Antonia Hellman: Reimagining the virtual social experience

24 minute read


Epsa[00:02:40] But we just encountered this incredible woman who is graduating from Stanford this year and she’s created a platform that is one of Zoom’s top competitors.

Anjana [00:02:53] Yeah, and you’ll have to check it out yourself. It’s called Toucan the website is, and it really aims to bring the natural and social interactions of real life to online events and gatherings. And the founder, Antonia Hellman, is a super kickass lady who is definitely going places.

Epsa[00:03:14] She’s very cool, a super cool gal, and really just talking to her and hearing how her idea started at the beginning of quarantine. And it’s been over a year since the start of Toucan from the idea phase to where they are now — really awesome stuff. And I think her whole platform, what she’s trying to promote, as Anjana said, is a more social, real, normal atmosphere that we were all so used to. And with this new digital age, it’s kind of cool to see how her platform has really, really tried to blend both of our worlds.

Anjana [00:03:44] It’s really like grown, like exponentially. In the last year, they’ve gained over thirty-seven thousand people on the platform. And they’ve also raised over a million dollars in funding, which is awesome. So we chat with her about all of that, her journey as a young founder, why she started Toucan and where she’s hoping to take it from here.

Epsa[00:04:09] So we really hope you all enjoy Antonia’s episode. And if you haven’t checked out our other episodes, make sure to do so, because Antonia’s episode is actually going to be the end of our season one. So, we’re going to be pausing the podcast for a little bit, only to come back bigger, better and stronger because we’re going to be interviewing a lot more women from a wider range of industries. So stay tuned for season two. But in the meantime, listen to Antonia’s episode and check out some of our previous episodes if you haven’t been caught up already.

Anjana [00:04:48] OK, Antonia, thank you so much for your time. Can we start with a story you told me last time we chatted about how your name is pronounced differently, depending on which of your parents you ask.

Epsa Oh my god, I just pronounced it differently when I just said it.

Antonia [00:05:00] So it is a an age old question and debate that has no clear winner in sight. So just growing up, my dad always called me, Anton-I-a, and my mom always called me Ant-O-nia. It’s never been any different. And so, I really it always got really complicated around parent teacher conferences because my teachers would realize that they were calling me by the wrong name, depending on which parent showed up to the conference for the entire year. And so, I had to soothe a lot of really panicked teachers. I actually kind of liked that, but I guess technically my mom was the one who named me. So that might indicate that Antonia is the correct pronunciation. But I really like that about my name. I like that about my background. It’s just a little bit mysterious. But also at the same time, so many people, regardless of where I am in the world and where people are from, they always feel like I’m from where they’re from. So even though I am not Italian, I get a lot of people asking me if I’m Italian, Brazilian, I’m not Brazilian, I’m half white and half Chinese. And so, yeah, it’s just one big enigma.

Epsa[00:06:36] But what do you like, prefer or is there like a certain mood you’re in when you introduce yourself, you go by one or the other, let us in your little secret. Like, come on, unpack.

Antonia [00:06:46] OK, I think I typically introduce myself as Antonia. There was a time when I thought, hey, wouldn’t it be interesting if since I went by Antonia all through kindergarten, through high school, what if I could separate my college friends from high school friends and have all my college friends call me and to me instead? And that way I’ll never forget where they came from, which, you know a little bit weird at this point, but it was really hard to keep up because it was just such a reflex for me to introduce myself as Antonia. I went for a couple of months as Toni at the beginning of college, a rebrand because everybody was learning so many names. Yeah, big rebrand. Everybody is learning some of these names, as you know. And so I figured that something shorter would be easier for people to remember. But then I thought, hey, my name’s Antonia. People can remember Antonia.

Epsa[00:07:53] But then stepping into just like, you know, going to college, you had this, like, different name you wanted to step in to or just try something different. Could you just kind of share more about, like your college life, your major, your time at Stanford, just your original post grad plans like what you had in mind going in and kind of where you are right now?

