The conference call technology industry is lucrative but increasingly-saturated, with heavyweights such as WebEx and ‘newcomers’ such as MeetingBurner and Speek all vying for a piece of the pie. But that isn’t deterring others from entering the space.
Confer Call is a Netherlands-based startup that’s bringing its own take on what an online conference call platform should look like. Or, at least, providing an alternative to the mélange of services already out there. While we already picked the winner from our Boost early stage startup program at TNW Europe 2014 last week, Confer Call was another participant with potential.
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Confer Call’s main proposition centers around one core facet: simplicity. The only user who needs to worry about apps or knowing telephone numbers is the main conference call organizer – the one who calls out. Everyone else? All they need is a telephone number – mobile or landline will suffice.
How it works
The person with the Confer Call account is the only one who can initiate a conference call, and at the sign-up stage they must use their mobile number (username) and choose a password, and they’re good to go.
Once in, you will have to manually include the telephone numbers to your contact list – which admittedly will be a little laborious if you have hundreds of people to include. And you will have to add credit to your account too using a credit card.
Most countries are charged at a flat-rate of €0.09 per minute AND per participant (landline or mobile) – so that’s effectively €0.90 per minute if there’s ten people on a call (there’s a maximum of 100). Things could get expensive, though the recipient doesn’t pay a penny.
For each call, you simply click on which contacts you wish to call (adding them to a ‘Call To’ section), and hit the ‘dial’ button. All participants will then be called, and they can talk in unison. In our tests, the call quality was excellent, though admittedly that could be different with dozens of people.
There are many advantages to working this way – no invites, no conference call numbers to remember, no pass-codes and no reliance on each ‘invitee’ to remember to call. That’s all very well and good, but there is a reason why a more convoluted system often works best.
While it can be annoying waiting for people to join a call, it’s a fact of life that people are delayed and sometimes five minutes of thumb-twiddling is necessary. With Confer Call, there’s no invite system, which means you have to use email or another conduit to ensure someone is free at a given time, and then hope they’re not in the bathroom when their phone rings. That said, there are circumstances when this would be fine – for example if your boss tells you that you must absolutely be available at 11am to take a call or you’re fired.
Also, the manual aspect of inserting contacts into the address book could be problematic. But we’re told that there will be mobile apps available from mid-June, which will automatically populate your account (Web and mobile) from your device’s address book – this will be a huge boon. And, of course, it means that the caller doesn’t have to be tethered to their laptop to make a call.
It’s still very early days for Confer Call, and it’s far from perfect. But there is potential here, and we’ll be sure to catch up with this startup a little further down the road.
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