This company wants to help people avoid pointless meetings
Meetings can be a productive way to brainstorm and check-in with colleagues, but they can also be pointless, time wasting events that could be covered by a simple email.
The fatigue is getting bigger during the pandemic. Nearly half of all employees report having more “mentally exhausting” meetings now than they did before the pandemic, according to a survey from Questionmark, an online assessment provider.
Katch wants to change that. The company, which was founded in 2021, bills itself as an anti-calendar tool to help people avoid pointless meetings and ultimately to reclaim extra time in the day to focus on what matters.
Alessandra Knight and Edwin Akrong, two of the cofounders of Katch, recently spoke with Fortune about building their first company and doing it during a global pandemic.
The following interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Fortune: What problem were you hoping to solve when you started the company?
Knight: I had previously worked with Paul Murphy at [mobile gaming studio] Dots. He was a cofounder, and during our time there, we discussed an idea in which we could optimize the meeting. What I mean by that is we wanted to figure out a way to have meetings that aren’t just updates, but rather lead to our users achieving their goals and to touch base on what is most important to them for that allotted time. We wanted to find a way for users to prioritize that meeting at that time without the worry of other responsibilities or distractions.
So at Dots, Paul and I had this special email language, a system where incoming meeting requests would be prioritized based on what would make the most impact to the company at that moment. This system, by the way, influenced the prioritization feature we use in Katch. Where the user can prioritize a meeting based on work, play, or urgency.
That idea sat for years and then, during the pandemic, Paul reached out to me. We brought on Edwin, and we commiserated over our shared experiences. If our meeting requests had gone through the roof and our calendars were becoming jam packed, we realized that other people were also having more and more meetings, which may have been a result of this lack of connection or control from not being in the office.
Previously, I worked in operations very closely with CEOs and founders, and I recognized the pain points surrounding scheduling, calendars, and productivity and so I brought that perspective of this long withstanding issue that had been exacerbated by the pandemic.
My co-founders and I understood that the cost of having meetings was lowered, leading to this inundation of meetings popping up on our calendars. And we came to realize that these meetings were less effective than they had been in the past, and that the average knowledge worker was stumbling from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting, with no breaks, no clear agenda, struggling to find the blocks of time needed to work, focus, be creativity, and really take a moment for themselves. They were unable to “close their office door” so-to-speak.
At Katch, we ask ourselves every day, what is the goal of a meeting? What is the goal of my calendar? What do we want to achieve today? We want to reintroduce this way of thinking—to connect spontaneously—to help them make their calendar an effective tool while also allowing them to have the impactful meetings they need to have so they can step away and take action.
How does Katch work? What’s the user experience like?
Akrong: The app allows users to have meetings with contacts in their address book. Each meeting has a preset agenda created by the user so that the person on the receiving end of the invite knows exactly what the needs of the meeting are. Users can send a Katch to one another, and when both parties become free, the app alerts them to a “match,” so they can connect and conduct their meeting when it’s right for the both of them.
The process solves for the back and forth in trying to schedule meetings and it makes for a hassle-free connection.
What’s one interesting takeaway you’ve had from building your first company?
Knight: Edwin and I are both first time founders. Paul is an experienced startup entrepreneur who has sat on the boards of many successful startup companies. Communication is the key to success, especially when you’re leading a globally distributed team. We’ve learned that we need to clearly communicate messages to a broad audience and make sure they understand that message, its goals, and the deliverables they’re responsible for.
Katch successfully fundraised during the pandemic. How did you go about doing that when so much of the world was on lockdown?
Akrong: All our fundraising conversations happened remotely, and because of that we met with various VC firms, angels, and have investors from across the globe. If we weren’t raising during a pandemic, we don’t know that we would have been so fortunate to engage with all of these amazing investors. So we’re thankful for that!
Knight: While we were fundraising, Edwin and I were both full time employees at other companies. Because many of the conversations were on Zoom and a large portion of our investors are in Europe, I was able to manage my time to have fundraising calls from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. PST. I remember on one call, someone recalled that it was dark when the meeting first started.
We’re all burned out from pointless work from home meetings, but moving away from what we know (stacked calendars) to a new way of reclaiming our time surely will require some people to have a behavioral shift. How soon are you seeing this in early adopters of Katch?
Knight: The pandemic put a lot into perspective, folks no longer want to be controlled by their calendars—the back-to-back meetings and unclear agendas are contributing to burnout. New priorities roll in hour to hour, some work related, some personal. Katch provides its users with the ability to unscript their days and we’re finding early adopters are loving that. We’re also learning that people are using the app beyond just for work but to also connect with family and friends in other time zones as well. And we’re excited about that.
Where do you see Katch in five years?
Akrong: Our vision is to help create a world where every human can use their calendars to live a life that is in balance for their unique lives. In five years, we want Katch to have made an impact on knowledge workers by providing to them a humane technology tool that helps them to cultivate their best way of living. We want to change the world for good.
This is an installment of Startup Year One, a special series of interviews with founders about the major lessons they have learned in the immediate aftermath of their businesses’ first year of operation.