Connected Meeting Notes Software

An interview with Josh Lowy Co-Founder of Hugo.

A core problem with meetings is what happens AFTER the meeting. Distributing minutes, archiving meeting documents, checking for action, all are done in an inefficient way that makes meetings fail. After a meeting… who needs to know what, and what are the action items?

Josh Lowy, Co-founder of Hugo talked to us about how meetings can be better organized through the Hugo software.

Connected Meeting Notes Software | Hugo

Hugo helps you:

  1. Connect meeting notes to your calendar so everything gets automatically organized, and is easy to find when you need it.
  2. Link notes to different people in the meeting so they know what they’re responsible for.
  3. And the platform integrates with 20+ leading tools so you can continue using the tools you’re used to.

The Interview:

PATRICK CHARRON: So why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do.

JOSH LOWY: Yeah. I’m Josh Lowy. I’m one of the Co-founders and CEO of Hugo, and Hugo builds connected meeting notes software for teams.

PATRICK CHARRON: Okay. So how did you get started? What’s the story behind Hugo?

JOSH LOWY: We started Hugo with an initial focus on meeting preparation, so helping professionals prepare for their meetings ahead of time. Interesting story, which I can certainly share, we sort of moved into actually know the value that people are looking for, particularly for teams. Or, the value that people are looking for, for their teamwork is really actually what happens after the meeting with the information that’s generated. Who needs to know and what needs to be actioned? And so, we kind of moved into that direction. Since we’ve done that, we’ve really been focused on teamwork and not just meeting preparation in general.

PATRICK CHARRON: Okay. So, can you go a little bit deeper into, I guess, the way it works? So, team has a meeting, they have all these notes that are picked up during that meeting. Where does Hugo come in?

JOSH LOWY: Yes. So basically, the way that Hugo works or what makes you go different, is it allows you to connect your meeting notes to people and the tools across your organization. The way that we do that is really through a pretty broad suite of integrations but starting with a focus on your calendar. So, if we just take a step back and think about the problem that we’re solving, it’s really in a broad sense, the way that we meet isn’t connected to the way that we work anymore. And that’s for a number of different reasons. But two pretty pressing ones are, remote is the new normal.

People in our companies all over the world across different time zones. They’re not just sitting across from us anymore. Also, over the past 7 to 10 years, the explosion of SAAS, which has been unbelievable for all of us, has also led to further entrenchment of data silos within a company. So, what happens is it’s really hard for people to work together, particularly when the information that they generate, that’s so important, Which is what customers need and what they’re going to do about it, start in a meeting.

And so the way we approach solving that problem is, first of all, by connecting your meeting notes to your calendar. It means that everything is automatically organized, easy to find when you need it, and also surfaced when someone else needs to know something as well. So, when you save a note in Hugo, it’s actually linked to the people in the meeting and the companies that they work for. Which means that sharing information across teams is really important. But even at the individual level, organization is typically a bit of a pain in the ass. So it’s a pretty difficult thing to do. With Hugo, that’s just handled. You just worry about the content and the organization is done for you.

And then the second side of how we think about connected our integrations. So what are the other tools where you need to be pushing this information out, to get it to the right people? So as an example, if there are people that couldn’t make the meeting, but they need to be updated or they need to be made aware, in Hugo, you can just post your notes to the relevant Slack channel and update those that weren’t in the room. So being in the know without being in the room is a big part of what you get with Hugo.

Then on the other side of integrations, in terms of actioning, let’s say that you’re speaking to a customer and you’re on the customer success team, and they make a feature request. That’s generally something that the product team would handle. It’s often that’s where things fall through the cracks. In Hugo, you can just create a JIRA ticket directly from that part of your note and send it off to product or engineering or whoever needs to know about it. They’re going to get the information in the form of that they need it, and it’s always going to be linked back to that customer context. So, it’s a super-efficient workflow for the individual, that sort of as you go up to that team level, it allows everyone to work really well together without having to waste any more time in meetings.

PATRICK CHARRON: And they often say that the biggest issue with large organizations is that lack of communication between those departments. Sales doesn’t know what marketing is doing, marketing doesn’t know what product management is doing and so forth. So, by integrating all those pieces, it just probably creates a much more fluid communication structure, right?

JOSH LOWY: Absolutely. The way to think about that or outlines is really, what’s the difference between passive and active sharing? And so passive sharing is, you can think of, hang on, why doesn’t … If we use Google Docs or if we use a Wiki, and make sure people have access to that document, why isn’t that problem solved already? Well, the problem really comes down to this graveyard of documents that gets spun up all the time, and never get looked at again, and don’t drive decisions.

