Because we didn’t like other conference calling services...

Before we had this blog, people often asked us “Kevin and Jonas, why did you build HipDial?”

The short answer of course is “Because we needed it”, but the long answer is much longer and provides an excellent subject for this first post.

If you’re a busy person these days, you’ll be invited to “conference calls”. The first time this happens you’ll say, blissfully ignorant, “sure” and think nothing of it. When the day arrives, you manage to dig up the number you’re supposed to call from some old email and dial it. A computer then asks you to punch in a “Host and or Member Access Code”. Confused, you re-read the instructions. Indeed, there’s a 12-digit “security” code in there. You can’t copy and paste the PIN into the call so you try memorizing it, you don’t get it right and end up writing it on a piece of paper. You call the friendly computer again and give it the number. Now you’re asked to “Speak your name after the tone”. What the heck. You’re already five minutes late! A minute later, a click in the line and you’re in. Fortunately the call has not started yet because two of the other participants were not as fast as you.

Now you are initiated. You hate conference calls and by proxy everything in and/or surrounding them. You even hate the computer voice that sounds like the demon spawn resulting from a love affair between your automated Bank service hotline and the subway train announcement voice. Little did you know that you got the lucky end of the bargain, because somebody has to host the call. Depending on the service you’re using for that you’ll need to do any number of the following fun tasks: Reserve a conference line, provide a list of all participants’ contact details, create a “room”, or even upload pictures and names for all participants!

I’m not exaggerating. I wouldn’t even be if I had included two-PIN logins (one for the room and one for security), invitation emails that get flagged as spam, people getting into car accidents trying to redial into a conference they got dropped from or conference lines that required everyone to be sitting in front of a computer with an internet connection. It is all true. Suffice to say, Kevin and me were not amused and decided to make a better tool.

If you want to get on the phone with one other person, you call their number and you’re done. This is well understood and couldn’t be simpler, so we decided to make a service that works in exactly the same way. We give you normal phone number and people call it to participate in the call. It’s that easy. One person is the host of the call, but even the host doesn’t need to do anything because we can identify her using via caller ID. There is no way conference calls could ever be simpler (or more compatible with existing systems and workflows). Problem solved.

Take a step back and look at the conference calling services industry as a whole. It shouldn’t surprise you that the usability of existing services is so bad. The industry is dominated by large enterprise players that are very expensive and provide a sub-par experience. This sets a horrible precedent for the rest of the market, which is served by a large number of old, often local companies that are running legacy software somewhere next to a physical telephone switchboard. We already built a great product at HipDial, but our biggest advantage is our ability to quickly respond to feedback and improve the product.

You can sign up for HipDial here. If you have any feedback after trying our product, please reach out. And if you have any conference call horror stories to share, we always love to hear those.

Posted on 07 Aug 2012 by Jonas

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