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Good afternoon. I'm John Yarbrough from Lifesize. I'm here with two special guests. I have Lifesize founder and CEO Craig Malloy and Lifesize Chief Technology Officer Bobby Beckmann here. How are you both doing today?
So before we get into the topic for today, let me first ask how are you adjusting to work-from-home life? Are you drinking more coffee, more tea? Lots of walks?
I bought bark collars for my two Labradors, to keep things a little quieter. My adult daughters moved home out of their apartments and I have two teenage girls living here as well. So lots of work from home and lots of school from home going on at the house and a little bit too much dog barking.
Okay. What about you Bobby?
Pretty much the same. I'm in what was our storage closet. It's basically a big room that was just holding stuff and now I've pushed everything to one side, set up a desk and you can't turn this camera around really in public. And same thing, I got the dogs barking, but I get to hang out with them a lot more. So I guess that's good. But yeah, it's been about the same. Yeah.
Exactly. Yeah, we're relatively lucky to have such a great tool to connect with one another and with our customers. Good segue in today's conversation, which is about video conferencing, privacy and security. And Bobby, I'll start with you. There has been a tremendous amount of attention and focus on data privacy right now across our industry. What do you think is contributing to that?
I think it's like most technologies that get wide adoption, it hits a tipping point where all of a sudden, you know, you start to pay attention to that piece of software you've installed on your computer or in your home. You know, it's happened with every other social media technology. It can be Facebook obviously is a classic one and all of a sudden when you have tens of millions of new users of video conferencing, ultimately you don't really think through it.
When you have a CSO in your organization, they may be asking certain questions. When you have certain people in the enterprise, it's smaller scale, but when you're releasing it to kids around the world, people around the world just starting to use it, they're not thinking through what happened, right? They're just clicking on a link and they're just using it and they're not in.
Right. And Craig, you know, I'm curious from your perspective, you know, how much impact regarding this privacy conversation that's taking place in real time right now do you think is just because of coronavirus and this sudden work from home that seemingly is impacting literally every everyone in the world. Is this just a reflection of our current situation or is this an issue that you think is happening under the surface and is just now coming to sort of the mainstream because there's more scrutiny on it?
Yeah. These security issues that they're being reported didn't just happen, just didn't happen last week because the usage went up. They've been there since day one. They've just been discovered and brought to life as is. So that's something that happened because the usage went up 10 X. Our usage has gone up 10 X as well. I bet Microsoft Teams usage has gone up 10 X. Nobody's hammering Microsoft or Lifesize for security breaches or lax data security or privacy practices.
Right. Well, I mean you just touched on it. There seems to be one specific provider that's getting the bulk of the attention right now, which is Zoom. And there's been a widespread number of media reports that have been broadly covered about lax privacy policies, lax security practices. You've been in this industry for 25 years. You've started several video conferencing companies. What was your initial reaction when you started seeing these headlines pop up in your newsfeed?
Well, it was horrifying. I think it puts a bad light on the industry. I've spent virtually my entire professional career after I stopped being a Navy officer. Virtually my entire civilian professional career working in this industry. It's awful what's happening here and not necessary. It's not accidental, that's just who they are.
You know, Bobby, one of the things I was curious about, as CTO, as somebody that literally is thinking about decisions on how we build features and how to balance things like ease of use versus other considerations. Zoom gets a tremendous amount of attention for being easy to use. And you know, as a video conferencing provider that competes with them, we obviously strive every day to be as easy for our customers to use as possible. Is there such a thing as being too easy? How do you as a head of a large and growing development or global development team balance ease of use versus things that are not features, the requirements like security and privacy considerations.
I don't know about too easy, right? I think you do want to care about the customer even in this world when you're an enterprise software company, you still have end users, consumers that are basically using your software. So we want the user to have a great experience and make it simple to use.
I think the differences is what's the culture behind how you build the software, right? So there's a lot of places where basically the team's like an order taker, right? They're being told to implement this feature. They're given some set of requirements and they do exactly what they were told to build and it can switch one direction, right? So I feel like the way to build the right engineering team is for them to be able to say, "No," or maybe, "Have you thought about this?" Or, "What do we do about this particular scenario?"
So, our engineers are empowered to do that. We say, "Yeah, this will make the user's experience better, but these are the problems that we're going to see if we do that. What are the other approaches we can take that will make this a better experience but still keep them safe?" You know, we've done a lot of things for ease of use. So, I think if you use Lifesize for awhile, it is easy to use. We run on the browser natively, we have great clients that make it simple to use. But at the same time, we've taken care to make sure that every feature we implement, we've thought through.
