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Launch HN: Hypercontext (YC S21) – Meeting notes, actions, and OKRs in one app
145 points by brennanm on July 19, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 60 comments
Hi HN, we’re Brennan and Graham, founders of Hypercontext (https://hypercontext.com). We make an app that helps managers run their 1:1 and team meetings with action items, feedback, and OKRs (goals) in one workflow.

Most managers get promoted into their role with no training. “Oh you’re a good engineer? Great! Now manage a team of engineers and stop coding”. They’re largely leading with trial-and-error tactics. The good ones are reflective and learn, and many eventually read books on best practices and frameworks that can help them. Our insight is that it’s possible to build some of these good frameworks into a workflow so every manager can get them by default, similarly to how a good software framework lets you not have to hand-roll all the boilerplate code, so you can focus on the business logic. We think it’s time managers stop winging it (worst case) or hand rolling their management frameworks (best case) in Google Docs and Moleskin notebooks and start importing frameworks that solve the basics for them.

Previously, Graham and I have been co-founders for 10 years together. Our last startup grew to ~40 employees. When we became full-time managers we were shocked at the lack of tooling that existed for general management work. This was where the idea for Hypercontext came from. We started building tools and systems to help us fill the gaps (mainly in Google Sheets/Docs/Forms). We shared them with friends and they were loved.

Personally, I stumbled through management in my first startup. I didn’t talk about goals. I didn’t share candid feedback. I wasn’t clear or consistent. I thought I knew how to do other people’s jobs. I learned the hard way every single time. And so did all of my peers. The only way to save a fellow manager from that pain was by sharing personal tips or recommending books. We thought there must be a better way.

Hypercontext starts before the meeting: connecting to your existing meetings and helping you and your team build a collaborative agenda and show up prepared. During the meeting, often overlayed on a Google Meet: we help you take notes and action items, and email them out automatically for you. After: ML runs over your notes and generates insights about management blindspots. We then suggest questions/conversation starters for your next meeting to help to resolve them.

Finally, we’ve built a powerful goaling tool, complete with the largest library of goal/OKR examples on the internet (free here, broken up by role: https://hypercontext.com/goal-examples), that helps you collaborate, document, and discuss long-term goals every meeting before the urgent agenda topic.

Founders, CEOs, execs use our app all week to manage their job—mainly through their 1:1 and team meetings. We’re specifically helpful for folks who are doing a lot of context switching throughout their day and need to offload the “remember to talk to people about this” part of their brain.

Feedback on initial workflow:

1. Used sign in with Google

2. Immediately presented with calendar read/write permissions, declined.

3. Went back and signed up via email.

4. Was told that an org already exists but no details (did I make it earlier? Can’t tell.)

5. Told 13 days of trial remaining (was an org created yesterday or does it just round down to 13 as soon as one second has passed?)

6. Only one active user, me.

7. Create workspace is grayed out and can’t see how to actually create any content in the app (does it need calendars connected first?)

It’s promising in concept. Posting this in hopes it’ll help, not just to complain. I’ll ask for a trial reset in a few days, assuming I really was the first user to create our org so have that ability.

You're doing gods works here. Thanks so much. Please do ask for a reset when you get the chance and/or email me directly brennan at hypercontext.com would love more feedback like this

I feel like using hackernews as your QA is a bad practice that needs to stop.

Why does one of the core coverage areas of HN need to stop, in your opinion?

Founders get actionable feedback and advice on their projects with contributions weighted heavily from developers and tech enthusiasts who know what they’re talking about (even if sometimes a bit ornery). Commenters get to learn about new projects before anywhere else on the internet and provide QA in return. It’s all win-win.

They’re giving feedback on the experience. Nothing was broken, just confusing.

Using HN for feedback is pretty core to YC’s value for batch companies and has been going on for quite some time


HN readers seem like the best folks to beta test a product on as they can give a lot of actionable feedback and have context on what good systems should look like.

And we typically like helping fellow hackers/entrepreneurs/etc.

I was happy to provide feedback. Why not just post it here instead of hunting down a support channel? Pretty much every forum has this kind of back-and-forth going on.

...do you... know what Ycombinator is?

Ooo.. that's a clear edge case we should have caught. Thanks for the detailed documentation on the failed onboarding flow. We'll fix it!

