Local tech startup’s software offers flexibility in our new working world

Thousands of businesses and schools are already using AirDeck, which was launched in January 2020.
illustration of people passing a file through computer screens
Illustration by Getty Images

Tech CEO Jason Weaver is speaking the language we’ve all mastered since the pandemic, lobbing phrases like “asynchronistic communication” and “Zoom exhaustion” as we chat about his new startup, AirDeck. He’s sitting at his desk in a glassy high-rise with panoramic views of the city — at least, according to his virtual background. He’s actually at home, as am I.

“I’m remodeling my office now; there’s painters here and floors being installed. I guess I’m trying to settle in for a permanent home-base office,” he says, dogs barking in the background.

“That’s relatable,” I reply, my own dogs barking back at his.

Pre-pandemic, I might not have appreciated AirDeck’s groundbreaking implications and potential applications either. But I do today, as do thousands of businesses and schools that are already using the platform Weaver launched in January 2020. AirDeck, a software tool, allows you to easily attach voice or video recordings to documents, resulting in narrated presentations that are respectful of the sender’s and user’s time. In this brave new world of virtual work and school, if Zoom is our choice of “live” interaction, Weaver says, AirDeck is like having an “on-demand” option.

“I actually built the platform a year before COVID, and it was built out of my frustration of not being able to be there for in-person meetings,” says Weaver, who, in addition to founding two digital platforms — Spendsetter and Shoutlet (acquired in 2014 and 2015 respectively) — often pitches potential clients as CEO of Madison marketing consulting firm Halo Inc. “I’d be trying to get the VP of marketing of, like, Pepsi on the phone, and they’d say, ‘You know, I don’t have time for a call, send over your materials.’ And I knew the second that left my outbox, they were not going to read my materials. Or, no matter how good my PowerPoint was, they weren’t going to interpret it the way I would have done it live.”

So Weaver began the painstaking process of recording audio to attach to each of his presentation slides, then exporting those files as videos. “And it worked,” he says. “People started responding to me. But the process of putting that together was a real pain in the butt, and I knew that nontechnical people — there’s no way they can go through all that.”

Weaver began building a tool, testing it out with his tech CEO friends, refining and testing again. “Then COVID broke out,” he says, just as his kids were preparing to put on their science fair at Madison Country Day School. As teachers scrambled to figure out how to educate kids virtually, Weaver gave them the project he’d been working on.

“Thirty sixth graders handed in their final exams using AirDeck,” Weaver says. “It was so easy to use that sixth graders were able to go in, without any training, put together their final presentation, hand it in to their teachers and get graded on it.”

Weaver then donated AirDeck to 600 schools around the world, including Northwestern University and schools in Australia and China. It was a move as savvy as it was generous, as parents (figuring out working from home themselves) took note.

“That kind of kick-started the brand for us,” says Weaver. “Because all of a sudden people are like, ‘OK, what is this AirDeck thing?’ That catapulted our target audience, which is the business user.”

By the one-year mark of the pandemic, AirDeck had 2,000 active users. He’d raised $3.4 million in venture capital and announced upcoming integration with Microsoft Teams. Notably, AirDeck isn’t just a smart tool in and of itself; it seems part of a broader movement toward a more flexible, customizable workforce — one Weaver embraces.

“I think I’m more effective working from home. I don’t need to be sitting at a desk all day long,” Weaver says. “I believe that [for] our employees, too.”

Maggie Ginsberg is an associate editor of Madison Magazine.