Yeah. I'll share my screen briefly here and for those that are on the live stream today, I assume there's probably some familiarity what's being reported in the press. But for those that are not, you know, just some of the specific issues that are being reported right now. You know, on March 25th there's an article about surveillance feature in Zoom that was under-covered previously that allowed employers to track the attention of folks that are on a video conferencing call in a way that wasn't super apparent to the end user.
On March 30th a security researcher detailed a Mac OS exploit with Zoom's installer that circumvented typical Apple user consent popups on the operating system. This was later compounded by a Tech Crunch report that highlighted it's in fact possible to join Zoom via the web browser like Lifesize and many others allow customers to do. But it was masked to the end user. Sort of this desktop install software first or centric approach, which was another thing that caught the attention of security researchers.
Again, one of the things that's been probably most broadly covered is this notion of Zoom bombing where webinar presenters and classroom settings and other large group calls have been interrupted by individuals that are showing offensive, sometimes pornographic or racist materials during unprotected calls. There have been additional complaints and concerns about methods that Zoom uses in their chat protocol that may be at risk of people stealing windows, passwords and credentials. Finally, there have been more regarding unintentionally leaking emails and personally identifiable information to strangers that register under less common email registration domains.
So, Craig, I'll come back to you for a second. That's a lot. That's a lot in a short period of time. We're talking about a week, week and a half. How much of this is fair criticism? Is there anything that you think is unfair with regards to issues that Zoom is facing? Is this something that has to do with supporting a 10 X growth and new customers all at once? Or is this truly something that is unique and needs to be scrutinized and considered at a deeper level by folks that are responsible for selecting these platforms on behalf of their businesses?
Well, I think every one of those is a real issue and I don't see Zoom, you know, just using the validity of any of those issues. And you know, in the blog posts from their founder Eric today, you know, he basically said, "Well, we designed this free enterprise product. We had no idea it was going to be used this broadly. And that's why all these issues are coming out."
Well that's just disingenuous BS. I mean all of these same issues are there in an enterprise environment. So I think, you know, IT directors and people within business trusted Zoom to develop products in the same way as other enterprise vendors like Microsoft would do or Google would do or Oracle would do or Lifesize would do. And what they found out was that's not the way that Zoom builds products. And I think his one post was really, "Oh, I'm sorry we got caught. Oh, I'm sorry that more people are using a networks who are subjected to more scrutiny." I think that's really what it was about. And it's disgusting frankly.
Bobby, again, I'm sure your team has been watching this news cycle closely. To your knowledge, any of these issues impact Lifesize or some of our other contemporaries? Are these industry-wide concerns or is this more limited? Can you speak to what you and your team have been able to investigate thus far?
Yeah none of these impact Lifesize mostly for a couple of key reasons. One you touched on that attendee tracking feature. You know we've had facial recognition demonstrations that we've gone out and shown to partners and in some limited customers just to see. And pretty much instantly, some percentage of people would freak out because you suddenly realize that you're doing something with that data that is questionable and whether or not you should be doing that, identifying them, figuring out what they're doing. And if the user doesn't know, that's even worse. So we haven't actually even rolled anything like that out into the product because we haven't really figured out what's the right way to manage privacy for our customers.
When it looks at the other stuff. I mean, you know, the thing that we knew is we knew early on when we did this that web RTC was really going to be a great technology to build video conferencing on. Industry standard that we can really build on that is supported by the industry. So when you have Google supporting you, Microsoft supporting you, you know, when we build our stuff, it's built with the same sort of software that basically uses Chrome as underpinnings. Teams uses it. Slack uses that. A lot of companies use it. And so our stuff is out there and available for inspection, right? So all of our clients are open source. We don't have to worry about, you know, did the engineers make a mistake? You know, we watch ourselves, but at the same time we're building on things that we hope that thousands of engineers are looking at. And if a fix happens there, we'll all get that fix.
So really if I'm installing software on my laptop, I feel a lot better if I know I have access to the source code. I know most people can't read it, but I know that there are people out there that can. And I think that's the big difference. And I think that's a reason why a lot of the things that impacted Zoom, you know, this is all this month, but a year ago when they were installing web servers on laptops or they weren't encrypting calls, all of those things were happening and it wasn't malicious, right? It was just really, there was a product manager somewhere that said, "Hey, we really needed to launch this way." Engineer says, "Okay, I'm going to put this in." And there was no sort of other direction of this. Like, okay, well what happens? What can someone do to this? And no one's inspecting it because you know, the Zoom client is not open source. But when you see the other things that are, it's pretty straight forward. Anyone can figure out how we do things. It's not something we're trying to hide. Our goal is to provide the best experience using our entire service as a whole. But if I'm installing something on your computer, you should be able to inspect it and see what it does.
