Overview: Saudi Arabia Startup Ecosystem

Saudi Arabia’s startup ecosystem has witnessed major growth in recent years, driven by greater foreign investment and government initiatives. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic (a topic which is inseparable from any discussion of investment and economic growth), startup investment in a few key sectors has been driven through new innovations and technologies in e-commerce, delivery/logistics, financial services technology (FinTech), and online education.

According to MAGNiTT’s H1 2020 Saudi Arabia Venture Capital Snapshot, Investments in Saudi startups reached $95 million across 45 venture funding deals in the first half of 2020, slightly more than double the amount of funding from the same period in 2019. Total venture capital (VC) funding in H1 2020 exceeded the Kingdom’s full-year total of $67 million  for 2019, making Saudi Arabia the third-busiest startup market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region behind the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt. Saudi Arabia and Egypt saw the greatest amount of growth in the region at over 100 percent, while the UAE saw a more modest increase of 28 percent. These countries make up the top three in both total funding and number of deals, with Saudi Arabia contributing to 18 percent of the MENA region’s total number of deals in H1 2020.

Key Drivers of Growth During the COVID-19 Pandemic


E-commerce is playing a key role during the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the most important drivers of growth in Saudi Arabia. E-commerce has garnered the highest VC funding by sector, capturing 67 percent of overall funding for Saudi-based startups. The recent expansions by Amazon (a USSBC Chairman’s Circle Member) and Uber to the Middle East are notable examples of the sector’s growth in the region. Based in the UAE, but also serving Saudi Arabia and the wider region, the Uber-owned ride-sharing service Careem and Amazon’s online marketplace Souq.com are among the region’s first unicorns and serve as strong indicators of the shift in momentum of consumer spending to the e-commerce model. Another startup based in Saudi Arabia, Mrsool, which offers an app-based on-demand delivery service, placed above Facebook and Uber in the country’s list of Apple’s top app store downloads.  

E-commerce startup funding has soared despite the conditions, although challenges are still felt by many startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). As a result, Saudi government agencies such as Monsha’at (the general authority for SMEs), the Ministry of Finance, The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) (the country’s central bank), and The General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI) have stepped in to support these struggling businesses. Ultimately, the e-commerce industry’s pre-pandemic growth has placed the sector in an advantageous position, thereby helping ease some of the everyday burdens placed on the Saudi people, according to Public Investment Fund (PIF) Governor H.E. Yasir Al-Rumayyan. Other promising sectors include delivery and logistics, FinTech (financial technology), and online education.

Delivery and Logistics

Investments made in the food and grocery delivery startups Jahez and Nana reflect the new environment of the delivery and logistics sector shaped by the current global pandemic. The two restaurant/grocery delivery startups are part of a quickly growing trend of app-based delivery and logistics companies, alongside ghost kitchens. Also known as cloud kitchens, ghost kitchens utilize existing restaurant kitchens during downtime for app-based delivery services such as UberEats, Grubhub, and DoorDash. The ghost kitchen industry also includes new kitchens built to host one or more delivery-only restaurants. As a result of the pandemic’s shutdown, restaurants and kitchens around the world became potential ghost kitchens overnight, exploding the possibility for investment in this sector. For example, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in January 2019 launched the Los Angeles-based startup CloudKitchens with a $400 million investment from Saudi Arabia’s PIF, a move that ensured the country would remain strategically placed in the sector’s future. Additional ghost kitchens operating in (or planning to expand to) Saudi Arabia include Sweetheart Kitchen and Kitopi.

Other investments in delivery and logistics include a new 900,000 m2 logistics park in Riyadh, launched in October 2019 by Kuwait-based Agility Logistics. The $267 million Agility Logistics Park includes 250,000 m2 of modern warehousing and logistics facilities to strengthen the business environment for multinational corporations and SMEs and support Vision 2030’s goal of transforming the country into a regional logistics hub. In addition, Dubai-based TruKKer, the “Uber of the trucking world” and one of the fastest-growing logistics companies in the region, has afforded the chance to grow their business during the pandemic, thanks to Saudi Arabia’s top spot on the list of per capita number of trucks in the world.

