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Put the Power in PowerPoint by Creating Meaningful Connections | @CloudExpo #Cloud
Interview with Zeetings CEO Rob Kawalsky
By: Xenia von Wedel
Aug. 17, 2015 03:00 PM
Put the Power in PowerPoint by Creating Meaningful Connections with Audiences
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Please tell us, what is Zeetings all about and what do you do?
Rob Kawalsky: Zeetings is a cloud-based presentation and content interaction platform that transforms an audience from passive viewers into active participants. We believe presentations are more than a set of slides-they are about building a connection between presenters and their audiences. We also believe that great outcomes are achieved not just by talking but by listening. Zeetings creates this genuine connection between presenters and audiences, changing the paradigm from a one-way monologue to a two-way conversation. Unlike a traditional presentation, a "zeeting" is a social and interactive experience accessible via any connected device, coupled with data-driven analytics to help hosts understand what their content community is thinking.
What did you just launch?
Kawalsky: We've launched a new SaaS platform that provides meeting hosts with the power of audience engagement and actionable insights in an interactive, collaborative workspace based in the cloud. Zeetings transforms real-time, face-to-face and remote presentations by turning passive audiences into active participants, shifting the communication paradigm from one-way presentations into dynamic, two-way conversations. Zeetings also keeps presenters and participants connected with each other and the content so that the conversation can continue once the meeting ends.
Who is your target audience and how do you intend to reach them?
Kawalsky: Zeetings can enrich any kind of presentation, whether it is on a stage in front of 2,000 people or in a meeting room with your team. Zeetings is also great for those times you simply want to share your presentation but also want to create the impact of having delivered it personally. Whenever you want to get your message across and engage your audience, Zeetings is the easiest, most powerful way to make it happen.
I'd be curious to hear any general thoughts you have on market trends...
Kawalsky: For me, a big trend is a shift from software making enterprise workflows more efficient to software actually transforming the nature of work itself. From increasing employment flexibility to traditional decision-making frameworks being upended by data-driven automation, segment after segment of the enterprise are changing. This creates an incredible number of opportunities for cloud computing.
What is the viral aspect of your product?
Kawalsky: Everyone who uses it, loves it. Each time a presentation is delivered via Zeetings, we see participants get excited and many create accounts right away. During the closed beta testing period, Zeetings had over 50,000 people participate in a zeeting. Companies such as eBay, which used Zeetings for its SXSW presentation in 2015, Ernst & Young, Hewlett-Packard and the X Prize Foundation all took part in our beta and have responded very enthusiastically.
How will you make money? What's the business model?
Kawalsky: We are currently focused on creating the absolute best experience possible for people using Zeetings. It's free to use for an unlimited number of presentations with an unlimited number of participants. In time, we will be introducing premium capabilities that will be subscription-based. People will have the option to upgrade or stay with the current service as is.
Who are your competitors?
Kawalsky: Zeetings complements existing presentation authoring tools such as PowerPoint by boosting their capabilities and providing actionable analytics. For remote meetings, Zeetings works very well with audio- and video-conferencing services such as GoToMeeting or Skype by supplying a workspace for participants to collaborate in and continue the conversation once the meeting ends.
There are competing products in particular verticals that are complex to learn and use, such as ClearSlide in sales, whereas simplicity is core to Zeetings. There are also a number of products that provide discrete aspects of Zeetings, such as polling or slide broadcasting, but Zeetings mixes these services together in a way that uniquely stimulates conversations.
How do you differentiate from your competitors?
Kawalsky: We are really shifting the paradigm for in-person and remote meetings and online webinars by empowering presenters and participants to engage in two-way conversations. Uniquely, Zeetings allows these conversations to happen both in real-time and asynchronously, and leverages this engagement to help presenters really understand their audiences through insightful analytics.
Zeetings is extremely easy to use, works on all connected devices, and works with existing presentation software, such as PowerPoint, rather than forcing users to learn a new way to create presentations.
How does your technology differentiate from the competition and can you elaborate on the different technology deployed?
Kawalsky: Zeetings is completely cloud-based, works with any modern browser, and is responsive to screen size. An important aspect of the platform is maintaining the fidelity of the presentations people upload to Zeetings. Unlike competing products, we preserve all the tricky bits of people's presentations, such as animation. Zeetings also has been built from the ground up to support the security needs of enterprises so that content can be deployed with appropriate information protection standards.
What business or technology could yours disrupt?
Kawalsky: Zeetings will disrupt the presentation space by replacing the traditional monologue presentation with dynamic, multifaceted dialogue. This is a huge transformation. Audiences are given a voice and presenters are empowered with data-driven insights. More than this, Zeetings is a way to intelligently distribute content and gather insights against that content so it has the potential to completely disrupt data-gathering efforts such as surveys.
Who founded the company, when? What can you tell me about the story of the company's founding?
Kawalsky: About two years ago, we were in the audience of a pitch event in Palo Alto. We experienced what too many people who have sat in presentations have experienced: out-dated technology, death by PowerPoint, mishaps in getting started and a disconnect between the presenters and the audience. The audience was being talked at and had no outlet by which to have its voice heard. Mobile technology offers the potential to change all that-to facilitate a dynamic, digital conversation around a piece of content that connects people and helps them learn from each other.
I have three co-founders. It's a privilege to work with each of them. Adam Schuck was on the founding team of Google Wave as the tech lead of the Google Wave Client. Adam was later the tech lead of Julpan, which was acquired by Twitter, and he ultimately became head of Twitter's New York City engineering team. Tony Surtees is a past VP and GM of Yahoo!'s commerce group in the U.S.A., with operational and board level experience across a range of digital businesses. Neill Miller has been building technology businesses for over 45 years, including taking five technology companies public and architecting the merger of Unidata and Vmark, which was subsequently merged with Informix and sold to IBM for $2.5 billion.
What is your distribution model? Where to buy your product?
Kawalsky: Zeetings can be accessed by creating an account at zeetings.com. You can be up and running in under a minute.
What's next on your product roadmap?
Kawalsky: Each time we speak with our users, they express an insatiable appetite for deeper analytics and actionable insights. We are designing exciting, new ways for people to engage with content in a manner that helps presenters understand what resonates and what doesn't, and what points of view are held by those in the room.
Are you targeting a first VC round? If yes when and what will you use the funds for? How much money is being sought?
Kawalsky: We are not currently fundraising but we will be seeking a VC round in the medium term.
What else would you like to add?
Kawalsky: We are extremely excited by the response Zeetings has received so far and we want to continue building its capabilities in concert with our user community. We are extremely grateful for the input, requests and stories our users share with us. Zeetings has been used to help bring to the surface issues that employees are otherwise reluctant to discuss, to help keep students engaged through challenging materials, and to empower startups to share their visions. Each of these stories inspires us and helps us shape the product.
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