BizSpark first met Danny Boice, co-founder of Speek, the app that should solve all of your conference call quibbles forever, when he came to our livestream show at SXSW. Boice is a very large, bearded, tattoed gentleman, who dropped out of Harvard University to pursue innovations in the technical field. Namely, he joined with his partner and co-founder John Bracken, to build an app that took all the convolutions away from setting up conference calls. In fact, the team have taken so many convolutions out of the conference call problem that it's now just as simple as pressing a button. The app is highly visual, and as of today it works on the Windows Phone 8.
Today we thought we would mark the fact that they are launching their Windows phone 8 app to run this interview we recently did with CTO Boice. Before I do, I should tell you that Boice has always had some pretty interesting things to say about working on startups, on education, and more, so you should cruise ot the second hour of this livestream to watch his drop-in interview with me at SXSW. One thing that you will likely learn from it is that Boice is really focused on building things that solve problems.
Founders Boice and Bracken left their corporate jobs to build the beta version of Speek, and presented at Distilled Intelligence 2.0, the pitch competition created by Fortify.vc and sponsored by Microsoft. The company took first place at the competition, which allowed Speek to add new investors, attract talented employees, and shined a spotlight on the work the team was putting in to revolutionize the conference calling experience for their users.
Since its beta launch last year, Speek has experienced rapid growth reaching tens of thousands of callers in a few short months. The founders quickly saw the need to reach business users who were on-the-go, whether taking a meeting while stuck in traffic or on vacation. Building a mobile app was the next logical step, and a Windows 8 phone app became a priority. "We're putting out our Windows 8 app even before Android," said co-founder and CEO John Bracken. "We feel it's important to reach the Windows 8 demographic early and be at the forefront of the innovations the Windows 8 platform has to offer." The company set out to build the app - and with a short timeline. The goal was to get the Windows 8 phone app ready for launch at March's SXSW conference. After talking with the resources available from Microsoft's Biz Spark team, Speek was able to quickly connect with qualified and cost-effective developers who were eager to get started building Windows 8 apps. In a short thirty days, the Speek Windows 8 phone app was ready for launch and distribution, and just in time for SXSW. Looking forward, Boice sees many advantages to working with the Windows 8 platform. "The ability to write a single code base that runs on any Windows 8 device from the phone to the tablet to the desktop is key, and that's exactly what we intend to do. Not only will we support the Windows 8 phone, but look for Speek on the Windows 8 tablet and computer as well," he says.
They used .NET framework to develop the Windows Phone app and they used the Windows Phone to test the app.
Company Twitter handle: @SpeekApp
Danny Boice, Co-Founder and CTO
Do you build for scale first, or for revenue? How are those things related in your mind?
Do you make reasonable predictions about how you are going to achieve revenue and then test them out, or do you start with a business model and deploy it, to see if it brings in revenue?
We follow The Lean Startup Methodology. Part and parcel in the Lean Startup is testing your riskiest assumptions. When it comes to revenue we plan to do an enormous amount of small, increment experiments in order to get our pricing model right and to also realize what works in terms of customer acquisition.
What questions do you think a startup non-technical founder needs to answer when considering a cloud architecture for his or her startup, and I am thinking specifically here during the business model generation period?
The main questions should be financial in nature. It is a common misconception that a cloud architecture is always the cheapest. Sometimes that simply not true. It is important to understand which system architecture will scale best - financially and technically - for your specific business.
What questions do you and your technical co-founder / engineering team feel are the most important to solve about the business aspects of your company?
First and foremost you must solve the problem of having a great product. This means a product that is technically of a very high quality, has a great user experience and design and most importantly provides something that users actually want.
Where do you include technical members of your team during the building of your business plan?
We followed a very scientific and iterative approach to planning our business. We validated the very concept of our product and whether users would want, and pay, for it. We did this using some tactics that required technical expertise like building landing pages to test conversions and demand as well as building out a minimum viable product. We did all of these things before we had any form of a business plan.
How much of what you are building is based on leaving a legacy and how much of it is based on technical challenges, or the ability to make something just for fun? In other words, where do you fall on the seriousness scale? For fun, for profit, for life?
We are here to change the world. We are attempting to fix a pattern that has existed for several decades - crappy conference calls. As we become more and more successful we create users that are absolutely ecstatic about our product. This is why we do it. Having said that; changing the world is a ton of fun.
A brief description of the app
Make super simple, free and visual conference calls. Choose an easy-to-remember personal link (i.e., speek.com/YourName) for your calls, instead of fumbling for a traditional phone number and PIN.
Click the link to start or join a call from your phone, a web or mobile browser, VOIP or SMS. Once you're on the call, know who’s joined, know who’s talking, share files, view social profiles, and comment, mute and add/remove participants.
There's nothing to download and no elevator music.
Use Speek for your next team meeting, sales call, or to catch up with mom; it’s all fair game (and free).