SM: If some entrepreneur came up with an application which uses video conference as a delivery mechanism, would you invest in them?
BH: Generally speaking, no we do not. I am not going to say never. However, we would rather partner. We have our R&D in India. We have a small team, and it has been expanding as fast as it can go. We are not in a stage where we would do investments, but you never know. We have done some of it, but I do not want to be overwhelmed with business plans and ideas. We are not venture capitalists; we do not do venture capital. The Arena Program is for people who have already secured funds to work with us.
SM: I think there is going to be a huge set of ventures which will use video conferencing as a delivery mechanism in the emerging markets.
BH: We do understand that. We do work with resellers and partners over there in India for that prime arena. On those lines, Global Nomads, an education group does a reach out. They were in Darfur with a video device and they had a school class and networked that class with a class in London. They had an online session, most of which was recorded. They were able to play back the course for awareness.
The famous one they did was Baghdad. They were there before the invasion. They had a class talking back to a class in New Jersey. It was amazing to watch these kids interact with kids on the other end. You could see the kids were quiet and nervous, and then someone brings up a musical artist, and both sides started singing the songs together. It is amazing bonding and awareness. It is about reaching out globally with video, and to improve global perspective.
SM: Business travel has become an absolute nightmare. What are you seeing in your customers – is there a shift away from travel to conferencing?
BH: The easy answer is you save travel. The real answer is you improve productivity and workflow. You improve decision making and trust, which is more important than travel avoidance. We clearly have a lot of momentum around travel avoidance. It is the big elephant in the room you cannot ignore; however, work teams that connect regularly via video conference are more productive than those who do not.
If you have a video conference with someone, and you see them face to face, you feel that you have already met. The only perspective you do not get is if they are tall or short. We have a users group, so we always communicate by video. When a new member comes into the group, you can get a perspective quikcly and you feel like you have met them. I forget whom I have met on video or whom I have met in person. It is incredible. The trust level is higher because the relationship is better.
In a work team, every time you are away you are wondering what the group is doing. Videos on a routine bring the group together. It is like walking down the hall to ask a quick question. If you travel every 6 months between work groups, it is awful. There is no trust. This is a tool that can improve the global productivity of an organization.
SM: It is more relationship improvement as well as productivity.
BH: Exactly right. We humans are complex animals. We have all this social garbage going on in our head. We are not 1’s and 0’s.