Inside the Products Propelling These 6 Tech Companies Forward

Professionals from Kapwing, Superhuman, Via and six other San Francisco tech companies recently sat down with Built In to discuss their latest product launches.

Written by Isaac Feldberg
Published on May. 24, 2022
Inside the Products Propelling These 6 Tech Companies Forward
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Automation through sound is transforming the way content creators edit their viral videos with Kapwing. For adtech software Smartly.io, a partnership with TikTok is opening up fresh social-media horizons. And ride hailing system Via is factoring on-demand services into its services to, among other things, meet changing transit usage as a result of the pandemic. 

Launching a new product can feel equally like a major milestone and a bold leap forward. Often considered the culmination of hard work by a dedicated team of colleagues –– and just as frequently evaluated as a turning point for a tech company on the rise –– any product launch is a moment worth making.

For leaders at Kapwing, Smartly.io, Via and three other fast-rising San Francisco tech companies, all of whom recently sat down with Built In, recent product launches have served only to bolster their workplaces’ commitments to innovative excellence. 

Below, learn more about those releases and how each new product is changing the game for its companies’ customers.

 

Kapwing group photo outside on a rooftop patio
Kapwing

 

Shah Ahmed
Head of Product • Kapwing

 

Kapwing recently unveiled its latest tool, “Smart Cut,” which intelligently detects silences in videos and removes them, leaving creators to pick the right takes, find viral fame and reap the rewards. 

 

Tell us more about Smart Cut and its implications for your customers.

Over the last few years, we’ve been deeply focused on enabling creators to craft their stories. But a recurring pain point creators have shared in relation to this process is the tedious nature of cutting down and trimming recorded footage. We thought, why not do that automatically? 

For creators, Smart Cut means editing times going from hours to minutes. Sarah Dresser, one of our favorite creators, told us she uses it to splice out the gaps and in one press of a button activate subtitles. The video is ready to upload to Instagram or Facebook in five minutes or less.

Making a good splice is something of an art.’’

 

What was the biggest challenge your team faced while developing this new product, and how did you overcome it?

The technology itself works really well, and will continue to get better. More challenging was deciding how many options to give the creator. Making a good “splice” is something of an art. How much padding do you want around the end of a sentence? Do you want it to be a sharp cut or have some breathing room and, if so, how much breathing room? Do you want to automatically apply transitions in between smart cuts? Instead of making a complicated flow,  we opted to have strong defaults based on the norm for talking-head videos seen on most platforms. From there, the creator can manually edit those videos through our robust timeline feature.  

 

 

Smartly.io team members listening to a presentation in the office
Smartly.io

 

Ryanne Laredo
Chief Customer Officer • Smartly

 

Designed to automate customers’ social advertising, Smartly.io seeks to centralize media buying, creative copy and data within one platform. As such, it should come as little surprise that the company’s latest innovation — a partnership with TikTok — expands the platform’s reach and convenience even further, traversing another new frontier in e-commerce.

 

Tell us more about smartly.io’s TikTok partnership and its implications for your customers.

This is a first-of-its-kind partnership that aligns with the desire of our customers, who wish to reach an extraordinary audience and influence purchase decisions. Smartly.io has perfected this offering across other social media platforms and is excited to bring it to market alongside TikTok, to accelerate commerce in the TikTok environment.

This is hybrid working in hyperdrive.”

 

What was the biggest challenge your team faced while developing this new product, and how did you overcome it?

TikTok is a very dynamic partner that has seen exponential growth. Their algorithms draw an amazing amount of attention from consumers. As such, they’re a very fast-moving organization. We wanted to ensure we aligned with TikTok to move just as quickly and provide supplemental, value-add products for advertisers. This meant that we needed to design, build, test and iterate across a number of global parties. To do so effectively, we set up multiple communication streams for key stakeholders via video, chat and in-person. We have perfected hybrid working, but this is hybrid working in hyperdrive. It’s the essence of the TikTok environment — moving quickly, always adapting, always bringing joy — and we are happy to partner with them to embody that for advertisers across the globe.

 

 

Tom Mercer
VP of Product • Via

 

At ride-hailing system Via, developing and operating efficient, affordable public mobility solutions is all about getting people where they need to go. Its latest product, On-Demand Planning, does exactly that by offering transit planners increased visibility of both on-demand services and the fixed routes in their network.

 

Tell us more about On-Demand Planning and its implications for your customers.

In November 2021, Via released On-Demand Planning to help transit planners with on-demand transit. This product was built into transit planning software Remix, but utilized service modeling built by Via. Planners can use it to add on-demand transit solutions into their systems and tackle some of their biggest challenges, such as reaching transit-dependent populations in low-density areas, unlocking transit access for individuals with disabilities and balancing cost and quality of service to meet changing transit usage after the pandemic.

What makes On-Demand Planning unique is that it’s the first product to allow planning for both fixed route network and on-demand service together, and to see how the combination of the two can increase access for communities. It was tremendously rewarding to see planners’ eyes light up when they started using it. In interviews, we saw them gather insights they had never considered before — because they didn’t previously have tools to help them think big-picture. And since every insight, no matter how small, translates to improvements to transportation in their communities, that feedback is a dream come true for any product manager.

