It’s the beginning of the week, and you’ve got a big meeting to prepare for.
Fortunately, you’ve got technology on your side. Artificial intelligence not only scheduled your meeting – after consulting your calendar and finding the best time – it’s helped give you dossiers on the people you’re meeting with. Meanwhile, you can send a robot off to retrieve the box of materials you’ll need for the meeting from the storage room.
Sound futuristic? Probably. But all of this technology exists today.
Work as we know it is changing. Artificial intelligence and robotics are advancing rapidly and become commonplace. And young companies are using these and other emerging technologies to address some of the common complaints within the contemporary workplace.
Here are the executives at eight of the companies who are changing the way we work today – and breaking ground for the way we’ll work tomorrow.
Amy Chang, CEO of Accompany, is using data to replace personal assistants
Chang is the founder and CEO of Accompany, which has developed an app that makes it easy to prep for meetings. For all events scheduled on a calendar, Accompany’s app compiles digital dossiers of attendees and their companies. The app is targeted at executives, who often rely on human assistants to gain insights into the people they are meeting with. But it could find much broader appeal, because of its potential to help users anticipate personality differences, identify common interests, or find ideal meeting locations.
“Anytime we detect someone new in your calendar, you’ll get an Executive Briefing delivered right to your inbox while you sleep,” the company states on its website. “Everything you need to get up to speed, including professional history, relevant news, and key info on their company, is at your fingertips.”
Accompany’s service pulls information from company profiles, social media, and news stories. But in the future, it’s not hard to imagine it tapping into other data, such as the kinds Facebook uses to profile individuals and categorize their tastes and interests to help advertisers target particular groups.
Chang launched Accompany in 2013, straight out of a role at Google’s analytics group. The company has since raised $40.5 million in funding. The Stanford-educated Chang hails from Austin, Texas, but now runs her company out of Palo Alto, California.
Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, is building software for far-flung workspaces
While Box may not be the first file-sharing service to catch the public’s attention, it may well prove to be the default one in years to come. Box’s service combines content management and collaboration tools with notably well-developed workflow management.
The company’s user-friendly cloud services makes data and content accessible across devices and geography, allowing employees at companies with large and scattered workforces to work together more easily. Its service is one of several that are making it simpler for businesses to have more nimble and mobile workforces and to support employees who work from home without sacrificing productivity.
Levie famously had his growing-up moment when Box was a young startup with little in the way of revenue. After Citrix offered to buy the company for about $600 million, he stared down investors, who were pressuring him to sell, and convinced his board to reject the offer.
He looks prescient in retrospect. Box’s market cap now tops $2 billion. The cloud file storage and collaboration service reported better-than-expected quarterly results at the end of May, is narrowing its losses, and upped its guidance for the rest of its 2018 fiscal year.
Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack, has completely reinvented the way offices work together
- Craig Barritt/Getty Images
According to some observers, if Butterfield wanted to sell his company today, he could fetch $9 billion for it.
But Butterfield doesn’t seem to want to sell. Instead, he just rounded up another $250 million in funding for Slack. That gave the startup an official valuation of $5 billion, a bump up from $3.8 billion it was valued at in 2016.
Slack’s appreciation in value is a testament to its service’s crazy growth. The company’s app now has four million daily active users and surpassed $200 million in annual recurring revenue earlier this year.
The success of the business is no surprise, given how Slack’s service has revolutionized office communication. Its app helps corporate employees communicate seamlessly with each other, reducing the need for emails – particularly those terrible group chain messages that seem to go on without resolution.
Like many of the other influential technologies today, Slack’s service makes it easier for large organizations to work efficiently and in real-time, even when employees might be thousands of miles away from one another.
Mathilde Collin, CEO of Front, is making customer service less chaotic
Like many of the most important tools for the future of work, Front offers a service that can make life easier in one very simple way. It’s developed an app that provides a shared inbox for teams that are collaborating.
A shared inbox may not seem groundbreaking in itself, but creating a collaborative workspace can significantly improve the way employees interact with customers and each other.
In addition to its shared inbox, Front’s app allows teams to manage in one place their interactions with clients and customers, whether those take place via email, SMS, or chat. The app helps streamline processes that can often be messy and annoying, and helps prevent important interactions from slipping through the cracks.
