Mmhmm eats Macro

Mmhmm has perhaps the noisiest take on the future of video-conferencing: virtual meetings will be fun, flexible and, as shown by its most recent acquisition, emotive. The video-conferencing software startup, founded by Evernote creator Phil Libin, announced today that it has bought Macro, a company that has created filters, reactions and tools to take the pressure off of virtual meetings (and bring the relationship-building energy back).

The talks between Macro and Mmhmm started in late September, with the deal closing just weeks later. The terms of the transaction were undisclosed, but given Mmhmm’s recent $100 million raise, it’s clear that the early-stage company had some capital to spare.

Macro was founded in 2019 by Ankith Harathi and John Keck, and soon raised $4.3 million in venture capital from investors such as FirstMark Capital, General Catalyst and Underscore VC. Unlike Mmhmm, which focuses on customizing user’s video feeds, Macro changes the actual interface that users are working from.

For example, a key characteristic of Macro is the Airtime feature, which helps participants understand who is speaking the most within a certain meeting. Video sizes adjust based on each person’s engagement, which can help teams better distill influence and figure out who may need extra nudges to speak up.

Other features include custom windows to “unbox” yourself on the screen and filters. To promote ease of use, Macro is able to be used with MacOS and any Zoom client, even if everyone else is on Zoom.

After Macro’s first fundraise, Harathi explained that he and his co-founder had to decide if they should keep building, raise another round or join forces with another company. Competition from other Zoom clients was heating up, a demand that was great for validation, but difficult for development. They realized that Mmhmm had a lot of the functionality they felt was imperative to being successful in the video-conferencing space.

“How do you make meetings more human? How do you make them adapt to the people we are, as opposed to putting identity-driven and expressive organisms into constrained boxes,” Harathi said, of his early talks with Libin’s team. “They were debating going down this camera route, or the client route, and they chose one, we chose the other.”

“We really think that the company that is going to win this video 2.0 world is the product that goes seamlessly between asynchronous and synchronous,” Libin said. “Letting you shift between recorded and live, and doing that smoothly is the near term of what video is going to be.” Harathi added that the winning app needs to solve for all the ways people will communicate in the distributed world, from on the fly phone calls to deep-thinking sessions to high-stakes presentations.

The big vision for Mmhmm, as Libin’s been clear about from the start, is to redefine video as a medium for expression and building relationships. It’s a type of trust that is hard to build, literally. He hopes that by offering more surface area in Zoom rooms, using Mmhmm and Macro, there is more room to understand who you are speaking with.

“What room did they choose? What effects are they doing? It gives everyone more opportunity to be creative and customize how they’re appearing,” he said. “And it becomes a little closer to you and I hanging out in person and getting to know each other. The foundation is far more expressive.”

Macro is Mmhmm’s second acquisition to date. Last year, Mmhmm announced its buy of Memix, a San Francisco-based startup that offers a series of filters that can be applied to both pre-recorded and live videos to tweak stuff like lighting, details in the background, or what appears across the entire screen. Libin says that Memix’s technology now makes up the core of Mmhmm’s offering.

Macro will be sunset by the end of November. All seven members of Macro’s team have decided to join Mmhmm to keep on building.