I’m a serial entrepreneur. I’m always asking, why? Why are we doing that? Why not do this? Forever restless, there is always an itch to be scratched, there is always a way to make things better, and better never stops. I’m the first to roll my eyes at poor service but even worse when I see complacency, or lack of vision.
Six months ago, when I started Gather, I held certain beliefs about the market for video and web conferencing and collaboration services. I realised that technology service providers were at a nexus point and how they sell and market technology services required radical change. I saw the growing maturity and availability of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and analytics and saw how we could incorporate them into a web conferencing platform to make our offer better by really adding value to our customers.
Telecommuting is no longer a novelty
Broadly, I identified five reasons to build Gather, despite web conferencing being a busy and crowded marketplace:
The demand for collaboration solutions are fed by macro market influences
As the modern workplace evolves, individuals and teams rely more and more on technology to keep up with work and collaborate. Work is no longer a place where you go.
The number of remote workers has risen rapidly in recent years. A study released by Zug, Switzerland-based serviced office provider IWG, found that 70% of professionals work remotely at least one day a week, while 53% work remotely for at least half of the week.
Another study by and.co reveals that remote work or telecommuting is no longer self-led. More than 23% of remote workers surveyed said their employer’s organisation is fully distributed and 44% of respondents claimed real-time communication tools are most vital for helping them stay connected. Engineers were most likely to cite real-time communication tools like Slack as most critical, while marketing pros were more likely to choose video chat services as their top tool.
The reasons for remote work are incredibly varied as more employees join globally distributed teams, companies integrate global supply chains to lower costs, employees demand flexible working, employment law changes and businesses accept telecommuting as standard. I could go on and on.
The genie is out of the bottle, never to return. Companies and individual users know that virtual meetings make sense, save time and increase productivity.
As we enter the mass adoption phase of web conferencing technology, it’s no longer about convincing people of the business case for conferencing products; it’s about providing a best-in-class experience that’s relevant to its audience and promotes the outcomes users desire rather than the technology itself.
Feature list overwhelm
The current market leaders in the web conferencing space (Zoom, CiscoWebex, Microsoft and GoToMeeting) continue to take a technology-up approach to promote their services. Companies spend large sums of money to drive prospective users to their platform and offer visitors a sizeable list of features and acronyms showing prospects how smart the technology is. This approach often leaves potential customers to self-determine relative value.
In the software age, competitive advantage cannot be maintained by functionality alone as functionality gaps between competing service providers now take only weeks to bridge.
A gap existed for Gather, a niche provider with narrow customer focus and deep understanding of our audience and their specific challenges. By marketing our services around relevant outcomes, we’re focusing on how our product features can provide deeper customer engagement. By focusing on narrow customer groups, potential customers are easier to find and engage with, which makes the cost of customer acquisition much lower.
The art of the possible
We knew it was possible to construct a web conferencing platform at a competitive price point that features amazing functionally, comparable to any equivalent in the market. The best bit? We assumed it was possible to create an appealing product that would scale within the budget and timeline available.
Adding incredible value through AI and deep learning
AI and deep learning are now sufficiently mature and, thankfully, more reliable and cost-effective than ever. The fact that we could integrate AI into Gather adds a new layer of value and further relevance to our niche target audience.
For example, our research indicates that organisations require more from meeting documents beyond simple call recordings. Gather features an intelligent transcription service that automatically recognises multiple participants. When you record meetings with Gather, machine learning automatically displays a list of keywords relevant to the conversation, to easily summarise the topic of the meeting. You can search the full transcript of your meeting right away and, once you hone in on a keyword, you can listen instantly to the section of the audio where it occurred.
Sharing a recorded meeting isn’t new. Sharing a recorded meeting with a complete transcript, a video or audio recording and any files shared during the call is game-changing. Gather allows those who are unable to attend a meeting to receive meeting materials, transcripts and recordings immediately after, so that they can find the information that’s relevant to them with complete context.
Quick and easy
I thought we could build a best-in-class web conferencing platform within three to four months, not three to four years.
Were my assumptions around a new web conferencing company correct?
Good news! None of my original thinking and assumptions have changed. Like any new business, perhaps we’ve been overly optimistic about the time and cost it takes to deliver a unique and quality product. If you’re in the technology industry, that observation shouldn’t surprise you. If you’re an entrepreneur it will be no surprise whatsoever; we are optimists after all.
This week, the Gather team and I are in the final rounds of testing, and we’re gearing up to launch Gather to the public by 8 April. We know we have a product that our target audiences will find useful. We start by helping Recruiters and Hiring Managers, Project Managers and Professional Freelancers with a focus on the global phenomenon of coaching. More verticals will follow in due course with exciting additional functionality like sentiment analysis in time as that technology matures. We have a wholesale offer in Beta phase, aimed at helping service providers become automated platform players themselves, capable of supporting freemium offers with integrated digital marketing platforms bringing their customers along a digital marketing journey.
I’d like to thank the Gather team, our trial customers and service partners who have all been very supportive through the process of bringing Gather to market.
Scott Goodwin, Gather, Founder & CEO.