Yeah. Well staying there for a minute with you Bobby, you know, generally speaking, what is our approach to customer data security and privacy? I mean what do you as a CTO do to ensure that we are building capabilities correctly? You touched on using open source code bases and being able to develop out in the open, which is I'm sure a huge component about it. But this sounds like a cultural thing. Can you build engineering culture around data security and privacy overnight or is this something that takes time to create within an organization?
It takes longer than 90 days. I can tell you that. So it's not something you can just decide to instill in the organization. It's a top down approach to how you build software and again it requires a bi-directional relationship, right? So the engineers have to be able to say, "No." Someone needs to be able to say, "No. We shouldn't do that." And you have to be able to listen to those folks that are actually building your software and learning from them.
With our data, we're pretty careful. I think one interesting bit about ours is we do our best to not know what you're doing with our service. If you're doing a point to point call, we don't even see your media. It's all encrypted as much as possible. It doesn't even touch Lifesize services, right? Even when we do have to do a mixed call where we have media coming together, there's no storage of it. There was no way to inspect it. There's actually no way into the system for anyone to go look at a live call if it's not supposed to be on it. I can't just poke into some customer's call and take a peak. We don't even give that to our support agents, which is sometimes impacts our ability to support some customers, but the opportunity for abuse is significant.
And obviously we've done all the things with GDPR and all of the right certifications to make sure that we're being good citizens with that. And if a customer asks us to get rid of their data, anything we have on them, obviously we respond quickly. So I think from top to bottom, I think we've taken a good approach to this. And I mean just our track record kind of proves that.
Yeah. So Craig, one of the things that's been touched on as a theme in some of this press coverage and also discussions we're having with our partners and customers right now is the notion of enterprise grade technologies versus consumer grade technologies. From your vantage point, is that just marketing or is there a substantive difference between consumer grade tech and an enterprise grade solution as well as the expectations that folks that use those technologies should have of the provider?
I mean, I don't think there's any the delineation on that anyway now. If you look at the way GDPR ranks, you know, security data privacy is data privacy. And that employees and businesses are people. They're consumers as well. So it's disingenuous to say that it's used in a consumer application and as a different set of data privacy and security requirements that it does in business. As if there's different concerns, business has concerns about intellectual property being stolen. Consumers generally are more concerned about their financial data being stolen. But it's the same issues and products should be built the same way. And again, I think, you know, in many cases businesses, enterprises assume that Zoom is building software in the same way that you know, that other enterprise application vendors, we're building it with the same culture of data privacy and security built in. Some of those certifications are actually self certifying things and it turns out that's not the case. That's just the culture they have. And frankly it's embarrassing for our industry and it bleeds over everybody else who's spent years and years and years and hundreds of millions of billions of dollars building the unit's new way to communicate over video communication.
Got it. So switching gears slightly, we have a couple of questions from the audience that's watching live with us today that I wanted to switch to quickly. The first comes from Eric who's watching the live stream and is a math professor that uses Zoom currently. And his question is, he says he has had a number of interruptions in class from non-students joining the video call and making inappropriate comments. And he's curious to know, Bobby, I'll turn to you for this, is there anything that he could do to stop this either on Lifesize or other solutions?
I mean I think it's all about how you're distributing the, and I mean this is with anything, it just could be any sort of group calling scenario. Audio conferences had this problem forever. I mean really you need to separate how you're letting people in. There's giving people a link is one thing and then giving people an access code and it should be different. If you're just pacing the entire thing and sending it to everybody and not protecting it and it's public, well then you know, you're going to have a problem. I mean, I think one thing you get when you Zoom, if you own the free plan, you only get one room with the same, it's the same identifier no matter what. Can't change the identifier. So that means if you really only have that pass code and if that gets out there, you kind of do have to recreate a new account or do something.
With something like Lifesize, we have one time meetings, right? So you create a meeting, it creates a single one time URL and then it goes away as soon as you use it and then never comes back. And those are the things that you get with our free accounts. So I think the thing to do is you have to treat all of these things like your phone number and if you're going to give your phone number out to the whole world then people may call it. So you have to treat it the same way and you have to find a different way to secure it. So pin codes, rotating meeting IDs, those are the simple approaches and those are generally easy to do. I mean, you can certainly do them with Lifesize, no problem.
