Interview with Rony Zarom, President and CEO, Watchitoo

The following is an interview with Rony Zarom, President and CEO of Watchitoo.

Watchitoo uniquely combines HD videoconferencing, streaming video and multimedia collaboration software for education, entertainment and business customers around the world. It all takes place in your Web browser – no downloads are required.

What is your company/service?

It’s a Web platform that lets you create an HD videoconference that brings together 25 people—more than any other video conferencing tool allows. During the group videoconference, you can live stream the event and collaborate on documents, presentations or other multimedia. Thousands more can follow along, chatting via text and posting social messages to followers.

Watchitoo is perfect for celebrity events, virtual classroom learning and corporate sales/training. No other conferencing or streaming platform enables all this. Watchitoo operates in the user’s browser and requires no downloads. Customers can easily embed Watchitoo in their website or Facebook page and broadcast directly from it, creating their own social TV channel.

What were you doing before starting this company?

Starting other companies. In 2000, I created Exalink, a maker of voice gateways for connecting phones with the Internet. A year and a half later I sold the company to Comverse Technology for $550 million. Exalink ushered in voice over IP, paving the way for Internet video and the smart phones that have become an office in our hand. Before Exalink, I partnered with IBM’s second in command to bring commercial Internet service to Israel.

Where did your vision/inspiration for this company come from?

When I traveled in the mid-2000s, long-distance phone calls didn’t seem like quality family time. I thought it would be great to spend time with my son via video – and, on top of that, watch YouTube clips together (my son was learning to play the drums and loved watching accomplished performers online). Problem was, there was no way we could do it. I already had several patents under my belt and thought I could build the tool I wanted. So I hired some programmers, created the multimedia conferencing platform, and turned it into a company, Watchitoo. Videoconferencing while sharing content was a great way to bridge the distance with my family.

What problem are you solving, and why does the world need your product?

We’re solving several problems. TV producers, sports teams and brands of all kinds need a way to diversify and deepen their engagement with fans online, socially. Watchitoo enables brands’ audiences to become part of the show and lets them interact directly with talent.

Businesses need a way to conduct virtual meetings without the cost of room conferencing equipment or the tedium of a one-way presentation. Watchitoo is highly interactive and multidirectional, yet you can still do the PowerPoint thing with it.

Schools need us to bring the human touch into their distance learning programs to simulate the in-the-classroom experience. They want dynamic classes where instructors and students can see one another and interact as if they were in the same lecture hall. You can’t really achieve that with a threaded discussion board.

What keeps you motivated?

I’m a lifelong technologist and always wanted to be an inventor. I read a lot about science as a kid. My heroes were Marie Curie and Einstein and as I grow, other developments in computer science have captured my imagination. What defines me today is the drive to produce innovation that will better affect our lives. Watchitoo provides me with an amazing opportunity to express my creativity and transform it into amazing game changer product.

What would you consider to be a successful result for your company?

TV networks like CBS, Oxygen, Discovery and MTV use Watchitoo to let fans chat directly with their favorite stars. Schools like Yale University use Watchitoo to create powerful virtual classroom learning experiences. Businesses like JPMorgan Chase & Co. use Watchitoo to explore solutions with employees and prospects.

Where do you see the marketplace moving to?

Virtual classrooms will become prevalent, both in higher education and less formal settings. They will be viewed as the gold standard of distance learning, a way to enable more meaningful, face-to-face interactions. Businesses still haven’t figured out how to do a virtual meeting that’s as good as one that takes place in person, but tools like Watchitoo will show them how this can be done. And the landscape of TV will be more social, allowing for high levels of fan interaction. Look for reality shows to not only spotlight “real people” on the set, but draw in real people from the viewing audience, on the fly, as the lines between TV and Internet continue to blur.

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