Financial Services Technology (FinTech)

The Saudi government aims to transform the country into an innovative FinTech hub. To further this goal, SAMA and the Capital Market Authority (CMA) in 2018 launched the initiative Fintech Saudi. Since then, Fintech Saudi has pursued this aim through the following approach: supporting the development of required infrastructure, building capabilities and talent to meet the requirements of FinTech companies, and supporting FinTech entrepreneurs throughout their development. The organization promotes available internships in the industry, hosts events across the region in collaboration with their FinTech partners, and also hosts podcasts discussing the budding industry, which can be found on their website. The FinTech sector has applications in many emerging technological spaces, including in artificial intelligence, blockchain, and mobile banking/digital payments. SAMA also maintains a Regulatory Sandbox for FinTech companies, in which approved startups have a “safe space” to test new digital business models outside of the existing regulatory framework, but under a set of conditions and limitations designed to protect consumers. For instance, an approved company must still abide by consumer data protection regulations but may operate within the sandbox without the initial license fees, capital/liquidity requirements, etc. required of regular businesses. In April 2020, the latest batch of companies approved to join the sandbox include the FinTech startups Circles, Manafa Capital, Funding Souq, Nayifat Finance, and Sahlah. Altogether, SAMA’s Regulatory Sandbox includes more than 30 companies involved in digital banking, currency exchange, micro-lending, financial information aggregation, and crowdfunding.

Online Education

In Saudi Arabia, where 40% of the population is under the age of 25, distance learning necessitated by the pandemic has opened many avenues for growth in the e-learning sector. Noon Academy, funded in part by USSBC member Alturki Holdings, recently acquired $13 million in its Pre-Series B stage of funding. This ranks the online learning platform as the third-highest VC investment recipient in Saudi Arabia, as measured in the first half of 2020. Noon Academy alone had over 3 million new students register for its platform in the first months of the pandemic, more than doubling its userbase. Ma’arif for Education and Training, one of Saudi Arabia’s largest private school owners/operators, moved into the e-learning sphere in March of this year with its own e-learning platform developed with the education staff and IT teams at Ma’arif’s individual schools. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), located near Jeddah, has launched an Innovation Fund to make VC investments in high-tech and e-learning startups, targeting Saudi startups from the seed stage (less than $200,000) to early-stage (up to $2 million).

Foreign Direct Investment

According to the annual report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), foreign direct investment (FDI) flows to Saudi Arabia saw a 7 percent increase to $4.6 billion due to the country’s reform initiatives directed towards diversifying the economy and improving the overall investment climate. Despite the pandemic, total VC funding in H1 2020 is up 102 percent from H1 2019, and the number of VC deals in Saudi Arabia increased 29 percent in the same period. Government initiatives improving the country’s performance in four key benchmarks – economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency, and infrastructure – have boosted the Kingdom to 12th in the Venture Capital Availability index, as well as 24th in the World Competitiveness Yearbook. The country’s most attractive key economic indicators, including dynamism of the economy, policy stability and predictability, reliable infrastructure, access to financing, tax policy, and public expenditure on education helped elevate the Kingdom’s place in these rankings, according to the Institute for Management Development’s 2020 World Competitiveness Ranking. Saudi entities are working on new initiatives to continue this upward trend in funding; Monsha’at, for instance, is establishing a specialized bank to support SMEs. CMA has issued licenses to two new VC funds, bringing the country’s total to five, and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) is working in collaboration with Monsha’at and the Ministry of Investment to fund startups through its “Unicorn Startups Program;” the Ministry of Investment has also begun issuing “instant” visas to help entrepreneurs to set up businesses and increasing assistance for non-oil private sector growth.

Saudi Investors

The first half of 2020 counted 45 investments in Saudi Arabia, an increase compared to H1 2019. Among the most active investors were the MiSK 500 MENA Accelerator, as well as other investors and angel groups like 500 Startups, Impact46, KAUST, OQAL Angel Investors, STV, and Saudi Venture Capital Company (SVC). TSVC, a government venture capital established in 2018 as part of the country’s Private Sector Stimulus Plan (PSSP), aims to invest $750 million in VC funds, while Riyadh-based STV, the Saudi Telecom-backed fund that invested in Careem before its $3.1 billion purchase by Uber, is now the largest venture capital fund in the Middle East.

