Riff Brings Ambient Telephony to Life for the Future of Work

It is rare we spot an incredible idea, share it with our loyal readers like you and have to wait a decade-and-a-half for it to be properly realized.

In 2004, Michael Stanford, Intel’s Technology Strategist, had a keynote at a TMC event where he mentioned a concept called ambient telephony. He mentioned an example where a colleague of his was talking to his wife using Skype and didn’t hang up when the call was over. He didn’t need to as it was free. He continued to work while his wife cooked breakfast. Soon thereafter the kids woke up and came into the kitchen where their voices triggered a conversation. It is easy to see networks of VoIP conferences taking place with family members. Perhaps every Sunday families will have a conference call and just leave the lines open, allowing members to jump in and out of the conference at will. A GUI could inform all the participants as to who is in and who is out. Family members can enter VoIP chat rooms, etc.

What we didn’t consider at the time was the business applications – probably because hundreds of millions of us weren’t forced to work in our homes at the time.

Now we are and as a result we are more and less productive. More because we don’t commute but we also lose something because of the inherent friction of starting an unstructured collaboration session.

Founded by CEO Isabel Bescos, who was former head of corporate strategy at BlaBlaCar, and a former member of Balderton’s investment team, and CTO Matthew Scheybeler, who co-founded blinkx, Riff wants to solve many of the pain points felt by teams trying to communicate across different locations. While tools like Slack and Zoom are built first for text and video, respectively, Bescos and Scheybeler think audio is the missing piece of the puzzle, but used in a way that encourages the spontaneity and serendipity experienced by in-person teams.

This is a new paradigm of working – sometimes we do something similar when we don’t end a phone call with a loose collaboration session ensues.

Is the world ready for always-on voice communications though?

No, but we weren’t ready to work at home by the hundreds of millions either and yet, we pulled that off.

We are excited for the company – the idea shows a lot of promise and it seems, if you live long enough, all the future trends you predict, will come to pass. 🙂

Riff could become a post-pandemic future of work pillar.


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