Collaboration as a Service

There is an unmistakable shift happening related to the idea of the workplace. Certainly throughout the tech ecosystem, but also increasingly prevalent in established corporations in legacy industries, employees are gaining increased flexibility with the space they make their offices. A recent study states that 80–90% of the U.S. workforce would like to work remotely a few days a week. Businesses that have embraced this trend and accommodated remote employees can draw from a much larger pool of applicants in order to find the right team members based on fit and aptitude, rather than being limited to a commuter-friendly radius.

My experience at Google taught me about culture and accountability. I learned that you don’t have to be at your desk to get stuff done as technology has made it far easier to hire the best talent from around the world. However, remote work presents its own unique challenges for maintaining efficiency and cohesion and without the right solutions can be detrimental to a team’s culture and as a result, the bottom line.

Although technology has facilitated this shift in workplace location, the tools that are currently available are not adequately addressing the traditional ways in which people work. There is still a need for various meetings and collaborative problem solving, but awkward video or teleconferencing technologies encumber progress when compared to having the whole team in one room. There is often time wasted from streaming lags, a team-member who must sacrifice their laptop as the screen, disparate software and hardware solutions that don’t work well together and audio or visibility challenges for those on the opposite side of the room. Sure, there are solutions to help minimize these issues, such as investing in additional screens or audio equipment, but these added measures can be costly, time consuming and overly complicated. In short, it’s possible to communicate through existing platforms, but it’s rife with inefficiencies and doesn’t facilitate the same team cohesion those who work in traditional office environments may benefit from.

In order for a product to really be useful, it would need to be simple to use, effective, and within the budget of younger companies. When Josh and I met Kwin and Doug, the co-founders of Pluot, I reflected on my own experience of joining various meetings while traveling. We thought about the challenges that many of our portfolio companies face as they grow and seek effective ways to communicate. And we listened as they addressed all the pain points of current communication options with their solution.

Pluot is a collaborative tool that focuses on improving communication for remote offices and the “bottom up economy”. It is 100% peer to peer in call architecture, which provides for superior audio and video quality, plus call reliability. It can drive two TV’s and users can do two simultaneous screen shares during a Pluot call. So, for an engineering standup one person can put up a Trello board and someone else can share a github diff, at the same time. It takes just a few minutes to set up and creates a much stronger feeling of cohesion for team members in the meeting as they are able to communicate more clearly through the television. This feeling leads to more productive and personal relationships between colleagues, no matter how far away they are.

The Pluot founders have had substantial experience with dispersed teams working in collaboration, working together at Oblong Industries (which made an appearance during the film, “Minority Report”).

Hardware as a service (HaaS), has and will continue to reshape product delivery models. With HaaS, any risk of purchasing a piece of hardware that may ultimately be deemed minimally useful or made obsolete by competing products is minimized because you also receive a service component that allows you to harness the product’s fullest potential. Subscription service to an asset can help companies build a long term, favorable relationship with consumers. Even after customers purchase Pluot’s device, the company remains incentivized to constantly update and improve their software and service. Companies that drive innovation need the tools that evolve at the same pace (or faster). Pluot’s HaaS model will help drive growth and give much needed access to stronger technological options for growing dynamic teams.

Traditionally we have not invested in many hardware startups (which is quickly changing), but we’re thrilled to announce we have have invested in Pluot along with TenOneTen Ventures, Root Ventures, Haystack, Gokul Rajaram and Ed Lando. We believe Pluot is a disruptive solution to a big problem, at the intersection of where hardware and software have begun to merge. You can give Pluot’s free software a try by going to pluto.co/new to generate a unique link that can be shared for your video call. You can also subscribe to the hardware here with a 60 day free trial.