goober Networks, Now with Videoconferencing, Set for Full Release

Skype wannabe goober Networks announced it is has taken what it calls a major leap forward with the addition of videoconferencing to its suite of communications capabilities.

Founded in 2005, the company has expanded its offerings continually since launching its first release in 2006. Now in its fifth iteration, the company claims 700,000 users. It is based in Delaware, with the bulk of its development coming out of Germany.

CEO Peter Uhlich said a new technology partnership was key in bringing videoconferencing to the table. “The most important change is that we synched up with Global IP Solutions to use their VideoEngine and HD VoiceEngine,” he said.

While Global IP Solutions helped on the video side, it was the company’s voice capability that sealed the deal, Uhlich said. “If video quality gets stuck for a second or two, that’s not as bad as when the voice goes down and you can’t understand what the other party said.” Global IP’s media processing technology gives goober the necessary packet loss tolerance, as well as dynamic bandwidth adjustment to shift on the fly if an Internet connection bogs down.

goober draws its primary revenue from VoIP usage, billed either per-minute or at a flat rate, as well as from SMS charges. Now in public beta, but due for full release in about a month, the videoconferencing feature likely will be available either through a monthly fee plan or at a per-minute rate of 5 to 7 cents. Right now it is free for up to four participants, and should support six participants in the final release, Uhlich said.

Conceived originally as a real-time job board, goober evolved into a sophisticated messaging platform when its leadership saw a fragmented market within the space. Today the software pulls together all major messaging tools, allowing users to talk across platform, meaning they can communicate even with those outside of goober, including ICQ, MSN, GoogleTalk, Jabber, AOL, Yahoo! and QQ.

The product integrates with FaceBook and Twitter. It supports Mac and PC, as well as iPhone and iPad.

The company sells direct to consumers and also offers two enterprise flavors: A white-label solution for service providers, and a soon-to-be-released goober Corporate version. The corporate version includes a feature Uhlich is touting heavily: An administrative capacity meant to help corporate IT staff organize and direct goober usage.

“Let’s say a company with 500 people wants to install goober, but they have requirements. ‘Not everybody in the company should be able to use every feature of the product. We should have central billing that divides up by department. We want to decide which users go onto which contact lists,’ ” he said. The administrative interface will make it possible to control all these parameters.

“This is where we see a very, very big market, because none of the other messaging guys have that ability to manage their messaging within the corporation,” he said.

The company is reaching out to potential users softly at first, spreading the word through PR, analysts, a few Google campaigns and ads within iPhone apps. “We are too small a company to invest $10 million or $20 million in the consumer market, which you can very easily blow if you take a wrong step,” Uhlich said.

That question of financing looms large. So far the three founders have invested $8 million. Now they are ready to go in search of venture backing, having written up revenue projections through 2013. Uhlich said the prospects for a small, narrowly focused company like his are strong, especially with larger players like Google and Telefonica on the lookout for promising new technologies in this arena.

He said that goober may have an added edge, thanks to geography. With one foot in Europe and the other in the United States, the company stands from benefit from a trans-Atlantic market dynamic.

“The European market and the American market are totally different. The American is an impulsive buyer. If he likes something he jumps onto it immediately,” he said. “I’m German, and we are typically eggheads, thinking, ‘Is this good, is this bad?’ It takes forever to make the decision.

“This is the reason we have launched everything else in the U.S. first. It’s better to try to be successful there first, since if something is really good and really cool, people will jump on it much quicker than in Europe.”

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