A platform for virtual ‘watercooler conversations’ has launched with pre-seed funding.

Natter’s conversation tool aims to enable more inclusive and meaningful chats between hybrid and remote teams. 

With a founding team consisting of former BBC, Uber and Google executives, the startup has been in development at WeWork’s Growth Campus in London, where it has been consulting with 10 early access partners including University College London (UCL), WeWork, Kraft Heinz and World Remit. 

Natter has raised £750,000 from early investors in Flexport, Ripple and Zuora to support its development. Angel investors with tech expertise from Silicon Valley and London, ex-Uber executives, and exited SaaS CTOs and CEOs participated. 

Charlie Woodward, most recently a head of commercial partnerships at the BBC, and prior to that, a business development executive at Uber, has co-founded Natter to break down social and hierarchical barriers through inclusive conversations. 

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Natter uses data analytics and intelligent-matching algorithms to digitally replicate the spontaneous watercooler conversation, matching employees to peers and leaders across an organisation regardless of physical location, background or remit. 

Timed ‘natters’ are then scheduled to take place on its proprietary video platform, collating large quantities of employee engagement data and insights within minutes through these conversations.

“As businesses rebuild post-pandemic, there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to level the playing field at work and give everyone a voice,” explained CEO Woodward. 

“Distributed work has enabled huge improvements in flexibility, wellbeing and productivity. Yet, social connection and the vital cultural dynamics brought about by interactions between colleagues and leadership remain largely neglected. 

“We built Natter to get people talking about what matters most, with the people they may otherwise never interact with – regardless of their seniority, background or location.”

Testing is ongoing at a number of organisations, with Natter expecting over 100,000 users to be onboarded in the coming months. 

Early users include UCL, the second largest university in the UK; multinational financial services company WorldRemit; and one of the leading global flexible space providers, WeWork. 

In addition to facilitating spontaneous social interactions to enable knowledge sharing and a more inclusive workplace culture, early access partners have also used Natter to provide mentorship programmes, drive innovation and ideation, capture real-time employee feedback and insights, encourage cross-company mental well-being check-ins, and new starter onboarding.

Kate Faxen, head of employee experience at UCL, said: “Natter helps our community of staff and students by recreating the spontaneity of those serendipitous corridor conversations that we all miss in our new, virtualised work environment. 

“It enables us to understand how our people are doing, while also helping them to better connect with each other. We’re now able to collate both quantitative and qualitative data from hundreds of focused conversations in minutes on the subjects that matter most.”