YC seems to have a crush on meeting-focused products this year

- Hera: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27771091

- Superpowered: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26425318

I mean, there was a pandemic. Seems like a good time to build technological solutions for management-oriented use cases.

In my head, Hera is more of a merge of something like apple reminders and apple notes. More of a single-player experience for productivity.

Superpowered has a bunch of similar concepts - however their launch claims that meeting events won't be the focus forever. Moving to github and slack soon. So we'll see.

There are a couple others in the batch that will be launching soon that are loosely competitive.

I think it's part of a broader recognition that people who "live out of their calendars" weren't having an easy 2020.

For what it's worth, we think meetings are the means to the end not the end, not the end itself.

I’m torn on these apps - they are an absolute godsend for new managers (because the usual practice, as you note, is “sink or swim” with bonus sharks thrown in for free). But they can become an issue later on, because they are trying to mediate a human interaction through an app.

Given that most managers are relatively new, I’m still hoping you have vast success :)

But there’s also a key bit of feedback in there - you might want to ensure there’s a good solo experience in there, too. That will also help you get into entrenched IT departments at large companies - you might not get the sale to the whole company off the bat, but you can capture key internal voices (if they can run your app without security concerns and off the corporate network)

Either way, good luck. Managers deserve all the support they can get, and engineers deserve better management.

I 100% hear you here. Meetings are inherently pretty viral, so stopping the multiplayer is actually quite hard. We've had to manage it in app fairly deliberately as user growth can happen too quickly and customers can get frustrated.

The main value for experienced managers is a) the ability to offload the mental energy of remembering to bring something up in a meeting, b) the sheer volume of direct reports that need to becared for, and for organizers c) some of the best practice busy work that accumulates value over time (eg: sending notes after the meeting). Actually have quite a few CEOs who have adopted

My only nit is we don't want to mediate a human interaction in app. Instead we want to encourage human interaction by removing as much of the the non-human interaction as we can.

Would you be kind enough to open up on the sales cycle? Like, how were you able to convince Credit Suisse to Netlix to use product you built? Like, how does a no body with a app like yours hit the top companies?

Company logos on a marketing page are a game: "how best can we leverage our userbase to gain credibility?". I can't speak to Hypercontext (maybe they do have a relationship with Netflix!) but in general when you see a logo on the marketing page of a startup it means "we have _one person_ from this company that signed up to our service with an @company.com email".

You don't need to sell to Netflix to get their logo on your homepage, you just need to convince one person with an @netflix.com email to sign up. Much easier :)

Not company wide, but definitely paying and a great relationship with folks at Netflix.

To be fair it could be as simple as scanning their user list for a single sign up from one of those domains and then plastering a logo on the front page saying they use their product.

I figured that was the point of YC.

Hi Brennan, I'm the co-founder of a similar startup (WorkPatterns) and it's great to see another startup in this space pop up on HN! The idea of investing in a library of goal templates is really smart, there's alot of knowledge contained within these templates about how to do your job. One of the issues we've had with our own goals feature is that it takes a decent amount of mental energy to actually come up with the goals and this looks like a great solution to that.

It looks like you guys have some ML in the product already so have you ever thought about using it to generate suggestions for writing goals? We've been doing this to generate suggestions for phrasing constructive feedback, and the suggestions are surprisingly good.

Noah! Thanks for commenting.

Re - ML on feedback: Customers/users haven't taken us there, yet, anyways.

Would love to jam more, if you're open to it? brennan at hypercontext.com?

Literally used your product this afternoon in a meeting with my team -- overall had a great experience!

Amazing. Would love as much feedback as you can muster if you want to send it my way: brennan @ hypercontext.com

Looks a bit similar to Fellow.app (https://fellow.app), but I'm glad there's more choices/competition in this space (good for innovation and for users). Congrats on the launch!

Yup - definitely have been competitive with them for a while now. Great for innovation in the space for sure.

They're a bit more "sell to HR" focused and we're more "biuld for the end user" focused - eg: They don't have goals but do have workplace analytics

This looks pretty great, will definitely take a deeper dive. I manage most of this today through a series of shared google docs attached to calendar invites, but this should be less clugey.

