For several months, I had 5-10 calls a week with a Fortune 500 client based in several offices around the world. For each call, I was sent a Zoom invite containing dial-in details. These looked like every other conference call invitation but with a big bold blue link inviting me to "Click Here to join your Meeting" (which I ignored). Only after the project ended, I learned that on all those months of calls, the Zoom-initiated could click on that link, join by video, share screens, co-annotate shared documents, and, for those working from a messy home, even choose an artificial background (although the tech on that still needs some work -- see image below). All of which would have been extremely useful during our months of collaboration. Started in 2013, Zoom IPOd in April and closed that day with a market cap over $14 billion.
Slack is another cloud-based collaboration software launched in 2013. Rather than video, Slack's main medium is through chat, which occur in "channels" rather than chat rooms and is integrated with a whole host of other applications (e.g. you can insert a PDF, Google doc or tweet into your conversation). Slack went public last month (through a direct public offering rather than an IPO) and closed its first day of trading with a $19.5 billion market cap.
Being cloud-based, both Slack and Zoom do not require on-premises software installation, offer free versions, and work across different devices (desktop and mobile), operating systems and organisations. These features enabled widespread adoption by small businesses but now both services count many of the world's largest companies as clients.
Looker is a business analytics platform that connects to a long and expanding list of cloud databases and allows user-friendly data queries to be generated by anyone across an organisation. Again, the app is browser based so no desktop application is required. Last month, Google Cloud announced it is acquiring Looker for $2.6 billion.
While much attention has been given to consumer-based tech giants, enterprise start-ups have picked up steam - capitalising on the changing work habits, mobility and thus demands of the modern workforce - and being paid handsomely for their success.
Law firms are necessarily slower to adapt to technological change. Confidentiality (and other regulatory) obligations are extremely strict, so systems need to be thoroughly tested before any changes are implemented. At the same time, legal services require extremely time-intensive and expensive work (e.g. document review and due diligence), which are ripe for tech-driven disruption. This is why it is important for law firms not only to embrace change but to encourage it.
Several highly-touted IPOs already have hit the market, as tech-oriented private companies seek to go public while the major U.S. stock market indexes are at or near all-time highs.