10 years ago, I started using Skype and FaceTime to stay in touch with friends. Since then, video-conferencing tools have become part of my daily routine, both for work and personal stuff.
During the pandemic, I’d spend several hours per day on Zoom meetings, taking university classes, and talking with Failory’s team.
For classes, Zoom was fair enough. However, when it came to Failory’s things, I felt like Zoom made collaboration a little bit clumsy and unnatural.
Recently, I came across Around, which has completely changed how I communicate with Failory-related people.
What is Around?
Around is a video-conferencing tool launched in March 2020, offering a series of features that differentiates them from competitors like Zoom and Google Meet.
The startup was in stealth mode for 2 years, from 2018 to 2020, as its co-founders Matt Zakutny, Pavel Serbajlo, and Dominik Zane, were building the product, raising capital, and building the team.
Since its launch, Around has grown to a team of 36 and has raised over $15M in funding from investors like Floodgate, Initialized Capital, Credo Ventures, and Slack.
How is Around Different from Zoom & Google Meets?
1) Floating Circles
Traditional video-conferencing tools typically display participants in giant rectangles, occupying the whole screen.
At startups, it’s common to talk over a video-call while co-working on a text, design, or code file. However, with these video-conferencing tools, you have to decide between seeing the participants’ faces or your other windows.
Around aims to solve this by displaying participants’ faces in small circles that float over your other windows. This takes collaboration much closer to a real-life face-to-face conversation.
Behind the circles, there’s a great feature: Around’s virtual camera zooms and moves in all directions so that your face is always centered and your background isn’t displayed.
This means you won’t have to worry anymore about tidying your room or making your bed, and will probably save you from various awkward moments.
Not only does Around improve video quality, but it also leverages AI to refine audio by removing all kinds of unpleasant noises, such as barking dogs and car horns.
But Around takes this feature forward with the “Echo Prevention” technology, which allows multiple microphones and speakers to stay enabled in one room without generating any reverse echo.
This feature is crucial for hybrid teams, where some work remotely and others go to the offices. It generally happens in these cases that there are various people in one room, all seen through the same camera and speaking through the same microphone, which makes communication with the remote members really hard.
With Echo Prevention, members in the office can be in the same room, each with their computers, camera, and microphone, improving the video and audio quality.
4) Modern Design
Traditional video-conferencing tools have stayed with their enterprise-styled UIs. Around, instead, has designed a modern and minimalistic interface, which makes using it really comforting.
While the design may seem irrelevant, I think it’s important to use a tool that members of your team enjoy using and don’t struggle with setting it up and finding features.
Other Around Features
Besides the 4 key features mentioned, Around has some other great functionalities, both unique to their tool and shared with other video-conferencing tools. These are:
Reactions: You can react with emojis, which are displayed in an animated way next to or on top of your face.
GIFs: You can react with GIFs, which replace your video until you stop them. This means you can also use GIFs as a replacement for yourself in case you want to keep your camera off.
Icebreakers: You can react with 10 different sounds, including “Clapping”, “Cheering” and “Fireworks”.
Filters: There are dozens of filters you can enable for your camera, which reduces that feeling of self-consciousness and helps lower video fatigue.
Timer: You can set custom timers for time-based activities.
Vibe: You can choose out of 8 different “vibes”, which change the meeting’s background and include different musical playlists
Games: There are 3 multi-player games that participants can play during their free time or as a recharge between sessions.
Notes: Participants can take notes all together in one document, which is automatically shared to all through email once the meeting finishes.
They are constantly releasing new features, as you can see in their Changelog.
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Around is currently free for everyone as it’s in Beta.
Around has been launching dozens of features in the past years. That can be seen in that only in 2 years, they have launched 4 times on Product Hunt.
One of the mentioned negative points online is the lack of a mobile app. That’s no longer true, as they launched an iOS and Android app in July 2021.
The same happens with recordings. They launched the Beta version of this feature in April 2022.
Yet, there are some negative points that may make Around not be the best solution for your startup:
Echo Prevention for hybrid-remote meetings really works best with the most modern and high-end laptops (e.g. Macbook Pros) so it may not work best for all scenarios at this time. Around’s team is working on improving the feature anyways.
It’s not possible to blur your background or add different backgrounds.
It may be hard to hear others on the call if you have a Vibe playing.
Final Thoughts: Should You Use Around?
Around is an amazing collaboration tool, ideal for remote and hybrid startups.
The way it works, through floating circles, makes co-working with a team much more similar to real-life conversations.
It has a wide range of features and the team is actively launching new stuff every month.
I encourage you to give it a try now in the Beta version as you’re able to test all of their features for free.