24sessions and WebRTC: An Interview With Rutger Teunissen

05/03/2015

WebRTC pioneers headed for a full video service.

Expert marketplaces using WebRTC aren’t new. Some of them have been around for over 2 years now. Google Helpouts, such an expert marketplace, shut down recently, making it the best opportunity to interview another player in this domain.

Rutger TeunissenTo that end, I sat down with Rutger Teunissen, CEO & founder of 24sessions for a quick chat about his company’s service and future plans. It was interesting, especially since they are moving towards a white labeling offering.

 

What is 24sessions all about?

24sessions is an online marketplace for business advice via live video-chat. Our platform makes it super simple for entrepreneurs to search and book chat sessions with experts from all over the world. Besides our own marketplace on 24sessions.com, we just released 24sessions White Label. This means that other companies can license our software to build a live advice marketplace within their field.

24sessions screenshot

Google Helpouts closed shop. Good or bad for 24sessions and the rest of the expert marketplace domain?

I think it’s a pity. Some people are still a bit reluctant to book (paid) video-chat sessions with strangers. After their first session they’re convinced, but getting people over the first hurdle is toughest. A big player like Google could have opened up the market in that sense. However I don’t believe that Google is the right player for this market. Helpouts was too broad, expert marketplaces need to be niches. That’s why we decided to launch 24sessions White Label and enable anyone in a niche to set-up their own advisory marketplace.

 

What kind of companies are you targeting with 24sessions White Label?

In the past month we’ve attracted interest from various companies, from enterprises to consultancy firms and even startups. Our first clients include a homework tutoring startup, a law firm taking its business online and a medical initiative for second opinions through video-chat. This shows the diversity of use cases, from new business models to internal collaboration. In essence, 24sessions White Label enables you to create a platform for connecting people with questions to the people that have the answers, real-time, anytime, anywhere.

 

What excites you about working in WebRTC?

We’ve had the idea for 24sessions for quite a while, but simply couldn’t find a way to easily set up a video-chat meeting between people without the need to install software. Then WebRTC came along and made our day. What excites us is the easy way in which it enables people from all over the world to simply see and talk with each other.

 

You recently switched from using a WebRTC PaaS vendor to in-house development. Why is that?

24sessions should work on any browser, not just Chrome and Firefox. So we’ve had to use a rather unsupported flash fallback hack that the vendor offered. It just didn’t offer the quality we required. After enough people complained and said “but Skype does work” we decided to build our own WebRTC solution with a decent flash fallback. We haven’t heard a single complaint since. It’s giving us the best performance we’ve seen out there. Otherwise we would have gone for another vendor.

 

Backend. What technologies and architecture are you using there?

24sessions is built in PHP in the Symfony framework. We’re looking to expand our dev team with a front-end developer. So if anyone reads this 😉

 

Where do you see WebRTC going in 2-5 years?

I’m seeing a widespread usage of WebRTC and ORTC in area’s way beyond most current implementations like video-chat.

 

If you had one piece of advice for those thinking of adopting WebRTC, what would it be?

Focus on your user, not technology or features. Most current WebRTC solutions are packed with features but are essentially unstable. We’ve kept our WebRTC implementation simple but awesome. Don’t focus on what WebRTC can do, focus on what problem it can solve.

 

Given the opportunity, what would you change in WebRTC?

I can’t answer this question from a technical point of view so the obvious answer is mobile and a broader browser support.

 

What’s next for 24sessions?

We’re gonna add some interesting features to 24sessions.com, like tutorials, which are priced video-chat sessions that experts can offer on our site and their personal blogs through widgets. So it’s a direct monetization tool for anyone with expertise and an audience. In terms of White Label, the first couple of white label sites will be launched soon with hopefully many more to come!

The interviews are intended to give different viewpoints than my own – you can read more WebRTC interviews.

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