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January 23, 2013

Firespotter Labs CEO Craig Walker Talks Entrepreneurship, UberConference and Startup Camp 7

By Rachel Ramsey, TMCnet Web Editor

Entrepreneurs are the heart of industries of all kinds. They are constantly innovating, striving to improve on existing technologies and create those we have yet to see. Startup Camp is an entrepreneur pitch event focused exclusively on the communications sector. In its seventh edition, Startup Camp returns to Miami next week to seek out the next big thing in startups.

Startup Camp enables small businesses, startups and developers to explain their applications, solutions and innovations to a powerful, influential audience. Joining the Startup Camp panel this year is Craig Walker, CEO of Firespotter (News - Alert) Labs, which created ÜberConference, a visual audio conferencing solution to keep conference calls run smoothly. I had the chance to speak with Walker about the challenges of being an entrepreneur, how ÜberConference impacts communications today and what he’s excited about for Startup Camp next week.

A Visual Interface for Conference Calling

Walker was previously CEO of Dialpad Communications, co-founder and CEO of GrandCentral Communications and Entrepreneur in Residence at Google (News - Alert) Ventures, so he has a lot of experience in the telephony space contributing to his ability to succeed with ÜberConference.

“Our target audience is anyone that needs to get on conference call, which is pretty much everybody who works,” Walker explained. ÜberConference aims to solve relieve the pains of finding and typing in long pins, trying to figure out who is on a conference call and utilizing tools available to conference calling that most users simply don’t know how to use.

Most times through ÜberConference, you don’t even ever have to enter a pin to join a conference call. It sets itself apart in the industry with is visual dimension, allowing users to see everyone on a call, people waiting to join and attendees who just left. The entire visual interface lets you know who’s there and who isn’t, which goes a long way in making the onboarding process quick and simple. Clicking on a person will pull up his or her LinkedIn or Facebook (News - Alert) profile, or any other public information about them. 

Image via ÜberConference

There are different types of control that a conference call organizer has, including the ability to mute, record or put “earmuffs” on people they may or may not want to hear part of the conversation. Unfortunately, according to Walker, nobody gets to use those features because they don’t know how to. Having a visual screen to look at makes it much more usable.

The company is always looking to improve and expand its solution. It recently integrated with Box and Evernote to allow users to link accounts to share files and notes, which they can switch between viewing easily. Every participant gets a unique view that they can control, allowing them to view different content at their leisure. The person sharing the files and documents can refresh or delete them at will, but links to all the documents and files are included in a summary of the call, so they can be accessed afterwards when necessary.

Getting Started

According to Walker, one of the most challenging aspects of being an entrepreneur is right at the beginning phases – putting together a team.

“Most of the time, you choose wisely and things work out perfectly, but sometimes you make a mistake and you have to fix it,” said Walker. “That’s been the hardest, but it is important. When you have a small team, everyone has to be pulling the oar in the same direction.”

To become a successful entrepreneur, the key is to have a real plan on how you are going to address a problem.

  • You have to be able to come up with a better solution for whatever it is you’re aiming to improve on
  • You have to be able to make it work to a scale and a level of reliability and quality that people expect in communications
  • You have to figure out how to do that at a low enough cost but still be effective

“It’s really finding the right opportunity to go after. Part of the problem is also trying to find a unique problem,” said Walker. “The telephony space is so big that a lot of times you find a lot of startups going after the same problem. We always try to find a unique niche of need and then go exploit it.”

After many years of attending ITEXPO (News - Alert) and judging for Startup Camp previously, Walker joins Startup Camp in Miami next week as a judge. The event’s fast-paced, “ready, set, pitch” format brings early-stage communications companies, developers, industry leaders and investors together to network and validate entrepreneurial pitches in real time.

“ITEXPO is the bellwether event for this emerging communications industry. It’s important for the industry and it’s a great event because there are great ideas out there and it’s always fun to see what’s being worked on. I’m always interested to see how far the consumerization of the enterprise is progressing,” said Walker of next week’s event.

Organizations of all kinds looking to network with industry leaders and stay attached to what's coming next are invited to attend. More on Startup Camp and ITEXPO can be found here.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO. Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Allison Boccamazzo
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