Vidtel Launches Today!

Been trying to get this post out all day. Scott Wharton is one of the few people I know in this space going back to 2001 when I started at Frost & Sullivan. He had a great run at BroadSoft, and it was surprising to hear him make the jump to his own startup this summer. Not only doing a startup for the first time, but moving from the East coast to the West coast to do it. That takes commitment, and he's done it on a shoestring.

His company is called Vidtel - gee, can you guess what the business is? - and today was the official launch. It's a bit like having a baby, so first off, congratulations Scott! You've got a good team behind you, about 100 trials going, the technology is ready now, the service is economical now, and maybe most importantly, video is hot. We're way beyond worrying about how we look on video now, and this isn't the 1964 World's Fair.

Sure, most people are camera-shy, but in the world of iPhone, Flckr, YouTube, Facebook, etc., it's not such a big deal any more. There's no shortage of people ready, willing and able to get onscreen at the drop of a hat. More importantly, Vidtel is about making an everyday experience - talking on the phone - a better experience. There's no shortage of friends and family-based situations where adding video to the mix would be welcome. Vidtel understands this, and the website does a nice job of explaining many of these scenarios and how they would appeal to different segments of the market.

To be clear, Vidtel is a consumer offering. It's not the videophone service that Packet8 was marketing to SMBs. This is a mass market concept, much like Vonage was in 2005. However, prices have come down, and video service like Vidtel is very affordable. The big BUT, of course, is how are you going to get customers? Scott's too savvy to fall into the Vonage trap of spending recklessly to acquire subscribers - especially in today's economy.

He'll start slow and virally, and will establish a loyal customer base and demonstrate proof of concept. That's what I'd be doing. It's not an expensive service to launch, and I'm sure the business can carry itself early on with a modest base of customers. After that, it's all about branding and scale - both of which can be addressed with capital and some sound management decisions.

I'm a fan - I have been ever since he told me about it. I'll soon be a beta user as well, and I'll be reviewing it once I've had some time to use it. Aside from spending time on Vidtel's website, I should add that Scott has a nice blog of his own, so if you want his personal take on how Vidtel came to be, you should read his post about it.

Again, congrats to you and your team, Scott, and it's great to see a startup like this come to life.

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