SA video-calling startup room.sh sees growth during pandemic, launches team-meeting service

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South African video-calling startup room.sh has seen strong uptake over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has now launched a teams meeting service that gives companies an alternative to Zoom.

Disrupt Africa reported in April of last year on the launch of room.sh, which was spun out of South African ed-tech startup SkillUp and described by chief executive officer (CEO) Matthew Henshall as a combination of Zoom and Google Docs.

While SkillUp – which secured a Series A funding round from Knife Capital in April 2018 – continues to grow, Henshall and his co-founders are now primarily focused on room.sh, which has seen a surge of users over the last four months and now has more than 100,000 video calls taking place on its platform each month.

During this period, one of the biggest demands has been from teams having recurring team meetings, and room.sh has reacted by launching a platform specifically designed for teams. The company says it is an alternative to Zoom for recurring team meetings, with tools that make collaboration easy and reduce ‘video fatigue’ by taking the focus off your face and onto the meeting.

The company is also working towards an investment raise.

“A good meeting can move a company forward and over the last three years we’ve needed to get really good at meetings,” Henshall said. “We initially started building software for students and teachers to conduct live, online lessons, and almost by accident, we started using this software to conduct our team meetings. That’s how room.sh was born, we’re on a mission to “Make Meetings Better”.”

A beta version of room.sh was released last year, largely to test new features for the online education software. A couple of teams and individuals would sign up every day, but growth was by no means viral, and the company continued to expand on its education offering. Steady growth and high retention rates remained the norm until March of this year, when COVID-19 changed everything and the world’s offices and schools went online overnight. 

“In the space of a week, we had companies, schools and individuals around the world looking for a solution to keep their businesses alive, looking for a way to conduct their meetings,” said co-founder Andrew Cowley.

“I’ve heard us being referred to as “South Africa’s Zoom”, which we’re proud of, but the reality is that we’re serving customers in just about every country on the globe. We’re really grateful to be able to grow a business during this time. More than ever we’re leading with empathy towards our customers, to serve them as best as we can during this change.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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