Start-ups to Watch: Drum by NetDev, Innovating with WebRTC

I recently chatted with John Logsdon, CEO and founder of NetDev, and Mark Daley, Business Development Director, about their new service called Drum, a real-time web meeting and audio conferencing service.  Drum is designed so that it can be used not just for business meetings and presentations, but for other tasks such as project updates, customer care, collaborative sales and even for charity and social club meeting management.  A key aspect of Drum is that it supports the entire lifetime of the meetings and stores all documents and group interactions for every meeting so users can present documents, take notes, and assign tasks before, during and after any meeting.

Drum aims to replace the myriad of audio and web conferencing service silos with a single, carrier-grade service that’s easy for Telcos / Service Providers to launch, and supports mobile not just desktop devices.  An important part of Drum’s go-to-market plan is it targets Service Providers who with Drum can immediately launch a compelling service with little set-up cost.  The business model is revenue share rather than traditional purchase and license fees, removing risk for the Service Provider and speeding time to market.

I asked about what gave John the idea for the service.  “We have always had an audio conferencing product and were looking to extend its capabilities; and as users we had always been frustrated with the web tools available.  The ‘light bulb moment’ came after observing the frustrations of one of my team not able to run a sales call as the client could not download an app; and having recently been working with HTML5 I thought, I can do something here that eliminates these frustrations, works on any device, and I can make it look good too.  There has to a business there!  WebRTC became a natural extension to Drum with the opportunity to create a collaborative experience across any device.”

I then followed up on why did they decide to use WebRTC?  Mark responded, “WebRTC has the power to transform the webpage into a real-time multimedia communications platform. It will become a communications disruptor.  We think WebRTC enables Operators to compete with internet based service providers. It’s also an opportunity to revitalize many traditional telco products, and bring an integrated enterprise service approach, that is fewer service silos for business customers.”

Drum took a deliberate decision to build a product and business model specifically designed for service providers, their history is building services and service platforms for operators, so this was a natural extension of NetDev’s business.  Their plan is to build an indirect sales channel with service providers being that channel. They plan to help service providers compete against the many other companies building up competing offers using WebRTC.

I probed a little more deeply on the mobile channel with Mark, “We know that mobile operators want to build up their business portfolio, as you’ve discussed on your weblog. Drum offers them the ability to extend what they do quickly and easily with low risk. It’s inevitable that WebRTC will extend the way that people communicate and a number of mobile operators are already running innovation and incubation projects aimed at exploring the potential of WebRTC as an enabler rather than a threat, for example AT&T.”

My final question focused on would they then need to use the Telco’s APIs?  John answered, “Absolutely. Drum will expose its own API’s and we would consider these as Telco APIs.  We know that in some instances Drum will integrate with Telco APIs like AT&T’s Call Management API powered by Tropo and Phono and Deutsche Telekom’s Telekom Tropo API.”

Drum is currently in Beta, they just had their first service provider soft launch in the United Kingdom And are currently in negotiations for launch in several other markets around the world.  John will be sharing his experience in building and running Drum using WebRTC at the IMS World Forum pre-conference workshop in April.  Being frank, WebRTC as a technology is easy, its the practical implementation issues that are hard, hence the importance of having start-ups that are working on WebRTC-based services at the workshop to share their hard-won experiences.