Convoq

Desktop video, Web conferencing lifelines

Convoq Lexington, Mass.

Location:Lexington, Mass.

Company name: Convoq plays on the verb "convoke," to convey the idea of presence-based capabilities for convening, or convoking, an online meeting.

How did the company start? CEO Chuck Digate founded Convoq in January 2002, after spending the previous seven years as CEO of MathSoft, maker of calculation management software. His goal was to create an easy-to-use method for real-time collaboration.

Funding: $17.4 million, including a $10-million second round that closed in November 2003.

CEO: Digate, who also founded Beyond and spent four years at Lotus.

Product: Convoq ASAP (As Soon As Present)

Desktop video, Web conferencing lifelinesConvoq offers desktop video and Web conferencing quite possibly the way they were meant to be - from technology and price standpoints.

A user who acts as a moderator or meeting initiator pays an annual fee of $149.95, for unlimited meetings with up to 25 participants. For each additional participant over 25, there is a cost-per-minute charge of 15 cents.

Participants use a Flash-based interface, similar to competitor Userplane, which solves software downloads and firewall issues. The interface pops up after clicking on a "meeting invite" URL sent via instant messaging or e-mail. Convoq hosts the backend.

The company is shattering the Web conferencing price model set by competitors such as WebEx and Microsoft Live Meeting, which charge for each user connected to its service. But even if you had to pay out the bandwidth pipe for this broadband service, the price would be worth it. Convoq understands the concept and value of using presence information as part of an application.

Convoq ASAP integrates with any IM service and aggregates the varied buddy lists into one view. The presence information is then used to gather people into a meeting as soon as they are present online. Presence also helps locate stand-ins for participants who can't make a meeting, and provides "lifelines" - experts who can be brought into a meeting in real time to answer questions. The integrated video adds life to otherwise drab slide-flipping Web conferences, and the range of collaboration tools, including PowerPoint and applications sharing, chat and IM, won't leave users short-changed.

For the savvy, the ASAP desktop Windows software doubles as an IM client, although the company is not marketing it as such. Convoq ASAP, which took two years to develop, shipped in February. As of early spring, Convoq had but one publicly referenced customer, Digilab, which provides equipment and services to physicians and surgeons.

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