Inspiration

Like everyone, I have been worried about the coronavirus and reaching out to my community. As I spoke to friends and MBA classmates, it became clear that a huge challenge is missing out on spontaneous conversations. "I am afraid that if I can't have watercooler chats and build my internal network, I won't be recognized or promoted" - a friend and consultant.

Without these chats, we feel isolated from our community, and career success is harder. Millions of people wfh now feel the same, and research shows that "feeling disconnected from office employees" was a problem for remote workers before now. We aim to empower remote workers globally, to be "fully present", engaged and capable!

What it does

Our app connects people into spontaneous chats with others in their organization by integrating with their calendars (WIP*) to match them into 2-5 minute conversations just before or after their meetings (if they have free time). We will use AI similar to Netflix's collaborative filtering to match people into better conversations

How we built it

The frontend is written in Typescript + React. Backend in Express.js and Firebase Auth with a MySLQ database, all dockerized. We are using the Serverless framework to deploy our application on Twilio's Runtime, which allows us to leverage a production environment out of the box (SSL, loadbalancer, CDN, logging/monitoring, etc.) We used a custom Material UI theme with a few Bootstrap mixins in the code and used Figma for design mockups.

Challenges we ran into

  • Google authentication integration with Node.js
  • Session-based authentication in a production setting
  • Serverless deployment
  • Multiple pivots on the idea ;)

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • Spinning up Docker container for MySQL db
  • Express server and learning how React communicates with backend to make calls
  • Live video and rooms working
  • Getting back into Typescript
  • Feedback from a VC that they funded a company very similar to us -- and encouraged us to keep building!

What we learned

We learned from a session with the Floodgate Fund's Shawn that there's a pain point for the problem we address (some companies are manually booking random watercooler chats among staff for the same experience), and about other startups tacking similar problem spaces. This buttressed the conversations I’d had with classmates and desk research.

What's next for Seren

I am very excited about this space and want to build it into a startup solving a real need. At least some members of the team will continue working on this. We are applying to all the VC prizes. From the hackathon, there’s a scheduled conversation with a startup active in this space to discuss vision/learnings about user behaviour! (Thanks Shawn!)

Links to files used in creation of the app

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1mG_DzUFHESeK_2Mtq0eiXNDajyCFqQdZ

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