HAUNTED THOUGHTS: A brand new, interactive ZOOM Show!

HAUNTED THOUGHTS by mentalist KEVIN VINER is an immersive, interactive hour of mind reading that will bring your family together for an evening of fun, laughter, and amazement.

Kevin Viner is one of the top mentalists in the world, with millions of online views and television appearances spanning the past decade. You’ve seen Kevin on AMC, PBS, the CW, and on the hit TV show PENN & TELLER: FOOL US. He has entertained globally for A-list celebrities and top executives, and for the first time, is bringing the experience directly into your home.


It couldn’t be easier! No need to leave home, although you should still dress up (COSTUMES ENCOURAGED).

Download Zoom (zoom.us). It’s best if you watch on a tablet or laptop, if possible. You only need one ticket for your household, and each ticket allows viewing on one device.

When you register, you’ll receive a special email directly from ZOOM with your login details.

Check in 30 minutes early so that we can let you in from the Waiting Room in time for the show! Have a notepad and marker ready if you want to participate.

The show is interactive throughout, and even though you will be muted at the beginning, we will be periodically unmuting guests and bringing them on to the show to participate!

It’s going to be an incredible evening, and I’ll see you there!

For questions, please email info@kevinviner.net.

The Missing Link for Business and Culture Transformation

By Mark Samuel, Founder & CEO BSTATE

One of the most common sentiments and frustrations we hear from business leaders is that they feel like they’re spinning on a hamster wheel, implementing team building programs, Agile processes, and competency-based trainings, but can’t seem to get that transformative breakthrough change that they’re looking for. 

The problem is that most consultants and programs don’t offer the one key implementation that is proven to create the quickest, most sustainable business and culture transformation for clients and organizations with as many as 5,000 employees.  That missing piece is team habits of collective execution, or the way people work together to achieve desired outcomes. 

While team habits of collective execution are not often considered in business teams, this is exactly what top athletic teams, music groups and dance companies practice everyday to optimize their performance. They develop agreed upon habits for communicating to each other, coordinating their different roles, surfacing and solving problems, and even recovering when someone makes a mistake. None of those performance behaviors are left to chance. 

Unfortunately, the norm in business is far from the excellence experienced by these athletic and artistic teams. Businesses talk philosophy and blame others instead of taking full accountability for creating new habits that will optimize performance. Instead, business leaders try to appease everyone, avoid the difficult conversations, and pretend that accommodating everyone’s different style is the way to achieve excellence. 

Three Steps for Implementing Team Habits in Your Organization

Step 1: Picture of Success for the Future Now

If you were already achieving breakthrough business results, how would your leaders be functioning differently than they ever have before? How would the role of every level of leadership and every department be expanded to keep up with the new business, the new processes, the new technology, or the new customer demands to ensure optimal results? 

Step 2: Translate the Picture of Success into Defining New Roles of Leadership at every level

One of the biggest breakdowns of most organizations is that leaders at every level tend to operate at a lower level than their actual level. Executives function more like middle managers, middle managers function like supervisors, and supervisors function like operating leads. You can’t achieve Breakthrough Results and Cultural Transformation until people step up to a new level of inclusion and accountability and become change agents for the new Picture of Success. 

Step 3: Translate the Expanded Roles of each Level of Leadership into agreed upon

Team Habits that will optimize business results given the natural constraints of the organization. This is not a one-size fits all solution. Every organization, and in fact every cross-functional leadership team, needs to collectively determine how to optimize execution and express it in the form of new Team Habits that represent the process and behaviors for optimizing planning, coordination, collaboration, problems solving, communication, and making decisions. 

Step 4: Track and Measure the Team Habits, Their Impact on Business Results and their Impact on the Culture

Execution always precedes business results. Even leading indicators for results come from collective execution. Therefore, if you want to get ahead of business breakdowns and cultural toxicity, it comes from the effectiveness of collective execution. Learn to track and improve Team Habits the way athletic teams use “game tapes,” surface practical issues that prevented successful execution, and problem solve those breakdowns on a regular and consistent basis. 