Yeah. Another question that was submitted, the person that's watching was curious what the worst case scenario is for some of these Zoom issues that are being reported in the media. I think what they're asking here is how serious are these issues? And is this something that organizations using Zoom need to take action on immediately or is this something that is a possibility but perhaps you're not at risk if you don't take action?
Well, I mean, the worst case scenario is the zero day exploit, right? The thing that no one knows. A year ago I could sit in a coffee shop and listen and watch every Zoom meeting happening in the room, right? A year ago. We're not talking about like five years ago. And a year later this is still happening. Right? So culturally nothing has changed obviously. And so I think the issue there is you just don't know what's coming up. These are the things that we know about. But generally if you've seen some of them, there's probably more behind them. It's unlikely that magically these things are finished. So, that's what I worry about. It's the zero day stuff that no one publishes.
Another question that just got submitted, and Craig, I'll come to you for this one. Our viewer is asking if Lifesize plans to take the same approach as Zoom, who is currently giving away 30 to 45 day free trials. Will you speak to that?
Well we have actually, because at the beginning of this Covid-19 pandemic and knowing that a lot of our customers and folks who weren't our customers were going to be now working from home, we immediately launched two initiatives. One for our paying customers. The ability to oversubscribe your users in an unlimited way for six months because lots of our customers maybe didn't have an account for everybody who now is going to be working at home. So we just allowed our existing paying customers completely oversubscribed accounts and give that and provide that for free for the next six months.
And then for people who are not our customers and you can find this on our website. We have a completely free plan with kind of unlimited usage, unlimited time meetings. One time meetings which creates a new meeting URL for every meeting and unlimited usage plan for people to use that.
I mean schools in Austin that had been using that, churches in Austin have been using that, my daughter's volleyball teams been and using that to keep their team dynamic together. In the last three weeks we've had nearly 200,000 signups on our free plan. And I want to say that every bit of data privacy and data security and encryption culture and code that goes into the plans we sell to our largest enterprise is contained in our free plan as well. And spelled out in the data, you know we have information for data privacy and security implementation that we just issued on our press release this morning. So we're proud as an organization to be able to provide that free capability to people in need around the world. But for our paying customers and then anybody else who wants to as well.
A couple of other questions that are coming in. One question is about our underlying business model and specifically differences between how Lifesize as a business makes money versus other competitors. I believe that this is in reference to concerns around data being monetized or sold to third parties. Craig, could you speak to our data policies regarding sharing with third party affiliates or others that are not part of Lifesize?
Yeah, we would never ever sell data to a third party or allow a third party to scrape it like Zoom and Facebook. And in fact I think there's a class action lawsuit that was just launched against Zoom. Someone alleging that they shared their data with Facebook. Never do that, have never done that. It's called out in our privacy and security policy. Our business model is based on two things, paid users that you would use on your mobile or your desktop. And then our conference room systems which have equal hardware-based encryption contained in those devices. So our business model is completely around customers paying for products and services that we deliver.
A few more and thank you guys for the time this afternoon to have this conversation which is obviously very timely and a lot of folks that are interested in this information. Question is now that many of us are on video for a while, seemingly we'll be working from home for many more weeks, possibly even months. What other considerations should we all have regarding our choice of a video conferencing platform right now? Bobby, I'll start with you and then Craig, maybe I'll turn to you as well.
I mean I think if you're rapidly, if it's your first time joining, you just want to be able to get on there quick, right? You want to be able to easily be able to create an account, add users and feel that they're going to be able to have no problem doing it, right? So our having a browser based solution is pretty awesome. So if you are just going to use Chrome, you won't have to worry about downloading software. It works for it on mobile. And I think for us that's it. And you probably need a good webcam and a decent set of headphones that are noise canceling. You're probably quarantine buddies are. That's the main thing. I think it's just the other features are interesting that we offer, all the providers offer. But really it's how quickly can I get this meeting going? How can I kind of make it feel like I'm not losing when working from home.
I come at it from a little bit different perspective. I think it's about the brand and at the essence of every brand is really integrity. You know, it could be integrity of whether it's one of the great brands now in the market, Apple or Peloton or Amazon. It's about the integrity, the expectation of what you're going to get. And with Lifesize, it's around data privacy and security and customer support, customer succession, scalability, quality. I mean our traffic on our service has going up 10 X as well. And we're getting up and we just had 150,000 free accounts created in the last three weeks. Yet, we're not besieged with the data privacy and security accusations. So I think with any purchase that you make, you want to think about the company that's standing behind it. Again, this has been my life's work since 1994 around in video communication and at Lifesize since 2003. This is who we are, this is what we do and I'm embarrassed to what's happening to our industry. And one of the reasons we're having this session today is to set the record straight and state our position and how we do business here and conduct herself at Lifesize.
