In June, rAVe Publications held a virtual event – LAVNCH WEEK 2.0. – where Gary Kayye sat down with leading experts in the AV world to talk about the move back to the workplace. One of those interviews was with Nureva CEO Nancy Knowlton.
In this interview, Nancy explains how Nureva has approached the current reality and what she’s heard from customers about creating a safe, effective back-to-the-office plan. She also shares the origin story for how Nureva audio came to be and what led the team to develop game-changing Microphone Mist™ technology.
Gary Kayye: I hope you’re enjoying UCC Day during LAVNCH WEEK 2.0. As we have talked about for the entire week, we’re going to have some special guests on to talk about what’s going on in their world, our world and the AV world in the UCC space. Specifically, today, we’re talking with Nancy Knowlton, who is the CEO and global sales director at Nureva. Hey, Nancy. How are you?
Nancy Knowlton: I’m doing great, Gary. Thanks.
Gary Kayye: First off, for those that don’t know, talk about Nureva, and what do you guys do? What do you make?
Nancy Knowlton: There are about 115 of us very much focused on differentiated audio solutions. We created our own Microphone Mist technology, and we’ve deployed that now in a couple of different products and more to come.
Gary Kayye: In fact, we use one of your Microphone Mist products in our conference room, and I also happen to use one in my classroom at the University of North Carolina. Let’s first talk about in conference rooms. We’ve all been in a weird place in the last few months, sort of forced into this weird place in working from home, but we’re all starting to trickle back into the workplace. We all have a keen eye on what that’s going to mean. As a business person, I would love to hear what challenges you see for both the immediate future and longer term as we go back to work.
Nancy Knowlton: This impacts us, not just as an organization but our customer base as well. We’re finding everybody is currently creating a plan to get back to a definition of what the new normal is going to be, whether that’s physical distancing in the workspaces that they’re providing to their staff or whether it’s converting meeting spaces into team spaces.
All of those things are up in the air, with the prime consideration being safety of employees, and I have to say that’s top of mind for us. I think that we can jump right to the workspace and say, “Well, we should do this, or we should put this technology in or these physical barriers.” I think some of the things that are top of mind for staff need consideration as well. For people who take public transit, how do they get to the office safely? It really is a whole collection of issues that businesses have to plan for.
Gary Kayye: I’ve been to Nureva, and you have a very innovative culture, a very unique culture. I would say not just for their industry, but even for North America. I think you might have some interesting insights there because you mentioned that it’s not going to be a top-down decision.
You alluded to this is going to be a decision as we go back that you’re going to have to involve what your team wants, what they’re concerned about. You can’t just throw them back into the cubicles and the spaces that you had before.
I guess part of my question is, what does Nureva bring to solve these challenges? Because you have a line of audio products that are going to be uniquely positioned to solve some of these issues. There’s a difference between hearing somebody and understanding somebody. That’s a big issue.
But also, what advice would you give as a CEO for companies dealing with their employees coming back to work and being nervous?
Nancy Knowlton: What we’ve done over the last few weeks and months is try to get a feel for what people are thinking. Each and every day, we’re testing our perspective when we engage with our customers. Just today, we were meeting with a Fortune 500 company. We told them how we were thinking about our product development activities to support what our customers wanted, and we asked them if our view aligned with what they were thinking. There was a remarkable alignment with their perspective. I think checking in frequently with customers with their evolving perspective is important.
The physical distancing aspect is top of mind for a lot of people. They want to take some of the spaces that may have accommodated 10 or 12 people in a meeting, and they’re saying, “Well, maybe this is more like 4 or 5 people.” How do people get mobile within that space, and how do they still have their voice picked up?
Now that everybody’s been remote, I think that more people have an appreciation for just how exhausting bad audio can be. We’re hearing that pretty consistently from the heads of IT who are looking at the solutions. They’re saying, “We’ve got to make sure that this experience – whether we’re platooning staff in and out, if somebody works Monday, Wednesday, Friday this week in the office and Tuesday, Thursday next week – we need to make sure that when they’re remote, they’ve got a great experience.”
So, some of the advice that I would give to people is what we’re certainly hearing from some of our customers. They’re engaging with their staff, and they’re saying, “Okay. You’ve been remote now for a period of time. Do you want to stay remote? How would you see using the office experience? How should we think about that, and how can we support you?”
Gary Kayye: You alluded to one of the big issues that everyone’s going to face where you take a conference room that was seating 15, 20 people before, and now seating 5 to 10 people, potentially. Do you believe that’s going to create a situation where we’re going to have more rooms, because it seems logical to me that we’re not just going to cut down the number of people in a meeting?
What we’re probably going to do is see more either specific purpose-built rooms are ad hoc rooms that were maybe meeting spaces or collaboration spaces that become huddle spaces and more structured audio in those spaces. That’s at least my thinking because we’re still going to need those people in those meetings.
