Boulder entrepreneurs Anthony Claudia and Andrew Hahn made a name for themselves by developing an app that allows professionals to join conference calls with one tap. When a prominent executive in video conferencing asked them to make joining group video chats that easy, the lightbulb for startup number two went off.
That was the genesis of Twine, a Boulder, Colo. startup that makes tools for video conferencing. On the hardware side is Twine Connect, a device that syncs up with a TV or monitor, plus a webcam and wireless speaker. Twine’s software integrates with the popular workplace chat app, Slack, allowing users to join video conferences in the same way they would chat a coworker.
“Meetings never start on time,” said Claudia, Twine’s CEO. “Video conferencing software is unreliable and unnecessarily complicated. The hardware in conference rooms never works. It’s a painful, broken experience. So we set out to create a simple, magical join experience.”
Twine also works with Alexa, the voice-controlled assistant that powers Amazon Echo devices. That capability helped Twine land a spot in the inaugural Alexa Accelerator, a new program that Amazon is running in partnership with Techstars to supports startups developing technologies related to the voice platform.
We caught up with Claudia for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Mom, Twine lets you control video conferences and presentations with your voice. It’s like being on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. If you use Slack, you can also chat with Twine just like another teammate. It will even take care of scheduling meetings for you so you don’t have to email back and forth.”
Inspiration hit us when: “The VP of product for one of the largest video conferencing companies in North America asked us to ‘make joining video calls as easy as MobileDay.’ MobileDay, our last startup, is an iOS and Android App that lets you one-tap dial into any conference call. No pins, pounds, or access codes. Just one tap. It was clear that the market was frustrated with the status quo of video conferencing and wanted a better experience, similar to what we had created with MobileDay.
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “VC and Angel, because why not? The right investor can be an invaluable partner and mentor, not just a checkbook. The trick is knowing when to be picky and when to just take the money and run.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Our disdain for sitting in meetings, wasting time. This hatred drives us to create compelling, new experiences for video and collaboration.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Getting Slack to invest in us.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Shipping hardware too early. It’s easy to get anxious and want your product out there, but hardware is a different beast than software.”
Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bezos, and not just because we are in the Amazon Alexa accelerator. Bezos has created a culture where intelligent and calculated experimentation and risk is okay. Failure is okay. Not just tolerated, but really okay. The other guys talk the talk, but at the end of the day, you’re going to be penalized for failure at the Facebook. I want the guy who understands dreaming big and taking risks in my corner.
Our favorite team-building activity is: “Eating weird shit together.”
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Smart people with that twinkle in their eye that seems to say ‘I’m going to be asking for forgiveness a lot more than permission, okay boss?'”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Remember, your great idea has a long way to go. Don’t get stubborn or dismayed with a change in direction. If you are doing it right, your idea will change a hundred times before you’ve written one line of code. Listen to the market, and start talking to customers day one.”
Editor’s note: GeekWire is featuring each of the nine companies in the Alexa Accelerator leading up to their Demo Day Oct. 17.