Antonia [00:08:15] Sure, so I went into college thinking that I was going to be an international relations major. I quickly realized that I didn’t want to focus as much on international affairs and wanted to do more kind of domestic policy work. So I’m majoring in political science and economics, and I’m also doing what we call a co-term. It’s a co-terminal master’s degree, which is a concurrent program with your bachelor’s degree, where you can get a bachelor’s and master’s in five years instead of doing a completely separate master’s program for multiple years. Yeah, like a 4+1. And so I’m doing one of those in what we call management, science and engineering at Stanford. And within that, it’s a kind of vague name. Nobody outside Stanford really knows that means. But what I’m focusing on within that program is computational social science. So using data science to learn more about social science issues. And so that’s really my focus there. I realized really early on in my college career that I wasn’t a programmer. I didn’t want to go out and create websites and programs and software myself. But I really did like coding and analyzing data and making visualizations, making data really, really accessible for people. And so that’s what I’ve been focusing my political science degree on, as well as my master’s degree

Anjana [00:10:01] Can you ground that a little for us. So what’s an example of that you’ve had a chance to work on?

Antonia [00:10:06] So, one project, actually, my first data science class within the political science department was one of the most fun courses that I’ve ever taken and the midterm since this was in 2018, the midterm assignment was to build a machine learning model. Given a huge data set of past outcomes and details about each different district across the United States. Our midterm project is to build a machine learning model that would predict the outcomes of the 2018 congressional elections in every district across the United States.

Anjana [00:10:53] Oh my God.

Epsa[00:10:55] Yeah, that’s so cool to have that as a project.

Antonia [00:10:57] It was super cool. And on top of that, get this, your grade was the percent that you like, the percentage that you’ve got right out of all of the race.

Anjana [00:11:10] How many did you get right?

Antonia [00:11:12] We got … so my team worked so hard on this. We went really like way too hard. And we actually won a prize because we did the best with our model is the best that year out of all of the models. And we got, I think, like a ninety four percent. Pretty good, huh? But the secret, from just from an insider to you and all your listeners, the secret is if you just run it on whether the person who is running is an incumbent in that district, you get like an 80 percent.

Epsa[00:11:55] You’re basically passing with that.

Antonia [00:11:57] You’re passing on that one variable. So nobody is going to fail.

Epsa[00:12:02] OK, that’s still super cool, like having the option to do that.

Anjana [00:12:04] This was your fresh freshman year?

Antonia [00:12:08] It was my sophomore, my sophomore fall.

Anjana [00:12:11] That’s like super early for I feel like that’s such a big project.

Epsa[00:12:14] I know it feels like a work project, like something that has value.

Antonia [00:12:18] Yeah, it was it was a big one. I think we didn’t do as well as Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight did at predicting the midterms. But we got kind of close. We did.

Anjana [00:12:30] That’s really I think that’s a really good, fivethirtyeight is a high bar.

Antonia [00:12:35] Definitely.

Anjana [00:12:37] So tell us more also about your time at Stanford. I know you talked a little bit about your internship last time we chatted, but how did you go from that and elections to what you’re doing now, which is building out of super cool new platform?

