SBIR Phase I: Zulip threaded group chat

Period of Performance: 07/01/2017 - 02/28/2018


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

235 Berry St Ste 306 Array
San Francisco, CA 94158
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project is group chat technology that enables knowledge workers to collaborate more effectively than ever before. It is the first tool built that empowers users to efficiently carry out both real-time and asynchronous conversations in the same system, with each user reading only those conversations that are important to them. In particular, the technology empowers teams to make decisions in virtual meetings that take place asynchronously over periods of hours or days. This is in contrast with existing group chat technology, where conversations usually end as soon as someone starts talking about something else. This ability to conduct long running, virtual meetings is invaluable for large teams that need to coordinate work across different locations and time zones. Large, distributed teams are fast becoming the norm for how organizations operate, as instant communication and globalization make such teams the workforce of the future. Coordinating the efforts of such teams is a huge pain point for companies, and this technology is a leap in the state of the art in this space. This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project has two key research objectives: scaling the technology to work for teams of size 10,000+, and determining the feasibility of porting the technology to mobile. A major scalability research area is search. The company envisions the technology to be the primary place where decisions are made, and hence a primary place where knowledge is stored, so fast, full-text search is important, despite the fact that chat generates much more traffic than email. One research area on mobile is the HCI challenge of displaying rich options for conversation navigation on a small mobile screen. The problem is unique to this technology, since having long running, asynchronous conversations means that users do not typically read messages in a strictly chronological fashion. The company anticipates the Phase I grant will enable it to develop a working solution to the search scalability problem, and a working prototype of a performant and productive mobile user experience.