While conducting a memorial service for my parents online, it dawned on me how Zoom has become synonymous with modern-day communication, especially in the past chaotic year. As people from senior citizens to kids joined the meeting, despite struggling to understand how it worked or dropping in and out of the videoconference, I wondered what else might soon connect us in new ways. What lies beyond Zoom? In today’s Daily Dose, we are looking into the future of the workplace, education and personal relationships, and the apps that help us make sense of an online world.
Pallabi Munsi, Reporter
1. Zoho Meetings
At a time when videoconferencing tools have become a lifeline for collaborating with managers and co-workers, data protection has been on everyone’s mind — especially with the phenomenon of “Zoom-bombing.” Zoho Meeting aims to tackle the problem with an open-source videoconferencing tool that maintains end-to-end encryption. It can also be linked with the Zoho CRM (customer relationship management) tool. The platform has its cons: There isn’t a whiteboard feature, for example. But as Zoho’s VP of Marketing, Praval Singh, tells OZY, there’s more than just one letter that differentiates Zoho from Zoom: “The videoconferencing tool is a piece of the Zoho ecosystem — so it makes your life easier from a business perspective. All of it is to ensure privacy — that’s who we are as a company.”
One of the hottest tech trends of the year is “edge computing,” in which hardware at the edge of a network processes data locally for cloud-connected devices — almost anything in our Internet of Things age. Then only necessary data is sent on to the cloud, which can be thousands of miles away, to improve processing speed. Founded in 2013, Mutable is on the cutting, well, edge of this trend: Self-described as “an Airbnb for servers,” the software platform runs on existing servers, prioritizing the owners’ workload while selling the rest of the server capacity. That way, it provides edge computing capability to others.
3. Hooky Wellness
Work-from-home and economic stressors caused by the pandemic are catching up to us: In a July survey by job platform Monster, 69 percent of respondents reported symptoms of burnout. Detroit-based Hooky Wellness is designed to help workplace teams spot and remedy those signs quickly. Hooky has worked with Indiana University and Google, among others, and the app is just one of a suite of new products designed to tackle workplace burnout.
This marketing automation tool saw a surge in 2020, passing 130,000 customers and 750 global employees. Why? Because it’s leading the pack in automating customer relationship management, email targeting and other tasks to help close a sale. Key to the Chicago-based company’s success is foreign markets, including a push into Brazil. While its tools are not unique, ActiveCampaign also knows the way to its own customers’ hearts: reasonable prices.
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Trying to teach young kids how to write while stuck in Zoom school can be near impossible. But this app’s engaging sounds and colors, which turn writing letters and numbers into a game, could be your ticket to making sure learning doesn’t slip. Teachers and parents have access to the controls so they can choose kids’ activities and track their progress. Plus, it’s free, unless you spring for the $3.99 per month premium version with 150-plus games and additional learning content for LetterSchool’s “proven method” for success.
Taking on 2020’s dual disruptions of the pandemic and the global racial justice reckoning, Encantos offers both physical and online education products in both English and Spanish for elementary-age children. The bilingual platform focuses on phonics and math, but also teaches music and social awareness via lessons and online shows. Business boomed during the pandemic, with direct-to-consumer sales up 1,400 percent as of the summer, according to CEO Steven Wolfe Pereira.
For those who suffer from cognitive impairment to students who want to ace the SAT, this app could come in handy. The London-based brain game platform allows you to challenge friends on certain categories, and even pay for personalized cognitive workouts on the app’s premium version. It’s also a platform for researchers who have used the app to study the games’ effects on patients with schizophrenia and on attention and focus — with an eye toward helping the millions of people diagnosed with ADHD.
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If this year of isolation cries out for a new kind of texting, Honk is here to make messaging more like an actual conversation. How? On Honk, you can message people and the texts appear live as you type — there’s no Send button or saved chat history. Plus you can immediately see if someone leaves the conversation, so you’re not left hanging. If your query is urgent, hit the Honk button to get the recipient’s attention if they’re not on the app. It’s just like the way you’d ramble with your loved ones — or get up in their face when they’re looking at their phone rather than you.
