Guest Speaker: Siftery “Stay connected with your remote team through instant video communication using Walky”
Working remote is hard and communicating remote is even harder. In the office, you could walk up to someone and tap them on the shoulder and quickly get an answer to your question. Even if you didn’t need to chat, you could look across the room and see your co-workers working with you. You felt like you were part of a team, not a lone wolf. Walky aims to re-connect remote workers by providing instant video broadcasting to their team and office.
Can you tell us about what you are working on ? What is Walky?
James: Walky is a video-first chat app for remote workers and teams. It lets you instantly broadcast yourself to your team members for quick exchanges, no pickup required on their end. Create a Channel (just like a channel on a Walky talky), invite your team, and hit the broadcast button. On top of that, you can turn on Live Photo to automatically update your profile picture every minute so that your co-workers can remember what you look like! Our goal is to eliminate the disconnect and friction that people experience when they work remotely.
Why are you building this? What problem are you trying to solve?
James: I myself have been remote for over half of my career. There are certainly a lot of benefits to being remote, but they are leveled by serious costs. You lose a lot of important socialization and rapport with your co-workers as well as missing inflection and tone in conversations. If you’re working remote with an in-office team, you’re often excluded and forgotten, or you have to fight to be heard. It’s easy to forget that you’re contributing to something with a group of people, and that those people are more than just Github PR’s and Slack messages! Lastly, it almost seems like a rule that all video chat apps are clunky and don’t work when you need them to. Not saying Walky is immune to that, but certainly hoping to do better!
Who are your top competitors & how is Walky different from what’s already exists in the market? What’s unique about what you are building & why do you think companies should use Walky?
James: There are the 800 pound gorillas: Skype, Hangouts, and Webex as well as some newer entries by established companies. Slack just added video calling and Amazon just launched Chime. Walky’s model is more closely related toAppear.in and Sneek.io and involves setting up a persistent space (Walky calls them Channels) that people can flow in and out of instead of chats or groups. Since you ca broadcast yourself one-directionally, there really is no start and stop of a call, no dialing, no ringing. Its more of a quick on off switch. Also, Walky lets people join instantly via a link as a guest which is something that the bigger players don’t really support.
Any company with remote workers should use Walky to connect with their workforce. I think the Live Photo feature ends up being more useful than you’d initially think. With Live Photo, your camera snaps a new profile photo once a minute for your team to see. Even I was circumspect of it at first, but after spending my first day with it turned on, I never want to go back. Its a simple truth that when you see people, you feel more connected to them. And yes, it captures some hilarious photos throughout the day, but Walky only stores the most recent photo, so they won’t come back to haunt you.
Who uses Walky? Can you tell us a bit about the different customer segments using Walky? What types of roles do your customers have at their companies (Sales, Marketing, Devops, etc.)?
James: Walky just launched into Beta and came out of the gate being featured on Product Hunt. Initial reactions have been positive with some great community feedback, and we’re waiting to see what kind of markets Walky plays well in. Our target audience would be remote workers who spend the majority of their day at a desk. While we plan on supporting mobile, the model is more about instant communication when you’re available, not deferred messaging like Voxer.
How are your customers using Walky? Could you share a few different use cases?
James: There is the typical case that we built Walky for which is connecting remote workers at a desk. This is typically your 9 to 5 worker that either needs to connect to an in office team of other remote workers. There have also been requests to add moderation tools because people are using Walky for hosting Webinars. Since Walky supports one direction broadcasting, its easy for a few people to jump into a Channel and watch someone present.
Have there been unique use cases for Walky that you hadn’t thought of or expected?
James: A completely unexpected use case is people using Walky as an in office notifier with the Quick Text feature. You can send redundant messages like “your next appointment is here” or “you have a call on line 1”, with a single click which makes for an almost YO like experience. These messages will be received even when the browser is closed, but as an experiment, you can have the messages read allowed to you when the browser is open. We’re interested to see what other cases pop up with Walky, but simple exchanges text exchanges would be something worth exploring more.
What were some of the biggest challenges while building the product early on and how did you solve them?
James: The biggest challenge to solve with any video chat application is server cost and resources. Supporting larger numbers of users per chat requires either an SFU or Multiplexing unit, both costly to setup and maintain. Cross platform compatibility is closely related, because you could burn a ton of time and money trying to get it to get video to work on a multitude of devices and browsers. In order to curb both the server costs and platform issues, Walky is currently using direct P2P WebRTC mesh networking.
WebRTC has been highly touted as the next amazing thing for the web but unfortunately support is still uneven. Chrome has been targeted as the only platform for the beta release because of its 50% market share and relatively stable WebRTC APIs. Additionally, a desktop app could happen in the near future because of software packages like Electron and NodeWebkit which run Chromium based browsers. The last major challenge is trying to find the sweet spot of features and reliability. You can lose a new user if they can’t get their webcam working on their first visit. With a seemingly infinite number of hardware setups out there, you just have to keep adding guard rails to help the user troubleshoot.
What have been some of the most interesting integrations you’ve added? Are there any that have been particularly impactful for you?
James: Currently, our only integrations are social sign in. You can use the app as a guest, but there isn’t a traditional email signup. This is really helpful for guest users who want to convert to a real account as the signup is relatively instant. We have planned integrations for Slack and Skype, but nothing we want to announce officially at the moment.
What are the top products that you depend to run the company & how do you use them?
James: I’m personally a technical founder, so I tend to get more excited about the app and stack more than anything else. The big winner here is Firebase. Its amazing to see how far its come since being acquired by Google and they’ve made it easier than ever to take ideas from concept to reality. Mix that in with Google’s AngularJS and Angular Material and you can get to hi-fidelity product in what seems like record time.
Since we’ve been focused on getting the product up and running, we haven’t gotten our marketing and sales pipelines established yet. We are however using the omni-present Google Analytics and Google Adwords to drive some paid traffic. The team is small right now so we’ve been getting by using Trello and Google Docs for task tracking and planning.