Nancy Knowlton: I think that meetings are going to be an interesting agglomeration of groups. We may all be in the office, but we may not be in the same meeting space. We do know some companies that are taking their 8 to 10-person meeting rooms and reconfiguring them for 3 staff members, 4 staff members. They’re trying to create some physical barriers. So it’s possible that those workspaces now also double as meeting spaces. We have a number of customers who are looking at some of their casual spaces that may have 2 walls or 3 walls, and they’re looking at turning them into meeting spaces as well.
People are asking about, “What do I do with my kitchen? That might seat 20 or 30 people. How might I hold the meeting for 10 to 15 people within that space?” So, yeah, people are looking at the collection of spaces that they have a little bit differently. I can tell you what we are not hearing, and that is the packing of people into small spaces. That’s just not going to be acceptable.
Gary Kayye: I agree with you, and I think I’m hearing that as well. It’s going to be a while before we even get back to that place, and it may be that people feel comfortable in this new hybrid, HyFlex meeting environment.
I know Nureva really well, and I know the product really well. You have the HDL200 for the smaller room size and the HDL300 [for mid-size spaces]. Obviously, you have other products as well. We’re focusing on the UCC spaces today. How do you introduce people to the company? You talked about Microphone Mist at the beginning, but didn’t talk exactly about what it is because you do have a unique proposition. I’d love to hear that elevator pitch from Nancy Knowlton.
Nancy Knowlton: We do have a different technology proposition. I know I’ve told you this multiple times before, but when we started Nureva, we bought one audio solution from every leading manufacturer because audio quality had been the single greatest frustration that we had had in our prior company.
We either were discouraged by the audio quality or by the cost by the time our meeting room had to be done, and it prompted us to say, “What if we took an entirely different technology approach than what all of the leading systems are taking?” So we created the concept of Microphone Mist, which is thousands of virtual microphones that get created by a very powerful processor supported by 12 physical microphones, and based on radio frequency technology, so we flood a space with those virtual microphones.
Unlike beamforming that listens to a microphone and processes that voice pickup sequentially, all of our microphones are listening at the same time. We pick up and send across the best quality audio. So the system is making some determination about the sound that we would like to take precedence in the call.
That’s given us a different proposition to express to our customers. We say, “Do whatever you want in your meeting space. Stand up, walk around, talk over each other as much as we’d like to. Make sure that people take their turn.” That doesn’t happen. When you’re remote, you’re going to get that same experience of people talking at the same time because the technology is powerful enough to deliver that same kind of an experience.Gary Kayye: It’s the magic. I know you probably hate that word, but it’s sort of the magic of Microphone Mist.
The great example I give when I’ve shown other people the HDL300 is students that will constantly eat and open bags of chips, and they’re sitting right underneath the microphone system when I’m teaching on the other side of the room. And yet, when you listen to the recording, it’s picking me up, and it blocks out the chip cruncher. They say, “How does it do that?” And I say, “It’s magic.” So, I call it magic.
It sounds like you’re optimistic in these times of uncertainty. It sounds like you’re comfortable when we go back to work that this is going to be an opportunity for us as technologists to solve some of the problems that were unfortunately created by COVID-19. Am I detecting that properly? Are you as optimistic as I seem to think you are?
Nancy Knowlton: I think, first of all, being an entrepreneur, being in business, having a level of longevity in this arena, you’ve got to be optimistic. Things never play out the way that you hope. They’re slower, they’re different or whatever. What my hope is out of this whole experience is that we begin to transform the way that we work. Technology has that opportunity, but have we really harnessed it to do something a little bit differently?
We look at the tools that we’re using every day, and we challenge ourselves to say, “Am I just doing what I always did and just doing more of it? What could be better through this process?” I would say that as an organization, we’ve become better readers. What I mean by that is, we come into our meetings with agendas. We know what we’re trying to accomplish. We share materials in advance and all of those things. Yes, I’m an optimist. Otherwise, I just couldn’t continue in business these days.
Gary Kayye: You’re one of the most creative entrepreneurs in our industry, and I wouldn’t be the only one saying that. I know thousands of people would agree with me. Your success is amazing and strategic at the same time. If you don’t know who Nureva is, check them out at nureva.com.
I’m a user, so if you have any doubt over whether this stuff works, you call me and let me conference into my conference room. I’ll stand there, and I’ll walk around the room or in my classroom. I’ll walk around the classroom and let you hear what it sounds like because demonstration is more believable than anything.
Audio built for the new reality
Are you revamping your meeting rooms for the new reality? Trust Nureva audio. Our systems are quick to install. They automatically adapt to changing room configurations. And with thousands of virtual microphones, they offer true full-room coverage – every inch, every space.
Posted on Aug 6, 2020 6:00:00 AM