AI For Meetings, Notes, And Tasks With Darren Chait
You can use AI for meetings, notes, and tasks, for seamless collaboration with your teammates. Chad Burmeister’s guest today is Darren Chait, the Co-Founder, and COO of Hugo.Team. Darren converses with Chad about how Hugo is calendar-centric note-taking so you can take notes for your meetings. When all of your teams get onto Hugo, they can access everyone’s meeting notes connected to all the tools you’re using. Plus, Hugo uses the data from your calendar to organize everything in the context of companies. Tune in to learn more!
Listen to the podcast here:
AI For Meetings, Notes, And Tasks With Darren Chait
I’ve got someone with me who’s normally from San Francisco but he’s by way of Sydney, Australia. Darren Chait is the Cofounder and COO of Hugo.Team. Welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.
I’m excited to talk with you because as someone who takes a lot of notes with my customers on paper, I’m sure that technology like yours would help me clean that up. I’m excited to dig in here now.
I can definitely relate to that pain point.
Before we dig into the technology, I like our readers to get to know you first. You are in Sydney, Australia and it sounds like that’s where you are from originally. Tell us about when you were younger, like 6, 7, 10, what was your passion when you woke up in the morning. Do you go out and kick a soccer ball or what was your most exciting passion when you are that age?
I have always been into technology. I’ve got my first computer around the age of 5, 6 that was running Windows 3.1. I was able to play some games and figure out how that all worked and spent my days pulling things apart and trying to figure out how things worked and what it was all about. It’s no real surprise that I ended up back in tech, although I did have a good few years in between where I went into the corporate world.
That common thread between then and now is that you liked technology at an early age and now you still like technology.
Hugo is calendar-centric note-taking so you can take notes for your meetings.
I found it fascinating how you could build something that could have such an impact on the way we worked, lived and had fun ultimately. It’s pretty cool that this device or these lines of code changed the way we did things. That fascination carried through.
I remember having an Apple IIe and we would build the code of a Choose Your Own Adventure. I remember when I started, it was like code lines 0010, 0020 and by the time you started building this huge Choose Your Own Adventure, I learned that you could do 00100, so 100, 200. If I needed to throw something in the middle in the Choose Your Own Adventure, then I could. I didn’t run out of lines of codes.
It’s so funny because we wonder with our kids or grandchildren, when we hear stories like this, how they will think about things. It still blows my mind that my daughter sees an iPhone and that computers are infinitely more powerful than this huge device that we spent thousands and thousands of dollars on not even that long ago.
My son is in school for Computer Sciences. He’s doing coding in Python and all other things now. There’s a level of automation in Hugo. Share with the audience, what does Hugo does? Is there an AI component under the hood at all?
Firstly, for context on what Hugo does, we are a team collaboration platform. We provide one place for meetings, notes and tasks. The way I think about Hugo is calendar-centric note-taking so you can take notes for your meetings. You can prepare for your meetings and we use the data from your calendar to organize that all by the context of companies. When all of your teams get onto Hugo, they’ve then got access to everyone’s meeting notes, obviously subject to the privacy, connected to all the tools you are using. We are updating your CRM. You can create actions in project management tools. You can share the insights out via Slack or Microsoft Teams soon. Everyone is in one place around the way you meet. There’s a good element of automation through the integrations with all these various APIs and using your calendar with the call.
Our story is quite interesting because we started out trying to solve this problem in a very AI-heavy way. We were quite focused on the meeting preparation piece and we were trying to collect data on the people you are meeting and give you some context on them. From an AI standpoint, there was a lot of natural language processing and named entity disintegration. There are plenty of Chad Burmeister’s out there but is this the one I’m talking to? Is this the right ScaleX, etc.? We learned a very good lesson there around applied AI and how do you use these technologies to solve a real problem rather than the technology itself being the product, which ultimately the customers don’t care about. They didn’t care how you get to the solution. They want you to solve a problem and if AI is the best tool in your belt, fantastic. If there are some other technologies, all are well and good. It’s a steep learning curve there.