Antonia [00:12:53] Yes. So my time at Stanford was really characterized by my involvement in one organization in particular. So it’s called Stanford in Government. It’s the largest nonpartisan student run political organization on campus. And we really are focused on bringing policy discussions to campus, so getting people involved who otherwise might not be really, teaching people about what’s going on in the world, not just in the US, but largely the discussions do focus around domestic issues. So being involved with Stanford in government, I always really knew that I wanted to be involved in government, have some kind of elected position, who knows, that is something that’s kind of far out. However, being in that organization really taught me a lot about, how the government works, how to get involved, the different levels of public service, the intricate layers of elected officials. And who serves what, who answers to whom? So it’s all very complicated and I got a kind of deeper, deeper dive into that just being part of this organization. And after my first year, I interned for a couple of congressional campaigns, as well as a state campaign in New York. So I was based in upstate New York, in Kingston, which is the 19th district of New York. And I got to work on two different campaigns because my first candidate didn’t win the primary. Though, a fantastic candidate. And I totally, totally believe that he will be in Congress one day or somewhere in some kind of office. I’m just waiting and I hope he hears this because hopefully it’s a big vote of confidence. His name is Gareth Rhodes. I then transferred over and worked for the candidate who beat him in the primary simply because it was a fantastic experience. There were a bunch, I believe I might be getting this wrong. So apologies if I if I’m getting this wrong. But I think there were either seven or nine, seven candidates running against the incumbent. And so it was really hard to pick who was going to win. But that meant that there were a lot of really small teams that were working together to achieve a really big goal. So picking one of these teams meant that you were working in really close quarters with all of your colleagues, with all the other volunteers. Everybody was doing everything somebody needed to do something to get done. It didn’t matter who was doing it. It’s just somebody needed to step up and do it. And that was a really important work ethic for me to see because working on a campaign is incredibly fast paced. It’s a really amazing. Example of teamwork and a mission driven project, as well as a really interesting window into marketing. But marketing with compassion. So you’re not just going out there trying to push something onto somebody for the sake of pushing something on to somebody, you’re actually needing to stop and listen. You need to talk to real people. You need to meet people where they are and focus on what it is that they care about. And so, I mean, tying that kind of into what I do with Toucan you know. The answer is no, I did not see myself starting a startup. I did not see myself working in tech immediately after coming out of college. I mean, maybe doing something in the data science world, but by no means what I’m doing right now. However, what I’ve learned is that the skills that I learned on the campaign more than anything else I’ve learned. Anywhere, really, those skills are extremely applicable to what I’m doing. It’s my job to listen to people. It’s my job to try and fix their problems. It’s my job. I mean, I’ll tell you a little bit more about how it works. But my job, too, when somebody comes to me and says, I have this event, I have these people I need to engage. I had this many people there this age, what can we do? It’s my job to on the spot, come up with a solution for them so that they can just take what I’m telling them and run with it, make it their own. And so that’s really something extremely valuable from working on a campaign that you wouldn’t necessarily think would have so many real world private sector applications.

Anjana [00:18:16] Right. And I feel like that’s super important for listeners who are in college to hear, because I think everyone feels like they have to do X, Y and Z to get from point A to point B, right. Like you want to be a founder at a startup, you have to take business and like you study whatever concentration or, you know, if you want to go into politics, you have to take this. But I feel like there’s so many crossovers in a sense, and you are such a good example of that, because all those skills that you mentioned are just so applicable to everything that you’re doing now. So it’s really awesome to hear. Tell us more about Toucan How did that start? What’s the deal there?

Antonia [00:18:58] Of course. So Toucan is a platform that I built with my brother, along with an all-star team of highly experienced professionals and serial entrepreneurs that allows for natural, real, fluid conversations within one virtual space. So we’re all used to traditional video conferencing tools where you login and you get dumped into one big conversation. You kind of sit there with your microphone off, maybe your camera off until somebody starts talking if it’s not your responsibility to lead the conversation. And it’s not really about democratizing a social experience, it’s about an agenda, a speaker, a presentation, and then everybody leaves, and so I found myself at the beginning of quarantine and so did my brother. My brother, by the way, he’s finished his freshman year at Stanford. He’s studying computer science. He’s super brilliant. His name is Ethan Hellman. Look him up. He’s the man, he and I both experienced this struggle where we were a part of so many groups on campus. And that was our life. And you all know as college students, that’s kind of what you do in college. And we weren’t able to socialize like we could in real life on campus anymore. But things were even worse because the only tools at our fingertips were Zoom, Google Meet sometimes Teams, God forbid.

Epsa[00:20:46] Teams was my least favorite platform to communicate on. That’s what my work uses. It’s so ugly. The UX is so ugly, the purple color is just hard to look at. But aside from me hating teams, please carry on with your story.

Antonia [00:21:04] No, that’s that’s the exact reaction that we get from everybody and that we’ve always gotten it. No, no platform is putting the community first. No platform is putting social first. And when you are with a large group, when you’re with your team at work, you need to establish that kind of trust and understanding and personal rapport before you can get anything done. And so what we’re seeing I mean, I don’t know what your experience is like, but young college grads are going out into the workplace, or people, not just college grads, but anybody changing jobs. They’re coming into a new job entirely within the span of COVID. And you just don’t know your team as well. There are some companies that do it quite well, but the social aspect of work is really, really severely lacking. And just back to the origin story, that’s just what Ethan and I felt with our own groups and communities on campus, was that spark, that ability to connect with people really went away. So we built something to to fix the problem.

