Jakob Knutzen (right) next to co-founder Christopher Holm-Hansen (left). Courtesy of MeetButter.
For Jakob Knutzen, cofounder and CEO of new video conferencing and online workshop platform MeetButter, there is a clear and guiding north star: making online workshops even better than those held in-person. And the current moment couldn’t provide a more perfect testing ground.
Knutzen launched MeetButter in June as a video conferencing tool laser focused on online workshops for 5 to 50 people (“that’s kind of the sweet spot”), and it is taking off.
Since October, the platform has seen 200% growth month on month as people flock to host workshops online amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
“That could be anything from design sprints, problem solving workshops, strategy workshops, agile workshops, but it could also be HR trainings, skill trainings, and we’ve even had university teachers,” Knutzen said.
The right tool for the job
Designing the perfect workshop platform wasn’t initially in the cards for Knutzen and his two co-founders. When the pandemic hit, the trio, who had worked together at their previous startup StreamCrux, thought they would use their knowledge in remote work to help other offices transitioning amidst the pandemic.
They also wanted to discover common remote-work related issues and build a software product to resolve them. But instead, they found they were the ones experiencing the technical difficulties.
“It’s super hard to create interactive workshops online,” Knutzen said in an interview with The Org. “We were using Zoom with a whole lot of tools together like Miro, Mentimeter, and Kahoot. They were really good tools and they were really good for creating an interactive workshop, but we ended up switching between them all the time and losing people along the way.”
So the team decided to drop the workshops and work full time building their own platform. Since April, they’ve spoken to more than 400 workshop facilitators, held a large number of demos, and interviewed “loads and loads” of people in the workshop space to get to where they are.
“It’s been quite a journey,” Knutzen said.
Smooth as butter
The team has boiled the mission down to three main goals: creating an all-in-one tool, making a workshop suite, and generating energy and lightheartedness.
To create an all-in-one tool, MeetButter has been loaded with functionalities users would typically have to shuffle around for. The same goes for creating a workshop suite – where users have access to agendas before meetings start, and get notes sent to them as soon as the session is over.
“The third thing was the more elusive value of generating energy and a bit more light heartedness and delightfulness, which is so hard to generate in online meetings,” Knutzen said. “Hence the name MeetButter.”
With its pastel yellows, relaxed layout, charming elevator music and quirky in-chat reactions, the platform manages to cut through the typical formal, read awkward, nature of many online meetings. And its popularity shows users agree.
Knutzen puts that success down to listening to users and being super focused on designing a useful product.
Prior to launching MeetButter, Knutzen worked in strategy consulting before moving to Jakarta to set up a digital marketing agency office. In Jakarta, he said he learnt leadership and how to operate with “an absurd level of humility.”
“You have to be super humble to other peoples’ abilities. I hired a lot of people who were way more senior than myself and I listened.”
There, he watched how tech companies grew at speed and he wanted to try something with that level of scalability. On returning to Demark, he launched Stream Crux, a content discovery platform for game streaming. But when the growth wasn’t quite there and a funding round fell through earlier this year, he decided to pull the plug.
“I don’t think in the beginning I was humble enough, I thought building a tech startup, ‘I’ve built something before, I know what I’m doing, I’ll just do it a second time,’ but of course building a product is completely different,” he said.
Rediscovering his humility was the key to MeetButter’s success, he added.
The founding team behind MeetButter – Chief Technology Officer Adam Wan, Chief Product Officer Christopher Holm-Hansen, and Knutzen, the self-described marketing/finance guy – have been focused on avoiding the mistakes made at StreamCrux, which Knutzen said was focusing on growth over product. This time around, the team is “super, super focused” on building product and understanding problems users raise.
“We have continuously slapped ourselves in the face to make sure that we weren’t lying to ourselves or fooling ourselves into building something that the world doesn’t want or need,” he said.
Cultivating the right team
Given the break-neck speed the company is picking up users, it is planning on holding its first fundraising round in early 2021. Knutzen said although the team didn’t have a strong focus on immediate growth, the fundraising was about building for when there was a need for it.
Given MeetButter’s focus on building product, new hires will mostly go into research and development.
“The organization is structured on three parts: product design, technology and the third leg is growth and user research,” Knutzen said. “We’ve combined the growth and user research roles into one because we believe that is just so important for an early stage venture like ours.”
The team is completely remote, with staff in Denmark, Indonesia, Malaysia and Germany, and two of the co-founders have never even met in person.
“One of my big dreams is the ability to build a team of extremely diverse people, we’ve got a team of people with a lot of different nationalities and of course a lot of different ethnic backgrounds, and backgrounds in general,” Knutzen said. “I see an extreme power in diversity, you really get a mindset that is just so much broader and you don’t get group think in anywhere like you normally would.”
Currently, the team is focused on improving the platform for design and agile sprints, with those workshops being the most common so far. Over the next year, Knutzen said they would expand to a broader swath of use cases, and would look to more broad conceptual elements. He said a big thing they’d heard from facilitators was moving online meant they’d lost the ability to feel the room.
The team has plans to give facilitators “an extra set of senses” to tell who might be dozing off in the back, or who’s drawing on the tables, through both active and passive actions on the platform.
And at the core of all MeetButter developments is the, “North star purpose of making online workshops even better than physical workshops.”
“If we achieve that goal and people say, ‘Hey, I’d rather have a workshop with MeetButter than meet up in a big conference room,’ then we’ll have achieved something nice,” he said.
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