Congratulations to UberConference for winning two Communicator Awards. The Communicator Awards are judged and overseen by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts (AIVA), a 600+ member organization of leading professionals from various disciplines of the visual arts dedicated to embracing progress and the evolving nature of traditional and interactive media. Our mobile apps and our “Everything You Love About Conference Calls” video were featured with the award.
It’s been a busy time at Firespotter since we started the company and raised our Series A financing from Google Ventures in April 2011. First we launched Nosh, the consumer food app that answers the question “What’s good here?” at any restaurant. We then launched NoshList, an iPad app for restaurants that texts diners when their tables are ready (and we’re seating our 2 millionth diner this month…not bad since it launched just 5 months ago). We also built Jotly, the iPhone and Android app that lets you rate anything. Our latest product, ÜberConference is our first product in the voice communications space. We launched ÜberConference at TechCrunch Disrupt in May 2012 and were overjoyed at winningStartup Battlefield.
As we look back on the past 15 months, we’re very happy with all that’s been done. We are also excitedly looking forward to our increased focus on more and more telephony projects.
With that said, we’re even more excited about the recent closing of ourSeries B financing round, led by the great team at Andreessen Horowitz. Blake Krikorian joins Wesley Chan and me on the Board of Firespotter and we’re thrilled to have Blake with us. This round gives us the firepower to hire quickly and go full bore on all the exciting opportunities in the evolving communications space.
As the proliferation of tablets and mobile devices continues to change the nature of communications, we want to be there leading the charge for innovation. People are still sick of being taken advantage of by their communications providers with their hidden fees, difficult interfaces and clunky solutions. We will always strive to be the “good guys” of communications by being fair, innovative, and relentless in our pursuit of creating the best communications products in the world.
If you are looking to join a great team that is disrupting a huge space, we’d love to talk to you. Check out our jobs page on ÜberConference.com.
Meet Felix Wood. A relentlessly active 5th grader, he leaps, backflips and sprints through life. The iron chef of his family, he makes breakfast and dinner most days, delighting his three sisters and blowing up the kitchen. His favorites right now include marathon monopoly games, “all-the-sports” and his chameleon.
Felix visited his mom, Chelsea Wood, who works as a fabulous business development manager out of our North Carolina office and created this video for a project he’s working on. As a member of Duke’s TIP program for gifted students and Cub Scout he frequently works on enrichment projects.
Felix is a a Junior Olympian who has competed on several a competitive jump rope teams, he is currently working to become a ‘Skip-its Legend.’ Among a long list of requirements, he has to interview community leaders, demonstrate rigorous jump rope tricks and lead three community service projects. He chose to make lunches for Raleigh’s homeless, mentor inner-city children, and conduct a food drive for unemployed local families.
Watch this fantastic tour of our Raleigh office concluding with an interview with CEO Craig Walker. From Felix’s perspective, any company that can have “so much coolness” must have a team of geniuses at its helm. He asked Craig ‘what it feels like to have achieved telephony world domination’.
Great job highlighting what a fun place UberConference is, Felix! You are well on your way to legend status!
“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god. ” — Aristotle, “The Politics”
When you sit down and think about it, many of the greatest accomplishments of the human race are collaborative efforts. The cathedrals of medieval France. MGM musicals like “Singing in the Rain” or “Royal Wedding”. Democracy. The Renaissance. A Double Double Cheeseburger with Fries from In ‘N Out Burger.
These are things that could only have been created by a group effort, human beings working together.
Why? Because we are, as Aristotle observed more than 2,300 years ago, social animals. We live a common life together.
So if we live a common life together and are, at heart, social animals, why do so many teleconferences not work? What, exactly, causes them to be disappointing failures? I think I can confidently state that it is not because we are either beasts nor gods.
What causes many teleconferences to fail is a combination of insufficient technology and basic human politeness. There are what I call “the pain points of teleconferencing.” And they are solvable problems.
1. Set an agenda. Stick to it.
Unless the teleconference is between NFL owners, nobody gets to talk about the Super Bowl.
Before your next teleconference, send out an agenda to everyone. These are items we will be discussing, and this is the order in which we’ll be discussing them. People are busy, and while your teleconference may in fact be the most important part of their work day, it is not the only part of their work day. Nothing kills a teleconference quicker than desultory talk about the weather, the latest flu outbreak or last night’s episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” We all have other things to do today besides chit chat right now. Stay on point, stick to the agenda, finish the call.