Epsa[00:22:28] I completely agree with the spark going away. I think I mean, initially and I think a lot of people have had this experience, not just a college grad, anyone who is transitioning to like this new whole landscape of life. And that just being completely virtual. I interviewed virtually, I was onboarded virtually like a ton of my friends. Same kind of experience. Don’t really know the team. And you’re thrown into these big meetings of people that I’ve been in the office together, have had the opportunity to have that spark. And now I’m just like, OK, I don’t really know my place. I will now, just hanging out in the back, unmute, say, “Hey, good morning,” camera off until I need to pitch in or do something extra. But aside from the Origin story, could you also explain, like I mean, I’ve seen the article seen more things about Toucan, but from your own personal opinion, what would you say is like your most favorite thing about this platform right now?

Antonia [00:23:29] So my favorite thing about the platform has been the same since day one, it’s that you have agency over your own social experience. When you come into Toucan, you go to one link, everybody goes to that same link, and you see everybody who is in that space dotted all around your screen. You see their icons and when you want to talk to somebody or when you want to join a group, you just click on that person. There’s a big orange button. It’s really hard to miss. And you can enter into that conversation extremely fluidly, just like how you would walk into a party, look around the room and then choose which group of people to walk up to. It’s that easy. And so what Toucan does is it gives me this feeling of being in a real world environment, a real world party, a real world networking event. And it’s just the way that you feel comfortable going up to people and staying that is just so special about Toucan to me. Something that is 100 percent true that we’re really, really proud of is that on Toucan, 93.3 percent of our attendees actually speak. That’s huge. Yeah, compared to that, compare that to any sort of video conferencing platform. I don’t know how many Zoom calls, Google Meets calls you’ve been on where you just sit there and you don’t say anything if you’re not the one presenting. I don’t think that says anything about you.

Epsa[00:25:23] Totally, it’s just the environment we’re placed in. And it’s just the aura of it in itself.

Antonia [00:25:27] Exactly. And it’s also the fact that there’s a huge psychological hurdle that you need to get over when you’re placed in a situation where you need to think to yourself, wow, is what I’m saying actually worth speaking up and taking everybody’s time because, yes, on a traditional video conferencing tools, you have an hour. Let’s say you have a meeting that lasts for an hour. And if you want to say one thing and say that takes 10 seconds, that takes 10 seconds out of the entire hour, everybody’s hour, that’s in attendance in that call. And that’s a lot of pressure to put on you. But on Toucan where there are on average, five conversations going on at once in one single event, you can go up to people who you feel comfortable with and you can say whatever you like and you’re not, quote unquote, wasting other people’s time. You don’t need to think about who’s going to interpret what you say, in what way you can participate freely. And there’s just really it’s so much less awkward and the barrier is just so low to participate that people end up having a good time and really meeting other folks that they can connect with.

Anjana [00:26:55] This thing you just brought up, like the psychological barrier you brought on a social psychologist, right. To build this out with you? A question I have for you. We’ve talked to a lot of founders and one of the biggest barriers that comes up is age. And how do you feel like you have been able to pitch yourself and pitch Toucan to a lot of these serial entrepreneurs, you call them, who are older or more experienced, of your employees. Like, how have you been able to pitch yourself or what barriers have you had to overcome in that sense?

Antonia [00:27:33] That’s a good question. I think that the answer is probably really different. When you talk to founders who were more on their own, luckily I since the very beginning, have had my brother along with me. So there are two of us who are bouncing ideas off of each other. And on top of that, I happen to be the oldest out of the two. So I don’t know. You may ask him and he may have a different answer to the age question, but. To be quite honest. I think that age has actually been an asset for us, which might be an answer that you don’t get too often, but we happen to be building a tool that is social first. And who better to think about the issue of socializing virtually than two people who have been socializing virtually for their entire lives? Right, not that many.

Anjana [00:28:46] That’s a good point. So when, you know, you and you and Ethan were sitting at the dining room table, you came up with this idea on a Post-it. And then tell me about the process of when you got your first employee, like, how did how did you go about doing that?

