Thursday, January 20, 2011
Interview with Costin Tuculescu, Freebinar
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
In recent years, one of the more common ways to share information, conduct training, or pitch your company to other has been through online, web-based webinar and conferencing. However, those services can be expensive, particularly for individual users and small and medium sized businesses. To address the need for more affordable webinars, services like DimDim (acquired by Salesforce.com earlier this month), and Huntington Beach-based Freebinar (www.freebinar.com) have been offering up free webinar products to users. We spoke with Costin Tuculescu, CEO of Freebinar, about the firm, how it's reaching out to Dimdim users, and the background on the company. Freebinar is backed by the Pasadena Angels and the Tech Coast Angels.
First, for folks who haven't used your service, what is Freebinar?
Costin Tuculescu: Freebinar.com is a completely free alternative for web conferencing and webinar users. It's not a freemium model. Instead, the business model supports this being free forever. We provide the same premium tools at GoToMeeting, WebEx, and what DimDim did, and we do that for free, using an ad-supported model. We are targeting small businesses, startups, or anyone who doesn't want to pay the $50 to $100 a month for web conferencing technology. Freebinar gives them a solution that includes screen sharing, voice over IP audio, broadcast, conference calling, and allow you to meet with as many as 150 people at the same time. We give you all the tools to invite people, register them for your webinar, and collect information. You can even give them surveys, quizzes, and tests. It's a complete, online event or webinar solution.
How can you provide this for free, when other people charge so much for web conferencing solutions?
Costin Tuculescu: The webinar medium is very interesting. You have people sitting in front of a computer for hours on webinars. People are used to the idea to check their email when their attention dozes off, or do other things. What we've been able to do, is non-intrusively serve ads on the right side of the screen, which rotate every 60 seconds. That gives 60 impressions per attendee per hour, which adds up fairly quickly when you're serving up hundreds of thousands of webinars a month.
What's your background, and how did you get into this?
Costin Tuculescu: I came out of UC Irvine as a software engineer, studying computer science. My first company was Digevent, a startup in the webcasting space. I ended up building a lot of their technology, but unfortunately, they ran out of funding. I immediately was recruited out into another company in webcasting, CTM Marketing Group, building out their platform for them. Unfortunately, that firm's partners had a falling out. After that, I said--you know what, there's huge potential here--and around 2004 I decided to take all of that experience and build a platform for myself. The firm was incubated with the founder's own cash--the other founder is my father. We grew the business, bootstrapping it from one full time employee to 10. That company, the parent firm of this whole thing, CosNet, also has a separate brand that offers paid web conferencing via resellers. I believe the key here is the ability to provide this service for free, which is why we took the recent investment. It's to help us grow quickly and to bring this product to the huge, small business market.
What are your specific plans for the new funding from the angels?
Costin Tuculescu: We will be using the majority for marketing, segmenting out small business users, and reaching people through specific verticals.
Finally, what's the big goal for you in the next few months?
Costin Tuculescu: We really want to ramp up our usage. We currently have over 10,000 users of Freebinar.com, and we'd like to get to well over 50,000 over the next few months. We're looking to take advantage of the market, particularly since DimDim, since being acquired by Salesforce.com, is no longer providing a webinar solution. We'd also like to form partnerships in other verticals that reach our customer segments. So it will be lots of business development and marketing in the next few months.
Thanks, and good luck!