For decades we have enjoyed daydreaming about all of the potential innovative uses cases for desktop video, once it became flexible, reliable, and affordable enough to be a part of more creative visions.
24sessions is a great example of the kinds of new uses for business video that we have been waiting for. I am very excited, not only about 24sessions in particular, but about the potential for this type of online video business model in other applications.
24sessions describes itself as “the marketplace for video-chat advice and coaching.” The service offers a quick and easy way to find a listed expert (over 400 signed up so far) and set up a video chat with him or her from your desktop. Experts can price their own sessions, and most are offering free introductory sessions. Many are even offering all of their sessions for free as a means of self promotion and contact creation.
The 24sessions model reminds me of Fiverr, as it offers users a low commitment, low cost way to get the kinds of services usually associated with more expensive and time consuming consulting engagements. I spoke with Rutger Teunissen, CEO and co-founder of 24sessions, to learn more about the company behind 24sessions, as well as how experts and customers are already using the service.
The service itself is pretty straightforward. It is a platform connecting experts and users over video. Experts are listed and searchable by category, and the platform handles the billing and payment. Clients enter a credit card when scheduling a session, and experts can log in to withdraw earned funds.
Experts sign up at no cost to be listed in various consulting categories. I created an account (click here to see my profile) and opted to connect with my LinkedIn account, which was nice because it then pulled my info and auto-populated my 24sessions profile. After creating my profile, I set my availability (shown above), price, and I was ready to go (after being approved by the 24sessions staff).
Clients can create free accounts and browse through the list of available experts on any given subject. Ratings and reviews from previous clients, in addition to the detailed profiles, help the client find the right expert. Prices are clearly listed, so no awkward negotiations are needed. Clients just click the “Book Me” button and the session is scheduled. Both parties will receive calendar invites, with instructions and links to the session.
24Sessions leverages WebRTC for a browser based videoconferencing experience with video, text chat, and file share capabilities. I believe the video component of the 24 sessions service is a key element to the package. For obvious reasons, a face to face consulting session is going to have a lot more impact, and is likely to be more effective, than a phone call. In addition to greater retention of any shared or taught information, video will result in a stronger relationship between expert and client.
WebRTC is the technology which allows some web browsers (primarily Chrome and Firefox), to handle videoconferencing, removing the need for a separate app or client. WebRTC has been very controversial. On the one hand, it works. We have a growing number of WebRTC powered services on the market. On the other hand, without getting too technical, it doesn’t work the way we want it to, yet (and we have been saying “yet” for a bit too long now). 24sessions offers a flash plugin for browsers (Internet Explorer) that do not support WebRTC.
Similar to Fiverr, I think this service will be very attractive to start-ups who could really benefit from a source of quick help “on-tap” without hiring a full time resource. But whereas Fiverr services tend to be project based, 24sessions is more geared towards training and consulting. For example, there are a number of SEO experts offering sessions on 24sessions. Many start-up websites really need SEO help, but a full time SEO expert is out of reach for most new companies. An hour, or a few hours over a period of weeks or months, with an SEO expert over 24sessions has an immediate appeal.
On the other side of the picture, I think the platform has great appeal for the experts, as it provides an easy way to connect with existing clients, in addition to being a means for further self promotion and growth. The service even offers a variety of widgets for experts to embed in their own websites, to help potential clients find the service. For example, here is one of the widgets it created for my account.
Options allow for different looking widgets with varying levels of information (I picked a “busy” one for this example). But the point is, it can really simplify scheduling and meeting creation for any type of expert who regularly chats to share advice and knowledge, even at no cost. Theoretically, the next time someone reaches out to me for a quick chat, rather than opening up my calendar, I could just point them to this widget and tell them to pick any available time and sign up for a free session.
It feels like there has to be a catch. This is just too easy, and too obvious. It is one of those “why hasn’t this existed until now” ideas. 24sessions does take a 15% commission for any consultations charged through their platform, which seems more than reasonable, especially considering the potential for clients to find experts via the platform. In other words, its worth paying 15% for the meeting space alone in my opinion, but if 24sessions can send me the actual leads and clients then that 15% becomes a bargain.
I expect the service to get some traction, and it certainly has the potential to really catch on, like Fiverr, and go big. Regardless, it provides us with a great test case for the potential of browser based videoconferencing as part of unique and new applications. I look forward to watching them continue to develop.