Featured Article from Conferencing

Wheelings and Dealings: Highfive Snags Millions for VCaaS + Hardware Play

March 16, 2015

Highfive has raised $32 million in series B funding for its video conferencing initiative, a hardware plus as-a-service play that aims to take on hardware-heavy incumbents like Cisco and Polycom.

With the new funding, Highfive aims to double its team of 50 employees this year to support engineering, sales and marketing.

Highfive’s solution consists of an $800 device, which contains a video camera, HD microphone and Wi-Fi. It connects to a regular 1080p television and runs on IP, so the company’s cloud software can then route communications between the device and any number of camera-enabled desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile handsets and other gear—even, presumably, Xboxes and the like. However, interoperability with other proprietary video conferencing systems remains elusive, and there’s no Microsoft Lync integration.

Highfive plans to tap the 25 million or so conference rooms that don’t have video conferencing and screen sharing capabilities. It has two levels of service: the free service provides unlimited video calls with up to 10 participants in a meeting. There’s also a $10 per month plan that adds unlimited phone minutes, custom branding, single sign-on and a lobby or waiting room.

The company came out of stealth mode last October and began shipping in December. It says that it has seen some encouraging early momentum. So far, it counts among its clients Patagonia, Slack, Zenefits and Warby Parker.

“After experiencing the shift in productivity when video conferencing, Web conferencing and screen sharing are made incredibly simple, customers who started with one or two devices have come back to us to put Highfive in every meeting room,” said Shan Sinha, CEO and co-founder of Highfive. “We are seeing record growth, and we’re on track to process one million video minutes per week within the first six months of shipping, making Highfive one of the fastest growing business video conferencing providers in the industry.”

The round brings the company’s total investment to $45.4 million. It was led by a new investor, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and included participation from existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, General Catalyst, SV Angel, Aaron Levie (Box), Drew Houston (Dropbox), Marc Benioff (Salesforce.com) and Shishir Mehrotra (YouTube).

“We looked at every company in the video conferencing space, and invested in Highfive because we saw an amazing product, phenomenal growth, a huge market opportunity and the right team to solve this problem,” said Arif Janmohamed, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners and newly appointed board member. “Incumbents like Cisco and Polycom have legacy products that are overpriced, complicated to use, and are out of touch with today's trends like cloud and mobile. Every one of us has experienced how difficult it can be to connect people at work face-to-face, and at Highfive, I’m excited to play a role in finally solving this for companies large and small.”

While video conferencing as-a-service (VCaaS) isn’t a new concept—witness consumer-grade options like Google Hangouts, for example, or even Skype—the company and its clients say that the mix of hardware-based management and flexible endpoint support occupies a unique niche in the offerings in the market to date.

Zenefits for example was looking to provide video conferencing capabilities to keep teams connected across its San Francisco and Scottsdale offices.

“When we looked at the options, older systems like Polycom and Cisco were too complicated and expensive, so we focused on the newer players,” said Nick Thulin, director of IT for Zenefits. “We chose Highfive because we could easily add the devices to every meeting room, and because of their dedication to adding new features and integrations based on customer feedback, as compared to other players like Google Hangouts. Having Highfive in every meeting room has made video conferencing a daily tool for our employees."

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino