TL;DR: Today, I'm launching Screen (https://screen.so), an app that lets you work together like you’re in the same room. Previously, I was co-founder/CEO of Screenhero (acquired by Slack in 2015), and led the team that built Slack Calls.
<aside> ❤️ A special thank you to my wife Ashley for helping with the video, and in countless other ways!
In 2013, I co-founded a company called Screenhero, which made an app that let pair programmers work together remotely. Through low-latency screen sharing and shared control, it let programmers code together on a Mac or Windows computer. Customers loved us, and voted with their wallets: once we started charging, we reached $1M in annual recurring revenue in 5 months. We had the choice of staying independent, but we opted to join forces with Slack, with the intention of embedding our product inside theirs, to reach more people faster than we could on our own.
In 2015, Slack acquired Screenhero, and I led the team that built Slack Calls: voice, video and screen sharing in Slack. We finally shipped interactive screen sharing almost three years later, but it wasn’t as performant as Screenhero, and was eventually removed in 2019. Given that it was used by a tiny fraction of Slack’s user-base, and had a high maintenance cost, this was the correct decision for Slack.
Through all of this, I learnt a few things:
From Kevin Kwok’s brilliant essay ”The Arc of Collaboration“ (2019):
There is a need for a layer across all the applications. A layer for things that should be shared across the apps as well collaborative functionality across them.
Slack in its current form cannot be this. If you have to switch out of a product to use Slack, then it is not the layer tying them altogether. Instead, the layer needs to exist a layer above. If everything was in browser it’d be a browser extension. But since most apps are not, it needs to be at the OS layer.
There is some mix of presence, collaboration, coordination, and identity that should be ubiquitous across whatever apps are being used. A layer more attached to the people doing work and what they’re trying to accomplish—than which specific app they’re in.
Perhaps one of the closest to this we’ve seen was Screenhero. After all, the idea of screen sharing is inherently about collaboration while working within productivity apps.
It’s clear that existing tools aren’t sufficient for the needs of remote teams. With this in mind, I decided to build a new product, called Screen.
Screen has a simple mission: make remote work simpler, more pleasant, and more productive. It has a few key features, in addition to voice and video-conferencing: