When the pandemic hit, Vidyard CEO Michael Litt and the company’s board of directors held an emergency meeting and prepared for the worst.
Their fear – perfectly rational – was that, with a massive global recession looming, their customers would have a hard time paying regardless of whether they found Vidyard’s product useful. Measures were put in place to conserve cash. The company’s 220 employees headed home. Everyone battened down the hatches, and hoped for the best.
And the best is precisely what unfolded.
Three months later, and Litt and his team have seen 2.8 million new users of its video software. Videos created by Vidyard users have been viewed more than 40 million times, an increase of more than 400 per cent, along with a 400-per-cent boost in new monthly sign-ups when compared to the previous 90-day period.
“I was hopeful, but I will not admit to having a crystal ball or predicting the level of growth that we have subsequently seen,” says Litt.
Vidyard, based in Kitchener, makes a core product that helps users make what it calls “asynchronous video,” easily enabling a user to substitute a personalized video in place of a text message or email. With the world locked down at home due to COVID-19, with the nature of the workplace under societal-wide renovation as a result, and with video-conferencing replacing face-to-face interaction, it was a product made for a pandemic. Video’s time appears to have arrived.
“I think what’s happened in general is that every business during this time needs to be able to communicate digitally,” says Litt. “So anything in digital communications saw a massive lift, because organizations that might have been reticent to try it in the past now had no choice.
“We’ve always said video is the next best thing to being there in person. And I think that’s really been proven now because a lot of organizations can only communicate face-to-face if they’re using something like Zoom. Our product is essentially an asynchronous version of Zoom.
“If you think about asynchronous communication, a lot of it happens in [the form of] text. But with text, you lose a level of engagement and a level of meaning that you get from somebody’s body language, [something] that our product inserts back into that communication.”
Litt says his team, which will remain in work-from-home mode until “at least Labour Day,” has repeatedly shown a can-do agility throughout the past three months. Morale, in part due to sales growth and company success, “is very high.”
But he says there have been challenges. Like many workplaces, some employees have struggled, particularly those with small children. The company has built a suite of “educational resources for kids, for parents to keep them engaged during the summer.
“We’re doing whatever we can to help, and it seems to be providing some relief, some value.
“This is hard. Working from home is not perfect for everyone.”
To that end, Litt has spent a great deal of time during the past three months thinking about the larger changes COVID-19 has thrust upon society – about the future of work, about employee engagement, about where we all go from here.
“Not an hour goes by where it doesn’t play across my mind,” he says.
“I think there’s a massive mind shift underway for a lot of leaders.
“I think this was an excellent forcing function to prove that people can be productive at home, that anyone can be productive working remotely, and that flexibility in people’s lives is incredibly, incredibly important to their productivity.”
Litt suspects the notion of the Japanese “salary man,” the person who doesn’t leave their workplace until their boss does, is dying a needed death.
“That type of thinking, where if your butt isn’t in your seat you’re not productive, I think that has to totally go away.”
In its place, he says, a workplace will emerge that’s fluid, co-operative, relaxed.
“I think the office starts to look a little bit more like a clubhouse, in that it’s there when people need it, it’s there for team gatherings. But when people need to go do deep, heads-down work, they’re likely going to choose to do so from a coffee shop or a home or a place where there are very few distractions. And that needs to be fully supported. Employees are going to demand it because this is the world they’ve been working in now.”
Likewise, he says real estate footprints will be re-evaluated. So will travel.
“I used to go to New York for one meeting, and I would leave the house at 2:20 in the morning, get there, do my meeting and depending on how the day shook out, I might get home at 1 a.m. And that’s just an incredibly inefficient way of doing business. It’s physically exhausting, it’s mentally taxing.”
That same meeting now takes place via video-conferencing online. Which is part of the reason why Vidyard’s video products have become hyper-relevant.
“Frankly, we have a lot of organizations communicating in a more human and therefore more effective fashion during this time. And what we see now is a lot of organizations going into somewhat of a hybrid state, it’s not a fully digital state.
“So we expect the energy and momentum behind our product to continue.”