Facebook unveils $300 Oculus Quest 2, kills Rift

Facebook has unveiled its Oculus Quest 2 standalone wireless virtual reality headset, starting at $300 and with 50% more pixels than the previous version. Meanwhile, Facebook said it won’t make any more PC-based Oculus Rift headsets. It announced all of this at Facebook Connect today.

A 64GB version will cost $300, while a 256GB model will go for $400. The headsets will ship October 13 with two Touch controllers each. The headset is 10% lighter at 1.1 pounds compared to the original Oculus Quest launched in 2018. You don’t need a PC to use the Quest, as the headset has its own processing and built-in sensors for detecting your hands and the environment.

The new headset will be compatible with the Oculus Link, which connects the Quest to a PC to give you more power to run Oculus Rift and Oculus Rift S headsets games. These include the upcoming Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond VR shooter coming from Respawn Entertainment.

But Facebook also announced that it will now end further development on the family of Oculus Rift PC-based headsets, thanks to the Oculus Link. You heard that right. The wireless Quest 2 is the future. There will be no more Rift headsets. The difference is that the Quest is wireless and it has its processing and sensors in the headset. Through a Link cable, it can tap the power of a full PC. The Rift, by contrast, has no processing in the headset and it has to be linked to a PC. The problem is that it isn’t as popular as the wireless Quest.

Full story linked here

Internet Marketing Association Announces Winner of IMPACT 20 IMA Startup Pitch Challenge


SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. – Oct. 15, 2020 – The Internet Marketing Association (IMA) has announced the winner of the annual IMA Startup Pitch Challenge held during this year’s landmark IMPACT 20 virtual conference. The challenge is always one of the most highly anticipated segments of the event.

Contenders in this year’s IMA Startup Pitch Challenge were:

FAMEOS creates a friction-free marketplace where brands and celebrities can seamlessly connect and do deals faster, easier and globally. New streams of revenue are generated by automating the matchmaking of major consumer brands and celebrity talent. Represented by CEO Zack Below.

GrayKea reduces financial stress for college students in need through sustainable alumni giving. In turn, students who receive funding come back onto the platform as alumni to help other students. Represented by Ayushi Gupta (University of Southern California), Siddhi Chandak (University of California, Berkeley), Manav Modi (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign).

Learneum is addressing the needs of today’s learners and their potential employers who are no longer satisfied by traditional educational institutions. The app encompasses five learning-level modules from onboarding to internship/startup. Represented by Founder and CEO Ernie Delgado.

Kwema develops safety wearables that enable employees to alert safety staff, notify 911 or activate any security protocol as well as provide privacy-based contact tracing. The devices are designed to save precious response time while mitigating risk. Represented by CEO Ali Al Jabry.

VizAeras provides an IoT platform and indoor environment sensors for monitoring, transparency and remote access in improving indoor air quality and healthy building conditions. The system tracks air quality metrics and other critical health performance indicators in real time for any building from any mobile device. Represented by CEO Carl Tautenhahn, CTO Gerald Monroe.

Competitors were evaluated on criteria including capital raised, value proposition, projected revenue, go-to-market strategy, market saturation, executive team and likeliness to disrupt.

For this year’s Challenge, FAMEOS was the winner in both the Judges Pick and Audience Pick categories. Key factors were the company’s innovations in an outdated industry, strong backing of investors and partnerships, and robust technology platform. Zack Below, CEO of FAMEOS, was also awarded Entrepreneur of the Year at the conference’s IMPACT awards.

“It is such an honor to win the IMA Startup Pitch Challenge and Entrepreneur of the Year at IMPACT 20,” said FAMEOS CEO Zack Below. “We have the fastest growing operating system in the world for deal making between celebrities and brands. The recognition is a tribute to our amazing team and years of hard work. The deal revolution is just beginning.”

IMPACT is the premier internet marketing conference of the year and convenes industry thought leaders to address the latest global trends, issues and best practices on wide array trending topics. This year’s event set a Guinness World Records milestone for largest attendance for a virtual marketing conference in one week.