Collin first started the company in 2013 while living in Paris. The French entrepreneur then joined Y Combinator and moved her team to San Francisco in 2015. Today the company has 43 employees and over 2,000 customers.
While it’s only raised $13.25 million in funding, Front continues to expand its integrated offerings and capabilities. Just two weeks ago, Front added integration with Google Play, which makes it easier for developers to respond to app store reviews.
Chris Wanstrath, CEO of GitHub, is keeping the open source software momentum going
GitHub is the place where developers store, share and work on their apps. It’s used by everyone from newbie programmers to engineers at major tech firms like Apple, IBM, and Microsoft.
Host to millions of open source software projects, GitHub has become one of the most important companies in the world of programming. It counts some 22 million programmers as members. Some 117,000 businesses use its site to track their software projects.
Thanks to GitHub’s focus on open source efforts, enterprise technology is now a collaborative endeavor, rather than one in which amazing fixes get locked away under copyright or other intellectual property protections.
This year, Wanstrath, who cofounded the company, introduced enterprise cloud hosting services at GitHub. As customers move away from hosting their own data on internal servers, two-in-one cloud hosting services like GitHub will likely take over enterprise data storage.
A college dropout, Wanstrath co-founded GitHub in 2008, reportedly after a brief stint as a tech reporter at CNET. He took over as CEO of the $2 billion startup in 2014.
Dennis Mortensen, CEO of x.ai, wants artificial intelligence to help with the little things
X.ai uses offers a service that is simple, but very helpful. It uses artificial intelligence to comb through users’ emails to automatically schedule appointments.
The company’s AI personal assistants – known as Amy and Andrew Ingram – use their knowledge of users’ personal schedules and availability to respond to incoming scheduling requests. The company’s AI analyzes return responses and then automatically sends out calendar invitations.
The service is a huge time saver, and a big help for anyone who finds him- or herself juggling multiple appointments. What’s more, users don’t need to sign in or use a password; they just cc email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org to use the service.
Mortensen, a Danish entrepreneur based in New York City, founded x.ai with the longterm aim of killing off the inbox. While Amy and Andrew still rely on email, they offer the promise of leaving time-consuming workplace organizational and secretarial tasks to artificial intelligence.
Melonee Wise, CEO of Fetch, is the brains behind the robot revolution
Most desk bound and cubicle encircled employees likely won’t be working shoulder to shoulder with robots anytime soon. But thanks to Fetch Robotics, things are already looking pretty futuristic in the logistics industry.
Fetch develops autonomous mobile robots, which help out around warehouses. The robots work alongside warehouse workers to transport items throughout facilities, freeing up the human employees to focus on intellectual tasks.
Fetch’s bots help make warehouses more efficient. But they also have helped establish a new era of human and robot cohabitation.
In many ways, Fetch’s robots work similarly to self-driving cars. They use sensors and computers to move around freely in their workplaces, without being fixed to a specific track, and use maps to plan the most efficient routes. Fetch’s robots are “smart enough to recognize and react to people, cars, forklifts, and other things in the warehouse,” the company says.
Wise has been working on robots for years. She first joined Fetch in 2014 after being CEO at Unbounded Robotics, a company that she co-founded. Before that, she was employee number 2 at Willow Garage, a now-defunct startup that help jump start the current renaissance in robotics.
Todd McKinnon, CEO of Okta, is keeping businesses secure in the age of innumerable logins
Okta’s pioneering cloud service makes it easier for companies to manage the passwords their employees use to log into other cloud and online services. Okta service saves employees time. It also adds a layer of security by storing secure passwords, rather than relying on employees to create and remember their own.
The service is particularly useful for allowing employees to log into third-party sites using corporate accounts. For example, it can be used to store company-wide newspaper subscriptions or database logins. Those credentials can be accessed by any employee who logs into Okta’s service, regardless of whether they are working inside or outside a corporate office.
Before co-founding Okta in 2009, McKinnon was head of engineering at Salesforce, where he grew his team from 15 to 250 people.
Okta became a Wall Street darling earlier this year, thanks to its successful IPO, which gave the company a $2 billion valuation. It’s continued to shine after its first earnings report. The strong results sent the company’s stock to a new high.
With cybersecurity drawing increased attention from corporate executives and boards, Okta and McKinnon could have what it takes to remain a major influence on work habits for years to come.