Watch: Parabol's CEO on How to Make Remote Meetings Actually Useful

Kelly O'Grady
Kelly O'Grady is dot.LA's chief host & correspondent. Kelly serves as dot.LA's on-air talent, and is responsible for designing and executing all video efforts. A former management consultant for McKinsey, and TV reporter for NESN, she also served on Disney's Corporate Strategy team, focusing on M&A and the company's direct-to-consumer streaming efforts. Kelly holds a bachelor's degree from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. A Boston native, Kelly spent a year as Miss Massachusetts USA, and can be found supporting her beloved Patriots every Sunday come football season.
Watch: Parabol's CEO on How to Make Remote Meetings Actually Useful

The pandemic has made remote work a necessity. While going to the office used to be a chore, many of us are now wishing for the day when we can once again return to in-person operations as zoom burnout and awkward remote interactions take their toll. But what if "work from home" is here to stay? How can we do it successfully?

In this installment ofdot.LA Dives In, we talk with Jordan Husney, CEO and founder of Parabol, an app that allows remote employees to meet, collaborate and form genuine connections — wherever they're located.

During his days as a management consultant, Jordan met one of his executive clients on site in Fairfield, Connecticut — they were both late because of terrible traffic. She gave him a window into her calendar that was stacked with video conference meetings. It was a trend Husney had noticed at companies, and he couldn't help but wonder why clients did not conduct more business from their couch.

"All of our executive clients were de facto remote workers because their employees were global, and they were showing up to the office out of habit. I couldn't unsee that, and I thought, 'This is going to keep extending'," Husney said.

In August 2015, Parabol was born. With a focus on agile teams, the app seeks to make it easy for employees to have great remote meetings when they don't have the luxury of a conference room.

"The success of a meeting depends on the talent of the participants in terms of their ability to facilitate the time they spend together," said Husney. "We try to break down the meetings into these discrete little activities that you can do that are actually fun, and that lead you to a result that is always useful."

Husney said he sees companies simply taking everything within an office and trying to do the exact same thing virtually — down to virtual lunches and golf sessions to woo a client — rather than focusing on the core aspect of an interaction they are trying to recreate. But the problems extend beyond trying to sign a client virtually.

"When am I on, and when am I off? And how do I broadcast what I actually need from any given day? So many folks came from office cultures where they looked up to the boss to establish the cultural norms," Husney said. "When you're away and the boss isn't looking at you, there is actually a responsibility on you to say, 'I'm starting work, I'm stepping away'."

A big part of the success of remote work is building an authentic culture. Husney believes you can do that with the help of tools like Donut and Icebreaker. But building culture also requires being intentional about how you utilize your employees' time, whether it is a business meeting or a social event.

"What do people hate? They hate having their calendar chewed up with a bazillion meetings," Husney said. "What if, now that you're in a remote context, you could start from a principle where by default there are no meetings, and your work could be fully done on your own time. Then, when you have 'mandatory fun time', people are kind of hungry for the social interaction."

Watch the full interview here:

Jordan Husney: Parabol & the Future of Remote


Kelly O'Grady runs video and serves as the chief host & correspondent for dot.LA. Find her on Instagram @kfogrady and email her at kelly@dot.LA.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.