Antonia [00:29:05] So before we got our first employee, we actually took on some more co-founders. So there are five co-founders in total. And so I guess tacking on a little bit onto that age question, we, not only have two people who’ve spent their entire lives socializing virtually, who know what interests people like us, but we also have over a hundred years of industry experience on our team because of our co-founders. So we have three other co-founders. The first one to come on. His name is Paul Murphy. He’s worked and started several startups in various different spaces. The last one was in I guess you call it telecommunications. He is in Italy, funny enough, so he’s on the other side of the planet and we talked to him first. We called up Paul, we talked to him about the idea. He said, let me think about that. And then the next day, literally 24 hours later, he came back to us and said, I’m going to stop what I’m doing right now and I’m going to come work with you guys. He was doing some work in cryptocurrency at the time. And so he’s like, I can put that on hold and come build Toucan with you. The day after that, he said, I have the perfect guy to build the platform.

Anjana [00:30:33] How did you even know of him?

Antonia [00:30:36] OK, so super random. I think we’ve been really lucky with a random connection, that we’ve been able to make. But he actually worked on a project that my dad was working on over 20 years ago, 25 years ago, they hadn’t worked together since, but they still had a mutual friend who also worked on the project. And when we told that mutual friend about Toucan, he said, “Oh, I think you should call Paul and see what he’s doing because he would be a great guy to bring on.” And so he came on. He then the next day, I was saying he said, I know the exact person who could build this and who could build it really fast and really well. And the day after that, Evo was on board. Evo is our chief engineer. He is a wizard, a professional developer. We’re super lucky, like Ethan is a computer science major, but could not build Toucan nearly as quickly or or as well. No offense Ethan.

Epsa[00:31:46] We love him.

Antonia [00:31:47] We love Ethan like I said, Ethan’s the man, but he just wouldn’t be able to do it like Evo can. And then our last co-founder is his name is Michel. And interestingly, we pitched Michel because he was Paul and Evo, when they’re working on a project, a separate project before, he was their mentor in TechStars London, which is like a large accelerator. They were actually his first company that he ever mentored. And so they stayed really, really close. And we pitched Toucan to Michel literally just for practice. Honestly, we thought it could be an investor call. We thought it could be an advisor call. We had no idea. We really just wanted to hone our skills. And yeah, the next day he emailed us and he said, “I haven’t stopped thinking about this in twenty four hours. Is there any way that I can get involved?”

Epsa[00:32:52] The stars literally aligned for you. That’s so cool.

Antonia [00:32:54] We’re just, we’re super lucky. We’re really, really lucky with the people that we’ve been able to  get jazzed about Toucan. We have great mentors. Ethan and I have learned a ton from our co-founders over the past year. It’s been a super wild ride.

Epsa[00:33:22] So what has the timeline been so far from the Post-it note to those investor calls to them being co-founders to you, like still managing school? Like what was the timeline of that? And like, how is managing, like, your own coursework with this whole business?

Antonia [00:33:38] So we started building toucan March 27, 2020. So it’s been just over year, we just celebrated our one year birthday. That was, that was when the sticky note happened. We mark, we marked the first year or the first day of that first call with Paul when Paul was on board and actually decided to go through with this. After that, in about 10 weeks, less than 10 weeks, we had an alpha product up and running, we had all of our databases set up, all of our servers set up. We were running on AWS. We had a preliminary version of Toucan going. It could have, we learned the hard way, it could have roughly about 20 people in the space at one time before it crashed. But it was really cool and it was really special to see our vision come to life on the screen. And then in mid June, mid late June, we released our private beta. So that was when you needed to know somebody. You needed to know one of the founders to get a code. And in order to host an event, you needed to have one of these codes. But anybody could attend. Then in November, we released our public beta, so that meant that anybody could host an event, anybody could attend an event, and that’s when we really started seeing some serious growth. Just about three weeks ago we got out of beta officially. And so in the past month, we saw approximately 50 percent month over month growth. It was 48 percent, which is pretty amazing. And compound monthly growth rate, 43 percent. So people are just really loving the platform. And it’s a good thing that the way that Toucan works is that if one host brings in a couple attendees, chances are those attendees will then become hosts themselves and bring in more people. So we’ve just grown organically and it’s been really cool to watch and obviously be a part of over the past year. It’s definitely at some points it’s been difficult to manage Toucan and my course load, but there’s actually no better time to finish out school than right now because everything’s remote anyway. I can do classes on my own time. A lot of them are asynchronous, so I’ll work on Toucan during the day. I might do a little bit of classwork at night, just kind of on my break from my work. I’ll do a little bit more and you can work at night and also a lot of professors are super understanding of different student circumstances. So really like if I wanted to finish school at all and do Toucan like, there’s no better time to do it than now.

