Team culture is built, in part, through shared experiences and daily interactions. These can be purposeful and structured, or unplanned and informal — from gathering to brainstorm in a conference room, to chatting with a colleague in the hallway. What often connects these encounters is a sense of sharing space.
This is hard to reconstruct in a digital environment. Professionally speaking, we don’t have an etiquette for spontaneous face-to-face video calls, for example. With remote work growing rapidly, there’s a clear need to bridge the gap between digital collaboration and in-person conversation.
Flo Crivello, CEO and founder of Teamflow, believes that sharing space is key to teamwork. Teamflow — which recently launched, announcing a $3.9 million seed round — puts spatial thinking at the core of its design, embedding workflows like video calls and apps into a “virtual office.” In an hour, more than 1,000 people signed up for its waitlist.
In Teamflow, colleagues and guests see each other in the office, and only hear those near them. This spatial video and audio is just one example of how communicating in the app mimics real life — the product resembles the real world in other, often unexpected ways too.
"We think that today's tools are too transactional... [Teamflow] brings more collaboration, and fun, to the office."
As Crivello describes, “we think that today’s tools are too transactional and too focused on productivity. We want to bring a little bit more of the collaboration aspect, and of fun, to the office.”
The Daily API allowed Crivello and his team to integrate video calling — prototyping rapidly, iterating swiftly — while building out the other elements of their vision that distinguish Teamflow.
Crivello’s perspective is driven, like many new tools reframing how we work, by his own experience with a distributed team.
Crivello spent five years working at Uber, first as an engineer and then as a product manager. His team “had an amazing sense of camaraderie.” But as the organization expanded into new markets, they shifted to distributed work. Crivello witnessed a decline in morale, communication, and productivity.
It was when the company suffered an outage that Crivello began to consider that the lack of shared space might be the reason for this decline.
The engineering, marketing, operations, and design teams all needed to work together. “Jumping from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting made it 10 times more stressful.”
Crivello recalls sitting on a couch at the end of the day, seeing other teams across the room. It reinforced how much he missed connecting spontaneously with colleagues. In fact, his sitting there reminded him how nice it was to see colleagues informally.
Soon after, during a six-month sabbatical, Crivello read an essay called Spatial Interfaces by John Palmer, a former Snapchat designer.
“Humans are spatial creatures,” writes Palmer. “We sit in a circle with our family. We drive down the left side of the road in Ireland and try to stay in our lane… We walk, through arches, or on crosswalks beside bike lanes.”
Continues Palmer: “This is powerful knowledge that we've left out of lots of software. Almost any software can use spatial concepts to become easier to understand.”
Reading Palmer’s essay helped Crivello identify what had been missing in his first experience with distributed work. “I read that blog post by John Palmer,” Crivello says, “and literally I closed the tab and started working on [Teamflow].”
Crivello and the team grounded Teamflow in three ideas: spatiality, apps, and persistence. Fundamentally, the app’s UI resembles the floor plan of an office.
When a team first sets up in Teamflow, it customizes the layout, setting up desks, work areas, and meeting rooms. Teams also integrate apps, like whiteboard and notepads.
“We resisted for the longest time having furniture,” Crivello explains. “We actually ended up circling back to [it] because we realized that furniture [serves] a function.”
With that in mind, users might set up space for a brainstorming session with a circle of chairs and whiteboard. Another part of the office might represent a team pod of desks.
As Crivello explains, “a meeting does not have the same dynamic if you have one chair sitting in front of 50.” You’re more inclined to start a conversation by the water cooler than approach someone at their desk.
Into this office setting, Teamflow embeds real-time video and app workflows, to enable both quick hellos and deep project work.
From the start, real-time video was key. Crivello understood the importance of face-to-face interactions for collaboration, pointing to a recent study where 30% report a higher satisfaction rate, when online meetings include video, compared to audio alone.
As a new generation of collaboration tool, real-time video in Teamflow is more organic than transactional — teammates see each others’ video in a bubble on the floor plan, like they might see each other across the office in real life. How users experience video and audio is tied to space and purpose: they can “walk” through the office by moving their video bubble.
30% of study participants reported a higher satisfaction rate when online meetings include real-time video, compared to audio only.
Audio is spatial: users only can hear other people who are near them. As you pass by a colleague, you can exchange quick hellos or chat unplanned. A marketing teammate can be at their desk, and look across the office to see (but not hear) engineers in a meeting room.
Video calling also can be used to talk to guests outside the team. Users can create meeting links, corresponding to an office’s rooms. The links are 1-click: guests just click and appear in the room, to make meetings as easy as possible.
Crivello notes how traditional video calling forces teams to “reset,” as he puts it. “When you leave a room, the work is wiped out.”
Instead in Teamflow, the digital space remains the same, even after users leave. Much like a physical whiteboard stays up in a conference room, a whiteboard used in a Teamflow meeting room “persists.”
Crivello draws a comparison to the way many teams work on a project basis, setting up so-called “war rooms.” In Teamflow, a team can click to join a room, for example, and see the shared documents from the last session, to understand decisions that were made.
From the very beginning of development, Crivello built on webRTC, which provides the seamless, native video Teamflow requires.
“Initially I started building my own webRTC thing, but it's just very complex to build that kind of thing yourself,” Crivello explains.
After exploring different solutions, Crivello built prototypes with Daily and a competitor product for comparison. In terms of time-to-value, Daily was unrivalled: Crivello was able to get up and running with a prototype in three hours.
“I actually started building this by modifying the code sample and moving things around,” Crivello says, noting that the docs are “very, very good!”
[With Daily], “you’re dealing with a domain expert and an expert in webRTC.”
From the time he built his early prototype to officially launching the product, the Teamflow team has been able to iterate quickly — with support along the way. “The Daily team is super responsive,” Crivello says. In exchanges with the Daily team about optimizing video quality, “you’re dealing with a domain expert and an expert in webRTC.”
Using Daily allows Teamflow to focus their resources on what differentiates them in the market — their unique and powerful UI. To this end, the Teamflow team includes some of the top talent in webGL, the standard for 3D graphics in the browser. Teamflow is also working rapidly to add more integrations, like Google Drive and Trello.
Even Daily’s pricing structure was simpler to work with. Other platforms “charge you as a function of the square of the number of participants on each call, which is insane and absurd,” says Crivello.
Ultimately, using Daily, Crivello and the Teamflow team were able to build the features they needed and iterate until the product felt right. “We did experiment a lot!” says Crivello.
Despite his own experiences, Crivello is optimistic about the future of remote work. Remote work only will grow, he points out, and we all — organizations, teammates, and tools — will learn from each other. “People are going to get better at it,” he says.
Interestingly, Crivello sees the improvements around remote work benefitting all teams, whether their office is physical or virtual. Real estate is finite, he points out. “I used to run out of whiteboards,” he chuckles.
"It's been amazing working with Daily."
No matter how effective it is to work together physically, there is a cap on what an in-person organization achieves. Virtual rooms are infinite. A team that uses Teamflow expands what it can achieve and scale.
As Teamflow builds the collaboration layer across applications, giving teams a place to build culture remotely, they know that they have a quality video partner along the way. Building on the Daily API means they have a team alongside them, innovating constantly to deliver the best that webRTC has to offer.
“It’s been amazing working with Daily,” says Crivello.
Daily APIs make it easy, fast, and flexible for developers to build with video.