As we’re getting ready to celebrate callstats.io’s 4th code anniversary on September 1st, it seems apt to take time to reflect back on the past four years and share stories from the road.
As with many startups, callstats.io wasn’t born on the same day as the company was established. While we incorporated the company in early 2014, on September 1st, 2013 was when the first code was committed, making our startup a 4-year old this fall.
At this moment, we’d like to reflect back on the past years and share some stories from the road with you.
The Proof of Concept
One of the most important startup lessons is to fail fast. Before the idea for callstats.io came about, Varun was working on a startup idea, a communication application for universities. It could have become “Slack for Academia”.
We noticed that we faced frequent issues with media quality and conference call failures in our application, and started to build a few monitoring capabilities around the product. Meanwhile, other WebRTC companies were reporting similar issues and looking for tools to help solve their issues.
Like many startup founders have told in the past, the best ideas usually come from personal experiences. In our case, we came to callstats.io by noticing that the calls in our app had quality issues. Combining this first hand experience with our academic background in optimizing multimedia transportation and communications over the Internet, we knew that pivoting to quality monitoring would be most likely be a better business case than our original idea.
In September 2013, Varun founded a new team with Marcin, Shaohong and Jörg to build the monitoring platform. We all new each other from before as we used to work at Jörg’s research group at Aalto University. Varun and Marcin had worked together on congestion control issues for several years. In the meantime though, Marcin had moved to working with privacy and security, which, funny enough, would become an important consideration for callstats.io as well as we handle massive amounts of metrics data. Shaohong, on the other hand, had several years of industry experience, which would become an essential advantage for us as we set out to build a world-class software product. From his part, in addition to his academic credentials, Jörg brought to the team several years of startup experience and valuable contributions to the company’s IPR portfolio and standards work.
The Proto on the Road
By January 2014, we had a working prototype of callstats.io, which we demonstrated at various expos, like the WebRTC Expo, IIT-Real-Time Communications conference in Chicago, and Upperside WebRTC conference in Paris. We got an overwhelmingly positive response from several companies in various verticals and decided to focus on onboarding the ones that we could collaborate with quickly. Most of 2014 was spent piloting the product with these companies, iterating the business model, and realising the Minimal Viable Product (MVP).
Looking for funding
In the fall of 2014, with good feedback and pilot customers in our back pocket, and the WebRTC standard looking to be ready soon, we started to look for funding. With help from our friends and people in the Helsinki, Finland startup scene, we met with multiple investors to find the best match.
Over the Christmas holidays in 2014, we closed our seed round of funding and Petteri from Lifeline Ventures joined the board. Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, has also been important to the company’s growth. Over the next several months, we hired engineering talent, made rapid enhancements to the product, and in the past year grew the number of active integrations to over one hundred products.
Research and Innovation
We are contributing to several standards at the IETF and W3C, see more details at callstats.io/research. We leverage our team’s research in congestion control and its impact on quality on a day to day basis. The Google Scholar details for the key team members are: Marcin, Varun,
Varun’s PhD thesis proposes and validates protocols and algorithms for adaptive multimedia systems and recently, the ACM Special Interest Group on Multimedia (SIGMM) granted the thesis an honorable mention in its yearly award, which is a great testament to the research work that was foundational to, well, founding callstats.io.
The grand vision
Ever since the first mobile phones began to emerge some three decades ago, new ways of communication have been in the spotlight. Text messages were the first big thing, and they remained popular until Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and similar real time messaging services started replacing them a few years ago. For example, in Finland the use of text messages has dropped by 40% in the past five years. While Skype kickstarted the video communication era in 2003, the real boom has started only in recent years with proliferation of WebRTC.
Real-time monitoring of audio and video communication is at the heart of our product, and we are able to correlate metrics from various participants in a call, as they occur. Imagine a conference between two participants, one in, say, Australia and the other in South Africa. While the call is ongoing, our product continuously gathers and analyses all the participant data. We are able to measure the media call quality of each participant and provide suggestions to the endpoints to improve the media experience.
The mission statement
Our mission is to create “a world where communication is both frictionless and effortless to set up, operate, and scale”. Essentially, our grand vision is to build a platform, which detects and diagnoses issues in multimedia communications, and helps communication apps to fix those issues with better media pipeline configurations. Better configurations are based on the optimizations applied to previous conferences that faced similar issues.
As the platform grows, our customers benefit from network effects. More endpoints from diverse network and geographic locations helps us determine the optimal settings for every new conference. We want to be the company that makes sure all calls and conferences have good enough media quality across various use-cases.
The past four years have been a wild ride and we’re looking forward to the next four with even more excitement. To join our growing team take a look at our open positions