Regarding shared meeting notes, I think the killer feature that would make gdocs obsolete is auto-suggesting canceling a 1on1 or other meeting if there are no items to discuss. This removes the awkward "Hey do you still want to chat?" conversations and makes it a blameless way to get time back.

We've looked at that and found it's been more beneficial for folks to use one or two of our canned conversation starters to uncover something they wouldn't have otherwise talked about.

Definitely something I think about though.

Love the goal examples library! Fun to read through. I'm curious, how long you both have been working on this? Impressed there's so much there already!

Ahh thanks! To build the initial library, which sat at ~180 goals, it took us about 2 months. A lot of the goals were crowd-sourced/submitted by experts and high performers within specific roles!

Since then, we've been slowly adding to the library, from new roles to new goals for existing roles and it's currently sitting at about 230 goals. If there are any roles that you think we're missing, we're all ears!

We launched the goals library Sept last year and it's been growing slowly ever since. Still more to do on it (and other large/free/helpful resources like our template library https://hypercontext.com/agenda-templates)

Most of the initial goals were contributed by our network so it was built pretty quickly.

> Most managers get promoted into their role with no training. “Oh you’re a good engineer? Great! Now manage a team of engineers and stop coding”

Also known as the Peter Principle.


For the folks who don't want to click-> "[Peter Principle] observes that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their 'maximum level of incompetence': employees are promoted based on their success in previous jobs until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent, as skills in one job do not necessarily translate to another."


I agree. However, the average new manager goes 10yrs into their role before they get _any_ training. So I'm not sure if they're at fault here or if they've been setup to fail.

I'm sure most workers would be considered incompetent if they were put into roles where they had no experience or training.

Just takes a lot of trail and error to learn.

Great app!

> Most managers get promoted into their role with no training. “Oh you’re a good engineer? Great! Now manage a team of engineers and stop coding”.

I wish this was true. Well, these days people want Engineering Managers to code and manage plus also on the side win a Nobel Prize.

Job Specs: - Manage 10 people - Code fixes in between meetings - Learn new technical concepts after hours - Management books/podcasts while you sleep - Nobel prize on PTO

Views on "stop coding" have been changing. https://randsinrepose.com/archives/technicality/

Feedback: Looks like a cool product. But from a design standpoint, have all SV / YC companies run out of creative designer juice ? let's say I randomly landed on your site, and there's 1000s that look similar, I can't really follow the message you're sending. because my brain, will take a shortcut. since it's something it has seen countless of times.

Appreciate that feedback! The existing designs are about 2 years old and we've just spent some time redesigning certain parts of the marketing website (rolling out the new homepage first). Did lots of customer calls and are pretty excited about it!

I'll be sure to ping you once it's live. Alternatively... would love your feedback before it's live if you're up for it :)

hiba at hypercontext.com. We can even loop in our UX designer who is also the marketing designer. :)

Lmk!! Would really love to connect

not exactly, a designer but just have an eye for simple things :) usually on the engineering side of things. but happy to connect. my email is in my profile

your website appears to have a bunch of meta data on it from something called soapbox. If I link to your website in slack it comes up with a "That looks like a Soapbox link. Would you like to install the Soapbox app" message. I assume a recent-ish rebrand?

What was the thought process there?

Spotted - Yeah we rebranded from Soapbox about 30 days ago.


"oh you're good at X? Bet, go manage a team Xers" This so much. THIS SO MUCH THIS.

We've disguising a career change as a promotion since 0 BC

Curious what the thinking is with the steep volume discounts? It is cheaper to have 251 users than it is to have any number between 41 and 250.

You run into some weird pricing this way. For example, 250 users on the pro plan is $1,000/mo while 251 is $220.88.

It's volume pricing for users above that threashold, if that makes sense.

So, the first 100 users are $5.60/u/m or $560/m, if annual (to keep numbers consistent).

101 users would be $564/m as only the 101st user would be $4/m on the annual plan.

We stole this model from jira.

Gotcha, so the lower pricing applies to the incremental users. I didn't get that from reviewing the pricing page.

Aah thanks for that feedback - Out of curiosity, and if you don't have an answer all good it's not your job at all haha, but:

How would you go about explaining our pricing to a peer/what would you change about the page to make it more clear?

