Zoom became one of the major real-time video communications success stories this year as the rapid move to remote work forced companies to rethink their operations. Now a new startup is to become the platform for asynchronous video communication.
There’s no shortage of non-real-time communication tools that globally dispersed teams can use to check in with each other – email and Slack to start with. But Supernormal combines video messaging with some nifty AI smarts to create more engagement and value for “asynchronous” interactions where nuances and meanings are not lost amid a barrage of emojis. At a time when organizations are increasingly committing to a dispersed workforce spread across multiple time zones, the supernormal could niche itself in a space that is flooded with real-time video and voice tools.
“Supernormal is focused on helping teams communicate asynchronously and enabling key people – engineers, designers, managers – to have creative time and decide when to consume or create team communication,” Co-Founder and CEO Colin Treseler told VentureBeat.
To support its mission, the company announced today that it has raised $ 2 million in a seeding round led by EQT Ventures with the support of several angel investors.
Supernormal (in the new normal)
Available on the web or through a desktop Mac app, Supernormal allows users to record corporate (or personal) announcements, presentations, greetings, or just about anything else. A separate feature allows users to record their screen to create presentations or product walkthroughs. A small video avatar of the speaker is embedded in the screencast.
The app uses natural language processing (NLP) to instantly transcribe content and deliver it as text alongside the video. At the same time, the three most interesting sentences are extracted from a transcript to be proposed as subtitle summaries.
According to Treseler, the company develops its AI system “largely” in-house. “We built our own machine learning to recognize the most interesting sentences and trained it on a massive corpus,” said Treseler.
For companies that sign in with their Slack or Google account credentials, Supernormal also automatically tags certain users in a company when their name is mentioned in the video and notifies the person through Slack or Gmail. The moderators will be notified when their team or audience has viewed the video so they can follow up on relevant messages.
Videos can also be embedded in digital properties such as websites, and dedicated links can be manually shared through each app. When shared on Twitter, Slack, Facebook, or Microsoft Teams, they can be viewed inline directly on these platforms. Elsewhere, the user has to click to view the video on the supernormal platform itself.
The state of affairs
There are other notable players in the room. San Francisco-based Loom is perhaps the most obvious example, as it has nearly $ 75 million in funding – including a $ 29 million tranche amid the pandemic – from big-name investors like Sequoia Capital, Coatue, Kleiner Perkins, and the Founders of Instagram. Founded in 2016, Loom has a small head start and an impressive number of customers including Atlassian, Intercom, and HubSpot. It also offers additional features such as: B. a drawing tool that presenters can use to illustrate or highlight certain elements on their screen.
Prezi does some interesting things in the video presentation space, although it targets a different market. Elsewhere, Slack is preparing to roll out a new Stories feature that is essentially video-based status updates modeled on the consumer versions of Snapchat and Instagram. Don’t be surprised if Microsoft follows up with something similar for Teams.
While it’s very early on for Supernormal, it’s worth using the AI with the help of the startup to generate transcriptions, summaries, and smart alerts.
There are potential use cases well beyond the company as well, as Loom has shown. For example, teachers struggling to get their entire class online for a live demo could simply record a short video-based presentation and email it for students to view in their spare time.
“Right now we’re being used a lot by ‘prosumers’ and we’re open to education / nonprofits,” said Treseler. “Our main focus, however, will be on corporate-level teams.”
The story so far
As is increasingly the case with businesses these days, supernormal cannot be tied to one location, with a workforce across America and Europe. Treseler is currently based in Stockholm, Sweden, despite having served in various technical roles on both sides of the Atlantic for the past decade, including two years as Facebook Product Manager in Menlo Park, California.
Treseler and his team began work on Supernormal in January, a random time given how global events unfolded over the following months. “When we started developing our solution, we didn’t expect every company to rely so heavily on virtual communication,” said Treseler.
Super Normal initially tried to be more of an all-round video communication tool, but the company eventually decided to go with all-in recording.
“We had a live video in the first product, but we felt that it didn’t add to the team experience and didn’t support our core focus – shifting teams to asynchrony,” said Treseler.
Since its official launch in August, Supernormal said, it has been picked up by more than 400 teams of people from companies like Spotify and GitHub, and has seen “strong engagement” across the spectrum from SMBs to Fortune 500 companies.
The company is currently working on native apps for Windows desktops and smartphones, as well as one-click editing tools that will allow users to remove pauses or specific words or phrases from transcripts. According to Treseler, the team is also exploring additional data reporting and analysis tools for customer-facing roles like sales and customer support.
In terms of pricing, it is completely free for now as the product is developed and iterated. But Supernormal will eventually introduce a SaaS model, the price of which has yet to be set. “At some point we will come to prices that are considerably cheaper than those of our competitors,” said Treseler.
With an additional $ 2 million in the bank, Treseler said the company will now double down on product development and expand its “completely removed team” around the world.