The COVID-19 pandemic has had an undeniable impact on the global workforce. The rise of remote work and the shift towards hybrid or fully distributed workforces are fundamental elements of the future of work. However, despite the growing number of remote employees and fully distributed companies, there are many challenges associated with remote work that leaders have to combat. Employers need to create a remote working environment that employees can excel in— which is no easy feat.
For remote companies to succeed, it is essential to create an environment that feels more connected and human. This is exactly what the team at Commons is trying to do by creating a space for interactions that previously only happened in person.
In this week's Startup Spotlight, we caught up with Patrick Burns, the co-founder of Commons, to find out more about how they are making work feel more connected for remote teams. Patrick has held product leadership roles at Google, Snap, Amazon, and several startups. He started his career in media and produced an Oscar-nominated documentary film, and now he is enabling the future of work with Commons.
Enjoy the Q&A with Patrick below.
The startup at a glance
- Startup Name: Commons (http://commons.so/)
- Industry: Enterprise SaaS
- Location: Los Angeles, CA
- Date founded: July 2020
- Number of employees: 5
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/thecommons
- Vonage API used: Video API
In one sentence, what does Commons do?
Common is a voice-first collaboration platform designed to recreate an office-like environment where you can jump in and out of conversations with your team.
What is the problem you are solving? Was this the initial problem, or did you pivot?
Distributed work has become a new normal, but today's workplace communication tools weren't made for this paradigm. We're still in the “cubicle era”. Collaborative work requires lots of back-and-forth interaction. The faster and more organically it flows, the better. This type of interaction isn’t possible today, forcing teams to either schedule meetings or relegate these interactions to Slack.
Who’s the team?
Commons was founded by Patrick Burns (ex Product lead at Snap, Google and startups), Nazan Kurt and Aziz Kurt (both are full-stack engineers with 15+ years of experience, including 10+ at MSFT). We're a product-focused team that has spent 40+ years building social, communication, and enterprise networking products.
What differentiates Commons from your competitors? Is there a secret sauce?
While I can’t share any secrets, what we can say is that our team is our strength and competitive edge :). Based on what we’ve seen from studying adjacent verticals, we believe the winner in this space will have the best product, as measured by ease of use, speed, and reliability.
We believe our team’s deep understanding of user behavior with communication and social-based products -- as well as our demonstrated ability to quickly iterate alongside the rapidly changing needs of distributed and hybrid organizations -- has and will continue to help us differentiate our offering.
VC, Angel, Bootstrap or Other?
What’s the biggest challenge you faced, and how did you overcome it?
Going from 0-1 in a very competitive space. We’ve been laser-focused on continuous, rapid iteration and product execution.
The biggest mistake Commons has made so far, and what did you learn from it?
Investing earlier in recruiting. Early-stage founders should spend a sizable chunk of time on recruiting, and it’s never too early.
You can choose one to be on your board: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. Who do you choose and why?
I wouldn’t have these three because they’re too busy for us and their expertise isn’t as relevant as others. We’d choose Rahul Vohra of Superhuman, given his record creating delightful productivity products, or Arielle Jackson of First Round, given her expertise and experience in everything GTM.
What progress have you made since launching?
We currently have 100s of teams using our private beta. We've just launched on Product Hunt (May 18), would invite you to find us there!
What’s next for Commons? Where do you want to be in 3 years?
Our long-term vision is to revolutionize enterprise collaboration via audio. This will be carried out in three phases: communication, coordination, and intelligence.
Let's work together - Vonage for Startups
At Vonage for Startups, we help early-stage startups better understand Communications APIs' power and enable them to utilise these tools better. We provide the necessary educational resources and a supportive environment for the startup community to benefit from Communications APIs, whatever their individual needs are.
Apply to join us here.