So just having access to something, giving the product team Salesforce credentials, doesn’t mean that they’re going to necessarily be deriving customer needs from those conversations because the data isn’t being pushed to them in the way that they need it and when they need it. So, we really think about integrations from an active sharing perspective. When someone else needs to know about something, how can you effectively push it out to them, so that they’re known instead of having to go look for something they may not even know exists.

PATRICK CHARRON: So how long has Hugo been around?

JOSH LOWY: Hugo has been around since the beginning of last year, really.

PATRICK CHARRON: And what has that growth looked like for you guys?

JOSH LOWY: So the way that we actually think about growth at the moment is in terms of, what’s the company opportunity from a penetration standpoint? So, coming back to the example of like a Google Docs or an Evernote, if you think about as you scale up, it might work for you to keep your notes in a Google Doc. But let’s bring in five more people, let’s bringing 10 more people, 50 more people, as you increase the teammates that get involved in that process, it gets more chaotic, it gets worse over time.

Whereas with Hugo because of the calendar-centric organization and centralization, it actually becomes more valuable and gets better over time. And so our best customers actually have around north of 90% of the company’s headcount, using Hugo as their primary platform for meeting notes. And that means that all of the information for everyone is as centralized on a horizontal platform, the same as how everyone’s using maybe Slack for chat or email. It goes across the whole organ or it gets more valuable over time.

PATRICK CHARRON: Right. You were mentioning earlier that you guys kind of figured out that your own team was having communication issues, and that’s part of where this idea came from.

JOSH LOWY: Yeah, exactly. So, coming back to where we started with meeting preparation, we were running into some trouble there with respect to growing that product, because it was really targeted towards individuals. But at the same time, we had a lot of internal problems with the team. We couldn’t agree what our shared set of problems were and how to solve them. And so, my co-founder, Darren and I thought that if we can’t solve this internal issue, we’re never going to solve that external problems.

So we made a couple of hacks to the product, which was that our notes in customer meetings, which at the time, we were the only two sort of having those, they would post automatically to a Slack channel. And we could create Trello cards from those notes as well because we were using Trello at the time to manage product development, what bugs and what features are we going to build next. That was really part of the goal of how can we bring the whole team into the room with the customer without leaving the office?

And once we did that, there was definitely sort of a light bulb moment for us because overnight, everyone was aligned because they were tapped into the sort of that fire hose of feedback. They had better ideas than us on how to solve a lot of problems, which is awesome. But more importantly, when we were speaking to customers, and they saw what we were doing, they were like, I want that. This is what we need. The problem is after the meeting, not before. That’s when we realized what we had just done for ourselves, we should be selling to everyone else as well.

PATRICK CHARRON: Yeah, that’s amazing. You also mentioned Slack, you mentioned Trello. Do you see a future in that? This integration of applications versus all these different applications trying to compete with each other? Because you obviously are working with this idea that we can all integrate, and we can all provide a solution. And it’s really the combination of those solutions that makes the best general solution, right?

JOSH LOWY: Absolutely. So, there’s a few different ways that we think about that. From the very beginning, we were focused on integrations because we were aware of the problem space, we wanted to embrace the stack of our customers and work really well with their tools, which allowed us the freedom at the time to just focus on nailing meeting notes. And, not have to worry about, what about task tracking? And what about chat? And what about sharing? We could just integrate with their existing tools to make that a really seamless experience.

But at the same time, there are lots of companies that do all these things really well. And it’s important now at this stage of almost saturation at SAAS is sort of approaching, interoperability is key. Everything needs to work really well together, and we see that without customers. Even just from a sales enablement standpoint, if we don’t tick the box with their critical products, they’re not even going to try Hugo. I’m sure that happens to all the other tools as well.

So the same thing that we want, which is to connect our customers meeting notes to the tools that they use to get the shit done every day, it’s the same thing that they want as well, which is, not have to think about change. They just want to solve this one problem and then make the existing stack more valuable in their business.

PATRICK CHARRON: Nice. So, what are some mistakes that you’ve made along the way? Is there anything that stands out and you kind of had a …

JOSH LOWY: So as far as mistakes, definitely, at the beginning, when we were focused on meeting preparation, we didn’t really have alignment between the problem we were solving and the business model. So, we were solving this problem for professionals. But we were selling the product in sort of a consumer way. It was sold to individuals, and there was a lot of confusion around, should I pay or should my company pay? That created some friction. And also, even when we did win customers, we weren’t really able to leverage them from a growth standpoint to add value to the rest of the business.

