Startup’s New IP-based Meeting Software: Better than Skype?

This is not even a David and Goliath story. It’s more like, David who?

AdriaComm isn’t even grossing $100,000 a year and yet the San Jose, Calif. company has brought out its latest release under the claim that its latest software offering is better than Skype.

Founder and CTO Ned Krtolica disparages Skype as being too proprietary, too consumer-focused, too resource-intensive. AdriaComm can get the job done with fewer resources and far greater transparency, he said.

The job, in this case, refers to the interconnectivity of multiple devices in the service of a single communications encounter. Videoconferencing, POTS, videophone: AdriaComm can link them all together in a single session through its online meeting software, ICUNOW.

ICUNOW can draw a limitless number of users into a meeting, with functions that include multipolling voice and application sharing. The software accommodates proprietary systems such as Polycom, Tandberg, LifeSize, and Sony.

The latest release also adds SIP compliance, a move Krtolica says will be crucial in keeping AdriaComm current in changing times. “All the new phones, all the new videoconferencing devices are SIP based, and we want to expand into that world. That’s what will make it possible for people to connect regardless of what devices they have,” he said.

ICUNOW is free to consumers. It is sold to businesses as a service per seat, recurring monthly or yearly, and also is sold as a traditional license. As a service, the price runs $19 per month per seat, variable according to what features are selected, Krtolica said. A license for 150 to 200 concurrent users will cost $50,000 to $100,000.

The software was built for usability, with right clicks bringing up most relevant options. It takes an IT person to configure a first-time use, but after that “most of the functionality is right there. You don’t really have to take any action to have it,” Krtolica said.

But the real action is happening behind the scenes, on the management side. That’s where Krtolica is betting his software will outshine Skype. He charges the competition with delivering an architecture that is too opaque for enterprise managers, who crave system transparency.

“You need to be very upfront. That’s why we are standards based, so all the packets can be seen, they can be monitored, administrators can know what’s going on within their networks,” he said. The client-server topology allows a clear view into network traffic and other elements of the client’s behavior.

That’s vital to those trying to manage resource usage within the enterprise. “If resources and bandwidth are being used, they need to know why and by whom,” he said.

That philosophy is to some extent an outgrowth of AdriaComm’s other lines of business, which also require administrators have a clear view into their systems. In addition to its telecom work, the company also has products that address weapons-grade encryption and health care privacy compliance. Clients include the Cleveland Clinic, Honeywell, and ADP.

“We are focusing on verticals that want to control their own software,” Krtolica said. “They like to run their software under their own roof and have control over it.”

Launched in 2002 with angel money and the founder’s own resources, the company didn’t bring a product to market until 2007. With its latest iteration, the company is aiming to build the kind of momentum that will draw the interest of venture capital. Even as a relatively small player, Krtolica said, it’s possible to get one’s voice heard in the marketplace.

“We are hoping to make a little noise with this, but also to make some strategic relationships, either with a bigger organization or with someone in the education vertical who would be willing to say: We like what this technology does but we want it to do a few more things,” Krtolica said.

“If we had that input and we could provide that actual solution for them, then the VC community will see that we have big customers who are seriously interested in what we have.”

After several years’ ramping up, AdriaComm executives believe they are finally on the launch pad. “We are talking about a couple of months now. We’re not talking about years here anymore,” Krtolica said.

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