Norway is known for many things, but a booming startup scene is not one of them. However, Norwegian founder and SaaS entrepreneur Christian Teigland thinks that’s about to change. With his SaaS product, DigiUnity, which he’s planning to do a new fundraising round for, he is optimistic about the future of SaaS in Scandinavia.
DigiUnity is solving an issue that millions are facing around the globe. In the current hybrid work environment, we’re only scratching the surface of what the “new normal” means in terms of productivity, collaboration across teams, and how we communicate at work.
DigiUnity addresses “Zoom fatigue,” disconnection between teams and data silos within an organization.
According to a recent study from Microsoft, firm-wide remote work has caused collaboration to become more static and siloed. The study explored the communication patterns of more than 61,000 Microsoft employees during the COVID-19 pandemic and showed “There was a decrease in synchronous communication (meetings, video calls) and an increase in asynchronous communication (emails, instant messages).” The study concluded that “Together, these effects may make it harder for employees to acquire and share new information across the network.”
What are the consequences? With fewer interactions across teams, colleagues share less information.
“DigiUnity is built so that everyone can participate in the knowledge sharing. The platform lowers the barrier for sharing with others and increases the total knowledge and value for the company.
All companies that want to grow and develop themselves need to be serious about knowledge sharing, seeing their organizations as a network of connected knowledge workers,” Teigland says.
DigiUnity enables users to instantly share video recordings with screen and camera sharing. According to Teigland, this is faster than typing and more efficient than online meetings.
The videos can easily be shared inside or outside your organization, for example, with your colleagues, partners or customers.
Teigland founded the company in 2012. It started as a side project while he was working in finance, long before remote and hybrid work would become the norm.
The business model was different, and their focus was specific to an industry vertical. Over time, the tool evolved from an ad-based driven platform to a SaaS tool.
But the road to SaaS has been far from easy for Teigland.
Teigland had to start from scratch when it came to his product and ideas. Even still, he kept pushing. Almost ten years later, he sees his hard work pay off, and he attributes it to his strong ability to never give up.
“There were so many times we thought we had a breakthrough but ended up getting smashed in the face. We weren’t able to scale the way we were running things. We didn’t give up because we believed the breakthrough was coming. I feel like I have a Ph.D. in software as a service because of having to learn so many things the hard way.”
Teigland is preparing for the internationalization journey with DigiUnity, but currently, they are in the phase of building up their customer base in Norway.
Taking DigiUnity international is a substantial undertaking and requires many different building stones. It’s these pieces Teigland has his team are putting together to showcase how DigiUnity is the future of work and information-sharing.
“We are one of the startups that have taken our time to find our way,” Teigland says. “In the end, all our struggles have taken us to where we are today.”
So what problems are Teigland and DigiUnity solving?
“If you look at an organization’s ecosystem, it consists of people. Especially if you look at knowledge-intensive organizations,” he says.
They want to address this problem: Most of the knowledge that each of us possesses is not readily available to our colleagues.
“We’ve started off solving one small problem for a user: How do I share something immediately, which is way more efficient and engaging than the status quo? For example, you are doing online meetings for more or less anything and everything. This way of work takes a lot of everyone’s time, and the information that is shared in the meetings isn’t really available for other relevant receivers.
Either you need to set up another meeting, again, or the knowledge simply isn’t shared – at all. The video meeting tools are awesome, but they are not the solution to everything. This is where DigiUnity comes into play. Once you get started sharing video recordings with DigUnity the old way of work stops making sense.”
People don’t keep information to themselves because they don’t want to share it. There are barriers that make knowledge sharing more difficult.
“There are a lot of tools to aid this already in the SaaS world, and we’ve come a long way in the last ten years when it comes to collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, especially in our post-COVID-19 world.”
How Knowledge Sharing has Changed with Remote Work
People’s capability for using digital tools has forever changed. This has had a significant impact on the SaaS space at large and also on DigiUnity.
“I think COVID-19 has been interesting for DigiUnity because you have a before and an after COVID. Before COVID, some people in some organizations sometimes did video meetings.”
Most of us, pre-COVID, dreaded the occasional video meeting and preferred to meet in person.
But now video meetings have become like riding a bike. Being on camera or sharing a screen isn’t scary anymore. It’s second nature.
“In the span of two or three months, almost any person in any company in the world had video meetings. Every person had that scale in the blink of two months, which has changed the world forever. Now everyone masters that skill of video,” Teigland says. And it’s this newfound skill that DigiUnity wants to leverage.
Our preferences have also changed. Another trend Teigland has noticed, post-pandemic.
Many are seeing the benefits that digital tools provide, the main one being flexibility.
“Even the people who might have been most opposed to digital tools have turned into advocates because it allows them to skip their commute to work and stay more at home,” he says.
Because of this switch to digital, our interactional behavior has changed forever.
People now feel that they have mastered the video meeting tool. “On one hand, COVID disconnected us physically, but on the other hand – suddenly, you’re in people’s kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms. Your co-workers’ kids are running around in the background, and somehow all of this connects us on a different level. It became more informal, and people have become more comfortable with being on video and have realized it doesn’t have to be perfect,” according to Teigland.
Video – the Most Optimal Way to Share Ideas
He believes videos with screen sharing and a camera view of your face are crucial, being the best format to share knowledge.
