Partnering with Switchboard: The Virtual Collaboration Platform for Teams
By Mike Vernal
Published May 2, 2022
A few weeks into the pandemic, one of my partners commented that it felt like “the end of the beginning” for online collaboration. Social distancing had made video conferencing tools an increasingly integral part of our lives—Zoom literally helped keep the world functioning—and while our existing tools were great, it seemed inevitable that this new normal would lead to a Cambrian explosion of new ways of collaborating online.
If you are having a 1:1 or there’s a single presenter and many viewers, traditional video conferencing works great. But not all meetings are one-to-many (and not all collaboration is scheduled!). There are forums where everyone is an active participant—brainstorms, daily scrums, pipeline reviews, etc. I think of these as “collaboration” meetings.
These virtual meetings often still have tons of friction. Only one teammate can drive the meeting at any given time. There is an elaborate dance to switch control from one person to the next. There is a moment of panic each time someone starts sharing their screen (did I share the wrong thing?). Everything fundamentally feels half-duplex.
Switchboard is a platform for teams to collaborate online. It is a series of IRC-like channels, each of which is an infinite canvas where anyone can open applications and share them with others.
At Switchboard’s core is a custom-built, cloud-based browser that allows you to run all of the apps you already know and love—Notion, Figma, Linear, Rippling and more. The canvas lets anyone interact with any application in either “single-player” mode (where everyone sees the same thing) or “multiplayer” mode (if the app natively supports real-time collaboration). The canvas is persistent so that when you rejoin the room, you can pick up right where you left off.
I’ve been using it for months and love it.
With one company, we go through their internal dashboards of new user signups and analytics dashboards together. Each participant gets to dive-in to the weeds without needing the host to drive.
With another company, we drag the PDF of the board deck onto the canvas so that any of us can drive or download it locally.
In a third case, we use it to go through Figma mocks and marketing copy. We are able to see the full picture without constantly switching between tabs locally.
One of the unexpected benefits of Switchboard is that everyone feels a lot more present. Instead of sending around links for people to open locally—and wondering whether the change in the glow on someone’s face is the link you sent or if they’re just checking their email—you consume the article or meme you were sharing together. It’s a subtle but powerful change.
The team is also fantastic. Amir has created multiple successful companies (Shopping.com, AdapTV). Marco was part of the original Siri team and the COO at Viv Labs. Chris was the co-creator of Firefox OS. Deborah has been a marketing leader at both startups and the largest retailer in the world. Daniel has led teams at Viv, Zoox, Labelbox and more.
We are delighted to have co-led the seed along with Ross Fubini at XYZ and Dan Portillo and the team at the General Partnership.
The Switchboard beta is now open and free to all users. Check it out at either switchboard.app or on Product Hunt!