That makes me think of Chris Beall at ConnectAndSell. I used to be their SVP of Sales and Marketing. The value is you don’t know what you don’t know until you talk to someone and have a sales conversation. Everybody tries to do a lot of pre-games and let’s go, “A rep wants to go look at all the different data sources.” The point Chris always made when I worked there and he still makes is, if I get you on the phone and cold call you, “Hugo, I see you are from Sydney, Australia and you also live and work in San Francisco.” Does that help me with my cold opener or not? Perhaps it’s a lot of work to get to a little bit of value. I think the pivot that you made there to make it more collaboration of inside the meeting and what do you do after the meeting, that’s equally important as what you do before the meeting.
In the time as well, we saw an interesting trend, when we started the company and we are focused on that former use case, we had to do a lot just to do something simple. I described some of the bits of tech we were using before but natural language processing and things like that at the time were innovative. We had several postdoc PhDs working with us on this problem and a serious amount of processing and infrastructure to build these models and answer these questions and the like. Now, as you can spin up APIs on Google Cloud, AWS and others. There are plenty of AI as a service company out there. You have realized that and I don’t want to say it has been democratized but the challenge now isn’t in building the technology. It’s in applying it to technology. I can go and find the best-in-class API that identifies named entities in the text but how do I use that to solve a real problem? It’s the innovation and not the algorithm itself anymore.
That’s how ScaleX got started is we would find the best of breed technologies, and then white label it under one roof and provide the customer with a holistic solution. You are doing the same thing when it comes to finding the right AI under the hood of the application that you are deploying. It keeps the cost down for the customer. I assume that you probably use your own technology and your own sales process but other than that, what other types of AI are you seeing out there that you could share with our readers?
Outside our product and stack, there are some interesting opportunities in the meeting space and that’s where we are. We have stayed clear of transcription for everyday meetings. I don’t know about you but if I want to catch up on meetings I missed out on, I don’t want to listen to 60 minutes of recording and I don’t want to read 72 pages of texts. I want to see the bullet points and the actions. We are seeing some interesting trends out there around summarization and transcription to identify themes and topics and the like. I think the gongs and choruses of the world are doing a great job here with a focus on sales optimization, so you can go and start to learn, which sales conversations went well. Which ones didn’t? Why? What’s common about them and the trends there.
That’s a strong use case in our world. If we were growing a team of account executives, that would be my day one tool that I would be going with and fantastic use case for AI. Other than that, the main places I think we see it effectively used are in repetitive tasks that involve lots of data. Any analysis to try and find trends amongst leads or opportunities are great to use cases. There are very simple things you can do. We are not talking about the magic robot that does my job for me but can I predict, which of these opportunities are likely to do well or convert? Where should I best spend my time? What can I do to change outcomes with them? That for me is what gets me most excited about AI in a sales or customer-facing role in 2021.
Your tool helps me as a leader and as a rep, for that matter, everybody in the value chain because now I’m capturing. My notes are all right here and that means the engine can use that information to help me make better decisions on where to spend my time, what to say and how to say it. If there’s a tool that can help me increase the amount of data that’s available in my CRM by building it into a workflow, that seems to me to be the next big thing. There is no doubt about it.
The trend that we are seeing in 2021 and even the last couple of years, is the fragmentation of data. As SaaS has exploded and it’s so easy to spin up new bits of software, the big risk we’ve got now is that data is so fragmented. Before you even get into anything cool from a processing or analysis standpoint, you don’t even have the data available to you anymore because everyone is using their own tools and their own systems of record. That’s the challenge. One of the most innovative things that Hugo does isn’t even that innovative, which is to centralize important knowledge. Just have one place where meeting notes and meeting agendas should end up organized smartly.
What do you think about the future? Things are moving faster and faster. We used to come out with tech, and then ten years later you would go, “That’s neat.” Now it’s like three months later, there’s another hot, important technology. What do you see will happen over the next few years in terms of AI in the sales world?
Customers don’t care how you get to the solution. They want you to solve the problem.