For information on the Internet Marketing Association, visit www.imanetwork.org.

For information on FAMEOS, visit www.fameos.com


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About the Internet Marketing Association

IMA is one of the fastest growing and largest Internet marketing groups in the world, with professional members in fields including sales, marketing, business ownership, programming and creative development. It provides a platform where proven Internet marketing strategies are demonstrated and shared to increase members’ value to their organizations. IMA is underwritten by corporate partners to provide an opportunity to learn, engage and define best practices without making a financial commitment. www.imanetwork.org

Erin Levzow Joins Del Taco Restaurants, Inc. as Vice President Marketing Technology

Erin Lezvow

(RestaurantNews.com) Del Taco Restaurants, Inc. (“Del Taco” or the “Company”), (NASDAQ: TACO), the nation’s second largest Mexican quick service restaurant* (MQSR), today announced that Erin Levzow is appointed to the new position of Vice President Marketing Technology. Levzow brings a wide breadth of experience in marketing, marketing technology, mobile apps and ordering technology, as well as building loyalty and rewards programs, across multiple industries.

“As the technology space becomes more critical for customer engagement every year, we continue to plan and execute against building competitive and innovative systems for our brand,” said Tim Hackbardt, Chief Marketing Officer of Del Taco. “We are pleased to welcome Erin to the Del Taco team to carry forward our marketing technology efforts. I know her experience shaping successful digital, martech and ecommerce strategies will make a tremendous impact on the ways we engage with our guests and differentiate our fresh food, value and convenience offerings.”

In her Vice President role at Del Taco, Levzow will lead the marketing technology team by developing strategic, integrated programs to drive consumer loyalty and increase visit frequency. She is responsible for the Del Taco Mobile App, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) approach, third party delivery partnerships, digital ordering, and will help identify and lead other digital initiatives and emerging technology opportunities.

“Throughout my career, I have enjoyed accelerating a brand’s vision through leveraging marketing technology opportunities,” said Levzow regarding her new role as Del Taco’s Vice President Marketing Technology. “I’m thrilled to join the team and apply my expertise with such an iconic and growing brand like Del Taco.”

Recognized with the prestigious Top 25 Women to Watch in Mobile Marketing Award from Mobile Marketer, Levzow’s more than 15 years of marketing experience crosses casino gaming, hotels, hospitality and restaurants. She has held senior and executive leadership positions leading marketing, digital, social media, loyalty and ecommerce strategies. Her previous roles include working for brands such as MGM Resorts International, Palms Casino Resort, Marcus Hotels & Resorts, Freebirds World Burrito and Wingstop Restaurants.

About Del Taco Restaurants, Inc.

Del Taco (NASDAQ: TACO) offers a unique variety of both Mexican and American favorites such as burritos and fries, prepared fresh in every restaurant’s working kitchen with the value and convenience of a drive-thru. Del Taco’s menu items taste better because they are made with quality ingredients like fresh grilled chicken and carne asada steak, sliced avocado, freshly grated cheddar cheese, slow-cooked beans made from scratch, and creamy Queso Blanco.

The brand’s campaign further communicates Del Taco’s commitment to providing guests with the best quality and value for their money through cooking, chopping, shredding and grilling menu items from scratch. Founded in 1964, today Del Taco serves more than three million guests each week at its approximately 600 restaurants across 15 states. For more information, visit www.deltaco.com.

Leading with Courage

Leading with Courage - Salesforce

By Salesforce

Relationship Design is a creative practice anyone can use to drive business and social value by building strong relationships with customers and community. We believe that there are four mindsets that help us build strong, valued relationships in our work and in our lives: courage, intention, reciprocity, and compassion.

Salesforce’s design teams have done a deep dive into the mindset of courage. Courage pushes us in ways that makes us feel vulnerable but aligns to our values. In practice, this can look like challenging the status quo in service of creating impact, living our values even when it is at odds with desired business outcomes, and being open and vulnerable even when we want to be safe.

Hear our speakers tell their stories about when they had to speak up and live their values at work, even at risk of the potential consequences. Their short vignettes walk us through their situation, their decision, and the outcomes that followed.

