Simpler online meetings? That is AnyMeeting's mantra

Why should small businesses use a Web conferencing service designed for huge enterprises?
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

In any given week, I personally have at least a half-dozen briefings on my calendar, most of which involve dialing into some audioconferencing or videoconferencing service.

Prior to many of them, I find myself scrambling to collect the requisite dial-in information, meeting number and password – depending on whether or not I've opted to initiate the session with my mobile phone, my landline phone or via a Web browser. Hopefully, I won't discover I need to download some software along the way. Sound like a familiar experience? 

Making calls easier for small businesses to schedule and initiate is the primary focus for a startup called AnyMeeting (formerly called Freebinar), which has signed up roughly 400,000 small businesses to date. (A screen shot of its interface is below.) "One of the most important things for small businesses to project is a larger brand," said Costin Tuculescu, CEO of AnyMeeting.



(As of April, the company supported about 300,000 companies, but it ran a promotion earlier this year for users of the GoToMeeting and WebEx services in order to build up its user base.)

The service includes pretty much what you would expect, including a facility for inviting attendees, social promotion features, presentation and slide sharing tools, the ability to upload meeting materials, six-way videoconferencing, integrated conferencing calling, support for either iPad or Android tablets, chat tools, and basic survey tool. The service also includes an integration with PayPal, which allows small businesses to accept registration fees for paid Webinars.

AnyMeeting offers both a free, ad-supported service, as well as paid plans that start at $18 per month ($180 for a full-year commitment) for meetings that can accommodate up to 25 attendees.

Heather Butts, a consultant who offers sessions online, opted for AnyMeeting because it was simple for her clients to use quickly. 

"Visually and aesthetically, it is very uncomplicated, especially for individuals who want to try out my online training," Butts said. The interface supports connections via telephone, computer microphone or other methods.

Butts uses one of the AnyMeeting paid plans, so that she can record sessions, and archive them for future downloads.

AnyMeeting has scored some pretty notable distribution deals that are putting it in front of more potential small business accounts. In early October, for example, it was listed on the Upware marketplace organized by Comcast Business. It also has similar arrangements with the Staples App Center and the UPS Store Small Business Solutions portal.

Small businesses represent the fast-growing segment of the Web conferencing marketplace, which is why so many companies are knocking themselves out to target them. Sales are projected to grow from $684 million in 2013 to approximately $1.4 billion by 2016, projects research firm AMI Partners. Companies with 20 to 49 employees will represent the largest portion of the revenue, or about 37 percent.

Other recent developments related to this space include new features announced this week by LogMeIn. The company this week added a "meeting recap" feature as part of join.me, so meeting hosts can set notes, action items, files and recordings after a session is completed. "Meetings may be synonymous with collaboration, but much of the work and decision making that starts in a meeting only comes reality through teamwork and collaborative efforts that happen after the fact," said Lou Orfanos, senior director of collaboration productions for LogMeIn.

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