Speek: Bringing Archaic Conference Calls Online

August 18, 2012

12:00 pm

As if meetings weren’t boring enough, conference calls – with their dial-in codes, PIN numbers, and groovy elevator music – can feel like a trip back to the ‘70s.

Angel-funded startup Speek, a new resident at AOL’s Fishbowl Labs incubator, is modernizing this painful experience. Rather than dial in, participants go to a URL (like speek.com/techcocktail) to join.

Below, cofounder and CTO Danny Boice explains how he built up a team to make conference calls cool.

Tech Cocktail: What was the inspiration behind Speek? What do you enjoy most about working on it? 

Danny Boice: I spent a couple years working at a bureaucratic, dated, slow, dinosaur education company. The one thing they seemed to do well was schedule conference calls and meetings with 30+ people on them multiple times per day.

Needless to say I grew to loathe the traditional conference call.

What I like the best about working on Speek is disrupting something that is ripe for being disrupted. The traditional conference call has been around for decades, has a horrible user experience, and people feel like they don’t have a better option.

We are fixing that.

Tech Cocktail: Describe a challenging moment or a crucial decision for Speek.

Boice: I think some of the most challenging decisions we have made thus far have revolved around people. More specifically around hiring for key roles. We have walked away from several talented individuals that we thought were perfect for early positions we needed to fill. Most of the time it was because we didn’t feel that they were going to be as passionate about Speek as we are and/or because they wanted too much money as opposed to making the same sacrifices that other early folks were willing to make.

It was extremely painful and gut-wrenching at the time. Looking back on it, walking away was the right decision. If you even have an ounce of doubt about someone that you are bringing on in the early days, then don’t do it.

Tech Cocktail: What’s one quirky fact about you and your team?

Boice: John Bracken (cofounder and CEO) cofounded E-vite in the 90’s. I was banned from eBay when bootstrapping my first startup for attempting to auction off non-vital organs to make payroll one month. Apparently that’s illegal. Who knew? Virginia Lee (1st employee/product) had actually accepted a paying 9-5 job (with a raise) the day before I approached her to work for sweat equity at Speek when we were first getting started. She ended up un-accepting the paid offer and working for Speek when I told her, “You can’t change the world part-time.”

Speek is a showcased startup at our August Tech Cocktail DC mixer.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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