Watch the vignettes here.

Follow us on Twitter @SalesforceUX

Join in on the conversation on our Community page.

Congratulations To 2020 Citizen Of The Year, Joe Stapleton

Joe Stapleton

Congratulations to Joe Stapleton for being named the 2020 Citizen of the Year by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce. Joe received the news in a surprise announcement while he was attending a Chamber Board Zoom meeting, ostensibly to give an update on his work with the Newport Beach Foundation. After concluding his presentation, Chamber President and CEO, Steven Rosansky, informed Joe that he was this year’s recipient of the prestigious honor. The meeting was also attended by a number of past Citizen of the Year recipients and the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors who were there to celebrate him winning this great award.

“It is rare that I am without words, but this means the world to me,” commented Stapleton on the award. “None of us do the work we do because of recognition, we do it because of our love for Newport Beach. I understand the commitment and responsibility that come with this honor, there are so many others who are well deserving of this recognition. The list of those before us, represents individuals who have dedicated their lives to our great City. It will continue to be my goal to inspire the next generation of community leaders. I am truly blessed to call Newport Beach my home.”

In making the presentation, Rosansky noted “Joe is very deserving of this honor. He is a tireless volunteer and has definitely made a difference in the 10 plus years he has been part of the Newport Beach community. Whatever he starts, he finishes and he is always all in!”

Stapleton will be honored formally at the Newport Chamber Honors event to be hosted at a

future date. This event will also recognize the Newport Beach Business Person of the Year.

The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce is a business organization of almost 700 members. The Chamber, with its councils, committees, staff and valuable members, works with city officials, local businesses and the community at large to promote the local economy.

About the Award

The Newport Beach Citizen of the Year award is presented to an individual in the community who is respected and admired among friends, neighbors and colleagues for his or her work and dedication in bettering the community.

• The Newport Beach Citizen of the Year Award is presented to that individual who best represents the qualities each of us admire and respect among our friends, neighbors and associates. It’s not given so much for achievement, as it is for helping others achieve.

• It is not given for outstanding single effort, as much as for long term, continuing commitment to the community. It’s not given for position, public or private, as it is for “being there” when there is a service called for.

• It’s for the one who says, “Sure-I’ll help-what do we need to do?” And then follows through-one who says, “Newport Beach is my home, and its future and mine are the same. I will do whatever I can do to make it better.

About Joe Stapleton

Joe’s current and past involvement in the community of Newport Beach is quite extensive. Currently, he serves as a member of the Finance Committee for the City of Newport Beach and is Chairman of the Board of the Newport Beach Foundation. He also serves on more than a dozen boards of directors for community and civic organizations including The Pacific Club, New Majority Orange County, Newport Beach & Company, Literacy Project, Speak Up Newport, OC Cats (University of Arizona Alumni Association), The Pacific Arts Foundation, Corona del Mar Residence Association, Lott Trophy and International Executive Council. He is also on the Executive Board of the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Surprising Benefits of Virtual Team Building


By Mark Samuel

In the last three decades of facilitating high performance teams, I had never done a virtual training, and if you had asked me if it was possible to build a team with people located remotely in different parts of the city, country, or even world, I would have expressed my doubts.

But external business drivers like the coronavirus pandemic force us to make the impossible possible, and like so many other organizations, B STATE pivoted and made a game-changing paradigm shift, coming out the other side better than before. Not only was virtual team building just as effective as in-person, we actually discovered four surprising benefits to virtually building high performance teams.

1. Intimacy was gained, not lost, by going virtual
One difference of using a virtual format is that when people are sharing, it is all up close. I don’t need to strain to see someone on the other side of the room or worse, looking at the back of their heads sitting around a table in front of each other. In a virtual video environment, you can see facial expressions, engagement, and reactions up close and personal. Participants shared at the end of the program that they felt as close to others as they would in any in-person session.

2. Virtual Team Building is More Efficient and Saves Time
In addition to saving money and time not having to travel, the actual session itself was completed in less time than doing the session in person where I’d have to run from small group to small group to see what they were accomplishing on their flip charts. In a virtual team building session, we used Google Docs and Forms so that we could observe different groups’ progress at the same time and could easily intervene if they were off-track in any way. In addition, people came more prepared, more focused, and more willing to contribute.

