A startup called Vibe, launching today at TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield, wants to make it easier for businesses to collaborate remotely. Its system, which combines a large interactive digital whiteboard and cloud service, allows users to host remote brainstorming sessions, client presentations, virtual trainings and more. Vibe also works with a large ecosystem of popular workplace apps, like Slack, Dropbox, Teams, Zoom, OneDrive, Chrome, Asana, and many others, allowing businesses to continue to use the tools they’re already invested in, instead of having to learn an entirely new workflow or switch apps.
The Bellevue, Washington-headquartered startup was founded in 2016 by a team looking for the ideal remote collaboration solution. Initially, they believed this would mean VR devices with headsets, but later came to realize that what they really wanted was a single tool that would serve as a platform for real-time collaboration.
Today, the Vibe system includes a 55-inch, 4K touchscreen device that integrates with third-party apps in full-screen or split-screen modes, allowing customers to videoconference, chat or use the apps while whiteboarding.
Users can also annotate on top of presentations, pictures and files from other apps, then save them into whiteboard projects. Vibe’s high-resolution rendering engine offers an unlimited canvas, low latency, and a cross-app annotation experience, the company says.
The Vibe board can also function as a second screen via screencasting or an HDMI cable while supporting annotation. The company’s cloud service for Vibe, meanwhile, is based on AWS.
Vibe promises low latency drawing response time of fewer than 7 milliseconds for sketching and writing, as well as a collaboration experience that lets participants collaborate across devices, including via their web browser, iPad or Android tablet, in addition to the Vibe board itself.
The product stealth-launched in late 2019 and has sold to over 400 customers so far. Vibe is officially launching to the public at TechCrunch Disrupt’s Startup Battlefield.
The company says many of its existing customers opted for Vibe so they can continue to use apps like Zoom and Slack, which aren’t integrated with Microsoft’s Surface Board, Google’s Jamboard, Samsung’s Flip, or Cisco’s WebEx brand boards.
This is an important feature for customers who need to work with clients over the apps their clients use, the company notes. It also helps Vibe sell to school system I.T. departments, as its open ecosystem means it’s easier for teachers, students, and admins to adopt its technology.
The board itself is $2,999 and doesn’t have any ongoing monthly or annual service fees. That significantly undercuts the competition. Google Jamboard today is $4,999, plus a $600 annual subscription; Cisco WebEx Board is $4,990, plus a $199 monthly subscription); and Microsoft’s Surface Hub is $8,999, plus an Office 365 Subscription.
The company tells TechCrunch it got to the lower price point by using an IR touch sensor instead of a P-CAP touch sensor to reduce 20% of the cost. The trade-off here is Vibe has worse palm rejection, but they believe it will satisfy most collaboration scenarios. In addition, the company customizes its OS and rendering engine to work on an all-in-one ARM chip instead of Intel-based Windows. The trade in this case is that users won’t need to buy an extra mini PC for Vibe to work with, but the performance could be worse in some scenarios.
The Vibe co-founding team has backgrounds in engineering, image processing, computer vision and supply chain logistics.
Vibe CEO Charles Yang is a serial entrepreneur who studied Computer Science at Zhejiang University, where he met his co-founders. Vibe VP Jian Zhao has a background in image processing, computer vision, multimedia, and machine learning, and spent five years at Microsoft as a software engineer after completing his PhD in computer and electrical engineering at the University of Kentucky.
Vibe CTO Jiulong Wang brings experience in distributed systems, architecting, debugging and performance tuning, and has spent time at Microsoft and Twitter as a developer. Vibe COO Susie Deng, who spent 11 years at BYD, utilizes her background in international economics and trade to tackle the supply chain and financial challenges to help bring the price of the Vibe whiteboard down.
Today, the company has offices in Hangzhou, Shenzhen, and Shanghai, China, in addition to its Bellevue HQ.
Vibe has raised funding from Cherubic Ventures, Unity Ventures, InnoLink Ventures, and Challengers Capital.