Almas Abulkhairov is the CEO of SpatialChat, a virtual networking platform that has reconceptualized online interactions and that facilitates dynamic business experiences. Abulkhairov holds an MSc degree from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT). He is currently pursuing his passions as an entrepreneur.
In this interview, Almas Abulkhairov discusses SpatialChat, leadership, AI/ML and the future of software. Leverage these expert insights to grow your role and your business. Discover what Abulkhairov has to say.
Give us a quick synopsis of SpatialChat:
We are serial technology entrepreneurs. My team and I met around four years ago and each of us brings decades of experience to the table. After we found each other, we started out by making a venture fund. This was financed through our initial company’s profits, which enabled us to create a new company; SpatialChat.
A bit about SpatialChat’s development: From 2016 to 2017, we were searching for the next big thing to create. We started pursuing two directions simultaneously; one was the investment direction, while the other one was the start-up/laboratory direction. We were working on a venture-builder studio.
As the pandemic unfolded and the nature of our lives forced us to spread out around the world, we found that we missed one another! Nothing —not Zoom, Teams, nor Skype— could fulfill this need to communicate. So, we launched SpatialChat in order to improve our own communication and to “disrupt” online communication as a whole.
We wanted for people to feel the ‘magic’ of being in the office. For start-up teams, being in the office can feel magical; like you’re building the dream.
What are the use cases for SpatialChat?
So, there are three major use cases for SpatialChat. The first use case is for running online conferences, with an emphasis on online networking events. Some customers run entire conference events in SpatialChat. Other times, they run conferences in some other software and then use us for the networking and after-party component.
Customers love us for delivering a high-quality breakout experience—Those who have licenses for Zoom or Microsoft also purchase SpatialChat due to the amazing breakout features and opportunities.
Competitors’ platforms are designed for multiple types of communication, which ultimately leads to a weak overall conference experience. We like to say that SpatialChat offers breakout spaces “done right”.
The second use case group consists of university professors and students; especially universities that need to carry out poster sessions. Some also use it for online classes. This includes professors who work for Ivy League institutions in the United States.
The third use case is as virtual office space. SpatialChat is well-positioned to function as a virtual office for remote teams because it allows people to easily breakout into groups, just like in a real office.
In addition to virtual meetings, organizations select SpatialChat for online social events because it’s easy to facilitate small group conversations. We commonly see Christmas and New Year parties hosted on the platform.
What are you excited about in terms of where SpatialChat is heading next?
Right now, large companies -including those on the S&P 500- are purchasing SpatialChat for their teams’ internal use. For this reason and on account of corporate security requirements, we are working on obtaining GDPR compliance. We are also investing in and achieving SOC2 type compliance. Further, we are adding security for user access management for teams as well as SAML (Simple Authentication Markup Language). We want for any team to be able to plug-in securely.
We’re also working to accommodate more participants on our platform. By the end of the year, we expect to be able to host as many as 20,000 conference/event participants at a time.
Lastly, we want to enable advanced analytics and lead-generation features, including an integration with Salesforce.
What excites you the most about where the fields of AI/ML are going?
So, machine learning is a topic that I love, especially as someone who attended Russia’s equivalent of MIT. I appreciate how machine learning can transform both audio and video experiences. For example, many individuals use Zoom backgrounds. It can look as though a person is seated at their desk in an actual office—That’s what machine learning allows, and that is amazing!
When it comes to our experience with social networks, and user-generated content, for example—that’s also an incredible usage of machine learning. The way in which Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and even dating services work means that the automatic placement of user-generated content at the top of your feed is a thing of the past. Rather, these platforms now use algorithms to decide upon what goes into a feed. Their priorities center around presenting users with the most engaging, “clickable” posts.
Machine learning allows for metrics to improve—More engaging posts generally translate to increased average session times, which leads to the presentation of more advertisements, yielding more clicks, ultimately making a significant contribution to the overall growth of the business.
What words of wisdom do you have for other business leaders?
The best thought leadership book that I’ve ever read is called The Hard Things About Hard Things, written by Ben Horowitz, from Andreessen Horowitz (a16z). Rather than giving advice, I recommend reading this. This book has amazing insights for working through intense and difficult situations. Nonetheless, here are a few other secrets that have enabled us to move forward efficiently:
- Product market fit cannot be delegated to hired employees. It is something that the founder/executive team has to do.
- To do so, we like to get out of the building phase and listen to customers.
- I want for SpatialChat to be a great place to work. We think that it’s very important to give our employees meaningful praise and feedback in order to build our company culture. This company culture then functions as a guide/template in situations with customers, partners and vendors.
- We never stop learning. For example, SpatialChat is not the first company that I’ve founded, but it’s the first B2B company that I’ve founded. So, there was a lot to learn, but learning proved empowering, enabling us to innovate, strategize and thrive.
What would you say about the cliché ‘software will save the world’?
I’m a strong believer that software is fundamentally great because it will help solve actual problems. For example, we solved the problem of people lacking a feeling or sense of human closeness in any large event—Anything larger than 5-8 people on a call. This is what we’re doing with our SpatialChat software.
That said, software alone will not save the world, but people with logical and pragmatic ideas will save the world.
How can organizations connect with you?
We have numerous channels—Facebook, Twitter, our website. Any organization can easily schedule a call with us. If needed, organizations can reach out to me personally at [email protected]. We are very open.