If you've been missing out on hanging out with your co-workers but don't want to spend a second more zooming in, Donut's newest product might be the answer.
The startup today launches its new Watercooler product while announcing that it has raised a total of $ 12 million under the leadership of Accel and with the participation of Bloomberg Beta, FirstMark, Slack Fund and various angel investors.
Co-founder and CEO Dan Manian told me that this is actually money the startup raised over several rounds before the pandemic. The fundraiser just hasn't been announced yet.
According to Manual, the startup's vision is to "create a human connection between people at work". The first product, Introductions, connects teammates they didn't know about Slack, often with the goal of organizing quick coffee get-togethers (originally face-to-face and now virtual).
donuts According to data, 4 million connections have been made between 12,000 companies (including the New York Times, Toyota and InVision), of which 1 million have been made since the pandemic began.
However, according to Manian, customers have asked Donut to allow more frequent interactions, especially since most people won't hold these coffee gatherings every day. At the same time, people face dueling problems like isolation and zoom fatigue, where "the antidote to one thing makes the pain worse". And he suggested that one of the hardest things to recreate while so many of us work remotely are "all of the little micro-interactions you have while you work."
This is where the water cooler comes into play – as the name suggests, it should give the feeling of hanging out on the office water cooler and having short, reserved conversations. How Introductions integrates with Slack and creates a new channel where watercoolers ask funny, conversational questions like "What's your favorite shape of potato?" or "What did you learn in your career that you wish you knew earlier?"
Talking about these topics shouldn't take much time, but Manian argued that short conversations are important: "These things add up to friendship over time, they actually turn you from coworker to friend." And these friendships are also important for employers because they contribute to the cohesion and loyalty of the team.
I fully support the idea of a Slack water cooler – in fact, the theinformationsuperhighway editorial team has a very active "water cooler" channel and I'm always happy to waste time there. My big question was: Why do companies have to buy a product for it?
Manian said there was “a group of our early adopters” who tried to do this manually, but it was always in the “past tense”: “It got too difficult to ask the questions or it required real work with them everyone had who did it already had a full time job. "
With Watercooler, on the other hand, the company can choose from pre-selected topics and questions, set the frequency with which those questions are published, and then everything happens automatically.
Manian also noted that different organizations will focus on different types of issues. There are no divisive political issues, but while some teams stick to simple questions about things like potatoes and breakfast foods, others will tackle more substantive issues like how people want feedback.
And yes, Manian believes companies will still need these tools after the pandemic ends.
"The work has changed fundamentally," he said. "I don't think we're going to bottle remote work again. I think it's here to stay."
At the same time, he described the past few months as “training wheels” for a hybrid model where some team members go back to the office while others continue to work remotely. In his view, the teams then face an even bigger challenge: making your remote members feel connected and up to date.