“What we know is that video is the easiest way to transfer knowledge. Creating text content, for most people, feels like more of a barrier to overcome. That’s why we have meetings, on video or in person, pre-and post-pandemic because meetings are the easiest way to communicate and share. You can empty your mind, share content from your screen or show a presentation.”
DigiUnity’s mission is to make it super easy to share on video what you’re recording on your screen and your camera; in the same way everyone is now mastering video meetings. But, instead of it being a live meeting where everyone has to attend, it’s a video recording that’s easy to share.
“It solves the problem of making things available in an easy, quick and engaging manner in a video format without having to set up a meeting,” Teigland says.
But there is more to it than that.
“We believe that this way of sharing what’s on your mind is opening up for a completely new way of working in your organization. Our tool allows you to create a two-three-minute video that takes you only two to three minutes to create, and that’s the beauty of it.”
With the tool, customers can create a video where they share a status, an idea or way of doing something and then post that link on Teams, Slack or whatever chat platform they utilize. Colleagues can then provide feedback
The tool is similar to Snapchat in that it takes advantage of the spontaneity and instantaneous nature of communication. You record and send a video when it’s convenient for you and your schedule. Your co-workers or customers can then look at the video when it’s suitable for them and respond.
“In the business world, it’s more knowledge-driven sharing. But it has the same sort of in formalness to it, which we believe is the key,” he says.
“Our slogan is ‘we set the knowledge in motion; that’s our mission.”
The Early Stage Struggles
The platform Teigland and his team are building has many features. But as a startup, they have faced countless challenges.
“When you think about Teams, for instance, that only works if your whole company is using it. We had the same issue with DigiUnity, but without Microsoft’s resources in terms of scaling capabilities. Our biggest mistake was that we thought we could scale this type of product based in Norway. The big difference between Norway and the US is that the early-stage capital market in Norway doesn’t support that kind of ambition from the beginning. It’s much more of the bootstrapped mentality.”
Teigland and his team have been working on their sales velocity journey, making it easy to sell the product and become active users. “I believe we’re hitting a nerve in the market and that the future of sharing is much more in this direction.”
The DigiUnity Platform
The basis of the platform is simply that you can use it as a sharing and learning platform for an organization, internally and externally.
Teigland is applying the same principles of YouTube and how users search for knowledge there. For all DIY home projects, most people will use YouTube to search for “how-to” videos. DigiUnity utilizes the same principle.
“If you’re wondering about how to do something in our company, you can’t find that on YouTube. But over time, as your colleagues keep sharing videos like, ‘this is how I did this task,’ whatever it may be, you’ll find a lot of videos which will over time become a source of knowledge in your company.”
Users can organize these videos into groups. Many of these videos may have long-term value for the company. Users can also create a playlist with step-by-step briefings, presentations or guides.
This is how DigiUnity becomes a learning platform as it helps organize knowledge and information.
Teigland says playlists can turn into courses and templates with text-based content as an addition; for instance, users can create text-based lessons and articles, and attach files to the video. The content, being videos, playlists, articles, courses, or combinations of them all, can be then organized in topics for different types of categories within specific knowledge bases for internal or external sharing.
“DigiUnity is built for network-based learning. Content isn’t created from one source of knowledge or one person or admin but from everyone. The whole organization is contributing content. This is the super powerful potential of the platform for the customer and DigiUnity.”
The platform is intuitive and is meant to break down the barriers of sharing knowledge in an organization. Instead of burdening one part of the organization with creating status reports, presentations, courses, onboarding, content and SOP’s, everyone is part of the process, or “community”, as the organization will be referred to inside the platform.
The tool can also be used in sales to reach out to leads and for onboarding new customers.
Business Model and Pricing
The business model DigiUnity is using now is based on the freemium model.
“We haven’t started marketing the free version yet, but that’s coming in the next phase. We’ll have free, a premium and a pro standard off-the-shelf versions of the platform and then you have the enterprise version.”
The platform has a lot of granularities to how you can set up a customer and support their different needs.
The beauty of the business model is that it removes any barrier of becoming and succeeding as a new customer quickly. DigiUnity only charges for the users that create content (“creators”), while anyone can view the content for free (“viewers”). This means that a single person can be the first and only user with a license, creating and sharing unlimited amounts of content to unlimited amounts of co-workers and customers. The previous challenges the company experienced are solved, bringing down the sales velocity and timeline of customers’ success significantly.
Also, you can imagine the virtual potential this pricing model represents! Once a co-worker or customer has received a video, they are also presented the product as potential new creator-users.
“The free version will be the video tool, and there are a lot of competitors in the space,” Teigland says. However, he believes most of them either have the issue that creating a video and sharing it is time-consuming, complicated, expensive, or a combination. Some competitors are solely video recording tools.
“We’re positioning DigiUnity up against the more traditional learning management solutions, which we think are super old school because they aren’t built for network-based learning.” Teigland believes the future of learning in organizations is that you have to learn from each other.
The Startup Environment in Norway
Over the last six or seven years, the startup environment in Norway has gone through a significant transformation.
“When I started, there was no support system. There was Innovation Norway, but it was limited.” Teigland says.
He was very much on his own for a long time as there was no capital market at all.
“If I didn’t have the background I have in finance, I would never have made it.”
Today things are very different. Norway has evolved significantly, and people are much more interested in startups. “It’s picking up in Norway, and the future looks bright for SaaS companies and for DigiUnity,” he says.