Welcome to this edition of our interview series, where we connect with founders on a mission to help us achieve more without sacrificing our mental health. Craig Doig is the co-founder of Markee, a white-label collaboration tool that allows you to meet, chat, and share files with your team or whoever you would like all under your own logo, brand colors, and domain.
In this interview, we talked about the importance of privacy and simplicity, the challenges of working with external partners, the debate of remote versus hybrid work, the future of online collaboration, the benefit of properly disconnecting from work, and more. Enjoy the read!
Hi Craig, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. Between Zoom, Slack, and other communication tools, people feel overwhelmed when collaborating with their team. Can you tell us a bit about what makes Markee different?
It’s my pleasure, thanks so much for having me! We have been interested in the communication space for quite some time. Before Markee was a real startup company we were a group of creatives and developers remotely collaborating across six timezones. Between the core team, it’s likely we have used or tried over fifty tools. Nothing ever ticked all of our boxes.
The most prominent reason was the lack of ownership. We never felt like we had a sense of ownership over any cloud-based tool. That became one of our core focuses: allowing our customers to experience a cloud tool that was fully brandable.
That said, what makes us unique actually comes from a deeper but simple philosophical frame. We believe people deserve the right to enjoy and explore something as simple as a SaaS tool without feeling lost or tracked. That’s why simplicity and privacy are two of our core values.
We want to remove as many negative barriers or complex dopamine triggers from work tools as possible. Everything is two clicks away fully encrypted. We are never storing personal data other than name and email. And if you ever leave, you can ask us to destroy everything.
Those are great core values. What inspired you to build Markee?
Originally, Markee was built as an event management and collaboration tool that could be used as a totally white labeled experience, something for people to differentiate themselves from the ubiquitous Zoom and Hopin events.
We started building a rough prototype early with a few not-for-profits and local businesses who helped guide the design process. For example, we worked with a disabilities charity where the team was keen to stand out in the new digital fundraising space, and that encouraged us to add font options and access controls.
After tons of feedback from these early partners, we decided to focus on the collaboration aspects of our tool, and thus the current version of Markee was born.
And how does Markee work exactly?
We see Markee as an all-in-one collaboration solution for remote and in-house teams, it allows you to host video meetings, chats, and share files with anyone. Our goal was to take the core features that people need every day at work and make them simpler.
If you think of tools like Slack, you can only chat with your team members and you need to deal with confusing permission systems. This can make externally sharing spaces, chats, and video calls externally complicated or even impossible. Markee combines video and text chat rooms into one, and allows you to share it like you would a Notion or Google document. We think this makes things simple and accessible for even non-technical users both inside or out of your team.
We are also browser based, so you don’t have to download anything or ask your customers to do so. For companies using Slack to communicate internally, Zoom to host meetings, and Dropbox to share documents, Markee is a completely new way to collaborate. Our goal is to make collaboration about meaningful discussions rather than being a notification machine that follows you everywhere.
Now for a more high-level question. Business owners are still debating whether they should go fully remote, hybrid, some are considering asking everyone to come back to the office. What’s your view regarding this debate?
We built Markee to enable remote and hybrid work, but if you look at most of our branding we tend to promote hybrid work. We believe human interaction and real life engagement is important for the development of ideas and growth, but certainly not a total necessity.
Personally, I believe it should be optional to engage in person, and that businesses should promote “opt in” spaces or hubs where there is a concentration of employees. I think this helps the more extroverted on your team thrive without putting any pressure on teammates to come in, particularly if you have a culture that uses their communication tools in a healthy way that keeps everyone abreast of critical developments.
Markee is a relatively new product and you have been rapidly iterating and working on new features. Can you tell us about your approach to product development?
We simply listen to our customers’ feedback. We very actively listen and engage with our customers and try to solve their core issue rather than just releasing a workaround or patch. We enjoy going back to them and gathering their feedback on the solution as well before we push anything live. This has allowed us to stay transparent with everyone and implement features that are always well received.
Listening to your customers is so important indeed. You have also put together a team of “Collaboration Experts” — what exactly do they do?
When you sit down with one of our experts, the first thing they are going to do is create a vision of what clear and easy collaboration looks like for your team. Once they have a better idea of the desired outcome, they will evaluate your tech stack and provide you with recommendations on how you might optimize it, as it exists, to achieve those goals.
If they think Markee makes sense, they will recommend and provide context for processes that could be winning plays in the long run. But they only do that if they genuinely think it would be a good fit. We have an empathetic sales team that believes in solving problems rather than providing solutions to problems that do not exist. We see this approach as an opportunity to transcend the traditional business model of selling at all costs.
This is a very refreshing approach. You are also taking security very seriously. Can you tell us more?
There are really two different threads here, there is user and data privacy and there is security from outside threats. First, every video chat is secure — our video calls are HIPAA-compliant and all our chats and file sharing are secure. To the second point, Markee doesn’t track any user behavior or personal data on the platform. Your files and private information remain yours, so you will never have to worry about vague terms and conditions or unreliable security. Upon request, we even destroy all copies of your files and information so you can tie up loose ends without liability concerns.
That’s great to hear. I also wanted to ask you: what kind of people use Markee?
We run the gamut when it comes to customer composition. For example, we have a charity that uses Markee to conduct therapy in a secure environment while also facilitating ongoing conversations with multiple members of the communities they support.
Another awesome customer is a local software company using our tool for sales calls, then turning those calls into ongoing asynchronous conversations with their clients. What’s super cool is they also use our tool for internal collaboration which means it’s easy to connect their clients with other team members with a few clicks rather than meeting with them in another tool like Zoom.
Almost all businesses need a secure platform that their clients can trust, and at the same time, they need an all-in-one workspace that holds all the files, information, and conversations for a project in an organized manner. That’s what we aim to offer with Markee.
What about you… How do you personally use Markee?
We really try to “eat our own dog food” by implementing it into our day-to-day routines. Everyone in our team’s ecosystem, friends, family, and close customers are using it and sharing feedback.
Going through a typical week can give you an idea of all of the unique ways to use Markee. We do a standing meeting on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with the team in our general room, which we use to greet each other via text chat in the morning and announce things during the week.
During various department breakout meetings we hold our video meetings in the same team rooms where we keep the asynchronous conversations going and store our files and links. For the sales team and myself, we like to use the “Schedule Meeting” function to set up a meeting for each of our potential customers and automatically send it through Google calendar.
My favorite part is the “Direct Messages” feature, where we create groups with custom names and do a lot of the intricate small team projects with all the power of a normal room. Other features I love are the user locations that you can see moving around the product, and of course the fact we can change the branding in real time.
I already mentioned that Markee is browser based, but it’s also notification free. You have push notifications when you have it open in the browser, but not when you close the tab. This kind of thing is very important to us, setting work boundaries and making sure people are able to disconnect when they need to. We think more business tools should apply a similar philosophy.
I completely agree. There’s still so much work to improve the way we collaborate online. Where would you like Markee to be in the next few years?
We hope to continue to help others connect in a simple, healthy, and personal way. I think we have a bright and vibrant future with a growing community of users that just want to collaborate and celebrate our collective ownership of the most powerful invention ever built, the Internet.
We were built out of a service ethos. We always strive for healthy outcomes over blind profit. We think of sales calls and internal interactions as a chance to delight others and show everyone what Markee is all about. Our ethos is “be a friend.”
Thank you so much for your time, Craig! Where can people learn more about Markee and give it a try?
Thanks so much for having me, really an honor! Very simply they can head over to our website. Sign up for free and please let us know how your experience goes, we really appreciate the feedback. You can also follow our journey on Twitter.