As Canadians continue to await second vaccine doses and a sense of normalcy, it’s important to note that “normal” may never be the same again. The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed how we interact in everyday life, both personally and professionally.
While Zoom became an unlikely hero in this new world, bound together by virtual calls, it didn’t evoke the same feeling of togetherness that one would feel in an office setting or at a conference. Staring at a screen full of little boxes while one person talks can quickly get tiresome, and Zoom fatigue became a real thing. Mark Hlady and Yuri Takhteyev knew there had to be a better way. So, they came together to create Lobby.
Made to immerse users in an engaging and free-flowing virtual space, the video platform mimics the way one would take part in an in-person event.
“On Lobby, the value of an event lies in the relationships that form. Achieving this connection is possible when people can move freely between smaller video conversations and experience stage presentations with smaller groups in a fully customizable space,” said Lobby co-founder and CEO, Hlady.
Though many people are eager to get back to seeing others in real life, the matter of fact is that remote and hybrid-style conferences, team meets, and social events are here to stay.
Many companies have even announced that they’ll be fully remote, even after the pandemic is a thing of the past.
“We’ve heard from our clients that Lobby will be the tool that helps them come together to socialize in remote and hybrid environments,” said Hlday. “Our job is now to continue to provide value through exceptional virtual experiences and iterate based on client needs.”
With this new world of staying connected, Lobby aims to be the solution that many people and companies are desperately seeking. For this week’s Startup Spotlight, we spoke with Mark Hlady, Co-Founder and CEO of Lobby, about the importance of human connection and how Lobby helps foster it.
Why was Lobby created?
Human connection is what makes the world go round.
Although this is widely known, the platforms that have been ‘connecting’ us with others online aren’t actually that social. Existing video conferencing platforms have us sitting in grids of 50 people on mute, and social media apps have us ‘liking’ each other’s photos as a form of interaction.
This was always a problem that needed solving, but the pandemic sped up the urgency for a solution immensely. All of a sudden, my inbox was getting flooded by team and community leads across industries saying something like: “URGENT… I need tool recommendations for bringing groups together online…”.
With nothing on the market that met this need, my co-founder Yuri Takhteyev and I quickly got to work on the product that is now helping the world’s leading organizations and communities foster true virtual togetherness.
How does it differ from what else is on the market in the virtual experience industry?
Clubhouse, Zoom, and other apps that people use to connect with others are built for speakers projecting content to an audience. People are loving Lobby because it’s the total opposite experience.
On Lobby, the value of an event lies in the relationships that form. Achieving this connection is possible when people can move freely between smaller video conversations and experience stage presentations with smaller groups in a fully customizable space. We’ve got a boatload of other features that I could brag about, but I’ll let you experience those when you join your first Lobby!
Were there any troubles bringing Lobby to life?
Lobby fundamentally changes how we interact online. With any new tool, people can be hesitant to let go of old ways of doing things. On Lobby, this might look like a new guest inviting 30 people into a single video conversation since that’s what they did on Zoom.
With this, our team has focused on making the experience as easy to navigate as possible with educational material and in-app tips to encourage more social behaviour. Lucky for us, people tend to quickly realize that 30 people socializing with only one person talking at a time isn’t natural and break up into smaller groups.
How does Lobby plan to pivot and evolve as the world opens back up? Do you think there will be a continued need for virtual events?
This is my favorite question! I like this question because it opens up the conversation of what to expect from ‘The New Normal’ that is emerging. With a year of remote work and virtual gathering under the belts of many, people are reassessing which life activities actually require them to be in person.
Team Leads have realized that they can allow employees to live outside of high-cost cities and hire worldwide, all while not compromising on productivity levels. Community leads have realized that they can bring people together from across the globe to foster cross-continental connections without sacrificing experience.
With this, we’ve heard from our clients that Lobby will be the tool that helps them come together to socialize in remote and hybrid environments. Our job is now to continue to provide value through exceptional virtual experiences and iterate based on client needs.
What is Lobby’s overall mission?
Lobby’s mission is to help people feel a sense of togetherness.
This mission is woven into the fundamentals of how Lobby works and fosters connection.
Togetherness is so important to our team (and the world at large) because of the risks that isolation and polarization pose in a remote/hybrid world. If we continue to only connect with others in ways that make us feel more alone, personal and professional wellbeing will plummet.
If we come together virtually in ways that mimic and enhance our in-person dynamics, we can master a new form of togetherness that fuels us.
What has the feedback been like from Lobby users?
One of the favorite parts of my job is my post-event debrief meetings with hosts and guests. Often, it can take a few minutes for someone to put their platform experience into words because it is so different from what they have experienced so far (which is an awesome feeling).
My favorite quote sent over by a guest was, “I feel like I am in a community for the first time all year!”. That pretty much sums it up!
Where does the company hope to be in five, 10 years?
No matter the timeline, we always want to help people feel a sense of togetherness.
As time goes on and the world around us changes, we want to continue pushing the boundaries on how people experience connection online. We don’t just want to mimic in-person dynamics; we want to introduce new dynamics that go beyond any human experience possible today.