The Future of Communication Technology: Ingrid Ødegaard of Whereby On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

We are a browser-based platform for video meetings that doesn’t require guests to download or register before joining a meeting. We have permanent room links that are easy to read and can be used as a regular meeting space, without the need to send calendar invites. We are focused on small and medium-sized businesses, and have seen that people who are not that familiar with technology really love our simple design. When you work in the tech industry, it’s easy to think that everyone is used to the same tools that we use, but that is actually not the case. Many people don’t even know that there are simple ways to use tools to collaborate and to communicate better.


The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ingrid Ødegaard.

Ingrid is the founder & Chief Product and Technology Officer of Whereby (formerly appear.in), the browser-based video meeting service ranked as #1 easiest to use by business users. Since 2013, she and her team have been taking on the global tech giants and incumbent video conferencing companies, by building a product around their vision of making work more flexible and human. Their team lives and breathes remote collaboration, being spread across 17 countries. Ingrid has been listed as one of the Top Women in Tech in Norway, and in 2018 was named “Future Thinker of the Year” in Norway.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Iused to work at Telenor — a Nordic telecom company — which is where the idea for Whereby was born. Initially starting as an intern project, the idea of a free browser-based video service quickly developed. At the time, we were known as appear.in, and from day one it ran as a ‘start-up’ within the larger company. I was part of setting up the team as the only non-engineer and fell in love with the radical simplicity of the product and being able to see it from a user’s perspective.

We invested a lot of time into user research and wanted to remove the friction of getting the right people in a group meeting — at a time when other options such as Skype and Google Hangouts were still very limited and expensive.

The product was very well received by users and spread virally. Within four months of launching appear.in we had users in 175 countries which was incredible.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

A surreal moment was when appear.in was featured on a BBC tech show. We had a screen up in our office with real-time analytics on and on the hour, every hour, we saw a huge spike that we couldn’t attribute to any incoming referral links. After a while, we got a text from someone who said they had seen appear.in on BBC World, and it turned out the programme had been broadcast many times across numerous time zones. So I sat at home and watched the segment on TV with my parents, which was really a high point for any entrepreneur!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Focus your energy on the things you can change, don’t waste energy and become too frustrated with things that are outside your control. In startup life, things change overnight and you need to keep your energy focused on moving forward in the right direction, not allowing yourself to be sidetracked or depressed by things that hit you. This has been a key principle that has allowed me to stay the course and work through the difficult times.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Obviously the home turf is very important, so I am eternally grateful to my partner who picks me up if I’m feeling down and always takes time to talk through situations with me to give an outside perspective. Especially after becoming parents, making the logistics work and taking turns covering for each other is essential to also succeed at work.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Our culture and policy of remote work has already led several team members to make life-changing decisions like moving out of small apartments in big cities to smaller towns where they can buy a house and be close to family. I really believe in our vision of giving people freedom and flexibility to life and work where they thrive. For knowledge workers, personal happiness and wellbeing is critical for productivity at work. There’s no button you can press for people to be creative, productive or solve really hard problems. Inspiration often comes from having time to do deep work, reflect or be away from your desk, so that’s what we at Whereby try to help people achieve.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

We are a browser-based platform for video meetings that doesn’t require guests to download or register before joining a meeting. We have permanent room links that are easy to read and can be used as a regular meeting space, without the need to send calendar invites. We are focused on small and medium-sized businesses, and have seen that people who are not that familiar with technology really love our simple design. When you work in the tech industry, it’s easy to think that everyone is used to the same tools that we use, but that is actually not the case. Many people don’t even know that there are simple ways to use tools to collaborate and to communicate better.

How do you think this might change the world?

I think COVID has really opened the eyes of many people and forced companies to try new ways of working, with new tools. I think it will be hard to go back to the old ways once you have discovered the benefits this can bring. So I hope this, combined with the revolution we are part of — the consumerization of IT that brings more easy-to-use tools to companies — can lead to more flexibility for employees in the long term. For companies and organizations, I think this is a great opportunity to build more resilience, enabling the organization to continue functioning even when people are not able to physically get to an office. In terms of diversity, I think remote working is the single best thing that has happened. We believe talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. Remote jobs allow people outside of the big cities or tech hubs to have access to really exciting jobs, and provides companies with access to a much bigger and more diverse talent pool.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I’m surprisingly conservative when it comes to technology, for being a tech entrepreneur. I think we should be very conscious about how we let tech into our lives and always focus on how it affects the quality of our lives. I myself have more or less stopped using social media because it wasn’t adding much value and taking time away from paying attention to the things around me. I also think those who design tech have a responsibility to do so in an ethical way which positively impacts people’s lives.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

It’s quite frustrating to compete with tech giants who are bundling their products together so that customers don’t have to make an active choice about the individual product and maybe don’t even have to deal with the exact price. Both Google and Microsoft do this, which makes it very hard for any up and coming startup to compete. So I wish more companies would support independent tech businesses by buying their products, as I fear that we are ending up with (if we haven’t already) an oligopoly where a handful of companies control the fabric of our lives.

We are very lucky to have a user base that promotes us, and our product is inherently viral. So we try to leverage this to convert guests who come into meetings to also become users if they like the experience.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

I think it’s clear flexible working and hybrid offices are here to stay. I have countless friends and colleagues who love the freedom remote working brings and want this flexibility to be a permanent part of their lives.

Last year, we conducted a remote work survey. It found that more than half of business owners felt remote working had increased productivity — which was reassuring as it’s not always easy to be certain of the benefits when you can’t physically see what employees are working on.

We also found more than 80% of businesses were considering policy changes to allow people to work remotely. This will bring huge benefits to employees, particularly those living with young families.

Of course, it’s natural people will be concerned that remote working may blur the line between the personal and the professional. Here, using tech to over communicate will become even more important. Setting boundaries is crucial — at Whereby, we use Slack to say ‘good morning’, explain what we will be working on and update when we are away from our desks so it’s clear when to expect a reply.

With remote working, the problem is people often work too much rather than too little. So employees using technology to communicate when they transition between work and personal is super useful in avoiding burnout and ensuring people aren’t constantly ‘plugged-in.’

How can our readers further follow your work online?

We share a lot of our learnings and stories from our customers on whereby.com/blog.

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.


About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.

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