The Pandemic has caused many businesses to have to adapt, shift, and evolve to meet challenges.
Many of us have had to switch to a completely virtual workforce and many businesses were not prepared for the change. The decision to go virtual was quick for most businesses and did not leave time for questions. The unprecedented rise of Zoom began and we all did our best to stay afloat in unfamiliar waters. Then came the dreaded Zoom fatigue. Over time, it became more and more difficult to feel excited about another conference call.
Fortunately, with change, and then fatigue, came innovation. Botree discovered Glimpse, a new virtual meeting software, in early spring of 2021 as a software option for our Virtual Facilitation service. Glimpse is a social platform for back-to-back, 1-on-1 video chats, utilizing a “speed-dating” style to create engaging conversation. Believe it or not, Glimpse was actually developed and released in March 2020, just before the world came to a halt.
Glimpse was created by former Duke students looking for a way to make meaningful connections in a disconnected world. Despite the rise in social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, Helena Merk, Co-Founder and CEO, and her team believed that many people were feeling even more disconnected than ever. Merk is not alone in this belief. According to Psychology Today, “Researchers have found that people who use multiple social media platforms report more symptoms of anxiety and depression.”
Merk is 22 years old. Despite her incredible successes in the tech industry, she jokes that sometimes people ask her if they can speak to her manager. She speaks with knowledge, charisma, and passion. It doesn’t come as a surprise to me when she says that she is most inspired by anyone who is passionate about what they do.
It is easy to feel inspired by her. She is driven and motivated, dropping out of Duke in 2018 to pursue her tech startup dreams. She was accepted to the Y Combinator in Winter of 2020, the seed money startup accelerator most known for companies like DoorDash, Instacart, Airbnb, Reddit, and Dropbox. Even with a new partnership with the web-based video conference platform “Zoom”, Merk still sees the Y Combinator as one of the most important experiences of her career.
In the Summer of 2020, a partnership with Zoom began to form organically. The Venture Capitalists (VC) that aligned most with Glimpse were actually the first investors in Zoom. They were interested in Glimpse because they were building on top of existing platforms like Zoom to help bring people together. By the time that Zoom Apps were announced, there was already a relationship between the two companies. By March 2021, her company was in the process of creating two new apps, Heyyo Chat and Shuffle, for Zoom.
“It’s been really exciting to be a part of the early days of Zoom becoming a marketplace.” Merk told me from her San Francisco office.
When asked if they were ever seen as a competitor to Zoom, “They (Zoom) see themselves as the infrastructure and marketplace. They built the technology, and we can focus on what makes us happy. For Zoom to succeed as a business, they need launch partners like us to add additional value.”
Zoom Fatigue is real and a lot of us are feeling the effects. Many different programs and offerings have been developed to combat Zoom fatigue, including Botree’s Virtual Facilitation service.
“Zoom had explosive growth over the last year,” Merk said, “before the Pandemic, they were a functional tool mostly used for webinars.”
Like all of us, Zoom had to adapt with the times as quickly as possible. Throughout the pandemic, they have been hiring and adding new features to make the user experience more enjoyable. “They weren’t built for ‘let’s have some fun together online’”, said Merk, “they were built for ‘I have a message to deliver.”
Apps and software releases like Glimpse, have been gaining traction to help businesses engage their audience. “We build fun products, and people like them enough to share them. That’s one of the best feelings”, Merk said.
As a proven forward thinker, I was curious to know how Merk and her team view the future of work post-pandemic.
“It has to be hybrid”, she told me. Hybrid has become a huge buzzword, with many op-ed pieces coming out every day about what the future has in store for offices.
“As technology improves, there is no reason why we wouldn’t do hybrid,”Merk said. “The number one challenge to hybrid is that there is a bias towards people that are there.”
Merk stressed the importance of creating virtual first content, making sure products and events are planned with the virtual experience in mind.“Unless it is truly virtual first, you’re not going to be able to do it justice. It has to come all the way down from leadership”.
Start-up culture isn’t easy. There’s uncertainty, competition, and difficulties along the way. As we’ve heard time and time again, good things take time, hard work, and discipline. No one ever said it would be easy. Over the last few years, every business has felt like a start-up, unsure of what the future holds. All of our businesses have evolved and changed as a result of the pandemic.
In a turbulent time, it is crucial to remind yourself of the difference your hard work brings. The positive recognition Glimpse has received makes all the start-up struggles worth it. “It comes in waves, and those waves hold you over because building a start-up has a lot of lows too”.
Kelleghan, A. (2018, February 26). The social media disconnect. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/home-base/201802/the-social-media-disconnect.
Merk, H. (2020, July 29). I dropped out of college - should you? I dropped out of college — should you? https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/i-dropped-out-of-college-should-you-af9ab61231f3.