Meet the Gamified Online Work Community Experts Are Calling ‘Club Penguin for Adults’

By Elijah Labby Saturday, January 2, 2021

Even if they did not play them themselves, most people remember the widespread popularity of online communities like Club Penguin, Webkinz, Movie Star Planet, or IMVU. These virtual communities allowed users to connect with millions of others across the planet to play games, trade and collect items, and get to know one another.

These games were largely marketed toward children, but a new startup is attempting to gamify the workplace and create what TechCrunch calls “Club Penguin for adults.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has (at least temporarily) shattered the workplace for adults. But the platform, dubbed Cosmos, allows work colleagues to get together virtually, attend breakout groups, work with one another, and video chat while doing so.

The goal is to bring back the interactions we had with our coworkers in the real world — water cooler conversations, board room presentations, and eating lunch together in the break room.

“Once the pandemic hit, we both saw productivity surge in our respective teams but at the same time, people were missing the in-office culture,” said co-founder Rahul Goyal in a statement. “Cosmos is a way to bring back that human connection we lack when we spend all day online.”

The idea may be starting to gain traction. Cosmos has already raised $2.6 million in seed funding from LocalGlobe, a UK-based venture capital firm, as well as a number of other investors including Entrepreneur First, Andy Chung and Philipp Moehring of job search website AngelList, and Omid Ashtari who was the former president of Citymapper.

The investors expressed excitement about Cosmos’s prospects and the possibility of bringing more humanity into the coronavirus workplace.

“We were really impressed with the vision and potential of Cosmos,” said George Henry of LocalGlobe. “Scaling live experiences online is one of the big internet frontiers where there are still so many opportunities.”

The Video Conferencing Market During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The numbers suggest that Cosmos may occupy a niche in a massive market. Market research firm Fortune Business Insights anticipates that the video conferencing market will be worth $10.92 billion in 2027, up more than double from its valuation of $5.32 billion in 2019.

These numbers constitute a compound annual growth rate of 9.7% — a healthy growth for any industry, but one that is hardly unexpected given that much of the global economy has relied on video-based interactions in working life.

The pandemic has shown the importance of legacy companies and services like Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and others, but it has also allowed for the entrance of previously-less-known brands to become part of the video conferencing market.

The most notable of these services is Zoom, which rose from obscurity to near-ubiquity in a matter of weeks. Workers used the startup’s offerings to interact with colleagues and attend business meetings, families used Zoom to keep in touch with loved ones who did not feel comfortable meeting in person, and young people used Zoom to attend classes.

"Zoom is seeing the biggest increase because its product is easier and more robust than others and it's at right time when people really need it," said Wayne Kurtzman, who works for market research firm IDC, in an interview with CNN. "When it comes to work, people want the same ease of collaboration they get in the office or in person -- and [in many ways], Zoom delivers this."

Lessons From the Remote Work Economy

If there’s one thing to take away from the remarkable twists and turns of the market this year, it is this: industries are not fixed things, and there are always opportunities for newcomers and new customers. Adoption of home delivery services, streaming websites, and video conferencing platforms were all sky-high in the wake of the pandemic, and newcomers found their way into all of these industries.

Whether Cosmos will find its way into the mainstream video conferencing offerings is unclear, but the possibilities provided by this newest round of funding and recent media coverage bode well for its future.

About the Author


Headshot for author Elijah Labby

Elijah Labby is a graduate of the National Journalism Center. He has previously written for Broadband Breakfast, a technology and internet policy website.

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