2. People are going to arrive late. Deal with it.
It’s just going to happen: people are going to show up late. They’ll have a million good reasons. We don’t need to hear them. We also don’t need to recap what’s been discussed already.
Think of it this way: somebody shows up late to Mass. The priest doesn’t stop the proceedings, introduce everyone, and then recap what’s happened so far. No. If you show up late, you check where in the liturgy (agenda) we are, listen in and catch up on your own.
There’s no reason a teleconference can’t operate that way either.
3. Use technology that works.
Teleconferencing technology should do the following:
— allow automatic sharing of documents during the call
— visual identification of who is speaking and participating
— late entrants can join without interrupting — or stopping — the call
If your teleconferencing system can’t do these things, your calls are going to be less effective, more painful for the callers, and, ultimately, less collaborative.
We’re human beings. We’re social animals. We’re working on a problem together. Any technology you are using that disrupts collaborative work is anti-social and goes counter to who we are in our essence.
“The jungle is dark, but it is full of diamonds, Willy.”
-from ‘The Death of a Salesman’ by Arthur Miller
And that is the problem salespeople have had for years and years and years: the jungle is dark but it is full of diamonds. There are sales out there to be made. People, businesses, organizations, families — they need the things salesmen sell. The problem is the jungle was dark, and finding the customers who need or want to buy what you are selling is time-consuming, wasteful and exasperating.
My first job straight out of college I was in sales. I sold dictation equipment for Lanier. It was a grind. I’d walk the streets of San Francisco — my territory was from the point where Market Street and California Street meet and extended as a triangle all the way to Van Ness. This was old-fashioned knocking on doors selling. I had virtually no information about any prospect and would try to find a picture on a desk or trophy on the wall to find something we had in common. It rarely worked. How great would it have been to have the LinkedIn profile of the guy I was pitching? Where he went to school, where he used to work, etc? Or what connections we had in common!
When I’d stay in the office to cold call, that was it…COLD. Blindly dialing businesses. Ouch.
Everyone who has ever worked in sales immediately recognizes this scene from “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
That was sales preparation in those days: here are the leads, now go out there and make some calls and close some sales.
It was a remarkably frustrating and inefficient system. All I knew about these “leads” was a name, a business and a phone number.
This has begun to change dramatically in recent years. A number of cloud-based software packages have emerged that significantly increase the amount of data a salesperson can access from almost anywhere about customers and potentials customers.
Knowing more about my leads, as I do today…boom! Success. And I don’t need to be in the office tied to some proprietary database to do this…it’s all in the cloud. I’d rather do it from home in my pajamas anyway, and now I can.
Salesmen are now armed with enormous amounts of information. They have access to prior purchases with the company (great for upsells, renewals, etc), complaints from the customers (Zendesk), and basically every interaction anybody in the company has ever had with a prospect or existing customer (Salesforce).
They also have the ability to work from anywhere, 24/7, and appear as professional as if they were sitting in their office, thanks to all the cloud-based information and tools.
My frustrating experiences in sales informed a lot of the product decisions we made early on in designing our company’s teleconferencing product: UberConference. UberConference makes great sales calls possible in four ways:
1. We make it easy for a potential customer to get on a call (no PINs). The easiest way to lose a potential customer is to provide them with even the smallest barrier to communicating with me. PINs are a potential barrier. That’s why I insisted we not require them in UberConference.
2. You won’t waste everybody’s first 15 minutes figuring out who just joined the call (visual). We provide on-screen updates so you know who is there as soon as they sign on. No need to reintroduce yourself each time a new caller signs on.
3. You know who’s talking at any point: is it the IT guy or the finance guy? That may not only be helpful to know, it could be critical in closing a sale.
4. You get a rich UberProfile on each caller. You can see their LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ accounts and get an idea of who the person is to whom you are speaking. This could prove to be crucial in the trust-building phase of a sales relationship. The more you know and understand about your customer, the better you can serve them… and sell to them.
I lasted only one year in sales. I realized it was too hard for me so I went back to school to get my MBA and then to law school to hide for a longer time. Had I had these tools I may have stayed in sales. Thank God they didn’t have them back then!