Sidekick (YC S20) – A hardware device to connect remote teams

Hi HN,

I'm Andy, one of the founders at Sidekick ( Sidekick is a new hardware device built to connect remote teams with an always-on video call.

Sidekick sits on your desk next to your computer — with Sidekick you just turn to your teammates and talk, as if you're in the same room.

Like many of you all, we were recently forced to start working remotely because of COVID. After fleeing NYC to return to our childhood homes, we quickly realized that starting a company while remote was brutal. We were missing out on all the spontaneous conversations and camaraderie that occur when we're in the same room. We knew we needed to simulate being in the same room to build our company.

Initially we built Sidekick just for ourselves, but many of the founders in our YC batch wanted to try it out! We realized that our founding team wasn't an anomaly for wanting an always-on video device — we pivoted from our previous idea to start working on Sidekick to help the other founders in our batch.

Sidekick works best with fast-paced teams that need to be constantly communicating — founders are a great example. We're working with 25 YC founding teams along with experimental product teams at Store No. 8 and Brex. That being said, Sidekick isn't for everyone! If you don't really want to talk to your team during the day, Sidekick probably isn't a great fit.

We talked to many teams that tried to hack together a solution with Zoom on an iPad. From the teams we spoke to, we learned that it's really hard to consistently get the team in the room at the same time. Users are constantly leaving the room for other meetings but for everyone still in the room, it seems like nobody wants to use it because it's empty. This causes a negative feedback loop where even more people leave the room and the hacked together solution quickly becomes useless.

Sidekick is built to maximize the chances that you're not in the room alone. Unlike other jerry-rigged solutions, it treats "always-on" as a first-class problem to solve. Some examples of product decisions we've made are:

- Push notifications to minimize being alone in the room - when someone joins as the first person in the room, we send a notification to the rest of the team. We want to get other teammates in the room ASAP because the room is only useful with more than one person.

- Meeting mode - when you have a normal Zoom meeting with someone outside of your team, you can mark yourself as "in a meeting". This silences the mic and speakers on Sidekick while also setting a status informing your team that you're in a meeting, but you'll be back soon if someone needs you. We're also releasing Google Calendar integration soon, allowing Sidekick to automatically mark itself as "in a meeting"

On average our users are in their Sidekick rooms for 6 hours a day. They turn it on first thing when they sit down in the morning and leave it on throughout all their meetings during the day.

Our customers pay for Sidekick with a subscription model and we have a special promotion until Aug 1st for $25/user/month. The hardware comes for free and we handle all the shipping. We went with this model because we want our customers to pay us for the experience, not the hardware. We didn't want customers to have to think about whether they wanted to buy a pricy new device when the real question should be whether they want to try the experience.

We believe that working in the same room is part of the secret sauce to building an awesome company. We want all teams to be able to have access to that experience.

I really love this community and I'm excited to share Sidekick with all of you. We'd love to hear your feedback, particularly if you're working on a team that misses being in the same room. Feel free to ask any questions — I'll be around to answer anything you want to throw our way.

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andrey azimov by Andrey Azimov