commutator, a collaboration app that combines the features of videoconferencing and digital whiteboarding, today announced that it has raised $25 million in a Series A round that values the company at $200 million post-money. Icon Ventures, with participation from Sequoia, XYZ and Spark Capital, led the tranche, bringing Switchboard’s total earnings to $38.4 million.
Co-founder and CEO Amir Ashkenazi told Meczyki.Net that new capital will be invested to build Switchboard’s team and product.
“I founded Switchboard in June 2020, and it really came out of frustration with the remote guitar lessons I was taking. My teacher and I couldn’t bring the equipment we needed in online lessons—things like a metronome, a PDF viewer for notes and sheet music, a media player for back tracks, a second camera for viewing fingerpicking, etc,” Ashkenazi wrote in an email. Said in the interview. “What I realized was that all of our current ‘collaboration’ tools are really just communication tools, enabling text, audio, video communication, or screen sharing but actually putting things together.” are not. This was a problem not only for my music lessons but for remote work around the world, where teams are trying to build products, manage projects, or brainstorm new ideas together. What began as technology for better guitar lessons evolved into Switchboard: a cloud co-working space purpose built for remote work.
Ashkenazi was previously president of AOL Platforms before launching Tucci, an AI and voice tech company that LogMeIn was later acquired for an undisclosed amount. Ashkenazi is the sole founder of Switchboard, whose initial team includes ex-Databricks software engineers Chris Jones, Marco Iacono and Daniel Shteremberg — the last of whom was senior product manager at Zoox before Amazon bought it in 2020.
Switchboard allows users to run multiple web-based apps, including Google Docs, Figma, Trello and Jira, in a single “virtual room”. Instead of toggling between tabs and apps or sharing one’s screen, Switchboard is designed to bring content into a shared space. For example, users can create permanent public and private rooms that hold apps and files for projects and open recurring meetings the next time they are ready to collaborate. Each room has a “meeting memory,” which includes a history of chat threads and any content shared.
Ashkenazi claims that switchboard traffic between a user’s client and the company’s infrastructure is encrypted in-flight and at rest. The company does not sell its stored data and has no plans to do so.
During the pandemic, as many workers transitioned from in-office to work-from-home setups, the market for digital collaboration apps exploded. Back in 2020, a report by White Star Capital estimated that $35 billion worth of venture capital money was invested in globally help Companies including Postman, WorkVivo, Slack and Zoom between 2017 and 2020.
“We introduced Switchboard during the pandemic as a response to devices that weren’t built for true collaboration,” Ashkenazi said. “It is not a hard sell… Remote working saved our economy during the pandemic and we are now seeing this as a priority for many workers. [But companies] There’s direct experience with some of the limitations of videoconferencing: the worry about sharing your personal desktop, the fatigue from staring at faces all day, and the frustration of re-sharing what was shared in a meeting via screen sharing or chat.
Asked about the competition, Ashkenazi says he sees Switchboard’s rivals falling into a few different categories — such as videoconferencing, virtual offices, and vertical collaboration. But he argues that none of them adequately address the challenges that switchboards were designed to address.
“Virtual conference tools like Zoom or Google Meet are great for communication. But they won’t work with any web-based app, don’t make any website instantly collaborative, nor do they offer permanent rooms for meetings and projects, nor do they provide an expansive space for visual collaboration. are,” Ashkenazi said. “Meanwhile, vertical collaboration tools like Figma and Miro provide a place for visual collaboration and some communication tools but have more focused applications for design and whiteboarding, respectively.”
Ashkenazi declined to say how many customers or users the switchboard has. But he stressed that the platform is “growing rapidly” and seeing sign-ups “from startups to agencies to high ed.”
“The communication tools and apps we use to work are only loosely connected and the only option we have to connect them is screen sharing. The industry is suffering from too many tools and not enough cohesion,” Ashkenazi said. “We think remote work will be the future if we have the right tools to truly support it. Collaboration tools should seamlessly combine communication and the applications we use. The challenge is really about the workforce.” One of the practices is where video conferencing and screen sharing are deeply ingrained in our practice. But most workers also realize how inadequate those tools are and want something better.”
Switchboard currently has 22 employees and plans to increase that number to 36 by the end of the year.