Differentiate and Thrive
The news that got all the press in the UC industry this week was the acquisition of Unify by Atos. That is a big deal in terms of money and in terms of how UC can add value to an integrated SI/service provider. But it isn’t as interesting to me as the news that Weave had secured a $15.5 million Series B round of investment. Here’s why.
Weave is a provider of integrated communications services tailored specifically to dental and orthodontics practitioners. Weave unifies voice, mail, text, CRM, and Electronic Medical Record applications. The company positions itself as a business communications platform, and has already signed up 2,000 practices in the United States and Canada.
Because it is an industry-specific solution, Weave is able to build in the hooks that allows it to integrate with the mainstream CRM and EMR platforms used in the dental industry. They also standardize on Polycom phones. As dental practices don’t typically have IT staff, this one-stop approach, even if it does limit end-point choices, is attractive to practitioners who don’t want their business interrupted by technical minutia and who really do want to benefit from the potential of unified business communications.
The VC community, which appears to be showing some fatigue for funding generic UC services, was enthusiastic in their support of this round for Weave. I haven’t had a chance yet to connect with the VCs, but their PR expresses very strong support for industry-specific approach to UC.
I’ve spoken about and blogged for years on the upside for industry-specific UC solutions. While the generic UC providers are in a race to the lowest cost offers, service providers like Weave are instead unlocking the business value of unified communications for their customers. This approach not only secures better margins, but integration with the other business platforms ensures lower churn. And an industry-specific approach enables more cost-effective marketing.
Office 365 will soon enter the market with Skype for Business at what will probably be very low prices and integration with the Office applications. I predict that service providers like Weave that are integrated with the business applications will not be adversely affected by this, as there is higher value from integrating with the business applications than with the Office applications. Perhaps in the long-run a service like Weave will itself integrate with Office 365, but for the rest of this decade I don’t see that happening.
The bottom line here is that industry-specific UC solutions are truly compelling, and the VC community gets that. I’ll be speaking more about this at the UC Summit later this month.