VisitorsCafe aims at enhancing the interactive features of websites by providing them with a video chat option that can be added with a single line of code .
The video chat enables websites to enhance the level of interaction available to their communities, thus turning websites into cafes. This allows users to spend more time on the website interacting with other like minded users. While Chatroulette and other VChat services randomly connect users, VisitorsCafe uses a matching algorithm to connect users together. The VisitorsCafe’s service was launched yesterday, November 10th, and it provides its service on invitation only bases (continue reading below for your change to earn an exclusive invite to try out the VisitorsCafe service for FREE). The Thoughtpick blog took the opportunity to speak with VisitorsCafe’s founder, Morgan Hermand-Waiche, to learn more about him, their business and VisitorsCafe’s services.
Thoughtpick: Just to start things off, tell me a bit about yourself, what sort of startups have you been involved in?
Morgan: I grew up in France and attended the equivalent of MIT there; while I was a student I started an internet company that connects students to available short term housing available in the area.
People at McKinsey & Co. noticed my ventures and my work and like many entrepreneur in France I was extended an offer to work for them in consulting. I worked there for 2 years but it became quickly apparent that McKinsey isn’t the place for me; there was too much administration overhead and too little entrepreneurship going on over there. So I moved on to what I believed to be a much more fast paced environment, and one that will provide me with more hands on experience so I went into the hedge fund industry but I ended up being faced with the same frustrations, there was just too little entrepreneurship going around.
In France, investment in technology is far behind that in the United States and there is very little opportunity to get support from angel investors there. So I figured that since I am passionate about entrepreneurship but I come from a country that doesn’t really appreciate it, I should go to the country that truly embraces it. So I came to the US, to attend Harvard business school and I felt at home. At HBS I hit the ground running, networking and create support for my idea, pitching it to professors and students and raising funds for my project. I graduated in May 2010 and I have been working full-time on VistorsCafé ever since with a group that bridges the Atlantic, compromising of both European and American developers.
Thoughtpick: What was the inspiration for VisitorsCafé?
Morgan: The inspiration behind VisitorsCafé is that while visiting various issue-based websites that I am passionate about I’ve always wanted to interact with other like minded individuals. So we started developing VisitorsCafé to address that need. Later on, we also realized that individual bloggers were interested in using such a service to talk to their readers, which was a very interesting application for the service that we haven’t thought about when we were developing the service.
Thoughtpick: The mechanism that Visitorscafé uses to match users is very interesting; can you tell us more about how it works?
Morgan: We use Facebook connect to retrieve basic information about the user logging in to the vchat area and depending on the topic we are going to trigger a different algorithm based on 5 demographics: Age, gender, location, education, profession and a miscellaneous option.
Thoughtpick: Is there administration overheads for the users?
Morgan: We made it as simple as can be for the user, it is just one line of code that you paste on your website and everything works out of the box. If the users want to receive an activity report, we can provide it and its part of our next development phase. That’s the beauty of our services that there is no overhead and setup required to get it integrated and up and running is minimal.
Thoughtpick: Something that always comes up when discussing video chatting, is the possibility of lewd acts on camera and how services can curb that behavior. What have you done on VisitorsCafé to address this issue?
Morgan: Yes that was one of my main concerns during the initiation phase of VisitorsCafé and we address it in 3 ways. First, there is a user generated reporting mechanism that allows users to flag abusers, and the administration team on our side will be able to judge the accuracy of the report and ban the user accordingly. The second is an IP address blacklist, which we will compile based on usage history and using this we will deny the service to those who are blacklisted.
The third method is one that we will extend to premium customers; upon request, we would provide a 24/7 moderating team that will ensure the safety of the Video Chat on the subscribing website.
Thoughtpick: Wouldn’t that raise some privacy concerns for the users?
Morgan: No, the monitoring team doesn’t have access to either the video or the audio streams of chats. They only have access to blurred screen shots and this provides just enough information to discern any misuse.
Thoughtpick: You have released the service only a few weeks ago, how have users been using, how was the feedback so far?
Morgan: People were extremely excited about installing it as a feature on their websites. Some questions had been raised by their communities about how to best use the service, and they have came up with interesting solutions.
Small websites with little traffic would coordinate users to meet at a certain hour on the website in order to maximize the number of users present. We also provided the opportunity for small websites with similar audience to connect their video chat services, expanding their audience and helping them to reach a critical mass.
Thoughtpick: The product was launch on Wednesday, it is still early but what are your the plans for the future?
Morgan: Currently we are an invitation only service. After growing our user base, we will allow our users to extend invitations to their friends and we will be launching our premium services as well.
With premium services we will be catering to our customers by integrating VisitorsCafé with their websites and databases, and providing custom designs based on their needs for a monthly subscription. Besides the 24/7 monitoring facilities and other features to address our customers’ needs.
Thoughtpick: Thank you so much for taking the time from your busy schedule to talk to us about VisitorCafé and best of luck on your lunch.
Morgan: Thank you for everything and I’ll look forward to staying in touch with the Thoughtpick blog.
Get your Thoughtpick exclusive VisitorsCafé invitations
To try VisitorsCafé click on the following link and add Video-chat capabilities to your website, forum, or blog.
What do you think of the service? Have you tried it? Share with us your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below.