Frond is a witty cross between Discord and Facebook groups

1 year ago 309

If you’re tired of unwieldy conversations on Discord, or abandoned Facebook groups that no one uses anymore, Frond has an alternative.

Launching today, Frond is a tool for building communities online. At the helm are Matt Blackshaw, founder of Sold, and Jan Senderek, who founded Loom; both companies were sold to Dropbox.

On Frond, you have individual channels for different topics, but instead of using Discord- or Slack-like chat features, you create a post, like in a Facebook group. Posts can feature photos, videos, links or long-form writing. Then, members of the community can comment on posts within threads to keep things organized. Conversations on chat-based platforms can very quickly become hard to follow — some communities might thrive within the chaos, but others need something more focused, without making it too intimidating to post. Frond seeks to fill that in-between space.

Senderek told TechCrunch that Frond could serve a wide range of online communities, from DAOs to fandoms. But he’s particularly interested in how a platform like Frond can bring remote teams together.

The cloud photos startup Loom started out remote, but when Senderek sold the company, he started working in person at Dropbox.

“I had this very direct contrast of first working remotely, and then not working remotely, and I came out of that experience thinking… I really love remote,” Senderek told TechCrunch.

When the pandemic hit, remote work boomed, yet some people argued that the serendipity of office meetups and water cooler chatter would be impossible to replicate. But as a proponent of working from home, Senderek started to consider what kind of social platform could help remote teams maintain a sense of community and company culture.

“There’s a lot of really great tools today, but all of them are productivity tools, and nothing is really designed for the fun, non-work stuff,” he said. “So what happens is everybody’s trying to morph Slack into a fun tool.”

Case in point: I am responsible for creating a channel on TechCrunch Slack that’s devoted to discussion of reality TV. But for some people, there may be a bit of whiplash when switching between a debrief on “Love is Blind” and a discussion of the latest trends in climate tech — and for others, the conflation of social talk and work talk might feel a bit weird.

At Frond itself, the company uses Slack for work, and their own platform for social chatter. While there are benefits from keeping these two kinds of conversations on separate platforms, there is the obvious obstacle of even getting your team to adopt another tool at work, especially if it isn’t required.

Image Credits: Frond

Frond’s team has tried to solve this problem by building a feature where moderators can send recurring notifications that encourage group members to post. So, on Monday morning, Frond might prompt you to share about your weekend (… and if that sounds like a nightmare, don’t share! Cultivate your aura of mystery!). Frond also integrates with Slack, so it can share periodic digests of what’s happening on Frond.

Currently, Frond is only available for web, but Senderek says that a mobile app is “very high on our priority list, if I can say it mildly.” At launch, users will at least be able to share photos from their phone by scanning a QR code, which could come in handy for sharing pictures of your dog or the great lunch you whipped up between meetings. Another high priority is adding more content moderation features — Frond has “bare bones of admin features,” which can probably suffice for a small remote workplace, where users are incentivized to keep things civil due to the social context. But if Frond is used for a larger, online fan community, admins will need more robust tools to keep things in check.

Alongside its launch, Frond is announcing a $3.3 million pre-seed round, led by Cherry Ventures. Other notable investors include Figma founder Dylan Field, Dropbox founder Arash Ferdowsi and Lattice founder Jack Altman.

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