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Former Yext CEO launches Roam to provide a virtual HQ for distributed teams

Roam, which bills itself as a "cloud HQ" for distributed, remote companies, today emerged from stealth with $30 million in Series A funding led by IVP with participation from undisclosed angel investors. The tranche, which comes after a previously unannounced $10.6 million seed round and values the company at $95 million post-money, will be put toward go-to-market efforts in the U.S. and abroad, CEO Howard Lerman said.

Lerman previously co-founded and led Yext, the publicly traded brand management company that uses a cloud-based network of apps and search engines to keep company information up to date across the web. When Yext's workforce transitioned to remote work during the pandemic, Lerman perceived that employees lost "spontaneity and serendipity," spent more time in meetings and began to lose visibility into what other meetings were going on and what their colleagues were doing.

"I had this flash of insight -- what if there was a bird's-eye view of all the Zooms going on at a company at the same time that everyone could see? And better yet, what if people could move between and among them so they could participate as necessary and then quickly be on to their next thing?" Lerman told TechCrunch via email.

To Lerman's point, shifts to a mostly remote workforce don’t occur overnight. One survey suggests that nearly half of employees -- 46% -- find remote work, at least in the early stages, can make it more difficult to maintain professional relationships with key stakeholders.

That inspired Roam, which provides what Lerman describes as cloud-based "flex spaces" for workers at home, in offices and in the field. Roam's Map View lets workers see what’s going on and have "project presence," Lerman says, as well as chat with colleagues via text or video chat.

Lerman didn't reveal much beyond that -- it's early days for Roam, which currently has around 40 corporate customers. But he argued that the platform as it exists today can save substantial time compared to typical remote setups.

Roam
Roam

Image Credits: Roam

"I found my own personal meeting minutes dropped by more than 40% when I switched from Zoom to Roam from 4.5 hours per day to 2.6 hours per day. My average meeting time in Roam is eight minutes, an astounding number when you think about the prescheduled world of 30- and 60-minute Zoom time blocks," Lerman said.

Shorter and fewer meetings can lead to cost savings through improved productivity. One recent study out of the University of North Carolina found that unnecessary meetings waste about $25,000 per employee annually, translating to $101 million a year for any organization with over 5,000 staffers.

Roam isn't the first startup to attempt to tackle challenges around remote work with a cloud-based workspace. In fact, there are dozens of virtual HQ platforms, some venture-backed and some bootstrapped, mixing gamification and productivity into a service. In August, Kumospace raised $21 million for its platform that leverages lo-fi graphics and game-like mechanics to create a sense of togetherness. Gather is another big winner (despite layoffs) in the space, having raised $77 million in total from investors, including Sequoia, Index and Y Combinator.

It's not just startups. This summer, Microsoft launched Viva Engage, an in-house social media app for employee engagement. Other companies are piloting VR and apps such as Oculus for Business or Horizon Workrooms, aiming to boost collaboration with immersive meetings for remote workers.

But Lerman believes strongly that Roam is differentiated, having invested the entirety of the seed round himself. He points out that as many as 77% of U.S.-based jobs are now either remote or hybrid, according to a March 2022 Gallup poll, representing a huge potential customer base.

Indeed, after more than two years of remote work, many employees have no interest in returning to the office. Not all businesses are behind the changes, but there’s no denying that the pandemic rewrote the rules around the workplace -- to the benefit of startups like Roam, potentially.

"We are in the midst of a massive platform shift from in-office workplaces to various remote and hybrid models. In pre-pandemic 2019, [only] 40% of US jobs were either remote or hybrid," Lerman said. "The pandemic has significantly accelerated the rate of distributed businesses and the need for a cloud HQ. No matter the size or how well they are faring, the future of work is a top issue for nearly every company right now."

Roam has 15 employees and plans to hire five more by the end of the year. Lerman declined to reveal financials, including revenue figures, when asked.