FuzeBox, the online meetings company that found favor with Steve Jobs, among many other influential figures in tech and business, today announced that it has raised a $20 million Series A round from venture sources, as well as $2.5 million in debt financing. For a company that’s been around in one form another since 1998, it’s a strange time to be putting together a Series A, but FuzeBox CEO Jeff Cavins explained to BetaKit in an interview why now is the right time for an outside cash injection.
While the company has been around for a while, and in fact even went public under its original name of CallWave in 2004, it suffered considerable losses that peaked around the time of the major U.S. economic downturn, and ultimately delisted and went private under the name FuzeBox, and made a number of strategic acquisitions to help reinvent itself. Cavins joined the company in 2007 and helped guide the company to the success it enjoys today, with 2.5 million users and 72,000 online meetings run through its service every day. The company also has some heavyweight clients using its platform to help with the process of running their day-to-day operations.
“Apple is a very large customer of ours, as a result of Steve being a big user,” Cavins explained, noting that the Apple co-founder and former CEO was a huge fan of the platform and even highlighted the company’s iPad app in marketing materials.
“The company’s brought in brands like Virgin Galactic, General Motors, Spotify, Amazon. Kellogg’s become a really large customer of ours: they use FuzeBox to communicate between the Pop-Tarts team, the Pringles team and the Frosted Flakes team as they work with their ad agencies,” Cavins added, noting that especially in industries where sharing creative with internal teams and external partners was a priority, FuzeBox has seen lots of success. That’s because it’s a platform for hosting online meetings, complete with voice and video, that’s also capable of plugging into Dropbox or using locally stored files to share rich media content in very high quality. HD video playback, for instance, works very well, a key component for ad agencies, design firms and media companies.
But that success comes at a cost. In order to arrange a turnaround, Cavins needed lots of investment from CallWave and its original founding team to make changes. It was a bold an expensive plan, especially for a company that was experiencing a serious reversal of fortunes after early success in the internet telephony space, but luckily CallWave founder Peter Sperling has deep pockets and the board agreed with Cavins’ assessment.
“I told the board I couldn’t help them, with their current assets they just weren’t going to make it,” Cavins said. “But, I said when I was with Azure I was just starting to build an investment thesis on a product called FuzeBox. I told them it would be extremely expensive, because I was talking about a product that would out-innovate Microsoft, Cisco, Google, Citrix, Adobe and IBM, six of the biggest companies in tech.” Cavins said that the company had to spend $40 million, on efforts including two key acquisitions to get from there to now, but they’re happy with the results.
Now, however, Fuzebox is looking to grow its sales team and business development channel, as well as open a European office. That’s where this $20 million round, which is led by Index Ventures and includes participation from Khosla Ventures and Insight Ventures, will help the company accomplish. The European expansion is something FuzeBox’s board in particular asked for, since Cavins says the company has global investors and are looking for global scale.
FuzeBox might face some heat from newcomers to the space like Meetings.io and Join.me that offer super-simple screen sharing and video conference capabilities without any additional software installations, but what FuzeBox offers actually goes far beyond those in terms of power, depth of product and cross-platform usability (it’s available on the web and on iPhone, iPad and Android, and will soon be coming the Mac App Store via a native app). Those factors will continue to make it a hit with enterprise users, and this new round of funding should help it take what it’s built with internal funds and bring that to as broad an audience as possible.