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Alana AI and its new virtual office in Gather Town:
Inside Alana

Alana AI and its new virtual office in Gather Town

Usually restricted to a few professionals, the home office had to turn the reality of thousands of workers in Brazil and around the world because…

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Usually restricted to a few professionals, the home office had to turn the reality of thousands of workers in Brazil and around the world because of the coronavirus pandemic. This was the alternative found by several companies to maintain productivity and, at the same time, preserve the health of employees.

A study by the research company Hibou and the data platform Indico, revealed that, as early as 2020, 60% of Brazilians were working remotely, and 41.6% of these were using videoconferencing tools daily.

With this, companies not only had to adapt their work environment but their many processes and even work methodologies. This accelerated the adoption of new tools available to optimize day-to-day communication, especially in high-performance companies such as Alana AI.

In this article, we’ll report on our experience with the Gather Town platform and how its adoption allowed our fast-growing culture to be maintained and optimized through a new environment for better communication between our employees.

Adapting our high-performance culture to remote work

Even before the pandemic, we had always adopted a very structured remote working culture. Since we have a global team, with professionals spread across different countries and regions of Brazil, we favor the use of a variety of internal communication tools to enable the integration of our teams.

However, since last year, with the new conditions in which remote work has been carried out and the exponential growth of our team, we have seen the need to adapt our communication channel to ensure that the high-performance culture of a startup as Alana AI also brought clear boundaries of respect for the spaces of each employee. That’s how we found Gather Town.

What is Gather Town?

Gather is a platform that was born to help people get together in virtual environments, regardless of the reason, whether for weddings, seasonal events, or just for a normal day at work or university. Imagine an environment where each user has their customizable avatar and the meetings in this space are the triggers to start a videoconference. Just keep the microphone and camera connected and the interaction windows pop up on the screen to start the conversation.

The platform uses spatial audio technology, popular in video games, so users can have a sense of physical meeting. This technology allows you to hear someone’s voice when you are close to that person and softer when you move away.

In recent months, as remote workers sought better ways to interact with each other, the tool has amassed more than 4 million users worldwide.

The startup already generates $400,000 in monthly revenue and recently received a $26 million investment in a Series A round led by Sequoia Capital, a renowned venture capital firm in Silicon Valley that some time ago docked to unicorns like Zoom and Slack.

We are pioneers in Brazil!

As a cutting-edge startup, keen on innovative and revolutionary solutions like ours and, considering that we have a predominantly bilingual team, which minimizes the fact that the platform is only available in English, we adopted Gather after a test period carried out with some leaders of different squads. The improvement in the connection between these collaborators who already used the platform was evident!

As it is a sandbox, we were able to recreate our headquarters virtually, taking care of the smallest details, from the visual identity to the layout of each squad’s tables. It may appear to be something superficial, but in fact, it is super important: they are signs that help to build and transmit messages about our company, which should not be lost by the physical distance of our teams.

“With the rise of remote work, we have a unique opportunity to provide a much better work experience for people, with more physical autonomy and more plurality in our workforce. Today we have at Alana AI people from all over the world, something that would not be possible in an operation centralized in our physical offices, which are in São Paulo and London. We have a great chance ahead and how we are going to manage it will make all the difference for it to fulfill this positive promise.” highlighted our CEO Marcel Jientara, in our last virtual Happy Hour held in the courtyard of our office at Gather.

Due to the great work of our Culture and Management teams, the adoption was superfluid, even considering our more than 40 employees, and the acceptance rate was practically unanimous.

“The possibility that, by simple approximation, you can speak (by voice) with a colleague, just like in the traditional physical office experience, also makes everything more comfortable and eliminates ‘that videocall costume.’ aligning something that, if it can’t be better done in a message on Google Chat, can be incredibly accomplished in a tap on the shoulder by a colleague’s virtual desk,” commented Juliana Soares, our Content Manager.

Benefits for the company

We can share several positive points since the implementation of Gather in Alana AI’s daily life, but we chose to list the main ones, which produced the most relevant impacts on the company:

Proximity between teams
Although there is a natural distance between some teams, especially between tech and non-tech, such as Marketing and Engineering, Gather increased the possibility of a connection between the squads in the work environment and broke some mysteries like “who is this guy called Matheus Lino, from Engineering?”

Not only in meetings promoted by the Culture team, but it is also possible to simply “bump” with someone from another squad through the corridors and get to know each other better.

Personalizing status with phrases and emojis also helps you get to know each colleague better. Our Head of Operations, Guilherme Penna, always has his motto exposed: “🧙‍♂️ Trust the process”

Proximity to leadership
Our founders are more accessible to all members, regardless of rank or squad. You can always see if our CEO is available, sitting in his dark retro-style room. Just send him a private message via chat and approach his desk.

Within the squads, the proximity is even greater. The leader is always seated a few meters, or rather pixels away, from any member who needs to get a quick fix.

Only on a platform like Gather can we accomplish the feat of “physically” bringing together our multidisciplinary professionals who are spread around the world. We can connect our offices in São Paulo and London to our new expansion hub for Latin America, in Puerto Rico, for example.

Cultural Alignment
We have an easy view to be inspired by the behavior of other teams in the virtual environment, thus strengthening the culture and best practices in the use of spaces, such as meeting rooms, 1×1 capsules, among others.

Separation of environments: Home and Work
In addition to better locating the employee as a whole, everyone returned to a place of work to “come and go” in their daily journey. For breaks and lunch breaks, each person can take their avatar to our kitchen or other decompression environments, such as our game room, signaling that it is not currently available.

As it is a Desktop platform, it does not invade other private environments, such as people’s cell phones. This helps to keep the division between personal and professional spaces clear, where the employee can only be accessed when they are there, at their time and place of work, just as they used to be in the traditional office.

More inclusive onboarding
With all the resources available on the platform, the organization of work and teams can be better understood by new employees, who do remote onboarding and could often be a little confused at first. The shared tables of each squad, divided by colors, as well as the meeting rooms, make the adaptation experience much more visual and simple to find who each person is, how the squads are drawn, and so on.

The meetings became, in addition to being more objective, much more pleasant. A virtual experience can be more visual, stimulating, and tangible.
This new environment has strengthened initiatives that we have already carried out internally, such as our virtual Happy Hour. Now we can bring the entire company together in our exclusive garden at Gather.

For a more collaborative work environment

Finally, it is important to know that the tool can contribute to this more collaborative and inclusive reality, but it is necessary to know-how.

We recommend that other fast-growing innovative companies, such as Alana AI, pay attention to offering a work environment more suited to the needs of their employees, without losing alignment and commitment to high performance. Particularly in the startup ecosystem, where we talk a lot about disruption, valuing our talents is undoubtedly part of building an increasingly innovative culture, which provides a space for training not only high-performance leaders but also fueled ones. for the energy of realizing dreams and personal projects.

Refer this article to your co-workers and friends who work in different segments to help build a more collaborative and healthy environment for the entire job market.

Reading recommendation: Pandemic: The 5 stages of recovery and growth for midsize companies and how to boost them

About Alana AI

Founded in 2015, Alana AI is a global startup specializing in artificial intelligence and NLP, which was born to scale and humanize the relationships between brands and customers, automating the marketing and customer experience departments, making people concentrate on strategic actions that have a real impact on their business. Our proprietary artificial intelligence was created to interact, engage and serve consumers in an automatic, personalized, and humanized way in any digital channel. Our solution offers the best of both worlds: scalability, through fast automation in volume, and quality, through natural language in personalized interactions. Alana AI has just reached $3 million in gross sales in a pandemic year.