Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Interview with Michael Kantor, Orgoo
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
There are a lot of users, with lots of different email and instant messaging accounts, who are finding that there are too many ways to communicate with their friends and associates. Los Angeles-based Orgoo (www.orgoo.com) is looking to solve the problem by creating a unified communications service which ties all those ways of communicating together. We sat down with Michael Kantor, the firm's CEO, to talk about the service and the company.
What's the idea behind Orgoo?
Michael Kantor: The idea behind Orgoo is to solve what is a very large problem out there, which is that communications is fragmented into many different services. People are using email, IM, soc nets like LinkedIn and Facebook, SMS, and video chat -- all of these are really places to communicate. The fact is, communicating is the thing we do the most of, and also the most important. Today, we have to manage our conversations through such a multitude of services, that it really creates what is sometimes called communications chaos. It's a real loss of productivity. What we've been working on is developing a system that allows users to access all of their conversations in a single location. They can access them, organize them, and keep them in one location. We can return control of their communications to the user.
So you replace Microsoft Outlook, or whatever other email services people are using?
Michael Kantor: In fact, it does. Now, you are able to take all of the email accounts you have, and access them in one place. You don't lose those email addresses, necessarily--though you do get an Orgoo address. We pull your Yahoo, business accounts, Gmail, and other accounts and pull them into Orgoo. They can come into your inbox, or come into separate folders. Additionally, we have all the different instant messaging networks available in Orgoo. That sounds a lot like Meebo, but what we've done is combine interoperable IM with email. You can archive and organize your IM conversations, along and inside the same folders as your email. You're also able to simply move conversations from platform to platform. For example, say you get an email, and are going to reply, but because we have interoperable IM I see you're online. Perhaps, instead of replying by email, I reply by IM--IM being more synchronous and much more efficient. Once you've replied by IM, we take the subject from the original email, and drop it into the IM. You then have a conversation in real time, and when you're done we take that IM reply and embed it into the body of your original email. Your entire conversation is then threaded in one location.
What kind of customers you are targeting with the service?
Michael Kantor: Really, the target is quite diverse. There is certainly a business application to pursue, but we're initially targeting people who communicate a lot online. In particular, we're targeting 18-34 year olds, people in college, people who are social networkers, and people who are using every means conceivable to stay in touch with friends and business associates. That's our initial target. But, everyone who is online is using these services. There are one billion IM accounts, and over 30B IMs a day are sent. Video chat is also integrated into our service, and you can invite anyone across any network into a video chatroom, or multiple users into a room for a conference. Video chat is one of the next things and is starting to take off, since almost every computer you buy now either has a camera on a laptop or desktop. They all now come with cameras. Everything we have built is web-based, and there isn't anything to download--you can access it from a computer anywhere.
There's a lot of big guys in this business --Google, Yahoo, etc.--how do you compete?
Michael Kantor: The portals offer email and IM, but none have an interoperable solution. None offer interoperable IM, which is a significant part of the equation. Though that might only be one of the verticals, it's an important one. People are on GTalk, Yahoo, AOL--and to keep up with them all you need an interoperable solution. None of the portals have that, and none have really solved the larger problem. On the startup side, there are a few out there, but again, none that have a comprehensive solution. We're the only web-based solution which has integrated the most commonly used communications services.
What's the business model behind the site?
Michael Kantor: Our revenue model is multi-stream. We're advertising supported, what a lot call a premium/freemium service. The majority of the features we're providing are free and ad-supported, but we also have premium services we're building out. We're offering them at a relatively small amount of money based on an annual subscription. Additionally, we have channel partners who we are working with, to provide certain services integrated into our platform. For example, we are using SMS from Joops, and we have an exclusive deal so that no one else in our space can partner with them, and that's not an out of pocket expense.
What's your background, and how did Orgoo start?
Michael Kantor: I've been in the Internet space for about fourteen years, with a number of startups. Initially, I was with one of the first search engines, Magellan. Back then, there was no leader in the search space. It was long, long before Google--before Google was a figment of someone's imagination. I helped build out the advertising sales model there, and then helped found a company based out of Redmond called InfoSpace. I was the first business employee there, where I developed their revenue model and ran sales. I was an executive officer and strategy officer there. I came here after initially meeting some young guys down here, who reached out to me through some connections. They called me up, and told me about the concept they wanted to pursue. I was up in San Francisco at the time, came down and met with them, and we discussed what concept was and the market. For me, it was very clear that problem that Orgoo is solving for the market is very significant. There are a great many people dealing with this. The average user managed 3.2 active email accounts. That alone simply does not work, it's a productivity killer. So, it was clear this was something, one, that I'd like to be a user of--and two, that would help a great many people out there. I joined them, and we started the company about two years ago.
Finally, how are you funded?
To this point, by angels and employees.