The conversation in startup land has shifted from building in public to, hey, maybe let’s sort things out internally before shouting at the masses.
At least that’s what I gather from the growth story of Murmur, a startup that aims to make decision making easier for private companies. Built by entrepreneur Aaron DignanMurmur launched its closed beta in 2021 with the vision of creating a public forum of private work agreements to help companies scale up remote policies more quickly.
Now Dignan is back, almost two years later, to say that founders early on in Murmur’s beta had a separate yet related product request that has now been prioritized: they want a better way to make collaborative decisions, without a meeting is needed.
Murmur is currently working on a collaboration platform that helps companies make decisions in an open and feedback-oriented way. Employees and executives can go in and propose a change, create a work arrangement around it, and then seek approval with a ticking deadline in the background.
It’s a smarter Google Doc, meant to be built with a decision-making framework in mind – whether that’s figuring out a way to produce the back-and-forth of a compromise, or optimizing for more eyes before an agreement is set in stone being chiseled. Essentially, the product is a bet on the idea that businesses want a smarter way to work in a remote-first environment, one that considers time zones more than an inconvenience.
“People don’t like to read and they don’t like to write — you have to think about that when you’re building a product and that means people are looking for a way to make decisions with less work,” Dignan said. While Murmur is still focused on transparency and public agreements, it is also working on an artificial intelligence writer that will allow employees to propose, say, a four-day work week in minutes. Dignan also hinted at a Slack tool that listens for conversations and, if someone writes the word “should” or “what if” in a channel, pops up a bot in a private DM asking if they want a proposal do around the idea. While that certainly raised some questions for me about privacy, Dignan emphasized that users can choose which channels the feature appears on and train them to be more mindful over time. The Slack feature is currently not available to general users, just to be clear – alpha users only.
Murmur’s goal and biggest challenge is to find the right entry point for its product. Should it sell to decentralized autonomous organizations? Universities? Big technology? Early stage startups? Each prospect has a completely different goal and incentive structure around decisions. According to Dignan, of the 100 most active accounts on Murmur today, less than a quarter would be considered a technology company. Top clients are Adidas, Bitly and Philippine Space Agency.
Dignan thinks interest in a tool like Murmur comes down to how serious a company is about building inclusion and transparency into their remote work policies.
“It’s a weird cross section where some people in the startup game have this mindset, but a lot don’t,” he said. “If we have tech founders on Murmur, they’re generally a second founder because they’ve been to the puppet show, they’ve seen the strings, they see how things go wrong on a massive scale and how when you blitzscale, it gets even worse .” Dignan added that when he talks to some of the founders, his message is that “this is going to seem a little over the top to you, but I promise it’s not.”
As he waits for technology to reach a point where remote work becomes too much of a burden, Dignan doesn’t seem to sweat his industry’s complacency. And neither are his investors.
Murmur’s broader product vision helped it complete an $8 million round co-led by Asymmetric and Greenfield, with participation from all investors in the previous round, including Lerer Hippeau, SemperVirens, Human Ventures and Vitalize. For just a murmur, that’s a pretty loud sign of validation.
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