If you aren't familiar with Hugo, it's a collaborative, centralized interface for meeting notes that connects with a bunch of other tools. It keeps all your notes nice and organized, encourages better meeting practices among your teammates, and lets you do cool things like creating Asana tasks and sharing notes to Slack without leaving the app.
The team recently closed a $6.1 million seed round led by Google's AI-focused investment fund, Gradient Ventures.
Before we dive into my thoughts, this is the part where I let you know I'm about as biased as it gets. Currently employed by Hugo, I spend most of my day working with an awesome team to try and make it into something really great. Nonetheless, the trends and patterns that I touch on here are generalizable beyond Hugo. I'm confident that something should exist here. Whether that's us or not, time will tell.
Throughout the rest of this post, I'll lay out my thesis for why an interface for meetings should exist, and why we'll see one make the jump into mainstream SaaS sometime soon.
Thoughts On Predictions
I haven't written many prediction-focused essays like this one before. I normally don't find them super helpful. It's fun to take top-down ideas and extrapolate them forward, but at the end of the day, it's all speculation. Very few people can forecast the future with any degree of certainty.
When you control the narrative, it's easy to make it seem like some future is inevitable. This is effective, but can also be often misleading, especially when only one side of the argument is presented. And there are always multiple sides.
But I'm still writing this, and you're still reading. The things that prediction pieces are good for are provoking new thoughts and kicking off useful conversations. So let's do that! Let's kick off a conversation. These are the reasons why I'm betting on Hugo.
Meetings Still Suck
The sentiment around meetings has never been particularly positive. We don't prepare. We invite too many people. We fail to capture action items. Often, meetings end up being a waste of time. Time is a nonrenewable resource, and an especially costly one in the workplace.
This is a problem that has only gotten more important with the shift to remote work. Being in the same room allows us to operate in a certain way. We can get away with a lot more because we have additional context. On Zoom calls, you don't have all the same contextual clues. Things are more difficult, and bad meetings go from being a nuisance to a serious pain point.
We Need Opinionated Tools
Generally speaking, I have a strong preference for opinionated tools. The best software knows what it does and how you should be using it. There's still use cases for flexible tools, but they naturally can't go as deep in any specific area. Recently, the tech world has over-indexed on flexibility. Now structure is on the come-up. Notion vs. Roam Research is a good example of this.
In the context of meetings, there are best practices that the most effective teams follow. None of these are shocking, but it's amazing how few people do them. Things like writing agendas before meetings. Taking notes while the meeting is underway. Sharing those notes with relevant teammates. Following up with action items. If you do all these things even somewhat consistently, congrats because you're in the 99th percentile. And even if you do, the chances that the rest of your team does as well is slim to none.
This is the advantage of opinionated tools. Much like style editors for programmers, they bake best practices into the workflow. It's impossible to use them and not see an improvement in the quality of your output.
This is my favorite thing about Hugo. If you and your team adopt it, you can't help but run better meetings. Agendas are first-class citizens. Collaborating and sharing notes with others is seamless. Action items are built directly into the product. All these little opinions about how meetings should be run come together in a really powerful way.
Transparency Is at a Premium
If you ask someone what they wish they could improve about their current company, the most common answers have to do with lacking information and misalignment. These are hard problems to solve at small startups, let alone companies of thousands. There is an answer though, in the form of better transparency.
Meeting notes are about as good as it gets when it comes to knowing what's going on in your company. Imagine a world where everyone's meeting notes were centralized and searchable. Super-granular, semi-automated documentation. This is why having notes scattered across Google Drive, Notion, and Evernote doesn't work. There are advantages to having things in one place and public.
It should also be easy and expected to share notes with others. You might already have a repo of documents, but how often do others go looking through it? Insights should be brought into whatever your organization's centerpiece is. For many, that centerpiece is Slack. This is why Hugo natively shares notes to Slack, rendered nicely so that everyone stays in the loop and aligned.
SaaS Is Fragmented
If it seems like there are a million SaaS tools out there, it's because there are. Hugo isn't the only solution. Meetings are a hard problem to solve. They involve multiple touch-points from collaboration to planning to project management. Every team should have their version of a "meeting tech stack" that drives effective results.
As Kevin Kwok touches on in his great essay, The Arc of Collaboration, there is no mainstream OS-level platform that goes across all your services yet. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, tools need to integrate with each other to simulate that layer across services. Hugo has over 20 integrations for this exact reason.
This will only continue to get worse. That's why you need platforms. Hugo is a centralized platform for everything to do with meetings. You can access your Google Calendar, post to Slack, create project management tasks in Trello, or work with a CRM like Salesforce. When fragmentation strikes, we seek out platforms.
It's Going to Be Fun
If I seem especially bullish about this, you were warned! Even taking my bias into account, I independently feel strongly about all the logic above. To summarize:
- Meetings are a major pain point in companies
- Remote work is accelerating the need for solutions
- Opinionated tools enforce best practices that flexible tools cannot
- Transparency is becoming table stakes
- Tool fragmentation demands new platforms to emerge
When you put all these patterns together, you get a pretty convincing picture of why Hugo is a strong bet to help lots of teams improve their meeting workflow. That's the sales pitch, or at least I hope it wasn't too much of one.
If you have any other thoughts about the space, fun startup ideas, or feedback on how Hugo could improve then let me know!