Roam raises $40 million to take on Zoom with virtual office spaces
Howard Lerman, CEO, Yext
Scott Mlyn | CNBC
Howard Lerman is tired of sitting still Zoom meetings.
the old Shortly The CEO spent more than a year creating Roam, a new type of virtual office software that allows employees to communicate in less formal and more efficient ways.
Roam functions as an office building in the cloud, and a beta version of the platform launched on Wednesday morning. Employees appear in virtual rooms or “offices”, and people can drop by with the click of a button – much like stopping in a physical office space.
Employees have an overview of their “floor” in a Roam HQ. People can see who’s in each virtual room as well as who’s working remotely, who’s in a physical office, and who’s out in the field. Some rooms have audio-only capabilities, and some have options for both video and audio, like a traditional video conference.
Lerman told CNBC that Roam can bring all of its employees together in one place, even if the companies operate remotely in offices around the world or use a hybrid model. And by giving employees easy access to their colleagues, companies can spend less time in formal meetings.
“What we’re seeing is that companies using Roam’s cloud headquarters are seeing an average meeting time of around 8 minutes and 30 seconds, which is staggering because for me previously my average meeting times were 30 and 60 minutes,” he said.
A floor map in a Roam HQ.
Lerman was inspired to found Roam after he accidentally forgot to invite a co-worker on a big Zoom call, he said. He realized that there was no way for a stranger to tell that people were coming together, so he decided to create a platform that gave employees more visibility.
If a company needs to hold a general meeting or watch a staff-wide presentation, they can send employees to a room that mimics a theater and has the capacity to hold thousands of people at a time.
Businesses can customize their headquarters to suit their needs by creating floor plans, choosing who “sits” where, and determining how many “floors” they need. Employees can also make the platform their own by adding profile photos and customizing a “shelf” in their office with photos.
Lerman even customized his own entrance music.
“It’s very important when you’re running a big company to have your own entrance music,” he said.
Employees can enter a theater in Roam to attend company-wide meetings and presentations.
Lerman has raised $30 million in Series A funding in partnership with Jules Maltz at IVP, according to a statement. He also contributed $10.6 million of his own money, bringing Roam’s fundraising total to $40.6 million.
Lerman said in the statement that he looks forward to partnering with Maltz and IVP for the second time.
Roam’s pricing model will be usage-based, he said, meaning it will only charge users who are active within a month.
“I think it’s much more business friendly to do it that way,” Lerman said.
Businesses can use invite-only Roam during the beta period, and Lerman said there is a waiting list. Roam will strive to add approximately a dozen businesses per month to the platform over the next six months.
“What you see today is like a 1.0,” Lerman said. “We have a pretty big vision ahead of us.”