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Meet the startup that 45 angels backed to kill bad meetings

VC Paul Murphy cofounded in between leaving Northzone and joining Lightspeed.

By Freya Pratty

Everyone knows what it’s like to sit in a meeting that definitely could have been an email. And since the pandemic started, the number of meetings we all attend is at an all-time high up 13% per week compared to before the coronavirus hit.

One new startup, Katch, thinks the solution is encouraging ad hoc meetings instead of scheduled calls and meetings, and arranging them via a smartphone app. 

The company announced Tuesday that it’s secured a $4m seed round, backed by LocalGlobe, Speedinvest and an impressive roster of angel investors. They include Alex Chung, who founded Giphy; Fritz Lanman, Classpass CEO and an investor in Pinterest and Square; and Matt Hackett, former VP at Tumblr and co-founder of Beme. 

“We’re looking to help people save time,” says cofounder Alessandra Knight. “Our calendars have been kind of swamped with back to back meetings. Over the past few years, we continue to get busier and our calendars are just getting inundated with meetings.”

The beta version of Katch is launching today, with the full version planned for release in the coming months. 

Katch’s impressive list of backers isn’t surprising the team is a well connected bunch. Alongside Knight and Edwin Akrong, the third cofounder is Paul Murphy, who previously founded mobile games studio Dots and was a former investor at Northzone, one of the early backers of online events platform Hopin. 

Murphy resigned from Northzone to join Lightspeed, a US VC firm, later this year, where he’ll be their man in Europe. Katch has been Murphy’s project during his non-compete phase between the two VCs. 

Katch’s product is one Murphy had been looking to back as an investor, he says. “I was looking for this company as an investor for years, but I hadn’t found what I was hoping to find.”

How it works

If someone wants to talk to someone else via Katch, they’d send them a ‘card’ explaining the topic of the conversation. Both parties could decide what priority that conversation is and then when they switch their status to ‘available’ they’d be able to receive calls through the app. 

“So as people connect with each other, you’re not setting specific blocks of time to connect with them, you’re connecting when it makes the most sense for you,” says Knight. 

The idea is to free up the potential of slices of time where people might not have predicted that they’d have space for a productive meeting but that ends up being the case — or when something becomes a priority where a meeting is needed quickly something the team doesn’t think the classic calendar invite system allows. 

“One of the things that we want to try to address is that we have both not enough time and, and an abundance of time,” says Murphy. 

The tech will be useful for internal meetings, as well as external communication done by people like investors, he says. 

“People will use it for internal meetings and internal collaboration while others will use it externally. For me as an investor, I might wake up and I see 20 meetings in my calendar back to back, and the likelihood that any of those is the most important thing for me to do that day, at that moment, is very, very low,” he says.

“I sort of power through it because I pre-committed, whereas what would be really nice is to just take the meetings that are most relevant for me at that time.”

Knight envisages people using Katch on specific days as a company at Dots, where she and Murphy worked before, they had ‘no meetings Friday’, which was part of the inspiration behind Katch.

A behavioural shift

Katch is asking, Knight says, for a behavioural shift to take place, to move beyond the constraints of the calendar. 

“We’re so used to time blocks being added to our calendar. I know, from nine to five, what every single hour looks like,” she says. “However, there are calls that I have with people that aren’t scheduled, that are spontaneous, and are 10 times more productive than if I had scheduled it.”

If a behavioural shift in how we organise our time at work is achieved, Murphy says, the potential Katch has is huge. 

“It’s a shared problem, and perhaps 20-30% of one-on-one meetings can be taken out of your calendar and put into Katch,” he says. And if Katch can come to provide not just the scheduling and logistics, but also the communication channel, that would be a big investor win.

Freya Pratty is Sifted’s news reporter. She tweets from @FPratty

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