Is video chat the future of business networking? It is if you talk to the folks at Peer. They’ve created a service that syncs with LinkedIn to offer professionals a more face-to-face way to communicate and connect using video chat.
It starts with a sign-up through your LinkedIn profile, but with a few stipulations. Your profile must have a picture, a certain number of connections, and a description of your experience for you to enter the Peer network, as the company doesn’t want lookie loos. Then, you set up a pre-recorded video message as an invite for people to connect with you via video chat. This message is about 20 seconds long and is the equivalent of an elevator pitch: concise, interesting and inviting.
From there, you can send requests in the app for times to chat and indicate availability for call backs, rather than going back and forth to schedule a specific time.
In terms of revenue, Peer has an enterprise product in that it can password-protect and customize networks of over 500 connections for various organizations or universities. For example, if my alma mater of NYU wanted a network on Peer of only NYU alumni and students, that could be arranged for a small fee to the company.
The idea here, according to founder Ofer Baharav, is to democratize the process of professional networking. Just because you don’t live in Silicon Valley doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the opportunity to chat with Ron Conway about your upcoming project.
My only concern, however, is that video chat is a deeply personal way to communicate. Parents FaceTime their children on business trips. Lovers Skype in long-distance relationships. But when I need to speak to an investor or a founder for a story, my first inclination is to email, or maybe text, rather than hop on the phone. Video chat isn’t even an option.
Perhaps that shifts with time, as video chat becomes more reliable and more seamless to use. Maybe Peer will eventually be an amazing tradeshow application, as it already searches LinkedIn connections by location. Time will tell.
In the meantime, the app is available now in the App Store with an Android and Desktop version in the works.