According to Jeremy Irons’ character in Margin Call, there are three ways to succeed in business: Be first, be smarter, or cheat.
But there’s a fourth: be the cheapest.
FreeConferenceCall.com has built itself something of an empire on the be cheap ethos. After starting with little more than a so-obvious-it’s-genius URL and an understanding of the quirks in the telephone routing system, it has become one of the five largest video conferencing providers in the world.
The business was entirely focused on the audio side of conference calling up until last year when it added a video dimension for up to 25 callers. That number has since grown to an almost unbelievable 1000 potential callers, giving small businesses the potential ability to video chat with every employee and each of their spouses all at the same time.
That they could do so for free was always the main selling point, and now FreeConferenceCall.com (we’re going to abbreviate the name to FCC from here on out) will test that marketing strategy by introducing a paid service and promising it’ll still save businesses money.
And they’ve brought along a new partner to help their cause.
Can Free Video Conferencing Get Cheaper?
The guy who bought that URL for $10 in 2001–FCC CEO David Erickson–announced earlier this year his company would partner with expense management firm Tangoe to help their paying conference call clients streamline their telco/IT spend.
The move will push FCC under the noses of Tangoe’s high-end software users, while in turn giving the ITEM specialist access to FCC’s Fortune 500-loaded catalog of 800,000 business customers.
And it might give businesses at the more lavish end of the street incentive to signup for FCC’s paid subscription service, FreeConferenceCall.com for Business. That new service is aimed at bigger businesses who can readily afford a flat-rate monthly fee in order to save around $6,000 annually on large-scale conferencing services.
In addition to getting a look at Tangoe’s Matrix software, “for Business” users get HD video conferencing, their own branding and hold messaging, and 24-hour tech support and training.
And all that sits atop the basic, or, as it will become known, the “free” version of FreeConferenceCalling.com.
Free Video Conferencing with All the Features
Until it went down the Skype for Business route and added those shiny new elite services, FCC was one of the few VC platforms to genuinely offer its non-fee-paying clients a full buffet of features. And, really, all those same features that made it good value in the first place are still present today if you want to take the URL at its face value and go the free route.
It has active speaker tracking that automatically pushes whoever’s currently talking to the foreground, a service only Google Hangouts and few other free services can muster without the use of fancy hardware.
Screen sharing was recently added to match up with what Skype has long offered, and you can even record calls, something Skype relies on third-party apps to achieve.
It’s also easy to install and navigate through, and you can invite video guests to participate even if they aren’t registered users. Call quality is comparable with both those big players mentioned earlier, even if lag pixelation isn’t uncommon (the paid service promises 99.99% call reliability, another incentive to put your hand in a pocket even if it seems a little too good to be true).
But despite all these pros to the truly free version, if you’re a small-to-medium sized business, you could get a little green-eyed watching the bigger boys play with the new paid services.
Cutting IT Costs
Adding another, more advanced level of service puts FCC in the category of other platforms with two-tier video conferencing offerings, like Skype.
Meanwhile, the free version will continue to serve the millions of smaller businesses and individuals that have made the company’s fortune by routing calls through little-used exchanges and shaving fractions of a cent per minute off the traffic royalties – which adds up quickly when you carry billions of minutes of calls a year.
Hopefully the free version, especially the VC component, will continue to be supported, and perhaps down the line the cost saving initiatives of the new partnership can be shared among all comers.
Otherwise FFC will be thrown into a VC market where it’s not the first and it’s not the cheapest. Can they survive on being the smartest?