WebRTC Expert Feature

October 29, 2013

A Stealthy Video and WebRTC Acquisition


Recently Vidtel was acquired by Fidelity Investments, a 41,000-employee organization best known as an investment fund and services organization. During an industry discussion with Scott Wharton, CEO of Vidtel, while he could not comment directly about the acquisition, I came away with some idea of why, but I suspect that there may be more.

Vidtel is a VaaS provider and has been a WebRTC adoptee, thought the majority of its users do not sue WebRTC, they use either bespoke apps or room systems. With a cloud deployed solution, Vidtel integrates video systems from all of the major vendors along with PC/tablet/smartphone apps as well as WebRTC into an integrated system.

The big question is, “Why would Fidelity buy a company, versus just investing?” The reality is that Fidelity has a number of investments that have moved to acquisition, from small telcos to a tomato farm. While these are not featured on any Fidelity website, they obviously are intended to be a mechanism for enhanced returns in certain segments through direct ownership. So one reason Fidelity may have acquired Vidtel was to focus on the business of VaaS in a more accelerated way. However, as Fidelity is predominately in financial relationships, it is hard to see how it could dramatically accelerate the position of a VaaS vendor except through cash infusions to manage the challenges of customer acquisition payback.

However, another potential option may be more interesting. Wharton indicated that Fidelity was a major Vidtel customer before the acquisition. In fact just today, I had a phone call with my 90-year-old mother and her financial advisor. As I was on that call, I thought about how much better video would have been to convey the feedback messages of difficult investment decision in a post-shutdown world. Perhaps this is part of the Fidelity plan, use the capabilities of Vidtel to transform the investment relationship. We have known that one of the major potentials of WebRTC and video is finance -- people really want to see you before giving you their money.

Is this the beginning of a new set of Fidelity services, or does Fidelity intend to make an offer optimized for the finance segment? Using the power and simplicity of WebRTC, it is possible to move beyond video conferencing to optimizing the overall experience to the task. For example, the broker experience would be very different from the client experience. As Vidtel has WebRTC integrated with existing video solutions, this may be a major value as well. Wharton would not hint at Fidelity's plans, but this is an area we should all watch with interest. I remember a story a few years ago about which companies people trust with their information, privacy and accessibility. The No. 1 trust was with banks and finance companies; telecom companies were far down the list. Is this a move to create a new kind of telecom player, derived from the people you trust with your money?


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Edited by Rachel Ramsey





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