3. Participation from all team members was more balanced
Many groups have a mix of participant personalities. In a virtual environment, there was less posturing, greater participation from everyone in attendance, and reluctance from any one member to dominate discussions. There was more of an equal sharing of ideas, inputs, and even challenges to the status quo offered by all participants in attendance.

4. The Team Session has demonstrated Sustainable Success
Even though there was no stated agenda for this team to stay together after the team session, all team members have continued to meet for the last four months to support and connect with one another. Even as everyone’s schedules have gotten busier, the team remains strong and connected.

We have since developed a second team, and the impact was very similar to the first virtual program we did. While people still like the idea of meeting in person, the effectiveness and efficacy of the virtual approach to building a high performing team in which execution improves and business outcomes are achieved in full alignment was accomplished.

In B STATE, we are always shedding our old, outdated mindsets, and the past few months were an opportunity to do just that as we adopted a new approach that is not only more cost effective, time efficient, and healthier for all participating team members, it’s also more effective as a team building approach.

The Emerging Landscape of Virtual Engagement

Virtual Meeting

By Jeff Volpe

In this new-found world of social distancing, organizations are faced with accelerating their planning and investment efforts. Long-term digital transformation and agile workforce roadmaps that were originally
targeted over a five to 10-year window, have now been shrunk to a matter of months.

There are companies that are well prepared to make the leap, having already invested extensively in advanced collaboration tools and cloud-based services. Others are only beginning to recognize the importance of these technology foundations in addressing the needs of an increasingly fluid, remote workforce.

A number of global enterprises have already announced their plans to carry on with a remote or hybrid workforce model for many months – and in some cases years – to come. Google for example has openly stated it will keep workers at home until July 2021, while Facebook plans to shift to a hybrid remote and in-office workforce strategy within the next five to 10 years.

We can expect many more decisions along these lines to come. According to a July 2020 Gartner study, 82% of company leaders plan to allow employees to work remotely some of the time, while 47% said they intend to allow employees to work remotely full time going forward.

This is a shift that has dramatically affected corporate strategies moving forward. When the pandemic began, there was a mad scramble to deploy and support remote workforce models, with the expectation that things would (hopefully) return to normal within a matter of months – or at least the foreseeable future. Many companies implemented these models on an ad hoc basis at best, with employees working from home using a laptop or tablet for videoconferencing and other loosely integrated collaboration tools.

With the realization that hybrid work strategies represent a longer-term commitment, the focus now is
on empowering worker collaboration and elevating content to a more engaging, interactive and immersive level. This will require a full arsenal of collaboration tools to enable virtual video-based communications, interactivity, and real-time content and delivery.

Replicating the interactive office environment in virtual and remote work settings will be critical for businesses to both optimize productivity and deploy seamless operations, whether dealing with employees, customers or partners. An encouraging note is that many of the foundational elements are already in place in the way of existing IT infrastructures, cloud-based services, and collaboration tools.

The right hardware is also fundamental in supporting team building and driving engagement on a day-to-day basis, from videoconference-based tools for virtual meetings with colleagues, virtual town hall sessions, training or presentations to potential customers or investors.

Achieving a more immersive visual experience will require some strategic hardware investments, such as display technologies that can transform interactions through integrated features such as touch, gesturing and voice activation. Crystal clear resolution, high quality sound and color, and built-in casting are also essential elements in creating a highly professional and engaging experience for participants. For higher stakes sessions, whiteboarding software can elevate real-time collaboration to an even greater level.

With the distributed workforce environment evolving and growing at an unprecedented rate, success will hinge on an organization’s ability to adapt their systems and processes to deliver a seamless, interactive and engaging online experience. Those that have the presence of mind to make the investment now, will be the ones who succeed in navigating the shifting landscape of virtual engagement.


Jeff Volpe is President, Americas for ViewSonic, a leading global provider of interactive and collaborative display solutions for enterprise, education, and commercial markets. To find out more about ViewSonic, please visit www.viewsonic.com.