June 21st might be ‘freedom day’ in the UK, but for many Britons, and indeed people across the globe it could be months, maybe even years before they return to offices.
Looking to fill that void and perhaps reinvent the way we work is a start-up called Gather, which has just raised $26 million in a Series A round led by one of the worlds leading VCs Sequoia Capital.
As the name implies Gather lets people get together in virtual spaces for any reason, whether it be for weddings, online parties, university lectures or council meetings.
Its core use though like to be as a tool for employees to get together with potentially a side use in online conferences.
The key is to create an office-style atmosphere among workers who are operating remotely. So users get their virtual desks, but at the same time can get together by the water cooler, play pool and just have a chat. The platform harnesses spatial audio technology, popular in video games, which creates the feeling of being in a room with someone. So, for example, if they are nearby you can hear them speak loudly, with their voice getting softer as they walk away.
And if people miss the way that they had their work space arranged, Gather allows a degree of customisation, so users can add lighting, furniture or even virtual pets.
It all sounds a tad gimmicky, but Sequoia Capital’s Shaun Maguire told TechCrunch “work-from-anywhere is here to stay.”
“Phillip Wang (Gather’s CEO) and [his]team’s motivations to create Gather precede the pandemic,” he said. “They realised that certain constraints in the physical world hinder your ability to stay connected with people outside of your immediate community — this was merely intensified during the pandemic.”
Maybe this is just the start, and that in the future millions of employees across the globe will start their working day by donning a VR headset and joining a Gather style virtual office world.
This is clearly a startup to keep an eye on.