Q&A with Paul Brody, president and co-founder of Sococo
Sococo has devised an innovative online communication and sharing community for businesses with distributed teams of employees. It was founded in 2007 and is based in Mountain View, Calif.
SUB: How do your services work? What is the basic experience for the end user?
Brody: Using Sococo Team Space is just like being in an office with your distributed team in real time. You can all talk, chat, screen share and work together in an easy-to-use environment. Plus, you can see what’s going on around you. Team Space has been optimized for groups of four or more members that need to be in frequent communication and use cloud and desktop applications. Sococo’s spatial user interface and avatars create a virtual and visual environment for a more connected experience.
SUB: Who are your target customers?
Brody: Team Space targets businesses with distributed teams, and is particularly handy for those teams who practice Agile development. Team Space, however, is not just for techies. By incorporating the ability to persistently share documents, audio, video, view websites, and instant message, the service is useful for most anyone needing to communicate easily, efficiently, and cost-effectively with their colleagues across a distance.
SUB: How many customers do you currently have?
Brody: Since we launched our beta in early 2010, more than 3,000 Team Space “spaces” have been created.
SUB: What is your business model? How do you make money?
Brody: Our users pay as if renting office space, instead of having to pay for individual membership. Team Space operates on a “freemium” model. We offer a free level of service to everyone with one small conference room, a courtyard, and two offices. Teams can pay for an upgraded space that features up to 32 offices with a conference room able to hold up to 16 people.
SUB: Who do you see as your primary competition?
Brody: Team Space is a social communications service. That means it enables social awareness and interaction between distributed team members in a virtual environment with communications and applications integrated. Its main competitors in communication are Skype for VOIP, and Web-Ex and Go-To-Meeting. With the ability to integrate cloud-based productivity tools into an all-encompassing communication environment, we compete with and beat any individual service in the communication field.
SUB: What differentiates Sococo from the competition?
Brody: Sococo is a social communication service. Providing everyone with an avatar, a private office and conference rooms with their important cloud, enterprise and desktop applications integrated enables people to work in the cloud the same way they would work together in a physical office. It enables ad hoc and scheduled communications and does so in ways that make everyone socially aware of their environment and their co-workers.
SUB: How has the company been funded to this point? Have you raised outside funding? Do you plan to do so in the near future?
Brody: Sococo has earned $6.3 million in Series A funding thus far and the round is still open.
SUB: What have some of the challenges been to building the business so far?
Brody: Sococo Team Space reflects four years of research and development. In those four years we worked through the issues associated with spatial switching, focusing on technical breakthroughs, acquiring three patents in the process, and actively engaging early adopters for feedback.
SUB: Where do you see Sococo in roughly a year from now?
Brody: Sococo will have grown into an exciting new entrant in business communications for distributed teams. We should have partners who have added Team Space to their applications to broaden our reach, and we should have further built out the infrastructure for managing complex distributed teams worldwide.
SUB: Finally, a question I always ask: as an entrepreneur who has weathered the down economy, what advice do you have for those just starting out—especially in an economy that remains less than dynamic?
Brody: Go lean. If you have a product and a vision, hammer it out and persevere all storms: going lean is the easiest way to do that. Work out of your home if you have to, don’t buy a physical office (use Sococo Team Space to communicate with your team instead!) and create the product in its purest iteration. Don’t be deterred by detractors or those who don’t understand what you’re trying to do. Sometimes it’s not easy to explain your vision right away. Once you have a product you’re proud of, people will get it.
Sococo – www.sococo.com