Thanks in advance :)

It's definitely tough to articulate. It's basically the same concept as progressive taxation in the US as your rate increases on a per dollar basis when moving through the brackets. Though you are going the other direction and discounting deeper as you move through the brackets!

It seems to be a subject that trips a lot of people up. It's really common to see people talk about their marginal tax rate as if it is their effective tax rate. "I pay 24% in taxes and make $175K/year" - Not really though, you paid 24% on ~$4K of income, but 10% on the first $19,750, 12% on the income from $19,751 to $80,250, etc. Your marginal tax rate is 24% as that's what you'll pay on the next dollar, but your effective tax rate on all income earned was actually 14% (or whatever it actually is, just a loose example).

In your case, the discount is so significant that I'd think you'd want to showcase that. Maybe a slider to adjust the number of users and show the dollar amount of the discount as well as the total percent saved, which will continually grow as you increase the bucket of users in that lowest bracket?

Or in that FAQ you could give an example of a 300 person workspace and show how the calculation pencils out. Having to do math to figure out the ballpark cost of the product isn't great though, so if the info is public (ie you don't have to contact sales) then you should probably make it super easy to get to.

Just some ideas. You never know, everyone else might get it right away and I could have just been slow on it. My brain definitely went to doing rough math and thinking about how weird the pricing is at different user counts though!

No I think it's super valid what you shared. After all, we really approach things with the mindset that if something is ever unclear be it within the product or marketing, it's always on us and not the customer. I.e. if a flow (or copy) that seems super obvious to us and power users doesn't make sense to new faces, that's an us problem, not them.

But yeah we've certainly had a slider in the past with a calculator so could certainly build that back into the page! I'm 100% with you on not making people do the math, especially with the pricing plan/tiered approach we've taken.

Pre-business plan it was super neat to test out what user number was most effective to show on the initial calculator view. Plus it was a great edition for the CS team when sending potential customers ball parks of plan costs.

But this was incredibly helpful feedback so thank you so much. :) If we get the calculator up and running soon I'll be sure to send it your way!

Can we get Sign in with GitHub please?

Us coders also wanna create and join meetings easily :)

This looks really clean, congrats!

But also from my end, this leaves me pretty unmotivated. I've been working on an mvp to launch my own startup the past month, and today I find out it already exists in your product.

Don't let us discourage you. There is room for multiple companies in any space worth building a startup in.

Happy to build this space with you, together. Competition is good for customers and ultimately that's who I'm serving.

Email me brennan at hypercontext.com and I'd be happy to collaborate.

This is, if anything, a good sign for your project. It means the idea is _somewhat_ validated by YCom. That's far better than doing something that isn't validated at all!

as a new manager, had the same exact idea and found a few companies in this space[0][1] (and now this one too)

ultimately decided there's just too many competitors. my only gripe with all of these is that they're heavily subscription based/pay to use monthly, etc. i want something more personal that i can just purchase for like $10-20 (more like an app on my mac that i can just use forever)

my other gripe is that i don't want to have to onboard my entire team onto it. i want to only use it myself as like a reference guide for the health gauge of my team. i dont need them all inputting their OKRs into these products

[0] https://www.15five.com/

[1] https://www.small-improvements.com/

We have a small team starter plan that's $5 total for your first 5 users.

Also, we'll only charge you for additional users if you a) invite them and b) they sign in and become active.

So definitely can stay at $5/m and use it as a personal tool for as long as you want to. It's on the product to convince you your life can be significantly easier through inviting people, not me

Cool, good to know! thanks for the reply

HN! We're happy to answer questions in the chat

YAY! Excited to launch on HN. Happy to answer any questions from the marketing side of things. :)

Looks pretty neat. Good luck to you guys!

Thanks! We appreciate the support!

Looked at the screenshots of the Android app and from the looks of it it's just another React native app that looks completely non-native and weird. Hamburger menu, three dot menu, tabs that look like iOS and then there's this odd checkmark in the upper right corner. No traces of material design, no floating action button, icons that would fit a quiz game. I'm not going to use this.

Also: Why would I want another tool to keep track of tasks? I can assign tasks via $issuetracker, Google Docs, gtmhub and probably a couple of other tools my employer is using.

I'll see how far a Google Doc per direct report will carry me.

All good man. Enjoy google docs

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