I may have more companies building applications on top of Zoom than any other investor. Some, like Outschool or Lambda are perfectly adapted to Zoom. Others are well adapted to Slack. For many of my other companies, Zoom and Slack are jail. I say this in all deference to Zoom and Slack. Their video quality and chat functionality are much much better than any other. The problem is that neither was built to be a component in an application. They take over the user experience and do not allow a company building an application to customize their user’s experience.
For an example of what is possible when you escape, GetSetup is a live social network for seniors. They have lots of classes and happy hours running all of the time. They got out of Zoom jail a couple of months ago using agora and now have so many more elements to the user app than a video window. For example, a user bio pops up whenever someone is speaking, questions that get asked automatically move over into their chat forum, an agenda for the meeting or class is easy to pop up. Using video as a component lets GetSetup focus obsessively on making their class experience amazing.
Primer is a live project-based place for kids. They built an awesome experience called Rooms using daily.co where kids can work together to discuss and solve problems. Instead of making this video based, they show avatars and allow audio only, and they use a shared canvas that takes over the screen instead of a video window. It’s so much better than a Zoom room.
GalileoXP is a world school where kids around the world connect through nano degrees and cool clubs. They are completely live and social. Instead of using slack, they build community directly into their app with circle.so. It is seamless and removes all of the friction.
I have been sitting on my hands frustrated for the last year because it felt like we had to wait for Zoom to build an API, but now a bunch of startups like agora and daily have built video products that let my companies build the right thing. Of course, their video scalability will not match Zoom’s any time soon, but the flexibility to create the user experience you want makes up for that limitation. And my companies understand that you aren’t going to run 50 live video streams with anyone other than Zoom, but that’s OK because they have figured out how to make five streams work beautifully for their sessions.
The same is true for Slack, but with a lower bar. There really is no tech moat to Slack that you can’t get from another product, so it will get replaced more quickly.
Now that the shackles are off, I expect the two main themes I invest in — live and social — to really take off in education. If you are a founder playing in this space, drop me a note.