The smartphone is changing how people work but so far the applications for web conferencing have not taken much of a mobile-first approach. Biba, a new company coming out of stealth, has spent more than a year and $5 million in a Series A investment to quietly build a service that offers a lightweight way to use your iPhone, iPad or Android device to participate in conference calls or message people in your network.
Today the service is launching with $15 million in a Series B round led by InterWest Partners, with participation from previous investors Benchmark Capital and Trinity Ventures. Other investors include Enrique Salem, former CEO of Symantec and Gary Griffiths, CEO of Trapit and the former President of WebEx.
The core of the service revolves around the user’s contact list. Events are scheduled and attendees are notified. In contrast to conferencing call services, Biba takes an active approach once meetings are scheduled, reminding attendees to register for the Biba service and again two hours before the meeting begins.
At the time of the call, Biba calls the user. There is no need for a user name or password. People who do not register receive a toll-free number five minutes prior to the call.
Biba’s features are all built on this concept of automating the conference call and offering ways to make it as easy as possible for people to participate. For example, it show if the user can’t take the call or if they are going to be late.
A person who has a lot of background noise can be muted. If the call drops, the user gets automatically reconnected.
The messaging platform allows people to be contacted from their contact list without the need for any phone number. Messages are synced across mobile and desktop platforms. The user can see if the person they are trying to reach is available and if they have opened the message itself. They can also see when the other person is responding.
Biba is what Co-Founder Carlin Wiegner calls Freemium 2.0. In the Freemium 1.0 world, services were free. If someone using a service left the company then the IT group would have to pay a subscription fee to have that ongoing capability. In Freemium 2.0, the customer pays for granular services such as auditing of call duration.
Wiegner made his mark with CubeTree, which he sold to SuccessFactors in 2010, during those buzzy years when Yammer, Socialcast and a host of other players were competing in the fresh enterprise social networking market. Those days are over — the category is well-defined. Microsoft bought Yammer for $1.2 billion and Socialcast sold to VMware. Salesforce.com launched Chatter and has since made it core to its service. Last year, SAP bought SuccessFactors for $2.5 billion and made CubeTree its standard for its activity stream service.
He said the idea for a more streamlined way to do conference calls came at SAP when he lead the engineering team under the SuccessFactors umbrella. He spent a lot of time using Polycom conferencing and saw an opportunity to try and make the process less painful and mobile-centric.
Wiegner comes into a space that has competition such as Lync from Microsoft. Lync is a unified communications platform, offering a deep set of features. Biba is lightweight, more similar to a Google Docs in its simplicity and easy-to-use features.
What’s lacking are the sophisticated capabilities and rich, deep presence that a user gets with a service like WebEx.
But services like Lync and WebEx are also not mobile-first. Can they catch up? Yes, but that can also take some time when enterprise heavyweights are involved.