Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Virgin eyes Kiwi link-up

Video conferencing start-up FaceMe gets encouraging input from Sir Richard Branson.

FaceMe chief technology officer Danny Tomsett, from left, Sir Richard Branson and FaceMe chief executive Mark Christensen. Photo / Supplied
FaceMe chief technology officer Danny Tomsett, from left, Sir Richard Branson and FaceMe chief executive Mark Christensen. Photo / Supplied

A meeting with Sir Richard Branson looks set to pay dividends for Auckland video conferencing start-up FaceMe.

Mark Christensen and Danny Tomsett, the North Shore-based company's chief executive and chief technology officer respectively, travelled to Adelaide last week to discuss their business plans with the billionaire founder of Virgin Group.

They got the chance to take part in the meeting after winning a business challenge competition last year.

Christensen said Branson had indicated there was scope for using FaceMe's technology within the Virgin Group, from its international call centres to its media and airline divisions.

"They'd be a great client to get on board," he said. "We talked a lot around use cases of FaceMe, in particular referencing those use cases into his [Branson's] business units."

Christensen said Branson was also keen to use FaceMe on Necker Island, the Caribbean island he owns.

"He gets interviewed a lot [on the island] and has a very poor performance on Skype," he said.

If Virgin Group was to use FaceMe's technology, it would become the company's biggest client.

After lengthy research and development, FaceMe - a browser-based video-conferencing system - hit the market in 2010.

The company says its technology is a low-cost alternative to traditional conferencing systems, which often link up only a limited number of points. Conference callers invited to FaceMe can be anywhere in the world, provided they have access to a webcam, mobile or landline phone and computer.

Christensen said clients could buy a subscription service for as little as $35 a month, while other FaceMe products could cost as much as $250,000. "It's a combination of cloud-hosted services and on-premise, enterprise solutions."

Christensen said the company now employed 40 staff, including employees in Canada and Australia, and its technology was being used by more than 4000 customers around the world.

FaceMe's biggest market was Australia, while the firm also had a presence in Britain and the United States and is looking at Europe.

"We've done an agreement with a firm in the UK who are helping us target some of Europe's biggest telcos ... certainly they've got the ability to really get FaceMe to the masses," Christensen said.

He said the firm was yet to turn a profit, as it continued to reinvest for growth. "All the shareholders are completely behind the growth strategy and at the moment we're looking for external investment so we can accelerate that [growth] further and really get a foothold in more markets."

- NZ Herald

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