I’m a big believer in the Gartner Hype Cycle where you end up with the trough of disillusionment right after the hype where we expect AI to change our lives and make everything we do so much easier and more efficient. Reality sets in and there are a lot of very important opportunities there but it’s not going to overnight change the way we work. I think we are now coming out of that. There are now realistic expectations and understanding of the investment required to see those returns. I think the big opportunity and where we are heading over the next few years is a function of what’s happened to the world in 2020 and a bit where the way we worked has completely changed.
There’s a big focus now on teams and the way teams interact and the in-person versus online thing. The fact that meetings are now all data, as opposed to before where many of them were in-person. Most meetings are recorded. They are all online. It’s very easy to bring someone else in to take notes while we are meeting and the like. I think that is the biggest enabler of the next phase of the way we do sales and the way technology can enable that.
Thinking about the marketing side of the house because we have been talking a lot about sales. I assume as the COO, you sit on both sides of the fence, the sales and marketing motion. Anything that you are seeing in marketing that people should be aware of?
There are a ton. We are more of a self-serve company. Our leads are marketing-driven. They sign up because we have a freemium model. Hugo is free for small teams, and then the sales motion kicks in later to help you grow. Marketing for us is very core. The opportunity that we have seen and that’s very effective for us from a marketing standpoint is around personalization. It’s no longer acceptable for the, “Hi, first name. Welcome to Hugo. Here’s what you should do next.” You now should expect and we see far better results when we deliver on a much more personalized experience, “Hi, Chad. Thanks for joining the team Hugo. Here’s how other executives in sales are doing these things and I’m not pushing you to take actions you have already taken in the app.
I’m congratulating you on a bit of content that you already created.” Having an experience from a marketing standpoint that is so relevant to you and your role is spot on. There are some great products out there like Clearbit Reveal and others where you can understand who’s browsing your site so you can personalize the copy on the web page based on the person’s role, location or any other traits. This will, in my view, become the norm. As a customer, I expect it. Think about eCommerce. When Amazon tells me to buy something completely irrelevant to me, I’m very unhappy about that. It’s ridiculous. In 2021, they should be telling me to buy diapers when I don’t have a child or a baby. The same is going to go for everything in a B2B setting. I’m clearly in Australia. Why is there American spelling here? I’m a startup founder. Why are you pushing an investment product onto me or whatever it may be? I think that’s a big theme for marketing over the next couple of years.
Have you heard of a product called Hyperise?
No, I haven't.
They have an agency model. The last I checked, it’s $299 a month. You can run any number of customer websites using that same bit of code. To your point, it’s probably like what the Clearbit Reveal does but they come to the site. If they don’t know who you are, then you might type in your name but now that I have your name or your website, they can expose a YouTube video that has something that’s actually in the video with my name on it. It’s super hyper-personalized.
That’s what we are going to expect because as soon as a few people start communicating in that way, that’s what I’m going to expect as a consumer.
This has been a fabulous conversation. If somebody wants to try your product, it sounds like they can do that, how would they go about giving this a try?
Just hit our website. It’s Hugo.Team. Hugo is free for teams of up to ten. You can get your meeting notes connected to your team and your tools and improve the way your sales or growth.
As someone who takes a lot of physical notes and has a team that’s roughly ten people, I think the freemium model sounds good to me. Look for me coming through as a user in the near term.
Thanks so much for having me, Chad. It’s great to chat
Everybody, thanks for joining the show. We have been talking with Darren from Hugo.Team. Check it out. It’s a cool technology. I have seen only one other that was similar to this and it was a little ahead of its time, pre-pandemic. Now that everybody is working remotely, having the ability to capture more of the notes across the team is more important than ever. I love that they started in heavy AI and they realized that the person is more important than the AI. That fine balance between the two is what I’m seeing happen over the last few years. Thank you for joining this episode, Darren. We will catch you at the next episode.
About Darren Chait
Darren is the Co-Founder & COO of Hugo (www.hugo.team).
Originally from Sydney, Australia and now based in San Francisco, Darren co-founded Hugo following his shared frustration with costly, inefficient meetings that he experienced first-hand in a prior life as a corporate lawyer.
Today, Hugo is the leading meeting workflow solution, powering meetings for tens of thousands of customers. Backed by Google, Slack and leading VCs, Hugo is on a mission to connect the way we meet, to the way we work.