Why Derek Jeter invested in a video conferencing startup

Re-post article by Dan Primack from fortune.com

If Blue Jeans Network can re-imagine broadcasting, then the future Hall of Famer can help athletes communicate better with their fans.

Blue Jean Networks, a Silicon Valley provider of cloud-based video conferencing solutions, today announced that it had raised $76.5 million in new venture capital funding. The deal included a lot of the usual suspects — including lead investor New Enterprise Associates — but also former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Not exactly someone you typically associate with video conferencing.

To understand why the future Hall of Famer invested, it’s important to first realize that he has an existing relationship with NEA and, in particular, NEA partner Jon Sakoda. The two originally met last year at a tech conference, shortly after Jeter had launched a sports media company called The Players’ Tribune.

“Players’ Tribune wasn’t yet the company it is today, and he wanted to network and discuss ideas with media people and VCs,” Sakoda explains. “At a dinner after the conference he explained his vision around Tribune, which was to give athletes a platform to connect directly with fans.”

NEA would subsequently become an investor in Players’ Tribune, with Sakoda taking a board seat.

At the same time, Sakoda was working with one of his existing portfolio companies — Blue Jeans — to adapt to the expanding needs of its larger customers. For example, Facebook FB 2.01% was sometimes using the video conferencing product for events with hundreds or thousands of participants, like CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Friday beer bashes and COO Sheryl Sandberg’s all-hands meetings. The result would be a new Blue Jeans product called Primetime, which is designed to essentially blend videoconferencing with webcasting. Kind of like Periscope or Meerkat, but with a specific set of functionality for live event organizers (moderation, etc.).

Sakoda would soon introduce Primetime to Jeter, pitching it as a way for athletes to eventually communicate directly with fans, without the 140 character limits of Twitter TWTR 1.02% or the asynchronous nature of YouTube GOOG 1.62% .

“He realized that this product could be a new way of imagining interactive broadcasting,” Sakoda explains.

It is unclear how much Jeter invested in the round, or where Blue Jeans is currently valued. According to CrunchBase, Jeter also invested years ago in WePlay, an online community for youth athletes that was eventually acquired by TeamSnap.

5 Mistakes You’re Making With Video Conferencing

Re-post article by Kristi Hines from http://redbooth.stfi.re/

Video conferencing is a powerful tool for businesses. You can use it to conduct in-house meetings, product demos, educational seminars, technical support, and so much more. But unfortunately, not every business is utilizing it as much as it should be. In this post, we’re going to look at five specific mistakes you business might be making with video conferencing, and how to fix them.

Mistake 1: Not Preparing Others for Video

Video conferencing sessions sometimes require a little more preparation than the average phone call, as people will want to be in the right setting for minimal distractions. Hence, you will want to make sure that all participants for an upcoming call know they will be on video.

For in-house meetings and meetings with remote employees, it’s as simple as letting them know that your company prefers video conferencing to voice chat to make everyone feel more connected. Using video conferencing can quickly become second nature when you’re doing it every day.

But for your customers, partners outside of the company, and others who may not be as accustomed to hopping on a video call, it’s helpful to let them know in advance. That way, they’ll have a chance to prepare and reserve a conference room (or straighten up their living room!).

Mistake 2: Choosing a Bad Setting

If you want people to focus on what you are saying during your video conference, you need to eliminate as many distractions as possible. Distractions can arise if you choose a bad setting for your video conference.

Ideally, you want to be a in a well-lit room with a solid background behind you, such as a wall or projector screen. If you have a busy background in the room you plan to video conference in (like those in an open office space would), you can invest in a backdrop. While it won’t help the noise, it will help with visual distractions.

You also want to make sure you are not backlit. A common mistake is to have a window behind where you are sitting. When video conferencing, if that window is not covered, your face will be dark while everything outside the window will be crystal clear.

For any lighting issues, you can invest in video conferencing lighting. They can be as simple as lights that sit on your desk to lights you install on your wall behind the camera or on your ceiling. (Check out some of Redbooth’s top picks for more videoconferencing tips and resources here.)

Mistake 3: Moving During the Video

Stability produces clear, high-definition video. Any form of shake is going to create a blurry image that distracts viewers from your message to what you are doing. If you must use a handheld device because you’re traveling, at least find a location where you can use a mobile device stand for your smartphone or tablet so that your device is stable.

