Only a few weeks following its TechCrunch Disrupt NYC win, UberConference, the service which aims to fix crappy conference calls, is out with its first major update. Today, the company is introducing three new features for its beta users, including Evernote integration, group chat, and something it’s calling “instant conferences.”
Although the company isn’t talking exact download numbers at this time, according to Firespotter Labs (the folks behind UberConference)’s CEO Craig Walker, demand for the service has “exceeded expectations,” and the system has “tens of thousands” of beta users and just as many now on its waitlist.
Walker, who previously founded GrandCentral, the service that later became Google Voice, left the Google Voice team in late 2010 to join Google Ventures as an EIR, and then founded Firespotter Labs. The company has pushed out a few projects already, including food photo-sharing app Nosh, waitlisting app for restaurants NoshList, and even a spoof app turned real, Jotly. But when Walker hinted back in March that he was starting to look into VoIP again, our ears perked up.
With UberConference, the company introduced an alternative to the huge pain the ass that is audio conferencing today, by offering an attractive, visualized interface for calls that also addresses everyday conference call annoyances like background noise, not knowing who’s present and who’s doing the talking, and even the tedious “login” process involving the entry of long PINs.
Today’s update will make the conference call creation process even easier than it was when UberConference launched, thanks to the introduction of “instant conferences.” With this feature, there’s no need for an organizer to go online to create and schedule a conference and send out invites. Instead, the company can use its own dedicated number to create conference calls on the fly using its number and an “open PIN.”
“If I don’t know who’s going to be on the conference, I can just share this open PIN with everyone in the company and anyone can call in,” explains Walker, “it’s just, boom, dial your number and you’re on an instant conference.”
Group Chat & Evernote
Also new in today’s update is group chat, which allows conference call participants with a text-based backchannel for sharing thoughts, questions or links. And as of today, UberConference integrates with Evernote. If you watched the demo at Disrupt, you may remember how UberConference presents a summary page of the call once complete. Here, you can see things like the date/time, who attended, who talked the most and least, and other sorts of call analytics. This data, alongside the call recording itself, will now be able to be saved into Evernote.
Best of all, Walker tells me that the company is talking to partners about adding some sort of call transcription feature to UberConference as well. Transcription is a major challenge because decent transcriptions still require humans, not algorithms, to be successful. “It’s the human language that causes the problem, not so much the computers,” says Walker. But the team there is working to get the cost down on the feature, in order to make it something businesses would want to use. (The going rate is around 75 cents per minute, for what it’s worth.)
As for funding, Walker says the company raised $3 million a year ago, and they still have the “lion’s share still in the bank.” It’s nice to raise when you don’t need money urgently, he adds.
UberConference is still not open to the public, but the waitlist is here. The plan is to go live sometime this summer, with mobile apps and premium offerings to follow.