Office dynamics are evolving. Online collaboration and conferencing tools, as well as the growth of co-working spaces, have inarguably changed interoffice communication, and, in the case of startups, some modern entrepreneurs advise against certain kinds of meetings altogether.
But Cairns-based startup Konveen views this broader cultural change as an opportunity to reconfigure how meetings operate. The company is developing a real-time collaboration platform designed to make meetings “shorter, more accountable and transparent”.
“The problem we see with meetings currently is that they result in information silos which contain invaluable data that cannot be unlocked, analysed or reviewed,” co-founder Nicole Hambleton says. “We want to change that by creating a meeting insights repository so companies can access that hidden intelligence and make better decisions.”
Nicole also provides one of computer scientist Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper‘s more poignant quotes as a reason for building Konveen, a saying that encompasses entrepreneurial ideology:
The most damaging phrase in the language is “We’ve always done it this way.”
Along with co-founder Steven Hambleton, Nicole met with both businesses and “change management consultants” in designing the product, which, on top of in-person meetings, manages audio and video collaborations with integrated WebRTC technology. Konveen also organises and auto-updates agenda and personal information, as well as the final minutes log.
Prior to starting the company, the Hambletons worked as digital media and consulting entrepreneurs for ten years, most of which was spent at digital technology outsourcing company Hambo Digital. By running meetings with clients, contractors, suppliers and colleagues, they found the most common pains to be gathering people, outlining clear objectives and outcomes, and avoiding confusion or ambiguity.
The ultimate goal for the technology is distribute all possible information to all party members, and “see users potentially halving the amount of time they spend working on a meeting, leaving more time to be truly present in a meeting”.
Konveen is targeting consultants, medium to enterprise companies, and government institutions, and has received expressions of interests for early stage rollouts from companies such as BDO, Aurecon, TAFE FNQ, Curtin University, QLD Health, Cardno and Deloitte Digital.
“Most of our beta testers and early adopters are from companies that have several offices and branches if not a global presence,” Nicole says. “The structured nature of the software suits a business wide rollout, although we are not excluding individual sign ups, particularly for consultants and smaller teams.”
The team will be introducing team plans in the next few months, but initially offer two different pricing models; a standard system at $19/u/m, with face-to-face only collaboration, and a professional system at $35/u/m, with face-to-face and video/audio collaboration. A free version is also available, which includes the “ability to view upcoming meetings, manage invites and view one month of history”.
But while the role of business meetings is demonstrably changing and platforms like eScribe and Meeting Booster prove there is definitely a market for management tools, the goal of convincing professionals that traditional collaboration is “broken” is still a challenge in its own right. The Hambletons acknowledge that one of their major difficulties will be drawing attention to the problem’s of traditional meetings, but argue that the economic benefits of the technology speaks for themselves.
“A small office with 2-3 professionals having an average 2 meetings a week could be costing the company upwards of $10,000 a month in lost productivity,” Nicole says. “Extrapolating those figures to larger businesses and enterprise make meetings a good target for productivity improvement.”
Having developed as a regional startup means the team also has first-hand experience with remote meetings, which they say has resulted in a greater focus on the web video and audio components so as to alleviate communication, transparency and accountability issues for regional participants.
“Being in a remote location has inspired rather than hindered us, because we believe that great ideas come from so many different places and technology is an exciting new catalyst for changing the way people do business,” Steven says.
Konveen’s beta quota is now full and they are currently rolling out privately, with enquiries reportedly stemming from industry sectors such as government, civil engineering, project management, human resources, education, mining and professional services.
The platform is due to officially launch in March, first to beta testers and VIP list, but Konveen are already working on the next phase of features based on use cases.
Case studies are also due to be released over the coming months, but the team has released initial feedback from beta users indicating that the technology can be applied to “managing agile projects, shortening meetings, gathering business intelligence, gaining insight into decision making, increasing remote employment options, providing external consultancy, fulfilling compliance requirements, [and] reducing paperwork”.