Even for those customers, if Hugo didn’t work well with all the other people they needed to have cohesion with, it wasn’t really going to land very hard. So that business model difference when we switched from the individual focus to the team focus was when a lot of headwinds were kind of removed. Because now we were thinking about it from the perspective of collaboration, not just productivity for the individual.

PATRICK CHARRON: That makes a lot of sense. And what does the future look like for you guys? Is there anything coming up that you’re excited about? Are there any trends also, that you’re trying to not necessarily piggyback on, but you’re noticing in the SAAS world, that you guys are kind of like right in line with?

JOSH LOWY: Yes. To your earlier question. Another learning for us or unintended benefit of Hugo, is a lot of companies really love how easy it is to keep remote teams aligned. I think if we just sort of draw a comparison for a second, what’s happening now is the collaboration space from a real time standpoint is solid. Let’s use Slack as an example. It’s very easy to communicate in real time. The problem though, is when you’ve got this multi-timezone issue, if you wake up in the morning, what someone said when it was their morning is gone up into the ether, you’re not going to see that message.

So asynchronous collaboration has become really important. And we have a few features do that, with respect to shared agendas and shared notes. People can actually get prepared using our agendas feature leading up to a meeting. It sort of means that everyone’s on the same page before they even start the meeting. We’ve noticed that it’s providing a lot of value to remote teams, and we didn’t even think of them at the time. So, the learning there is, first of all, remote teams who are not all on the same timezone need a way to collaborate asynchronously, not in real time.

And the second element to remote teams is a lot of these people that are core team members are actually contractors, they may not be full time employees, which is another big trend. They can’t access core company tools because they can’t have access to all the data. So, there’s almost this wall that’s getting put up in between people who feel like they’re teammates, but technically, they’re not. So, for us in terms of what’s next, we want to help our customers solve that problem. How can they run the Hugo workflow with the people that they work with every day on a contracting basis, maybe another augmented example, like agencies.

So being able to bring people from outside your company into that workflow so you can continue to work really well together, it’s something that we want to focus on. Because from a practical standpoint, every day they collaborate, and they need to be as cohesive as the full-time members of the team. It’s just this technicality that’s getting in the way and we want to solve for that.

PATRICK CHARRON: So, you’re kind of creating a virtual team, basically. Right? In the idea that, you have let’s say, your core employees, your core team, which is the actual company necessarily. And then you’re also maybe working with contractors, you’re working with top part-time people, you’re working with temporary situations. But virtually through the platform, that all becomes part of the team, right?

JOSH LOWY: Yeah. And coming back to what we provide, you need to have all your meeting notes in the same place, you need to run your meeting workflow in the same place, you need to be able to action the takeaways in the same place. If there’s a technicality that’s getting in the way where the people you meet every day, you can’t get 100% coverage on being able to include them in that process. The tool is significantly less valuable. And there aren’t a lot of tools that are built that think about things in this way. We really want to think about things from a remote and an augmented team member type sort of lens, because that’s really how people are starting to work now.

PATRICK CHARRON: Amazing. So, what’s coming up? Is there anything-

JOSH LOWY: Well, that’s really what we’re focused on next. We’re making a ton of changes under the hood to allow for people who are technically outside of your company to come in and be able to access a dedicated space of data so that you can run your projects and your workflows really well together, without necessarily having to expose all of the company IP to these people that may or may not be working with the business in 12 months’ time. That’s really what we’re focused on next.

PATRICK CHARRON: So, you can kind of control what people can see and what people can’t see?

JOSH LOWY: The customer will be able to control that.

PATRICK CHARRON: That’s amazing. So, you can kind of take all that information and distribute it accordingly to what people need?

JOSH LOWY: Yeah. So, you should be able to. If you’re working with a PR agency every single week, running a number of different campaigns, you should be able to manage shared agendas and shared notes with them, just the same as you manage shared agendas and shared notes with your internal team or your operational teams.

PATRICK CHARRON: So, I’m just curious from a pricing structure, if you’re bringing in all these other people or other companies and working with contractors and all that, how does that work?

JOSH LOWY: So it’ll be free definitely for the core team. So, if they want to bring … It’ll be sort of like a limited member type scenarios. Because you should be able to bring your contractors into that workflow without necessarily driving up your monthly fee. So that’ll be the way that we approach this at the beginning.

PATRICK CHARRON: Okay. And you’re obviously not going to charge them, right? Because that would be like, why would they want to work with you? Awesome.



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