Michael Grant, group managing director of Uci2i, speaks to Claire Vanner about how applications and higher speed Internet connections are helping video conferencing develop into a reliable communication method.
What’s the idea behind Uci2i?
One of the reasons for creating Uci2i was to make it user friendly and make it ubiquitous so there’s one user interface and it doesn’t matter what brand or type of video endpoint you’ve got.
The other reason was the price points around video were always very high, the average being between $500 – $1000 per month and that’s just to manage the endpoint, that’s not to manage any of the smart stuff we do like managing virtual meeting rooms.
So our equivalent to that is less than $100 a month so we’ve brought the price right down. Key reasons are usability and end users actually being able to use the service very easily and the price points.
The company was founded in 2009, how has it developed since then?
Uci2i was founded in 2009 by myself with a business plan to get the first round of funding. In 2010, the next stage was to build the back end of the network, build and buy millions of dollars worth of infrastructure to make ourselves a service provider. It’s almost like the Kevin Costner movie, if you build it, it will come. You have to build something first before you can provide the service.
So in 2011 we started to build out the business and then since then we’ve been working on the R&D on the backend for the product V-Book [Uci2i’s video collaboration app] and building up our partners because we don’t go direct, we only go through channel, so we need a big partner environment, which we now have.
Do you target certain regional markets or industry sectors?
When we wrote the business plan and went to get funding, SMBs would be the target market, but V-Book has opened it up from people in home offices all the way up to enterprise. If you look at our customer base at the moment, we have everyone from architects to government to finance houses, to transport and technology businesses, so we cover a wide breadth. We provide the collateral into those verticals but we cover every industry in every market.
The way people are working is changing; people are working on the move and from home. Do you think technology is reliable enough to do this?
I think the historic perception of video conferencing is that it wasn’t reliable enough. Video conferencing first started on ISPN lines, which is lots of telephone lines bundled together. But now, even from home, I get HD videos, so one of the things to do now is to let people know that the quality and the stability is there.
I work from home once a week and I call my family in Australia and it’s like watching HD TV. High quality internet, that’s all that’s required, then you can have great calls all day long. It really has come a long way in the last few years.
Do you think V-Book will persuade more people to use video conferencing?
The key features and functions are what is selling the V-Book. You’re able to call each other point to point and that may sound simple, but if you look at some of our competitors out there, that’s one of the things they can’t do.
We’ve got big plans for V-Book and how it will extend into external applications. V-Book is almost a call portal because it is becoming so flexible.
V-Book solves the problems and the barriers that have stopped video conferencing from becoming the thing that stops people from communicating face to face or collaboratively with many people taking part at the same time. Our bigger innovation cupboard around V-Book will make sure that people do go towards V-Book, whether they are a consumer or a business person.
What has Uci2i got planned for the coming years?
We are always evolving the products and services to move with the market and the way people use the technology. We’re putting a lot of emphasis around the usability, it all becomes about the end user. The price points are obviously important, especially to the bean counters out there, but we want to make it as easy to use as possible and make the collaboration piece seamless for people no matter where they are.
There’s nothing that seamlessly integrates with the user from social to business user and that’s recognised. And what uci2i has been able to do is give people the tools and the confidence that video conferencing doesn’t need rules, it can be tailored to my work mode.
So we’ve ironed out the wrinkles of video conferencing, any to many, as easy as making a phone call.