As a company, we embrace hard challenges.”

 

What was the biggest challenge your team faced while developing this new product, and how did you overcome it?

There were a couple of key challenges. One was just bringing our teams together, physically and culturally. We had team members located in San Francisco, New York and Tel Aviv. Each team had different strengths and working styles. We addressed this with design workshops, where we shared our knowledge and built context together. Then, we defined workstreams, which allowed subteams to work semi-autonomously and collaboratively.

Another challenge was our desire to solve a novel problem. Because on-demand transit is still relatively new in the industry, there are no established best practices for how to plan and integrate it into existing networks. When approaching such a green problem, we find that it’s critical to be in very close contact with our users, so we defined a cohort of early access customers, whose regular feedback helped us test and iterate toward something that would meet their needs and serve the whole industry.

As a company, we embrace hard challenges. They just come with the territory. Transportation is a complex domain, and our job is to take all that complexity and boil it down into a clean, easy-to-use product that serves our transit agency customers’ needs.

 

 

Kirby Freeman
Product Management Lead • Carbon, Inc.

 

Carbon’s idea-to-production platform of advanced materials, software, hardware and services makes it easier for the world’s greatest minds to make their visions a reality. Manufacturing is made more sustainable through Carbon’s globally connected ecosystem, and the recent launch of a cloud-based software tool, Design Engine, makes it even more cohesive.

 

Tell us more about Carbon’s Design Engine and its implications for your customers.

Design Engine™ automates the time-consuming process of designing complex parts and products. Launched in November 2021, Design Engine saves engineers significant time and effort by automating the creation of complex geometric structures that couldn’t be created through traditional production techniques. The core lattice technology in Design Engine has been proven in production, delivering award-winning products from companies like Specialized, Riddell, CCM and more.

Design Engine is significant because traditional Computer-Aided Design (CAD) tools have not kept pace with the innovation of 3D printers and materials. This lack of progression limits the “idea to design” stage of the product development lifecycle. Whereas Design Engine is helping designers iterate through their design thinking much more quickly, it also enables creators to have production-ready parts faster than ever before, significantly shortening the manufacturing phase of development and helping companies get their products out to customers at a much faster pace.  

We’re building software on the cutting edge of computational geometry and computer aided design software.’’

 

What was the biggest challenge your team faced while developing this new product, and how did you overcome it?

We’re building software on the cutting edge of computational geometry and computer aided design software. By analyzing the market, we discovered creators were hindered by fragmented solutions and organizational silos, which limits collaboration and innovation while delaying time to market. We needed to build a solution that spans every step needed for companies to create products with superior performance while accelerating time-to-market. We’re solving other challenging, interesting problems there while also trying to build a product that is easy and enjoyable for our users. 

In order to succeed, we recognized that collaboration is key. We worked across product management, software engineering, technology and marketing teams to determine a single solution for creators. I attribute a lot of our success to our strong team, cross-collaboration and the fact that we are really listening to our users and prospective users. 

 

 

Stephanie Fischler
Product Manager • Curebase

 

Curebase makes clinical trials more accessible and efficient using cutting-edge clinical software and remote study management tools. The company’s addition of a telemedicine feature to its decentralized clinical trial platform has made it possible — and easy — for both study participants and researchers to navigate and capture data required for their studies. 

We ended up creating an audit trail functionality that is specific to telemedicine.’’

 

What was the biggest challenge your team faced while developing your new telemedicine feature, and how did you overcome it?

Since Curebase operates within the clinical-trials space, the telemedicine team had to ensure that the feature was compliant with various regulations. After lots of in-depth conversations with subject matter experts, we ended up creating an audit trail functionality that is specific to telemedicine. Metadata for every activity — such as a session being initiated, a user joining the call or call quality being degraded — is saved during the call. This add-on lets study monitors reconstruct telemedicine activities in the event of an audit. At Curebase, we are fortunate to have an in-house clinical operations team that can guide the development of features such as this one.

 

 

Winnie Jung
Product Marketing Manager • Superhuman

 

A productivity platform focused on making email faster than ever, Superhuman provides its users with keyboard shortcuts and smart inboxes that were once a life-saver for Gmail users.  But a major transformation in the service’s offerings came earlier this year when it launched support for Outlook users.

 

Tell us more about Superhuman for Outlook and its implications for your customers.

We launched Superhuman for Outlook in May of 2022, making our biggest customer request a reality and opening up the fastest email experience ever made to an audience of 345 million Outlook users. Gartner estimates that Microsoft’s Office 365 is at least six times larger than Google Workspace, which drastically opens up Superhuman’s total addressable market.

We were able to prioritize the roadmap by continuing to listen to our customers.’’

 

What was the biggest challenge your team faced while developing this new product, and how did you overcome it?

Our customers are very vocal with sharing feedback with our product teams, and we take our customer feedback very seriously. So when it came time to develop Superhuman for Outlook, we had a long list of features and functionality to consider. Finding the perfect balance of functionality for this launch was a challenge, but we were able to prioritize the roadmap by continuing to listen to our customers, asking for feedback in our beta, uncovering what was truly important to them and refining the experience to help them be faster and more productive at emailing.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

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