Anjana [00:37:04] That’s awesome. So in the last year, which is it’s crazy to think it’s only been a year because you have had, last time we talked, 37,000 users on your platform, which is such an insane number, and over a million dollars in funding. I feel like, you know, as with a lot of new founders, it’s like fail fast, fail hard. What’s your, what would you say has been your biggest failure to date and how did you tackle that?

Antonia [00:37:35] I can’t point to one specific like big failure, but I think that coming into running a business without any prior experience is all just one big failure. Just how it compares to how much success you get. But everything everything you do has some element of I don’t know, growing pains associated with it and I think that that was very pronounced when we were fundraising at the very beginning. Ultimately, we raised a million dollars. We did fine on the fundraiser, but that was something that was so unfamiliar to both me and Ethan. And part of that was like the details, the composition of our company, the way that things seem to be structured internally and legally, those were really difficult to wrap our heads around at the very beginning and just took some time to adjust to. And I think that while we were adjusting to that, we lost a lot of time on the fundraise, which I would have preferred to not lose. However, I think it all comes with the territory. So thankfully, I can’t say at this point that we have something that we truly failed really big at. Maybe that means that it’s coming soon. Goodness I hope not. I really hope not. But I think that taking criticism and growing without taking things too personally, understanding the things that may be seen as a failure on your part, people are just telling you about that because it’s just business. Yeah, knowing and understanding that is really key.

Anjana [00:39:52] It’s hard. It’s like your baby. Yeah, you’re like super protective. So, yeah, I totally get that.

Epsa[00:39:57] But I feel like you’re spitting some wisdom. And I can just sense that you’ve experienced, you and your brother as the co-founder of Toucan rather specifically, have experienced a lot of growth from the start. I mean, going into it like blindly and then coming out with like a stronger set of like expectations, just like this is just how it is. Do you now, it’s been a year since it started. Do you have any advice for, like other students that are like looking into starting something similar? I feel like right now, again, we’ve been in quarantine for so long, a lot of our minds are turning with ideas. Do you have any advice for students in your position? And are there ways they could, like, distinguish themselves from products or services, just like how to stand out?

Antonia [00:40:43] Yes, so first of all, two pieces of advice that I would have for any student, founder, any founder, period, find a really good team unless you can do everything by herself, which is typically not the case. You really want to find a really solid team of people that you respect, that you enjoy spending time with and also that you can learn from personally. So I have a really stellar team, not just of my brother who I learn from every day, but a lot of mentors, I work with my mentors every single day and we work as equals, which is really, really unique from what I understand about the types of jobs that my friends are getting after college. Two, is approach every call extremely seriously. I don’t mean that you should go into it and be super serious and not smile. Obviously, you should crack jokes and be funny because everybody likes that, but you really never know what’s going to come out of a call. I mentioned the call with Michel our co-founder, who I had no idea what was going to happen at the end of that call. And we ended up bringing somebody with a tremendous amount of experience onto our team. And we’re really lucky about that. That’s also happened to me with investors where I’ve gone in thinking that it was a waste of time and then come out with a significant amount of funding that I did not anticipate getting. So I think. Just keep your mind open when you’re talking to anybody, because chances are you’re going to learn something that’s really important for you to know, how can students distinguish themselves and their product or service? I think students are in a really unique spot to make a dent in the world, in certain industries. So there are just some things that we as not just young people, but people who’ve grown up in the generation that we did with the technology that we did. There are just some things that we know better than more mature people.

Epsa[00:43:19] We’re in a really neat spot where we’ve had a mix of both worlds. So you’re right, we do have like a good outlook.