This goes for your laptop as well. Any movement during your video conference is going to cause some distortion in the video. So be sure that you are in a good spot for the entire meeting before you get on camera.

Also, no matter what device you are using, make sure that your camera is straight in front of you as opposed to looking up at you. This will be the most flattering angle for your face.

Mistake 4: Relying on the Computer Speakers and Mic

While headsets are not the most fashionable devices, it’s best to use a headset when video conferencing as opposed to using your computer’s speakers and mic. For starters, using the computer speakers might create feedback in your video, as people will be able to hear you and what is projected from your speakers.

Another issue when using your computer’s default audio output and input is background noise. Headsets and external microphones will limit the amount of noise projected into the video.

There are lots of headset options to choose from beyond the ones you typically associate with telemarketers and customer support teams. Thanks to smartphones, you can invest in earbuds that come with a mic attached. You can also get bluetooth earpieces that connect to your computer. Or you can use microphones that sit on your desk with earbuds, like the Yeti.

If you plan on conducting video conferencing on a regular basis, you may want to invest in the type of professional equipment video podcasters use for the best video and audio.

Mistake 5: Not Utilizing Video Conferencing Enough

Once you have a great setup, you will want to utilize video conferencing as much as possible. Many businesses spend unnecessary time and money on travel in situations where a video conference could have been used instead. In the US, businesses spent $384 billion on business travel in a single year. For in-house meetings, video conferencing saves remote employees time by allowing them to attend a meeting “in-person” with the ability to go right back to work.

For customer meetings, video conferencing can save businesses from accumulating travel expenses. It allows businesses to get their message in front of potential customers faster, as no one is waiting to schedule a trip.

To ensure you are utilizing video conferencing as much as possible, just look your last month’s worth of meetings. Were there in-person meetings that could have been as effective with video? If so, make sure that going forward, video conferencing is considered first before travel.

In Conclusion

Video conferencing does require a little more thought in terms of planning, scheduling, setup, and technology. But once you have everything in place, it’s a highly efficient and effective method of communicating.

Video Meeting Startup Blue Jeans Raises $76.5 Million From NEA And Derek Jeter

Re-post article by Alex Konrad from forbes.com

Blue Jeans CEO Krish Ramakrishnan wants to build the Salesforce of video.

Derek Jeter is a Blue Jeans fan.

When the retired New York Yankees captain launched his athlete-focused media site The Players’ Tribune in February, basketball star Blake Griffin couldn’t make it to the New York event in person. So he connected virtually through a video connection operated by a six-year-old startup, Blue Jeans Network. Jeter was impressed.

So when Blue Jeans announced a $76.5 million growth stage funding round on Wednesday from big-name venture capital firm NEA and host of other firms, Jeter joined the cap table–despite a price tag that’s likely to have moved Blue Jeans well past the typical celebrity angel investment.

Blue Jeans now hosts one billion minutes of video conferencing per year, says CEO Krish Ramakrishnan. Four years ago, the total market was 200 million minutes. Blue Jeans has grown so fast because rather than pitch customers on one type of expensive proprietary hardware for their chats, Blue Jeans hosts the conferencing in the cloud, providing an Internet-based back-end for whatever solution is being used. That way Blue Jeans stays uninvolved in price wars for hardware and can work with a range of partners. Blue Jeans’ aspiration is to become a sort of dial tone equivalent for video chatting, says chief commercial officer Stu Aaron.

Where Blue Jeans sees major opportunity to be the video back-end moving forward is in live events such as Ted talks (it already works with the TedX series) and sporting events. Its Primetime product allows large numbers of viewers to submit questions over a video stream.

Cofounder Ramakrishnan says that when the company set out to raise more money for Primetime and to expand its global business–Blue Jeans has a foothold in Europe and operates in Asia through a Sydney office–every investor had personally used its product. That includes Jeter, who the company says is intrigued by Primetime’s potential for interaction with top athletes.


And that means Jeter was willing to join a funding round that likely values Blue Jeans at, or close to, “unicorn” billion-dollar startup status. NEA led the round, but existing investors Accel Partners, Battery Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners also rejoined, as did new firms Glynn Capital and Quadrille Capital in an oversubscribed raise. Blue Jeans had previously raised a total of just under $100 million, at a valuation in 2013 of just under $500 million, a number that’s likely greatly increased now. Ramakrishnan declined to comment on any valuation speculation, calling himself “a little bit old school.”

