REVIEW: The Future of Video Conferencing

Founded in August 2009 at the University of Illinois, Personify has created an easy-to-use, inexpensive, virtual green-screen technology, User Extraction, which revolutionizes the use of video and closes the gap between remote communication and face-to-face interaction. Personify Live, the flagship product, is the first web conferencing tool that overlays real-time video of a presenter onto any digital content displayed in a webinar, video conference, or other online setting. You become part of the presentation, similar to how weathermen appear on TV standing in front of or next to a weather map but without the use of an expensive green screen. Personify Live transforms a boring, run-of-the-mill presentation into a fun, engaging, dynamic, animated, interactive, virtual, experience.

PRODUCT/SERVICE: In a webinar, you see slides and hear a voice or, with the use of a webcam, you see the presenter in the corner of a window but apart from his slides. Personify Live uses a video feed from a depth-sensing camera to magically remove a presenter from his physical environment and drop his animated, three-dimensional persona anywhere onto a PowerPoint deck or other digital content of his choosing. The audience simply watches the presentation on the Internet as the speaker stands in front of a computer and scrolls through his slides with a simple hand gesture. The speaker can present live in real time or record the presentation for future use. To apply the technology, presenters need a subscription to Personify Live, a desktop or laptop computer (PC or Apple), an Internet connection, a depth-sensing camera (Microsoft Kinect or Asus Xtion Pro), and a web conferencing application (WebEx, GoToMeeting, Skype, Microsoft Lync, Adobe Connect,, etc). The computer should have at least 4GB of RAM, an Intel Core i5 processor, and ideally a separate graphics card. Setup is easy and recording can begin in 10 minutes or less. Personify will soon release zChat, a video chat tool which will bring perceptual computing to consumers.

VALUE PROPOSITION: Personify offers the following value propositions: 1. Simulates the green screen that weathermen have been using since the 1970’s and at low cost. To quote co-founder/CEO Sanjay Patel: “It’s like a virtual green screen–almost as if you’re the weatherman with all the content in the world as your backdrop.” 2. Ease-of-use as it’s designed to work with popular web conferencing tools such as WebEx, GoToMeeting, Skype,, etc. 3. Creates more effective sales and marketing presentations. Studies show that non-verbal visual communication (facial expressions, body language, physical movement, etc.) adds a critical dimension to an online meeting or presentation. Since using Personify Live, a major enterprise software company has experienced a 30% increase in sales. 4. Increases student engagement and improves academic performance. Studies show a 400% improvement in perceived learning. 5. Creates effective training videos without using expensive production equipment. 6. Improves executive presentations. 7. Connects remote employees and builds tighter-knit teams which raises the level of productivity. 8. An individual can lead a virtual presentation from anywhere in the world, in a one-to-one or one-to-many setting, and all presentations can be recorded and stored in the cloud. 9. Personify Live can insert multiple participants into any digital content.

MARKET SIZE: According to Frost and Sullivan and other analysts in the enterprise collaboration space, the total market size for video-based collaboration is over $5B and growing at a double-digit rate. According to Forrester Research, 70% of companies and organizations surveyed in North America have adopted VoIP telecom systems, 47% use desktop videoconferencing, and 26% use high-definition in-room videoconferencing. Personify Live was designed specifically for business or enterprise and is suitable for any sales or marketing professional, the classroom, or any organization that conducts regular webinars.

REVENUE MODEL: Personify Live is available for $19.99/month, or $199/year. Personify offers a free 30-day trial or a three-month trial subscription including the camera for $199 with a money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied.

MANAGEMENT TEAM: Sanjay Patel, co-founder/CEO, worked as a chip designer at Digital Equipment, Intel, and HAL Computer Systems. Currently, he’s Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the U. of IL. He’s a former CTO of Ageia Technologies which built the world’s first physics processing unit to accelerate physics for video games. Jim Dosmach, Director of Engineering, is a former Director of Engineering at PacketVideo where he led the team that developed the audio and video software codecs which became part of Android’s multimedia libraries. He is an expert in multimedia algorithms and video compression. Sumant Kowshik, VP of Product Development, holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the U. of Illinois and is a former Senior Staff Engineer at Coverity. David Dahlberg, VP of Sales and Marketing, founded Marketing Lucidity which developed marketing applications to work with Salesforce. He’s a former VP of Marketing at Salesforce and a former CMO at Model Metrics which was acquired by Salesforce. David has more than 15 years of enterprise software marketing and sales experience. Prior to joining Personify, Kira Salem, Director of Marketing, worked as a Senior Marketing Manager at Salesforce, a Marketing Manager at Career Builder, and a Strategic Channels Account Manager at PR Newswire. Currently, Personify has 26 employees and plans to add eight staffers in 2013. They have offices in Chicago, Ho-Chi Minh City in Vietnam, and Champaign, Illinois.         

COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE: Personify has the following competitive advantages: 1. Personify Live is the only web conferencing tool on the market that merges human interaction with digital content to produce an engaging, animated, dynamic presentation. 2. The game-changing software is protected by 6 patents. 3. Personify Live enhances WebEx, GoToMeeting, Skype, etc. rather than compete directly with the most popular web conferencing tools. Personify Live offers ‘co-opetition’ as opposed to competition. 4. The company has established several key strategic partnerships. 5. The company has already raised a substantial amount of capital and is well-funded.

PROOF OF CONCEPT: Currently, Personify Live is used at several Fortune 500 companies and major universities. Since January 2013, Personify Live has facilitated more than 15,000 online meetings and immersive video recordings. G2 Grid, an independent rating service for tech products, recognizes Personify Live as an emerging market leader in the web conferencing space. The company has begun to generate significant revenue.

CUSTOMERS/USERS: Personify launched Personify Live in November 2012 and has acquired customers in more than 180 companies or organizations, large and small, including Hewlett-Packard, Infobright, Intel, LinkedIn, McKinsey, Mulesoft, Neustar, Oracle, Sanofi, SAP, the U. of Illinois, and Zurich. Personify attracted 2000 users to its initial beta test.

STRATEGIC PARTNERS: Initially, Personify was incubated for three years at EnterpriseWorks which is located at the Research Park of the U. of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Subsequently, Personify secured strategic partnerships with Intel, Microsoft, AMD, Liberty Global, and other large firms in the tech ecosystem. They have partnered with Intel to integrate a consumer version of Personify Live called zChat  with the Creative Senz3D camera. Personify is the first enterprise-level partner to participate in Intel’s perceptual computing initiative which focuses on using facial recognition, eye tracking, hand gestures, and voice recognition to enhance human interaction with computers. They appeared with Intel at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and demoed their new video chat application.

FUNDING: Personify raised $6.9MM in a Series A round led by Illinois Ventures which included AMD Ventures, Liberty Global Ventures, and Serra Ventures.

SUMMARY: Since launching Personify Live in November 2012, the company has gained significant traction and placed itself in position to explode to the next level. The main question is whether Personify Live can accelerate revenue in the next 12 months and gain acceptance as a standard tool in the web conferencing space.

1 Comment

  • Video conferencing is the future as it helps businesses reduce travel costs, increase efficiency, productivity, faster and better interaction with clients etc. Tools such as RHUB web video conferencing appliances helps companies to achieve the advantages mentioned above.

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