Antonia [00:43:28] Yeah, it’s just really different. And there are some things that we don’t do as well. There are some things that do really require experience. But to be honest. That’s what a team is for if you’re really passionate about something and you read a lot about it and you talk to your friends about it and you talk to your family about it, and you can’t get it off your mind, and that’s something that might be worth pursuing. Maybe you need the help of somebody who has a little bit more experience. Starting companies, I don’t know, maybe you can do it yourself, but the bottom line is you should never be discouraged. You should never feel like you don’t have a place at the table, just because you’re young or because you’re a student. I think that that’s pretty ridiculous, and if you carry yourself, if you act like you belong someplace, then you can convince others that you belong there to.

Anjana [00:44:31] I love that, it’s a very pull-quote worthy piece of advice. So we would love to know what the future of Toucan’s looking like. You know, we were just about approaching, hopefully soon, life going somewhat back to normal and, you know, these events taking place in person. But we’re expecting a lot of virtual to stay the same. And like this new normal. How is Toucan going to reimagine this space there?

Antonia [00:45:02] Look, I’m excited as much as the next person is for the ability to go out and see people and go to restaurants and all that stuff. So don’t get me wrong, I’m super excited about that. But what I think is undeniable at this point is that there is a new understanding of what the workplace is going to be like moving forward. You hear the words remote hybrid thrown all around and nobody is really given a concrete example of what that would look like. But what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to make sure that when companies do that, they are keeping the right priorities in mind and the right priorities, in my opinion, but I think this is kind of objective, are the people who work there. So humanity, making sure that there’s real connection, making sure that people feel like they can trust the folks that they work with, that they can go to them to ask for advice and ask for help, and the way that you do that is by structuring your interactions, giving them a social foundation. So starting with social and then adding on top of that. And that’s what Toucan is doing. Not enough people put enough emphasis on the importance of socializing in a community space. A lot is put on productivity, on deliverables, on meetings way too early in the morning. You know how that is. But the thing is, what I like to say is more gets done when you’re having fun. And the way to have fun is to enjoy the people that you’re with. And so that’s how Toucan’s really reimagining just the approach to work, and then I can talk a lot more about how releasing features that really support this vision. For instance, just a sneak peek super quick about what we’re releasing in the next couple of weeks, in the next two weeks is what we call Spaces. Where you essentially have your own virtual real estate on Toucan so a place where you can invite your friends, you can open and close it, you can give it a pass code, you can really customize it, make it your own, give it your own, your URL, etc. Do fun things to this virtual real estate. On Toucan that kind of gives your organization or gives you as an individual, a home base. And that, we anticipate, is going to change how people interact with Toucan. People’s frequency of use, it’ll just make them more comfortable hanging out there and meeting new people in space.

Epsa[00:48:24] Very exciting. So cool and remarkable and I think the comfort element that you’re talking about is one that I think needs to be emphasized more because our whole lives, we grew up being comfortable in person and like really acclimating socially to that. And then there’s a whole new realm of being comfortable socially, online, like in Zoom meetings, like social etiquette and like larger like I’m in a university flight program for where I work. And they try to do big Zooms, but half the people are in different industries, like different teams, different things. And it’s just, there’s those five really extroverted people leading the conversation and then it just dies. And that’s the end of that. So I’m really excited for this rollout because I think new grad programs, I mean, as a new grad, I think this is where it’s going to hit home for most. Very excited just to see the future, see what happens.

Antonia [00:49:16] I completely agree. And even though I mean, I’m going to be working at Toucan after I graduate, I have a lot of friends who aren’t working at Toucan and who are working really all across the country starting off remotely. And they’re really, really worried. Because they are also experience that same thing where there are a couple super extroverted people in a group chat, for instance, of new hires, a company, and they just don’t know where their place is and they don’t know where they’re going to fit in. It’s really, really hard to get to know people when you’re all in one space, all staring at each other and hearing what everybody has to say. You just don’t feel comfortable sharing anything personal about yourself. And so the way to do that is to tackle that group one bit at a time. And by bite, I mean small group. And that’s what we’re what we’re hoping to do with Toucan.

Anjana [00:50:19] We are so, so stoked for both you and see where it all goes. Thank you so much for your time.

Antonia [00:50:31] Of course. Thank you for having me.