SoWork, a next-generation team collaboration ecosystem created by Sophya, announced today that it has launched the world’s first virtual coworking space, as well as announcing a $15 million seed round led by Talis Capital.
Teams around the world have been working in their own persistent, branded and customized SoWork offices for months. And now, with the launch of the new public virtual coworking space, any employee from any company can drop in with colleagues, create personalized avatars, and hold proximity video meetings, whiteboard sessions, heads-down work sessions, and gaming breaks.
Previously dubbed the “World of Workcraft”, SoWork brings teams of all sizes together in persistent online environments to socialize, bond, and work in-browser or via the standalone app. Designed for the future of distributed teams, SoWork combines the best aspects of remote work with the serendipity, spontaneity, and cultural advantages of an in-office environment. Employees can even venture outside of their private offices into the greater SoWork ecosystem to meet with friends at other companies, and to attend community events.
“The gaming world has actually solved many of the problems that the business world is facing as it evolves to remote-first. Multiplayer, teamwork, delight…that’s why we’re building a Massively Multiplayer Online Workplace. I actually met a couple of my teammates playing WoW 17 years ago – we did truly collaborative work together, online, while living on different continents, and still became best friends, having never met in person until much later,” said Vishal Punwani, CEO and co-founder of Sophya. “The tools currently available to companies — Zoom, Slack, Teams, and so on — serve their stated purpose, but if teams want to succeed in the new work world, they’ll need much more. Problems with building culture, employee agency, onboarding, the lack of bringing ‘yourself’ to work – these and other issues completely disappear with SoWork. We’ve been really excited to see our customers succeed so well.”
In addition to the open-world coworking space, SoWork currently hosts more than 100 private virtual offices in its early teams phase, ranging in size from pre-seed startups to Fortune 20 companies. Companies are invited to collaborate with SoWork to create their own bespoke digital headquarters, while SoWork’s digital coworking platform is free to use and open for anyone.
“Persistent social virtual spaces where we create, work and play make for a compelling environment for cross border collaborative work, culture building, employee motivation, entertainment and community”, said Kirill Tasilov, Principal at Talis Capital. “For the first time today, modern workforces are made up in large part from generations who are native to virtual worlds and the interactions that come with them: these are people who grew up with Habitat in the 80s, The Palace and Alphaworld in the 90s and Zwinky in the 2000s. Regardless of whether you’re a large enterprise entering hybrid mode, or a startup starting out with a remote-first model, we deeply believe in SoWork’s vision for the future, where every company and employee will have their own dedicated space in a networked, virtual world.”
”As game interfaces have become the ‘new normal’, and as more people live their lives in part-time metaverses, it was only a matter of time before world-class gamers leveraged the best of virtual worlds to enhance our daily work,” said Bing Gordon, Chief Product Officer at famed venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. “SoWork looks to be the workspace where ‘Boss battles’ can become productive one-on-ones, guild raids turn into your most valuable whiteboard brainstorm sessions, and trophy rooms transform to the best office spaces imaginable.”
SoWork’s seed capital infusion will be used to hire new teammates in engineering, product, and growth, to expand its product functionalities, and to support its rapidly-growing customer base.
“Companies are navigating a fundamentally different world of work”, says Emma Giles, COO and co-founder. “Teammates won’t go back to being chained to the office. New talent is demanding ‘work from anywhere’’. Meanwhile, leadership is concerned about how to drive high performance in the digital workplace. Companies come to us asking: ‘how do we choose between what our teams need and what the business demands?’ And they move in because they realize that, with SoWork, they can have both.
SoWork is loud about its mission to combat climate change by giving employers a way to grow their companies virtually, instead of through offices. The startup plans to showcase estimates of how much carbon emissions and commute times have been saved for companies that live in SoWork rather than IRL. It also chose a bank for its Canadian entity that is 100% divested from fossil fuels, and is doing the same for its U.S. corporation.
“Climate is the number one thing that we’re trying to deal with, it’s why our tagline is moving workplaces from the earth to the cloud,” Punwani said. “Imagine what that does to climate impact, right? [It limits] carbon footprint, commuting, small business travel, [and the] building [of] pointless fucking buildings and parking lots.”
The diversity of the team is also striking in comparison to its competitors. Punwani is joined by two co-founders, Emma Giles and Mark Liu, and five of SoWork’s six main teams in ops, marketing, growth, product and research, are led by women.
SoWork is opening up its private beta to the public in the first week of November. There are already over 1,000 companies, amounting to over 300,000 people, on the waitlist. Beyond hiring and R&D capital, SoWork has also added one big customer to its 100-company private beta: Tinder.
By bringing on a virtual space, Tinder is trying to show new and old distributed employees what its work culture is like, from collaboration rooms to company-wide virtual events such as hackathons. Still, while delayed office reopening plans may have triggered Tinder’s interest in a virtual space, the company appears to think the technology will be key going forward.