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January 02, 2008

HearMe Continues to Integrate Offerings with other Technologies SMB's Utilize

By Tim Gray, TMCnet Web Editor


I recently had the opportunity to ask Hannah Rothman, senior marketing director of HearMe (News - Alert), about the evolution of video conferencing, the growing demand for the service in the small business sector and the direction the company is taking.

HearMe is a division of Paltalk (News - Alert). Founded in 1998, Paltalk has been a pioneer in the online communications sector. The company was one of the first to offer instant messaging with free voice and video capabilities and their software has been downloaded over 50 million times worldwide. With HearMe, Paltalk brings this same cutting edge, patented technology to the business sector.

HearMe is the next generation of browser based video conferencing, focused on small businesses looking to reduce costs and utilize a quality solution.

Please outline your new corporate initiatives.

We’re constantly focused on improving our product, whether that means enhancing the video/audio quality, or adding functionality. HearMe has, historically, listened to our user-base to determine the next steps for the product, and we take all feedback we receive very seriously.

The other initiative we feel is important for our growth is integrating our offerings with other technologies that SMB’s are utilizing. Whether it is CRM or contact management tools, we feel that we can enhance the way that our customers communicate.

How has the continued evolution of video conferencing changed your company's strategy?

Everyday the people who use video conferencing demand new and advanced tools – that alone has shaped our business and our offerings in many ways. HearMe was actually spun out of Paltalk in response to some of our Paltalk users requesting specific functionalities that didn’t fit into the Paltalk model, so we created a new model. Like I said, we are always tweaking HearMe to fit the needs of our growing customer base.

What pains does your company solve for customers?

We allow SMB’s to extend their international and domestic footprint. Desktop video conferencing is one way in which an SMB can make their company seem larger than it actually is. In the early days of video conferencing and collaboration tools, the price point for such solutions assured SMB decision makers that they would never be able to utilize the latest technology in their own company.

That’s no longer the case, and a desktop video conferencing solution like HearMe will work for virtually any budget. We eliminate the need to send along a slide deck and set up a phone call. It’s not just about appearances, it’s about efficiency. Desktop video conferencing also reduces (if not eliminates) the need to travel. Travel costs for SMB’s can be deadly, but face-to-face meetings are sometimes necessary – we bridge that gap.
How has video conferencing changed communications?

Video conferencing has made it possible for businesses to attract customers from a larger pool, by eliminating the geographic barriers. Given that more than 90 percent of communication is non-verbal (according to a study conducted by Middlesex University Business School), video conferencing has made it possible to work with customers in a “face-to-face” situation, despite their location.

How do you think the future of the market looks?

First and foremost, we are already starting to see different technologies become interoperable. Whether that means room-based telepresence offering the ability to accept “calls” from desktop solution or cell phones, this is already starting to happen.

It is also likely that different desktop applications become interoperable with each other. Distance educators have a much different set of needs than a medical practitioner or day-trader, so there will continue to be room in the video conferencing space for niche players. That said; hospitals need to be financed, so while there won’t be a “one-size fits all” solution, there will be a time when different products need to work together.

How do you see the industry evolving over the next five years?

The world is going “mobile.” Much of the evolution of video conferencing will depend on the widespread proliferation of 3G and even 4G networks, and the technology that cell phone makers are able to bring to the table, making video communications more accessible when you’re on the go.

Over the next 5 years, it isn’t inconceivable that the CEO of a company is going to be able to log into a video conference from his or her cell phone to connect to an entire team, regardless of where any of them are located.

What do you want people to know about your company?

The most important thing that potential customers should know about HearMe is that we’re a flexible solution for them that will not break their budget. We can help them grow their business at a fraction of the cost of other solutions.

Despite the low price point, customers should also know that we take their feedback very seriously, and are always working to make our product more flexible, reliable and efficient to meet their individual needs.

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