Funded by AngelList ‘Syndicates,’ Sqwiggle’s always-on virtual workroom is designed to allow remote workers to better collaborate with each other

By Editor September 12, 2013
Sqwiggle logo

Sqwiggle logoA Q&A with Sqwiggle co-founder Matt Boyd. The San Francisco-based startup, which offers a real-time collaboration platform for teams, closed a $1.1 million Seed funding round at the end of August. The investment came through AngelList’s ‘Syndicates’ feature, which allows investors on AngelList to collaborate on investments. Sqwiggle was founded early this year by Boyd, Tom Moor and Eric Bieller.

SUB: Please describe Sqwiggle and your primary innovation. 

Boyd: Sqwiggle is an always-on workroom where teams spend the entire day working together. When you’re not talking, you see a black-and-white picture of your teammates which updates several times per minute. If you’d like to talk, just click on someone’s picture and Sqwiggle will instantly connect you with live audio and video. No calling or accepting, just instant discussions.

SUB: Who are your target markets and users?

Boyd: Our target market is anyone who works remotely and feels the need to connect with their team in a deeper way than typical text chat or one-off video meetings. Sqwiggle was designed for both small and large teams. Our team has members on the West Coast, Midwest, and Europe, but we feel like we’re in the same office.

SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Sqwiggle from the competition?

Boyd: The biggest perception of competition is Google+ Hangouts, but we don’t see them as a competitor since the use case is completely different. It’s like saying Harley Davidson and BMW are competitors because they both have wheels. We see our actual competition as anything which allows for consistent presence throughout the day, so Hipchat is definitely in that arena, though Sqwiggle is actually pretty different since our updating snapshots and instant video provide a much deeper sense of presence.

SUB: When was the company founded, and what were the first steps you took in establishing it? 

Boyd: Sqwiggle was founded in February, 2013, simply out of necessity to connect deeper with our respective teams. Eric and I grew up together and we met Tom later through a series of Meetups in the San Francisco startup scene. After several discussions, we realized our visions were very closely aligned and we ultimately decided to tackle this problem together. Our first action was to build a rough prototype of the app and throw it into the wild. After a ton of iteration and evolution, we’re here today.

SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Sqwiggle? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?

Boyd: The idea was definitely a collection of past frustration with the current state of remote working and technology’s lack of focus on the growing remote work sector. We quickly realized that this is going to become the standard and primary way business will work, so it just made sense to us. I started working on a similar product in 2012 that was geared toward consumers, but it wasn’t until all three of us got together that we really understood the desperate need for a product like this in the remote work paradigm.

SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?

Boyd: I wish there was a deep story on the science and philosophy behind the name but there isn’t. The meaning behind the name came after we chose to call the app ‘Sqwiggle.’ If you think about a Sqwiggle, it’s never a straight line, but it’s always consistent and sometimes lengthy. That’s the way we like to think about our approach with team communication, so the name just seems to fit.

SUB: You recently closed a $1.1 million Seed funding round. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?

Boyd: I can’t speak for the rest of the Silicon Valley fundraising scene because I don’t think our experience was typical. The way it happened for us was a funny story. In a coffee-driven frenzy, I decided to start emailing everyone I could to let them know we existed. One of those people was Naval Ravikant who loved our traction, vision and execution. He decided to open us up to his new ‘syndicate’ feature on AngelList and after that, the fundraise was a fairly smooth process.

SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?

Boyd: We have a huge vision for the Sqwiggle ecosystem, so naturally there are a lot of features that people want and need. The bulk of the funds will go to building-out features, expanding our product offering, and putting together an incredible team that is focused on our vision. We’re hiring right now.

SUB: How would you rate the experience of raising capital through AngelList’s Syndicates program?

Boyd: I would rate it as an ‘A+.’ It was seamless and the AngelList team facilitated our deal in an extremely professional way. As the first ever deal in the Syndicate program, we seriously couldn’t be happier.

SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?

Boyd: As we expand, I can see how seeking additional funding might make sense in the future, but that’s a long way off and speculating so far out is extremely difficult.

SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?

Boyd: The biggest challenge has been on the technology side of things. Our core technology is built on WebRTC and since it’s so new, getting it to work with stability has proven to be quite the challenge. Fortunately, Google is pushing the bar and leading the charge when it comes to WebRTC, and we just so happen to be one of the beneficiaries of their hard work.

SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?

Boyd: Our revenue model is simple: Sqwiggle is $9 per month, per person, and we’re seeing great conversion at that price point.

SUB: What are your goals for Sqwiggle over the next year or so?

Boyd: Our goal over the next year is to continue executing on our big vision behind Sqwiggle by adding more and more features and increasing stability within the app and WebRTC. We’re also expanding the team and hiring great folks from around the world to help us in this vision.

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