Even Derek Jeter thinks cloud-hosted videoconferencing is a good idea

September 23, 2015, 11:30 AM UTC

It’s time to view corporate videoconferences through a different lens.

While there’s still a place for sophisticated meeting-room equipment, such as the systems sold by market leaders like Cisco, Polycom, or Huawei, fewer businesses willing to make a capital investment in proprietary systems or commit to expensive dedicated services. In face, close to one-third are actively moving toward cloud-hosted services, according to recent Forrester Research data.

“The explosion of video-as-a-service [VaaS] offerings has created a new set of considerations for buyers—not only whether or not to go to the cloud but also what the pros and cons are of partnering with different types of providers to get there,” notes Forrester in its recent report about the market.

Against that backdrop, two would-be contenders are refreshing their corporate strategies this week.

The first, Blue Jeans Network, disclosed another $76.5 million in financing Wednesday, as it looks to expand into Europe, Asia, and Australia. The round was led by NEA along with several other investors, notably baseball legend Derek Jeter.

“I was captivated by what Blue Jeans’ video could do to amplify the voice of our athletes,” he said in a statement. “Now, after working closely with the [Blue Jeans] team, I share their vision and see the enormous potential that exists for interactive video events and experiences in business, sports, media, and entertainment.”

Blue Jeans got its start in 2011, and now hosts more than 1 billion minutes of real-time video collaboration annually. One of the strongest elements of its storyline: the ability to connect room-based videoconferencing equipment from the who’s-who in that market with mobile video applications like Skype. Blue Jeans’ 5,000 corporate accounts include Facebook and Sephora.

The new “pre-IPO” round brings total funding to $175 million.

Logitech’s Lifesize division, which started life as an equipment provider, is also sounding the cloud video mantra—to good effect. Over the past 15 months the LifeSize Cloud services has “acquired” more than 2,000 paying customers including the likes of French chemicals giant Air Liquide and media company Gannett, said Lifesize founder and CEO Craig Malloy. “We needed to radically reinvent the business,” he said.

Lifesize this month released an app that makes it simpler to make video calls using its cloud service, that is if you use the Chrome Web browser. Like the Blue Jeans offering, the technology helps bridge the disparate systems that are often scattered throughout a company’s meeting rooms.

Of course, you shouldn’t overlook what the legacy players in this market have up their sleeves. Forrester expects Cisco Systems and Polycom to play up their own cloud offerings; the two continue to offer the “most comprehensive infrastructure,” according to its report in July.

Two other players are also worth close observation: Vidyo, a company from Hackensack, N.J., backed with more than $136 million in venture funding; and tech giant Avaya, which sells a substantial portfolio of unified communications technologies.

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