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March 31, 2023
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Vinny Lingham’s new start-up, Waitroom, is the anti-Zoom

Vinny Lingham

South African technology entrepreneur Vinny Lingham has a new venture, and he believes it could serve as the antidote to long and boring Zoom and Teams meetings.

The start-up, Waitroom, whose backers include Boston-based South African investor David Frankel of Founder Collective, is designed as a video meeting platform – with strict time limits to ensure hosts and guests get to the point quickly. In fact, the maximum session time allowed is 30 minutes (the shortest is just 30 seconds).

San Diego, California-based Lingham, who is well known in South Africa for his appearances on the television shows Dragons’ Den and Shark Tank, is founder (or co-founder) of a range of tech businesses, including Yola, Gyft and Civic. He also co-founded the Silicon Cape Initiative.

I got Zoom fatigue during Covid. Some meetings needed only five minutes and would take 30 minutes

Lingham’s co-founders in Waitroom are Michael Gaylord and Margaret Grobler. In a statement announcing the company on Wednesday, the founders described it as a platform to “facilitate one-on-one video conversations that are broadcast as a live show, so a larger audience of viewers can watch”. Lingham said in an interview with TechCentral ahead of the launch on Wednesday that Waitroom was inspired by the Shark Tank format.

“I got Zoom fatigue during Covid,” he said. “Some meetings needed only five minutes and would take 30 minutes of my time. I thought, ‘Why not build a service where people can line up, and when their time’s up, the next person comes in?’ Most meetings don’t have to be 30 minutes long.”

Similar, in a way, to the audio chat app Clubhouse, but with video (and other differences), Waitroom was “designed to foster short, authentic conversations between well-known individuals and their followers”.

Countdown timer

“Communities gain access to their favourite celebrities, thought leaders, creators, makers and experts, live on video,” the company said in the statement. “A countdown timer keeps the energy high, and a queueing system allows the host to have short, one-on-one chats with many people while avoiding conversation hogs.”

Although all rooms are open to the public for now, Waitroom will introduce private rooms in future.

“Shows”, as Waitroom calls the meeting sessions, can be streamed simultaneously to YouTube or Facebook, or recorded for later use. Video format is 1080p by default, but the platform supports 4K, too. Built on Amazon Web Services infrastructure, it is available worldwide. It is still in the early stages of development, and significant developments to the platform are expected in the coming weeks and months, Lingham said.

He said he expects the platform will be popular among time-starved venture capitalists wanting to talk to entrepreneurs. But he admits the team doesn’t yet know how hosts – and guests – will use the system, and it will be allowed to develop organically. “We want to follow the data and see what people use it for.”

Virtual press conferences, featuring one-on-one time with journalists to ask questions, is one way he thinks it might be used by hosts. Or a company executive might use it for quick team briefings. “There are tons of use cases, and we don’t know which ones are going to stick.”

Image: Waitroom

Other than Founder Collective’s Frankel, other backers include Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel, Craft Ventures’ David Sacks and Floodgate’s Mike Maples Jr. Character, 20VC, Social Leverage, Valor Equity Partners, Signia and Possible Ventures are also backers.

“We are not looking for funding right now,” Lingham told TechCentral. “We are putting the product out there and seeing what the market does with it. Our position on this is that it’s still an experiment.”

However, Lingham said Waitroom will be his principal focus for the “next couple of years”.

Asked how Waitroom will avoid falling into the same trap as Clubhouse – which went from one of the hottest start-ups during the Covid-19 lockdown to largely out of people’s minds in a short space of time – Lingham said Clubhouse started well but lost its way.

“In the beginning, you had high-level, interesting conversations [on Clubhouse]. Then ‘genpop’ (the general population) came in. No one wants to listen to genpop. Two amateurs talking about crypto? No one wants to listen to that.”

Waitroom, on the other hand, is “not open to everyone to host” — all hosts must be pre-vetted. In doing so, the company hopes to keep standards — and interest — high.  — (c) 2022 NewsCentral Media


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