A Q&A with LiveMinutes co-founder and CEO Kemal El Moujahid. The San Francisco-based startup, a web conference platform bundled with a suite of real-time collaboration tools, closed a $1.4 million Seed funding round in late July. Investors include Great Oaks Venture Capital and New World Ventures. It was founded in 2012 by El Moujahid and Alex Dufétel.
SUB: Please describe LiveMinutes and your primary innovation.
El Moujahid: LiveMinutes is an all-in-one, real-time collaboration platform. When you work with other people, you’ll have emails flying around, to-do lists on Basecamp, documents in the cloud, and conversations on Skype. Using separate tools where the information is scattered is much less efficient, and keeping everyone on the same page is time consuming. That’s the problem LiveMinutes solves. It’s a single platform where you can centralize documents in your workspace, edit them in real-time, be notified of changes and host conference calls.
LiveMinutes also integrates with your favorite productivity tools: Evernote, and soon Box and Dropbox.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
El Moujahid: Our users are primarily people in the enterprise collaborating on documents. Typical use cases include small startups, cross-functional projects in large enterprises, freelancers and distributed teams working on digital content.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
El Moujahid: Our competition is Google Docs used in conjunction with Skype. That’s what our target users would typically use. Some use Google Drive, but they usually tell us that the product is not designed for collaboration. SaaS [Software-as-a-Service] products should be as beautiful and easy-to-use as consumer tools.
SUB: What differentiates LiveMinutes from the competition?
El Moujahid: It is an all-in-one solution, beautiful and pleasant to use, which works for real-time collaboration like meetings, but also asynchronous conversations if you want to leave comments for your team to review later. Getting notifications when things have been edited is a huge time saver. We really focus on building a simple, useful and beautiful solution for everyday use.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
El Moujahid: We knew we wanted to build a real-time collaboration service. After storage, we felt collaboration was really the next big thing waiting to be disrupted. On the one hand, there are asynchronous tools like email, social enterprise, project management, and on the other synchronous tools like Skype or screensharing. These tools are built on different tech stacks, and are not integrated. But they should really be one tool. Typically, when you’ve edited a document, you might want to discuss it in real-time with a team member. And conversely, when you’re in a Skype conversation, you might want to take notes together. So we saw the opportunity to build a unified solution based on HTML5 and WebRTC.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for LiveMinutes? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
El Moujahid: It was gradual. We started out as a collaborative meeting app. We were the first meeting app to let users build to-do lists during the meeting with a real-time text editor. But our core users would extend their usage before and after the meeting, typically updating their to-do list. When we transitioned to HTML5, we saw the opportunity to build a platform which would be relevant both to synchronous and asynchronous collaboration.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
El Moujahid: LiveMinutes is a play on the words ‘meeting minutes.’ Meeting minutes are essential to efficient collaboration, but everyone hates to have to write them. With LiveMinutes, just write the minutes live during the meeting, in your workspace, and go back to it when you need, or invite absentees to your workspace to review your work, decisions made, etc.
SUB: You recently closed a $1.4 million Seed funding round. Why was this a particularly good time to raise outside funding?
El Moujahid: It was the perfect time, because we have been able to play with product-market fit, and now we need to accelerate.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
El Moujahid: First-and-foremost, we want to keep working on the platform. Our users are excited with the product, and they are providing a lot of feedback. We feel we have an awesome roadmap to execute against, and that will keep us busy full-time. Excited users invite new users to collaborate, so that’s the best way to market LiveMinutes.
We already have a great integration with Evernote. When you connect your account to LiveMinutes, all workspace notes are saved back to your Evernote account. This way, you always have the latest version of your to-do lists in your Evernote account.
We plan to integrate with other players, like Box and Dropbox, for example. It would make a lot of sense for our users to be able to import any file into LiveMinutes, and collaborate in real-time on these files.
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
El Moujahid: We’re seeing some nice patterns in how users interact with LiveMinutes, using the platform, inviting other people. If that keeps going in the same direction, then yes, sooner than later.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
El Moujahid: Collaboration is a thought topic with scary big competitors. Pitching that we could build a better product than Google Docs with a team of four has definitely been a challenge. But now our users tell us that LiveMinutes is essentially a step ahead of Google Docs for teams, which is nice to hear. Our toughest challenges are still in front of us—we need every team to realize that they can be more productive with LiveMinutes.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
El Moujahid: We will launch a paid offer on October 1. A preview of the pricing if available on: http://liveminutes.com/en/pricing.
SUB: What are your goals for over the next year or so?
El Moujahid: Get teams to try LiveMinutes, love it, adopt it.
LiveMinutes – www.liveminutes.com