Cloud Video Startup Blue Jeans Network Taps First VAR Partner

Now that the word is out about Blue Jeans Network, a much buzzed-about videoconferencing startup, it's time for the company to start building a channel presence.

Founded in 2009, Blue Jeans Network emerged from stealth mode in late June and confirmed commercial availability of its any(ware) video conferencing service. Blue Jeans had launched field trials earlier in the year to build buzz from an early subscriber base, but according to Stu Aaron, chief commercial officer, it has now begun full-bore recruitment of VAR and service provider partners.

It named Deutsche Telekom as a partner during its June launch, and on Tuesday, Blue Jeans confirmed a partnership with IVCi, a well-known Hauppage, N.Y.-based solution provider and videoconferencing specialist.

The Blue Jeans platform is a cloud-based video "meeting room" from which users can host, schedule and manage their own video conferences via a Web interface. Blue Jeans' hook is interoperability: the Blue Jeans service can bridge any number of different video and audio protocols for as many as 10 participants.

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A four-person conference, for example, could find one user connecting via a Cisco TelePresence endpoint, another connecting via a LifeSize desktop unit, another connecting via Skype using a webcam, and a fourth connecting via a mobile phone. That makes it particularly appealing as not only a B-to-B video conferencing solution, but also a B-to-C video conferencing solution -- business-grade video systems can connect to consumer-focused video options like Skype or Google Talk, Aaron said.

All that's required, according to Blue Jeans, is an Internet connection and a video-enabled device. Blue Jeans' infrastructure -- basically, the company's proprietary software running on Intel-architecture servers in data centers it uses to host the service -- performs the transcoding needed between video endpoints and formats, streams and security controls on the video connections.

"It really boils down to four key things," Aaron said. "The first is we've built a cloud-based service as opposed to trying to sell hardware and infrastructure. Second is the device is multiparty: many people can participate. Third is it's multi-device: we bring together conference room systems along with desktops, laptops, smartphones, you name it. Finally, it's multivendor: we can bring together endpoints from Cisco or LifeSize or Polycom or Google Talk or the PSTN."

Aaron said that Blue Jeans' goal is to replace as many audio meetings as possible with video meetings. That's admittedly a challenge, he said, because for all the strides video conferencing has made in the past few years, it's still not ubiquitous and it's still not as easy as placing a phone call.

"It's complicated," he said. "It typically still requires specialized rooms, and IT has to get involved, and it's incompatible. That's a buzz kill. Imagine if you wanted to do a traditional audioconference and you had to know what other type of phone the other person had. It's preposterous, but it's the way that video has always been."

Blue Jeans' prices the service as a monthly subscription, with various packages depending on company size, configuration needs and use frequency. Service-wise, Aaron said, most companies will end up paying rates a lot closer to the typical 5 to 10 cents per minute they'd pay for audioconferencing than the typical $1-per-minute they'd pay for many videoconferencing services.

"A typical customer would buy a monthly subscription from us that gives them a certain number of free minutes per month," he explained. "Most Blue Jeans customers will start small, but we've seen that they had a nice viral growth to the service. They might start out as a handful of subscribers using hundreds of minutes and then grow to hundreds of subscribers using tens of thousands of minutes."

"There's no inventory they have to buy and really no maintenance, and fits right in with a lot of their existing offerings," he said. "For resellers who focus on the A/V space and sell the vast array of endpoints out there, it's a nice, complementary offering."

IVCi plans to use the any(ware) service into its video managed services portfolio, dubbed Managed Video Experience (MVE), according to Chris Bottger, IVCi's senior vice president of managed services.

"Our new Desktop Experience, powered by Blue Jeans Network, is truly device-agnostic, allowing for support of numerous consumer based systems as well as mobile devices such as iPad and iPhone," Bottger said in a statement. "We have solved the challenge of a process that is cost effective and scalable and ensures video conferencing rooms stay secure while still delivering the flexibility of allowing the road warrior or mobile user to connect with their preferred application or device."

NEXT: Blue Jeans' Pedigree

Given Blue Jeans' ease-of-use story, Aaron said the company isn't opposed to pricing the service for consumers. But rather than position Blue Jeans as a "freemium" video product scaling up to business users, the company wants to make clear that it is a business-focused videoconferencing service.

"For enterprises that have already invested in conferencing rooms, we give them a way to get much better utilization and tap into their telecommuters and remote workers," he said. "That allows us to focus on the business community first."

Blue Jeans' founding team has deep expertise in the networking channel. CEO Krish Ramakrishnan was an entrepreneur-in-residence at Blue Jeans investor Accel Partners, and was also previously general manager for the server virtualization business at Csico and CEO of Cisco-acquired Topspin Communications. Ramakrishnan's fellow co-founder Alagu Periyannan, also Blue Jeans' CTO, was formerly CTO at Blue Coat Systems and an Apple executive. It was Aaron, formerly a vice president at Bloom Energy and a Topspin executive, who introduced the co-founders.

Accel is among Blue Jeans' venture capital backers, alongside New Enterprise Associates and Norwest Venture Partners. It raised $23.5 million in a Series A round of funding, and among its five-person board of directors is Charlie Giancarlo, former Cisco executive vice president and current managing director at Silver Lake.

And what's in the name? According to Aaron, the company wanted to stand out from the legion of video startups that have tucked "vid-" "video" or similar prefixes and suffixes into their monikers.

But it's more about what the name evokes, he said.

"Ultimately, what we're trying to do is make video conferencing as comfortable and as casual as your pair of jeans," Aaron said. "Make it comfortable."