Our mission is to make teamwork the best part of work. Our Series A fundraise will help us get closer to achieving it.
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When I started guitar lessons during the early months of the pandemic in 2020, I had visions of being the next Mark Knopfler, not starting a remote-first company.
The idea for Switchboard actually came out of frustration with remote guitar lessons. My teacher and I couldn’t bring the tools we needed into the online lesson: things like a metronome, a PDF viewer for notes and sheet music, a media player for back tracks, a second camera to see fingerpicking.
What I realized was that all our current “collaboration” tools are really just communication tools.
They’re great for talking, but not for doing – especially when you need to use multiple apps. This was a problem not only for music lessons but for remote work. Teams were in dire straits trying to build products, manage projects, and brainstorm new ideas, one shared screen at a time. Zoom saved the economy, but replacing in-person work with video conferencing wasn’t going to work indefinitely.
We wanted to build a platform that helps people work together regardless if they were across a conference room table, across the city, or across the world. It shouldn’t matter whether someone is in-person, hybrid or remote. Our new reality means we’ll always be working with people who aren’t physically in the room.
We spent a lot of time thinking about fatigue and how we’ve gotten used to sitting on video calls all day.
After almost two years of research, user testing, and product development, here’s what we are trying to reclaim from in-person work:
Focus on content, not faces
During video conferencing, the focus is on faces, and how we present versus the content being discussed. In the “before” times, we would have lots of different stimuli: paper presentations, screen projections, sticky notes, and places to look besides at each other. We built Switchboard with the same video and audio functions as video conferencing, but they’re minimized so the focus is on the content being shared and collaborated on. Each room is a huge canvas for teams to add websites, apps, and yes even sticky notes, so that everyone can shift their gaze from faces to the work they’re doing together.
Teamwork makes the dreamwork, but what we heard loud and clear is that being stuck in back-to-back meetings of people sharing screens is a nightmare. Switchboard is designed to make you feel like you are working side-by-side and removes the performative feel of video conferencing. We leveled the playing field so that everyone in the room can add content, anyone can scroll, anyone can type, anyone can click.
The tools you use
There are some absolutely incredible vertical collaboration tools like Figma and Google Docs, which we continue to use daily at (and in!) Switchboard. Rather than rely on integrations, we made the decision to support all web-based applications in Switchboard. The whole team can work together within your existing tools in cloud browsers side-by-side without anyone sharing their screen. You can open a Figma file next to a Google Doc next to an Amplitude dashboard next to a Linear tracker, etc. (This is the part that usually blows people’s minds.)
Context for next time
There’s nothing more frustrating than losing everything shared in the meeting at the end of a video conference call. That’s why we designed Switchboard with meeting memory. Each room saves all content added during a meeting including browsers, documents, and chat. This saves teams time and allows people to pick up where they left off. The rooms also give people a place to go between meetings to find all of the relevant docs and links.
The best part of most of our jobs are the people we get to work with. Remote work shuttered spontaneous conversation and hallways hellos. Video conferencing calls are usually scheduled, inherently giving them a formal feel. Switchboard rooms can be used for scheduled meetings, but they bring the informal feel of an office space by allowing people to pop into rooms for any quick questions or impromptu conversations, just like stopping by someone’s desk.
Our mission is to make teamwork the best part of work. We still have a lot of work to do to help remote workers collaborate and today’s Series A funding led by Icon Ventures gets us closer to that future. Teams have already been using Switchboard for design reviews, war rooms, 1:1s, projects, study sessions, art lessons.
We’re excited to hear what you think of the experience and how we can continue to make it feel more like in person. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our Slack community to give us direct feedback on how we can make remote work better.