As Zoom and Microsoft and Google hammer it out for video-chat hegemony, startups are developing apps and services that either add on or compete with the major players.
There hasn’t been enough activity — yet — to call it a boom, but there’s enough going on to warrant our attention. Call it a boomlet, if you will, of startups looking to ride the wave of demand that video-conferencing has seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The big players are not sitting still. Zoom has spent lots of 2020 on platform security after a surge in popularity exposed some frayed ends. Google has been working to make Meet, its own video-chat service, better and easier to find. And Microsoft has been hammering Teams’s abilities into stronger form as it uses the same product to fend off both Slack and Zoom, which is a tall order.
Other giants are getting into the mix. Reliance Jio, the Indian telecom subsidiary of megacorp Reliance, recently launched JioMeet, which has turned heads for looking rather similar to Zoom. It also quickly raced to millions of downloads. (That Google just put billions into JioMeet’s parent is an odd twist in the video-chatting wars; Google has effectively helped fund a competitor in the country, it appears.)
But that’s only part of the action. More recently we’ve seen interesting rounds for video-chat software startups Macro and Mmhmm. And we’ve seen money go into companies like Daily.co, which want to let any company bake video-chatting capabilities into their service. And Y Combinator-backed Sidekick has been in the press lately, after building a hardware solution in mind for today’s remote workers who need video comms.
An upstart boomlet, then, amid a war of the majors. But should we have expected anything less from the huge wave of demand that COVID-19 kicked off? Zoom was growing quickly before the pandemic. Now the public company and a host of rivals, big and small, all want a larger slice of an expanding pie.
The two most interesting recent venture rounds for video-conferencing startups are those belonging to Mmhmm and Macro.