If, while listening to podcasts, you’re convinced you could launch your own, TapeReal (formerly known as TapeBook) could be the solution to kick-start that dream. What’s the app all about? It allows you to record “tapes” — either audio or a split-screen video chat — with your friends. You can keep the tape for personal consumption or, hear this out, share it on your feed for the world to get a glimpse of your emceeing prowess. As founder Ali Shah told Crunchbase, the app was built “to help people to rediscover and reconnect over conversations.”
Los Angeles–based venture capitalist Kobie Fuller knows firsthand the lack of diversity in technology firms and particularly among top leadership, as only 2.6 percent of startup funding goes to Black and Latinx founders. So he created Valence, an online professional platform for the Black community to network and provide mentorship. The platform even connects Black entrepreneurs with VC firms Accel, Sequoia, GGV, First Round Capital and Upfront Ventures, among others. Now the platform is putting those lessons into practice, raising $5.25 million in August.
Carlos tries to twerk. Meet the Queen Diva, Big Freedia. You may know her voice from her famous Beyoncé sample, but Freedia is credited with popularizing bounce music, a New Orleans subgenre of hip-hop known for its booty-popping beats — a far cry from her church upbringing. Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind episode.
All of us have made the mistake of depending on the unhealthy — yet easy — option of grabbing food from vending machines. But Farmer’s Fridge has a better option for you. The Chicago–based, automated fresh-food retailer ensures you get sustainably sourced salads, meal bowls and snacks from its 12-square-foot dispensing machines. Unused leftovers are donated to the needy. This week, the company plans to take its refrigerators across American airports in an effort to “revolutionize grab-and-go U.S. airport dining,” according to CEO Luke Saunders.
You’ve used DoorDash to order food or Zagat for restaurant recommendations, but what if, like me, you are getting conscious of your junk-food habit and lack of exercise while working from home? Enter HealthifyMe, India’s go-to app for healthy eating. This app will help you count calories, provide you with a meal plan and offer health advice via an AI fitness coach named Ria. With COVID-19 curbing the world’s gym plans, HealthifyMe is expanding rapidly and plunging into the Singapore and Malaysia markets.
3. EWG’s Food Scores
Now that your food is keeping you healthy, what about the planet? This app from the nonprofit Environmental Working Group uses a complex set of algorithms to encourage you to choose food products that help you make sustainable choices. The searchable database gives EWG ratings for more than 120,000 foods and household products, covering nutrition and environmental impact while also identifying the processing methods, chemicals and additives in each product. The approach has received pushback from the grocery industry for being “misleading,” but EWG is sticking to its guns.
key names to know
1. Glenn Cantave
While people have been protesting on the streets for racial justice, activist and founder of Movers & Shakers NYC Cantave has joined them — but he’s also been busy developing a platform to rewrite Black and brown history in school curricula. His app has a catalog of “heroes you never learn about in school” — women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community and more. Students use the app to select an underrepresented icon and then advance to doing assignments on them. Plus, they can take selfies with their chosen icon, download them and share.
Now known as the “Bill Gates of Ghana,” Chinery-Hesse began his journey into the world of fortune in an unlikely way. Back in the day, a jobless Chinery-Hesse fixed a computer for a travel agent in Accra. At the time, he sure didn’t know what lay ahead. The entrepreneur and founder of software company SOFTtribe wants Ghana to become the Singapore of Africa. And yet his latest venture reaches into the past: Afrikan Echoes, Chinery-Hesse’s new app set to launch in March, is designed to keep the African tradition of storytelling alive by preserving unpublished stories in audiobook form.
3. Georgene Huang
Frustrated while searching for companies that supported and promoted women, Huang decided to take matters into her own hands by founding Fairygodboss. A kind of Glassdoor for women, it’s blossomed into one of the largest job platforms for women, millions of whom use it monthly to access job reviews, community advice, salary information and job postings. Google recently tapped the company to participate in the debut of its accelerator program for female-led tech startups.