slowdown in technology, most of our competitors are on the defensive right when we are investing more,” said Stevens confidently. “From a funding perspective, Scoot’s existing investors have all the dry powder needed to fund future growth.”
On this note, Scoot plans to grow its workforce from 14 to more than 30 by the end of the year.