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WFH has brought a new set of challenges. One of these is the lack of physical cues that we get while working in the office, such as seeing people at breakout room, kitchen, or people passing by your desk, that prompt you to start a quick spontaneous conversation. At home it is easy to forget to take little breaks and people can be more reluctant to start a spontaneous conversation online.

The lack of personal interaction and lack of time-outs can lead to severe mental health issues:

  • lack of motivation
  • low mood
  • frustration
  • depression and anxiety

From this productivity level is decreasing. Studies proof that a person needs little breaks to get on track and boost their energy levels.

We looked into the competitors in the market and found two:

  • mystery coffee: people get randomly matched and invited to a secret coffee or lunch
  • donut: a slack app to arrange socialising with team mates

Our USPs that give us the competitive edge:

  • we emphasise the spontaneity factor with the aim of simulating corridor conversations in the physical office
  • our app is not dependent on an existing platform such as slack, as many companies may not have slack in their suite

We understand the importance of small bursts of talks and quick connections that people used to take for granted. We care about people's mental health that can be achieved by regular breaks and social connections.

What it does

This app solves the problems mentioned above with prompting user at random times during the day and match them up with another person:

  • you get a notification and a prompt for a chat, similar to bumping into someone at the office
  • you can be matched with a person in your favorite list or someone new within the company
  • the bot will provide you with ice breaker quotes to get you started
  • the video call is limited to 5 minutes with the option to extend
  • you also have the option to initiate a conversation if you feel like having one

We feel the 5 minutes limit is important to encourage spontaneity. Everyone can almost always spare 5 minutes out of their day and it also provides a nice window for people to "get away". As with real life, you can extend the conversation for another 2 minutes or 5 minutes (a few times even), if you're really enjoying the conversation.

The following settings are available to give some control to the user:

  • how many times a day you want to take the break
  • the probability of being matched with an inner circle or a stranger within the company
  • interests for matching algorithm (optional)
  • preferred time slots

How we built it

As a quick prototype, we decided to go with simple HTML, css and javascript to give people an idea of the interface and the functionalities. We chose web based application to keep it OS agnostic for MVP, but expansion to desktop and phone apps are certainly on the horizon.

Challenges we ran into

The video streaming is a challenge that we quickly acknowledged. There could be two possible MVPs: one with the internal video chat functionalities and one using external app like zoom.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • We are proud that we feel very strongly about the idea from the beginning and we believe in it, which drove us to having interesting and passionate conversations around this issue that we're trying to solve
  • We worked well together as a team, with two other people that we did not even know 48 hours ago
  • Having a well defined product, with a pitch video and a prototype

What we learned

We learned a whole array of skills that we probably did not think of before, such as the ideation process, rapid prototyping, video editing, voiceover, on top of the ability to work well together as a team, with people with various background and skillsets.

What's next for Spontea Coffee

We'd like to get to the next stage of prototyping and do market evaluation to see if there's big enough interest in it.

Potential features:

  • Connecting with external data sources for having better matches (e.g. Linkedin)
  • Adding a gamification aspect: for example you can get 1 star if you have a conversation with someone at least once per day. Users can collect starts. They can get bonus match the more stars they have. They can also be matched with a random someone with the similar star level.
  • It could be fairly easy to match people based on common interests, but we also want to make sure people don't just stick in their bubble, so finding the right balance would be interesting.

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