Another couple questions that came in that are relevant to one another. Question is if I am a Zoom user but I am not the decision maker for my organization regarding which video conferencing solution we use, what can I do about it? And even more to the point, what else is out there that's better? I think I can guess to how you want to answer the second half. But Bobby I'll start with you.
Yeah. Obviously I think Lifesize is a pretty good choice. You know, there's nothing to stop and this is not any different than Slack and many other companies. You can go create a Lifesize account for yourself and try it. And I that is the simplest approach. You can create your own Lifesize account, you can have a meeting, they can have all your folks who work with, have them join. And if you need it, it's there. And give it a try. And if you like it just keep using it and let other folks know how it works for you. That's really how these things work. And I think that's probably the best thing we can do. But there's nothing to stop you from giving us a whirl.
Another question, Bobby or Craig, either of you can jump in here. This viewer is someone that uses Microsoft Teams and was curious if Lifesize can work in conjunction with Teams or is it an either or choice?
I'll let Bobby answer that because he was the earning champion and architect of our Team's integration.
Yeah. Teams is everyone now and we think it's great and actually we use it a Lifesize. We built a really great integration where you can just use it. You use Teams for what you need to use Teams for, but as soon as you want to have a meeting like this or bring some conferences in and have a bigger video call, then you do it this way. You just go to your Teams bot, hit slash Lifesize, bam, you have a meeting. It's easy to use and it actually, because of the browser based kind of stuff, you're not even installing more software. You just literally load up your Lifesize bot in Teams and off you go.
Well thank you guys for the time. I have one final question. I'll come to you Craig for this one. As we begin to wrap up, could you just speak to the advice that you are giving to customers or partners or your network regarding what to do right now as they're balancing keeping their teams connected and trying to continue working as productively as possible with all of the challenges and now some of these new concerns being raised regarding video conferencing solutions? What parting thoughts would you give our audience and those that are reaching out to you as someone that's been in the industry for a long time?
That's a great question. And first I'd like to apologize for the person with the weed trimmer outside my window. Apparently in Austin, Texas, lawn mowing is still considered an essential service. I can't get out of my house to take a walk but the guys with the lawnmowers can show up. So if you hear the weed trimmer going in the background, that's what's going on there. So I apologize. That's one of the truisms of a video call. As soon as you do a video call, the person with the weed blower, the weed trimmer is going to show up right outside the window.
But you know, this is actually been a really interesting experiment for me as well. I mean, although I've been running video communication companies for 25 years, I'm primarily work in the office person. We live just a few miles from the office and we go to the office. Most of us at Lifesize go to the office everyday. And we built these great tools for people who do work from home and are on the road or in our other offices around the world.
So this has been a real interesting challenge for me as well. I've been primarily used to using one of our room systems. And then if I'm traveling around the road or if I need to take a call at home, I'll use our desktop or our mobile app. But now you can see, I'm in my upstairs bedroom because there's so many people in the houses. It's the quietest place. I think you saw my wife duck in to grab something a few minutes ago. It's been a really interesting experience about being slammed into the work from home life and having to use our product day in and day out to conduct your business, to conduct our global business. And as you might know, we're in the process of merging for the Cloud Contact Center company as well to expand our product portfolio.
But I've been thrilled at the quality of the scalability and the usefulness of these tools. Not just Lifesize obviously, I think we're that best by far. But you know, video communication and remote working for general, it can be done. It can be done very effectively. But I think one thing you need to do, and I was talking to our HR VP about this yesterday, she put out a note to all our managers is that, you know, when you do work from home and you're managing a team, you need to have your one-on-ones with your team every single week because you don't see them walking down the hall or out in the parking garage or just have the sidebar conversations. You need to make a point to have your one on one meetings with your folks every single week. Just put it on the calendar.
And then secondly, a group staff meeting with your team every single week or multiple times a week or maybe a daily stand up to keep that culture, to keep that cohesiveness going. And so I've been trying to do that a lot more. Even with my experience and long years in this, I'm learning some new things about how to use video communication.
I think we're all learning together right now. Well, that's it for today. Bobby, Craig, thank you both for the time and thanks to everyone who joined the live stream for their time and for the great questions. A recording of today's live stream will be available shortly. So make sure that you check back to Lifesize social media channels for that. And again, we appreciate it. Until next time. Thank you both.
Thank you all.