Markee, Delaware’s newest tech startup and a homegrown Zoom competitor

Beyond Zoom: Former Short Order Production House COO Craig Doig is building a new kind of fully customized virtual space.

Here's what a Markee meeting looks like. (Courtesy image)

If there’s one thing known by most people who work in the technical space, own a business or generally exist in 2020, it’s that virtual spaces have become ubiquitous, and they’re not going away any time soon.

Markee, founded in the offices of Short Order Production House during the first summer of COVID-19, is a virtual space that, at first glance, looks similar to Zoom, but has the interactivity of a Discord or Slack and is far more customizable.

Developing Markee “wasn’t so much a choice as it was a necessity,” said Markee CEO (and former Short Order COO) Craig Doig. “We had a large enterprise customer at Short Order who was looking to end one of our video projects because they didn’t have an adequate CMS system to distribute content internally. We had already built some bare bones structures with them, and we asked if we could take a shot at fixing their problem.”

They were successful, but ultimately lost the video contract. On the upside, they gained a software contract from the company, and the possibility that Markee could be more than a production house side project took root.

“When COVID hit, we realized we could expand our tool into the virtual space market, with a bit of tail wind,” Doig said. “Most importantly, we started contacting potential channel partners like agencies and event organizers and realized we could really deliver a solution to their damaged bottom line and help our creator community.”

Simply put, Markee is a fully white-labeled, customizable virtual space builder that lives on your domain and is entirely web based. In addition to customizable CSS, it uses some of the most complex features people look for in a web space, such as video conferencing, chatting and paywalls.

“Before Markee,” Doig said, “if you wanted to make a website or hold an event online, you had two options: You could move into Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, WebX — or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s custom web development, which is a huge investment. So you can pay $50 or $100,000. What Markee aims to do is bridge that gap. Let us organize these disparate tools for you and make sure they work together, and then you can deploy them with your branding and domain.”

Markee CEO Craig Doig

Craig Doig. (Courtesy photo)

Doig and Short Order founder and CEO Zach Phillips, now also Markee’s chief product officer, decided to spin it off and start the new venture within a few short months, proving the concept in July, when the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce (NCCCC) used an early alpha version of the platform for it virtual annual dinner. The NCCCC became a Markee client soon after, and has since used it for its Women’s Conference, as well as internal meetings and events.

Markee was also the platform used by MusicGamingCon, a two-day virtual convention held in early December that had over 3,000 registrants.

Doig notes that, while the platform is currently up and running in open beta, it is ever evolving, not a completed product.

“Unlike most tech startups, we didn’t start with a finite problem we wanted to fix, then go develop it first and present to the world,” he said. “We really start all of our feature threads with two questions: ‘How do we empathetically find the why of their problem?’ and ‘How can we effectively solve it without wasting their time and resources?’ This translates simply into the practice of routinely calling on customers and users to make sure we understand their real pains, and making sure our solutions are in line with our growing base.”

More than anything, Doig — who moved to Delaware from California two years ago — wants to establish Markee as a thriving Delaware tech company that draws from the state’s local talent pool.

“I fell in love with Delaware,” he said. “I dream of building our headquarters where the mills are in Yorklyn, somewhere cute and quiet,” he said. “I want to hire in Delaware. I want to hire your kids and your friends’ kids. I want to put jobs here.”

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