Blue Jeans eventually aspires to go public, says Aaron, though he didn’t provide any timetable for that plan. But Blue Jeans is banking on the fact that big tech companies like Google look to integrate their own conferencing offers with Blue Jeans’ behind the scenes virtual pipes instead of looking to replicate its device-agnostic connection.

Speaking in an interview as Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference wound down on Friday, Ramakrishnan said that his goal is to provide a platform for online video communications much as Salesforce built out a platform around its customer relationship tools, as easy to add to a website as Google Maps locations are today.

Says his colleague Aaron: “Salesforce has the sales cloud. Oracle has the marketing cloud. Blue Jeans will have the video cloud.”

Scoring some high profile athlete endorsements among Jeter’s friends wouldn’t hurt in getting there.

Blue Jeans Network Raises $76.5M To Bring Video Conferencing Beyond The Office

Re-post article by Christine Magee from techcrunch.com/

Blue Jeans Network, a company that provides cloud-based video conferencing services, has raised $76.5 million in its fifth round of financing.

NEA led the Series E round, joined by Accel Partners, Battery Ventures, Glynn Capital, Norwest Venture Partners, and Quadrille Capital. Jeter Ventures, a new fund launched by MLB all-star Derek Jeter, also participated.

When Blue Jeans launched in 2011, the entire video conferencing market was sized at 200 million minutes per year, according to co-founder and CEO Krish Ramakrishnan, because companies relied primarily on audio-only conference calls.

Today, Blue Jeans alone facilitates over one billion minutes of video conferences each year for over 25 million users across 5,000 companies.

For work-related conference calls, Blue Jeans provides a single platform for audio, video, and document sharing, and it’s compatible with nearly every major hardware and software platform. So you can choose to dial in to that all-hands meeting from anywhere, whether you’re on the go with your iPhone, at home on your laptop, or using the existing hardware system in the conference room.

If you’re not that excited about video conferencing, take a minute to consider how this tech could be useful outside of an office setting. Primetime, a service that Blue Jeans rolled out earlier this year, represents the company’s first attempt to extend real-time video conferencing capabilities beyond the enterprise.

With Primetime, any live-streamed event or broadcast can become interactive. By making it possible to quickly switch from one-way streaming mode to two-way interactive mode, hosts can engage with remote viewers as if they were at the event, whether that’s a college lecture, a celebrity talk show, or a tech conference.


When patients live far from care, video conferencing can be a palliative support lifeline

Re-post article by Michael Novinson from crn.com

People facing life-threatening illnesses often access palliative care to ease their pain and help with difficult end-of-life choices. But for those living in remote, rural areas, getting that comforting care can be unwieldy. Special correspondent Joanne Elgart Jennings reports on how one doctor in Northern California is trying to come up with innovative ways to ease the process.


JUDY WOODRUFF: People facing life-threatening illnesses often turn to palliative care, not only to address their pain, but also to navigate end-of-life choices. It’s never an easy process, but it’s even harder for those living in remote rural areas.

One doctor in Northern California is finding innovative ways to help ease the burden.

Special correspondent Joanne Jennings reports from Humboldt County, California. It’s the latest in our Breakthroughs series on invention and innovation.

JOANNE JENNINGS: Dr. Michael Fratkin, an internist specializing in palliative medicine, is making a house call to a terminally ill patient.

WOMAN: This is where I would like to die when I die, in my own bed, in my own home.

JOANNE JENNINGS: At 73 years old, Kristi Goechel is confronting her mortality. Six months ago, the retired school guidance counselor was diagnosed with an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. Her oncologist recommended surgery and chemotherapy, but Goechel to forgo treatment.

KRISTI GOECHEL, Retired Guidance Counselor: My husband was in the hospital for a long time before he died. And it was painful. I don’t want to live the rest of my life like that. If I have three months, six months, I don’t care. I want quality of life with my family.

JOANNE JENNINGS: Now home, Goechel is savoring every moment.

KRISTI GOECHEL: I get a lot of pain.

DR. MICHAEL FRATKIN, Resolution Care: And then where’s the pain?

JOANNE JENNINGS: Like most palliative care doctors, Fratkin does manage pain. But he also tries to get his patients to focus beyond the physical.

DR. MICHAEL FRATKIN: How are you feeling inside yourself?

