Apps Interviews San Mateo

Sunsama: kind-of like Slack, but with focus on face-to-face


Twitter-Logo Sunsama: kind-of like Slack, but with focus on face-to-face Facebook-Logo Sunsama: kind-of like Slack, but with focus on face-to-face

What is Sunsama?

Sunsama is an app that helps teams organize all their meetings, calls, lunches, and karaoke parties in one place.

Teams rely on face-to-face conversations to solve their hardest problems. Sunsama makes it easy for people in teams to get together offline. By organizing all offline events in one place, everyone in the team can stay in sync about what’s going on, and get involved in the conversations that matter most. More face time, less hassle.

Sunsama is built for highly collaborative teams and organizations. If your craft benefits from input and discussions with your team, Sunsama is made for you.

Sunsama will give knowledge workers a space where they can quickly assemble meetings/calls around conversation topics. You’ll have visibility into what conversations are happening offline within your team, so you can join in, follow up, or share your input via comments. Teams will be able to share their availability and easily schedule group meetings both within the team and across enterprises.

Sunsama will be fully synchronized with whatever calendar you use, and integrate into your most important tools that help you communicate with your team (e.g. Slack), and manage your time (e.g. Tripit).

Team’s will have a feed that’s the pulse of their organization. Meetings will be presented as opportunities and not obligations.

Similar to Slack, you’ll be able to organize your team’s activities into channels, so that coordinating multiple projects and mixing in more social/playful activities is clean and simple. You’ll be able to comment, @ mention teammates, and shares files and notes on a meeting by meeting basis.

When we’re ready to serve larger enterprises, we’ll provide analytics about meetings and interactions within the organization, so companies can figure out how to encourage more productive conversations.

Who is your target user?

People who work at collaborative companies. People interested in workplace social and workplace collaboration. People looking for better ways to communicate with colleagues.

Why did you build Sunsama? What problem are you taking on?

Because the best communication and the best teams collaborate in person. Coordinating and organizing in person meetings is hard. Sunsama makes that effortless.

Meetings are the pulse of organizations. It’s where big ideas are being discussed and hard problems are being solved. The Sunsama feed gives you a way to find out what important meetings are happening with your team, even the ones you don’t have to attend. You can like, comment and have discussions around the meetings inside your organization.

How is Sunsama different from what is currently available?

In the age of Slack we’re the only company that cares about making sure you spend more time face to face with your colleagues.

In the same way Slack reduces dependence on e-mail for online communication Sunsama reduces dependence on the calendar for offline communication..

Whereas most new enterprise communication technologies aim to increase communication on your mobile device, Sunsama aims to improve communication offline. The most valuable conversations happen face-to-face. While hard to coordinate, when they come together, we end up with the strongest bonding experiences, and the most in-depth interactions when we can communicate face-to-face in real time.

Sunsama is built for open, flat and transparent organizational cultures. Meeting invites can be presented as opportunities. People will have more control over their time, and more opportunities to engage people offline, both inside their team and across their organization.

Shared calendars are a nightmare after 6 people. Sunsama’s channel based feed lets you stay in the loop about the important meetings/conversations in your organization of thousands.

Shared calendars don’t let you express that you’re open and available. Subject area experts, thought leaders and mentors inside an organization can easily make themselves available for office hours.

Calendars can’t be shared across companies/enterprises. Sunsama teams can span multiple organizations and allow scheduling of meetings across enterprises.

Sunsama’s scheduling engine has sophisticated algorithms that account for travel time and user preference when suggesting meeting times.

In 7-10 years Sunsama will be the first enterprise SaaS app to become a consumer social network. Once we’ve seeded Sunsama with ~1MM enterprise users we will build a new professional social network where people will easily be able to coordinate meetings and organize events around common professional interests. When you want to know who a professional is you’ll check LinkedIn; when you want to have a real conversation with them you’ll send them a meeting request via Sunsama.

Tell us your founding story. Was there an “ah ha” moment?

Slack is an amazing product but it doesn’t help us communicate with our colleagues in person. The pulse of every organization is the face to face interactions that are happening. Sunsama helps you organize face time with your colleagues, find out what important meetings and events are happening and have conversations about these meetings/events.

If you think the ideal workplace is one where people silently Slack each other then Sunsama isn’t for you. If you care about interacting with your colleagues IRL then you need Sunsama.

Tell us about your founding team and their backgrounds.

Travis and I (Ashutosh) met while designing Volkswagen’s internet enabled car back in 2009. We coordinated engineers and executives from the American headquarters, the German Headquarters, the Palo Alto research lab and two other research universities.

After this, I moved to Palo Alto to work at LumobodyTech. I wrote activity recognition algorithms for wearable sensors. Those algorithms became commercially available in the LUMOback product and also used in Clinical research at Stanford University.

Travis left to work on an innovative data-science based approach to counterterrorism at Deloitte in D.C. Travis and I didn’t see each other again till I got a text from him that he was in Palo Alto for a few days. We ended up grabbing dinner at Da Sichuan and I started asking him about his project at Deloitte. Travis looked wildly uncomfortable as soon as I asked him. I thought it might just have been the blood red chili broth he just guzzled down but it turned out the counterrorism project just didn’t go anywhere.
It had the same setup as our VW project and so Travis had similarly high expectations. It was an innovative project with a star-studded team of engineers and data-scientists and plenty of funding. He said his team had done some great technical work but couldn’t turn it into a meaningful, high-level strategy because it was next to impossible to coordinate facetime with clients, subject-area experts and other stakeholders. Literally, the lack of human interaction was crippling the project. It was in that moment that we realized we had to build Sunsama.

Ashutosh Priyadarshy. University of Virginia, B.S. Electrical Engineering.