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Greg Caplan is a big proponent of remote work — in fact, he’s been doing it for the better part of a decade.
In 2014, the former chief marketing officer of Cameo, the video platform that allows users to pay influencers and celebrities to send them personalized shout-out videos, made his interest his business and cofounded Remote Year, a community-based travel platform that’s offered over 60 remote work and learning programs across 37 cities in 30 countries.
While working remotely in Europe, Asia, and Mexico, Caplan was in charge of growing the global opportunity and managing the company’s 100-plus employees in assisting hundreds of its program participants.
But Caplan soon found that although he was living on the road, he was spending most of his working hours isolated and hunched over a computer screen.
“People are interfacing around the world socially and professionally, and it’s causing them to sit all the time,” Caplan told Insider. This immobility, he added, is a result of the digital tools that have been created with a desktop-first approach.
The image of a person effortlessly typing on a laptop with the ocean cascading in the background is not the norm for most remote workers, Caplan said.
“The reality is you’re running around stressed because you didn’t make sure the internet quality is good,” he said. This is why Caplan said he made sure that Remote Year offered high-quality workspaces and living situations that people could trust.
Back in 2014, of course, there was “a lot more volatility in the remote structure,” he said. As a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, Caplan said, a new economy is forming with remote work not just being an approach but a condition of work, with the same immobility problems persisting.
After having left Remote Year in 2020, Caplan is now making the business case for audio-only meetings where people can talk while they walk — a spin on the traditional phone call — with his new venture Spot.
Spot, which is currently in beta-testing and recently closed a $1.9 million pre-seed fundraising round led by Chapter One Ventures, is made up of a team of nine people scattered throughout the US, Argentina, and South Africa.
“I think that sitting is going to be quickly understood as the smoking of our generation,” he said. But, he added, behavior can change with the right toolbox.
Caplan shared with Insider how Spot works and why he thinks people will go for it.
A new way to run a work meeting
Spot allows users to take notes collaboratively as well as capture sections of audio to reference later while on-the-go.
“I wanted a solution that wasn’t bounded by Zoom or video, and because it is built into the platform, you never have to have the conversation around video in the first place — it is already known the meeting is voice-only,” Caplan said.
After sharing a Spot link in a calendar invite, accepted parties can then use the browser or download the app to host a call on the platform.
The audio is recorded by default, but users can use the “yardmarker” to bookmark important moments during the call. They can also say “Spot Fetch” or press the button on the bottom of their screen to trigger Spot, the virtual assistant, which then transcribes the last 40 seconds of audio.
Spot also comes with “smart-mute technology,” which is based on a series of algorithms that Caplan said are used to isolate people’s voices from the rest of the sounds coming in. When people aren’t speaking, “We basically mute their mic and then when they start talking again, we turn it back on and apply a different algorithm to filter out the background noise,” he said.
Caplan added that only people with access to the call on Spot have access to the notes, recording, and transcripts. Each person must verify their email address to get access to any data. Once verified, the owners of the data of each conversation fully control who can access the information through its settings.
“The default for information is private within our system,” he said. “This level of security is incredibly important when dealing with sensitive information like call recordings.”
To encourage people to move while they meet, Spot also includes step counts right on the page.
“The pain of sitting is the joy of walking, and walkers are some of the most of the world-changing people in history — Steve Jobs, Virginia Woolf, Beethoven were all passionate about walking because they understood walking relaxes and stimulates us in a subtle enough way that it puts us into a state of flow,” Caplan said. “It helps us focus and be creative.”
Tools like Zoom come with features like screen sharing that “doesn’t work at all on mobile,” Caplan said.
Using Zoom or Google Hangouts also comes with the expectation that people will join via video unless otherwise agreed upon by participants, Caplan said. Spot doesn’t have video, so the expectation is already set beforehand, reducing video burnout.
“It’s the age-old desktop versus mobile fight,” Caplan said.