KRISTI GOECHEL: Well, I’m feeling better. I was feeling pretty crazy inside myself for a while. And I’m trying to work that out now emotionally.

JOANNE JENNINGS: To offer this kind of personal care requires time. But with most of his patients living off the beaten path, far from Fratkin’s office in Eureka, that’s almost impossible.

To give us a better sense of the distance he covers, Fratkin enlisted the help of pilot Mark Harris and his 1957 Cessna.

DR. MICHAEL FRATKIN: Just our service area extends 100 miles north and south and probably 60 to 80 miles from the beach eastward. There are people that live in the nooks and crannies of our environment by choice. That’s where they have lived their life and that’s where they want to complete their life.

A little bit more than a year ago, I was burned out. I had no team and no way of thinking, how was I possibly going to meet the demand that this community has for this kind of supportive care?

JOANNE JENNINGS: So he came up with a solution: videoconferencing.

DR. MICHAEL FRATKIN: By adding the videoconferencing technology, we can travel that distance instantaneously.

And as long as our relationships are solid and we have delivered an environment of trust in working with these folks, it works beautifully well

JOANNE JENNINGS: For 44-year-old Rich Schlesiger, this type of communication makes all the difference. The former sheriff’s deputy had been making a 10-hour round-trip drive to San Francisco for brain cancer treatments.

After trying everything, his tumor continued to grow, so he made a tough decision: stop chemotherapy, and live out his final days at home in Fortuna.

From his living room couch, with his wife, Morgan, and mother, Pam, by his side, Schlesiger discusses his drug regimen with his neuro-oncologist, Dr. Jennifer Clarke. She’s in San Francisco. And Dr. Fratkin is in Eureka.

DR. JENNIFER CLARKE, University of California, San Francisco: How did that go? Did you feel like it made any difference from the standpoint of headaches or from the standpoint of your right side?

WOMAN: I don’t think so.

JOANNE JENNINGS: After sharing a few laughs, they quickly move into an intense conversation.

DR. MICHAEL FRATKIN: How is the rest of your family around you doing, Rich?

RICH SCHLESIGER, Retired Sheriff’s Deputy: It’s rough because I don’t know where to go, you know? I feel good. Then I’m like going down, you know? And I’m like, God damn it, something’s wrong. But you know how I am? I just want it — I want to do it. And that’s how I am.

DR. MICHAEL FRATKIN: If I was to be a betting man, I would bet that this would be in some ways the hardest part of things, because it’s not about doing. It’s about being.

WOMAN: It’s good that he’s showing those emotions. It’s good that he has all that. It’s just the part of Rich that we love.

JOANNE JENNINGS: Pam Schlesiger says that videoconferencing has made this very difficult process more bearable.

PAM SCHLESIGER, Mother of Rich Schlesiger: He gets to talk to Dr. Clarke and Dr. Fratkin, and here we are in our house. Who would even think of that?

JOANNE JENNINGS: Dr. Clarke, who hadn’t done video consultations before meeting the Schlesigers, is impressed.

DR. JENNIFER CLARKE: This was my first experience with telemedicine. And I found it, in fact, much more powerful than I was anticipating. And I think this could be a really powerful tool to allow us to take better care of patients, particularly when they’re becoming less mobile toward the end of life.

JOANNE JENNINGS: But, despite the promise, Dr. Clarke doesn’t yet have a mechanism to bill for video consultations.

For Dr. Fratkin’s older patients, Medicare often pays after an initial face-to-face visit. And through a new pilot program for Medicaid patients, he’s trying to replace the traditional fee-for-service system with a so-called value-based payment model.

Here’s how it works:

DR. MICHAEL FRATKIN: For eligible participants, we will be provided a per-member per-month amount. With this value-based payment model, it doesn’t matter whether we see the person once a month or twice a day. It doesn’t matter if we send a social worker or a community health worker. It doesn’t matter if we use a telephone or we use a videoconferencing technology.

What matters is that we deliver value that makes sense to that person.

JOANNE JENNINGS: Meanwhile, Fratkin is helping his patients get used to the whole concept of palliative care via videoconference.

DR. MICHAEL FRATKIN: And then, what we will do is, we will connect by videoconference.

JOANNE JENNINGS: Kristi Goechel says she prefers in-person visits, but she will give video a try.

For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Joanne Jennings in Redway, California.