Disruptive Forces in AV/IT – Part 4: Acano

acano-logo-0514New solutions continue to enter the market at a rapid pace and if all were taken into consideration, it’s altogether possible that this series could go on for months. However, due to the fact that I’ve set it to end prior to InfoComm we are coming to the last few chapters. So far all companies and participants have provided quality material for this Disruptive Forces series and this company is no exception.

The year 2013 saw the entry of a number of companies in the new video conferencing/UC space and Acano is another one of the relative newcomers to the industry. Founded in 2012 and headquartered in the United Kingdom, they entered the space with a defining message: Acano unites previously incompatible audio, video and web technologies in coSpaces — virtual meeting rooms, only radically better. With coSpaces, people work wherever their ideas and creativity thrive.

My interview participant, with a longtime background as a sales executive for Fortune 100 companies (most recently for Cisco), has the task of steering the global sales efforts for the company. He is the Global VP of Sales for Acano, Larry Satterfield.

CM: Larry, thank you very much for participating in this blog interview. Please tell us about the company and its culture.

LS: Acano was founded in 2012 by former Cisco, Tandberg and Codian engineers. Our engineers developed the MSE 8000 and Telepresence Server, which are still very popular. But what’s more interesting is why they founded Acano. This team wants to make a difference — to fix collaboration, making it universal and easy to use.

We are striving for openness, moving high quality audio, video and web from being for a selective group to being accessible to every member of an organization and their customers, partners and vendors. A key part of that is often called “usage and adoption.” Acano provides scale and flexible deployment on the back end. But you only need scale if everybody wants to collaborate. So we talk a lot about how to create inspired workspaces — whether that is in the virtual meeting rooms we call coSpaces, or in the ability to bring your meeting anywhere you want to be. We want to make people happy and keep them coming back for more.

We also talk about daring to do things differently. Gartner just named Acano a “Cool Vendor in Unified Communications” and analyst Roopam Jain of Frost said we, “could shake up a few things for the more established vendors.” so I hope that means we are on the right track. We actually think about the end user first and we want simplicity.

CM: What can you tell us about Acano’s strategic approach to satisfying the needs of enterprise communications and collaboration?

Acano-blog-six-standards-0514LS: Our strategy has two levels. “Everyone’s invited” sums up what we are doing right now to solve the immediate needs of enterprises. Today most enterprises have disparate audio, video and web solutions. We bring order to this chaos by providing one platform for audio, video and Web that works with existing investments. In March, we demonstrated six standards in one call, including H.265 and VP9, which shows our future proof approach. We also enable integration so that each person can join a call using their preferred device, and their preferred user experience. So if I am a Microsoft Lync person talking to a Cisco Jabber person, I will have the same Lync experience I know and love from my Lync-to-Lync calls. My Jabber friend will have the Jabber experience. This also extends to audio — I can call in on my mobile, and to web browser access. Need a new design agency to pop into a call? Send them a link that works with 97 percent of browsers.

The second level is through our coSpaces. These are persistent virtual meeting rooms that are also unlimited. Each person in an organization can have one, or there can be a room for every topic. One of our customers, Charles River Labs, called it a “killer application that really changes the way that you work.” But this is just the beginning. We will be adding recording and team collaboration tools to our coSpaces. It’s no longer about making a phone call or a video call, it’s about working where and how you are most inspired.

CM: As a start-up in the industry, what is your strategy for competing with the numerous solutions providers in the video conferencing market?

LS: At the heart of it, we deliver a high quality product and back it with a top-notch service organization.

We also recognize that no two network environments are the same. Audio, video and web communication networks in an enterprise can evolve in different directions, so Acano is the glue making them work together and enabling the network to scale. We also offer deployment choice, which is pretty unique. Acano creates software that can be deployed on an optimized server, in a VM environment, or as a hosted solution through one of our service provider partners (SPs). And with Acano coCloud, enterprises can transition to cloud without losing the benefits of on-premise.

Wainhouse Research also recently published a report on service providers where 25 percent of them are using the Acano platform. We have been very committed to developing a robust API and capabilities that service providers need and I think that’s reflected in how rapidly SPs are taking on our solution and able to differentiate themselves.

CM: Can you give us an idea of what you will be bringing to InfoComm this year?

LS: We know people are busy at InfoComm, so we like to put on a show for people that come to our booth. Adoption is a constant issue in the industry, so we show everyone what real non-technical people experience with Acano. Then we will literally take them behind the scenes to see how our deep integration with Microsoft Lync works, how over 90 percent of browser users can access Acano, and the power of our API.

We’re flying in members of our R&D team to the show, and they’ll be available on the show floor to answer questions and to bring back ideas. This fits our openness core value and the engineers love to talk to customers.

CM: Can you give us an overview of your marketing strategy and if you are planning any large marketing campaigns?

LS: We define success by making it simpler for our clients to reach their goals. We have many aspects to our solution, it’s a scalable audio bridge, video bridge, Microsoft Lync gateway and a team collaboration solution. So our marketing focuses on demonstrating how we meet each client’s unique needs.

And then of course we evangelize it through partner marketing, content marketing, social media and campaigns.

CM: Any last words for your partners?

LS: Our partners are an extension of our organization. We work very closely with them at a sales level, and also through development, to enable them to build deeper relationships with their enterprises. For example, we offer co-branding and new business models, like per user pricing. And our partners are getting creative. They are seeing a shift in technology and customer needs and embracing it. This is a great time to be in unified communications.

I would again like to thank Larry Satterfield for participating in this fourth blog in the series and providing great insight into the company and its approach to the ever-growing video conferencing/UC market. You can see more about the company and its solutions by going to its website. I did read its blog “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cloud” and while it talks about peace-of-mind benefits like security, resiliency and overflow capacity, I decided to employ the title strategy after a particularly stressful day. So while the experts advocate the virtues of meditation to relieve stress and worry, my new admiration for the cloud now gets me through a tough day. I never thought the cloud could provide a way to enhance communications and collaboration and at the same time achieve nirvana.

Definitely makes for a new sales approach…