Venue Raises $4M from Accel and CEOs of Slack, Remote and SquareSpace to Breathe New Life into Team-Wide Video Meetings – TechCrunch | Panda Anku

Zoom has “won” the mindshare game when it comes to video conferencing in many ways: whether you’re actually using Zoom or another service that’s tied into another platform like Google or Microsoft, and whether it’s for work or fun is, the standalone zoom is who people refer to, the one who claims anthimer status.

But for those who use Zoom, or Google’s Meet, Microsoft’s Teams, or anything else, you’ll know they’re still missing in certain scenarios. Today, a startup called Venue, built to fill one of those gaps — larger team meetings — is setting up its booth to compete with a video conferencing platform that includes a variety of personalization and other features of consumer communications apps to wrap it around it to make it more appealing. These include emoji bursts, the ability to set background music and backgrounds, simple tools for sharing videos and other media, gifs, and multifunctional control panels that mimic those that appear on streaming platforms like Twitch.

“Our customers have been telling us that if Slack offers video conferencing for team meetings, that’s what it could look like,” said Jason Goldlist, who co-founded the company with Frank Poon, in an interview with me (which, of course, took place , at the venue).

The Toronto-based startup has been in private beta for the past two years, first as a bootstrap company and then as part of the Y Combinator Winter 2022 cohort.

In that time it has picked up some very interesting traction. His clients include Yelp, Shopify, and PwC; and it has held more than 5 million meeting minutes and a total of 250,000 participants to date.

And now it’s announcing $4 million in seed funding from an impressive list of backers: Led by Accel, the group also includes Stewart Butterfield, the CEO and co-founder of none other than Slack (he invests directly, the investment is not from the Slack Fund, and this is the video pitch in Venue that Goldlist used to introduce it); SquareSpace Founder and CEO Anthony Casalena; and founder and CEO Job van der Voort.

Venue will use the funding for both continued product development and to scale its infrastructure to work with more clients.

The premise of Venue is that it is Not another video conferencing platform. As Goldlist told me the other day, the goal isn’t to replace Zoom, Meet, Teams, or the others that are perfect for virtual one-on-one or small group meetings.

“We see Zoom as the Craigslist of video conferencing,” he said. “You will always have people who will use it.

“Our role isn’t to outperform Zoom Zoom,” he continued. “It’s about picking our niche and executing it really well. There’s a specific set of use cases and a specific venue, and no one has the same focus on all hands, the town halls, the AMAs, especially for remote or highly distributed organizations.”

Borrowing from the broader world of consumer apps, it aims to give users more control, thereby making video meetings on the platform less abstract. Emoji reactions, background music, dynamic backgrounds, video bubbles and a wide range of chat tools are among the bells and whistles that Venue believes will keep users interested and businesses as customers on board.

Attracting people with bells and whistles seems to have worked so far. The startup says that there have been over 2 million emoji reactions “sent to moderators” and that to date more than 30,000 one-to-one connections have been made between users on Venue.

Venue’s exit from private beta certainly comes with some momentum, but also – for the video call weary among us – perhaps with some uneasiness. Much of the world has moved away from many of the trappings of life amid the turmoil of Covid-19 – local authorities are imposing fewer rules on face masks, travel and being in groups; offices reopen; and some of our e-commerce habits are slacking off in favor of shopping, eating, or doing other things personally.

Video conferencing hasn’t exactly died in the past few months, but we’re definitely entering a more sober phase after the heady months of 2020 and 2021. Even Zoom has felt the pinch. Although the company met analyst expectations for revenue and beat earnings for the most recent fiscal quarter, it has felt a tough market for technology stocks.

Recently, Citi downgraded Zoom’s stock in the face of growing competition from larger platforms (Microsoft has been particularly aggressive towards business customers, and in the process has acquired some interesting partners like Workplace, Meta’s enterprise version of Facebook), and Zoom itself has done so on one worked on a new strategy to double its bread-and-butter business base once again after finding that monetizing all those dinner parties and calls among friends was nowhere fast moving.

All of this means not only a tougher climate for all video conferencing apps, but also much more competition for smaller players among those larger companies with the resources to build in the tools they lack today.

But while many work practices, including remote work and virtual meetings, have definitely opened up in recent years, Goldlist points out that the use case for better, larger team meetings isn’t something materializing during/after Covid-19 Has. In particular, he points out the cost and bulkiness of traditional video conferencing systems.

“The price of an all-hand operation [for a company with employees in more than one place] is extraordinary,” he said. If you do the math “on the back of the napkin,” Goldlist says, a one-hour meeting for 1,000 people costs over $50,000. These aren’t equipment investments per se. “It’s a tremendous price to cut people off in the middle of the day to have a meeting,” he said. “These are expensive things. You have to make them unique.”

The fact that there are still so many moments when video conferencing doesn’t feel ideal is likely a strong reason for investors to bet on an early-stage bet that has picked up some users and is gaining momentum with the breadth wins startup community.

“Too often all hands and large meetings are inefficient and costly. In the past it was difficult to create highly engaging meetings for large groups – the tools and technology didn’t support it. But Venue now makes world-class production value easy and accessible,” said Sara Ittelson, partner at Accel, in a statement.

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