Emerging Trends Part IV: Productivity Tools

Sree Kolli
4 min readDec 3, 2020


As we move into the final quarter of 2020, our team at Conduit sat down to analyze key emerging sectors that we’ve been watching closely. Critically, each of the sectors has drawn enormous interest from a range of strategic angels, early-stage funds, and growth funds alike. In the final installment of this four-part series, we’ll focus specifically on productivity tools.

Both personal and workplace productivity software has had an impressive year of growth, spanning both team expansion, product pipelines, and funding announcements. Investors have been backing productivity tools at a fever pitch, while in tandem, startups continue to uncover new niches in personal and enterprise workflows that can be solved with new tools. Critically, the shift to remote work has rapidly shifted the adoption timeline of these new technologies.


Roam is a note taking tool for networked thought, focused on being as easy to use as a word document or bulleted list, and as powerful for finding, collecting, and connecting related ideas as a graph database. Back in September, the company raised $9 million at a valuation of $200 million, or about 25 times higher than the median valuation for seed rounds. More than a dozen individuals and firms for the round, including Stripe co-founders Patrick and John Collison, True Ventures, Chapter One, and Lux Capital, among a host of angel investors in the space.

Hugo is a collaborative note-taking app focused on sharing meeting notes across teams within companies to reduce redundancy and improve information accessibility. Back in April, the company closed a $6.1 million seed round led by Google’s AI-focused investment fund, Gradient Ventures. Slack Fund, Founder Collective and Entrée Capital also participated in the raise. Hugo’s innovation revolves around a platform that integrates more deeply within a user’s calendar, recognizing things like past notes from a meeting with a specific person.

Notion operates a productivity platform with a deep focus on note taking and organizational tools, spanning both personal and enterprise use cases. Back in April, it closed a marquee $50m round led by Index, bringing Notion’s total valuation to $2 billion, up from $800 million at its previous valuation. The company’s all-in-one note taking and collaboration offering competes with incumbent collaborative note-taking suites like Microsoft Office’s OneNote and Confluence.


Clay is a note-taking focused CRM app that helps individuals remember people and things about them. Over the past two years, the team has been working behind the scenes to craft a beautiful and private rolodex that helps folks be more thoughtful with the people in their lives. Launched in 2019 and still in waitlist mode only, the platform’s investors include Notation Capital and Chapter One, among a cohort of other angel-operators across the early-stage ecosystem.

Coda is one of the newest entrants in the future of work productivity scene, similarly spanning use cases across personal and workplace CRM stacks. In August, the SF-based startup, which focuses on collaboration in online documents that functions as their own lightweight apps, closed $80 million in a funding round that values the company at $636 million. Kleiner Perkins led the round and was joined by existing investors Greylock, Khosla, and General Catalyst.

Dex is a personal CRM that reminds you to keep in touch. The platform helps you remember where you left off, set reminders to reach out, and build stronger relationships. Founded in 2019, the company initially started as a Chrome extension and has since expanded into web and mobile apps. The company’s investor roster includes YC, AMINO, and Tapas Capital.


Centered helps you reach your flow state faster and longer so you can focus better, get your work done quickly, and feel less stressed. The company recently closed a small seed round from high-profile angels and operator-led microfunds this past month. Centered’s Productivity Coach guides you through your tasks one-by-one, and blocks notifications while streaming custom-designed focus music to get you in flow sooner and keep you there longer.

Brain FM offers a suite of functional music streams to help you focus in less 15 minutes. The company’s science-first approach creates music that sounds different, and affects your brain differently, than any other music. Notably, Brain.fm holds patents on key processes for creating functional music, including technology to elicit strong neural phase locking, allowing populations of neurons to engage in various kinds of coordinated activity, and tech to remove distraction.

Calm is the leading app for sleep and meditation, though has recently expanded its suite of offerings into focused audio music targeting upgraded flow states and lower anxiety while working. The platform’s focus streams play music designed to support the brain while in flow state, whether that’s focusing at work or in a deeply creative mental mode.

At Conduit, we connect the world’s best operator-investors and founders building the next generation of startups around the world.

As we scale our platform, understanding key market shifts across verticals will become increasingly vital. Our team will be digging deeper into emerging trends and first movers in the coming weeks, which you can find here.