Chris Kranky

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Speak.io integrates audio with Slack (kindof)

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

logo-blackSpeak.io quietly launched this week via a brief announcement in Producthunt. Speak.io is a Mac executable that links with your Slack account to provide team based audio communications. Think of it as a push to talk or older “hoot n’ holler” for teams. Speak.io supports classic calling, where the other person clicks to answer or instant audio intercom like function. I like it and others seem to as well with Speak.io registering several thousand registrations in the first days (their registration server blew up at one point).

Speak.io was developed by the same team that produced Sqwiggle, which was instant video collaboration for teams. Sqwiggle had an always on video function that I thought was truly innovative but recognized some folks might be a little uneasy with this forward concept (Sqwiggle remains a service BTW). Speak.io is all about reducing the friction for team audio communications. I think they’ve done a great job on the initial UI (Mac only for the moment, a Windows version is in the making).

What I like best though is the team. This is a group of people who are actually thinking about how we communicate. There is no detail too small that they don’t seem to fret about. They also recognize this is a lot about trial and error. They will form a hypothesis, implement it and see how users react. If the feature idea doesn’t work out, they shoot it in the parking lot with no emotion. Hence expect to see rapid updates to the software with very subtle changes. This part science, part art methodology is how great solutions are born.

Speak.io (and Sqwiggle) are both WebRTC based and the team has extensive experience here. The team is deep in understanding all the nits about WebRTC audio and working to either fix them or annoy someone else to fix them. There are a 100 adjectives to describe voice quality and 99 of them are negative. Getting it right is hard.

Frustrating to me is the seeming patience that the Speak.io team has. The ProductHunt announcement was simply to get a larger base of trial users and frankly they don’t want more publicity (good thing no one reads this blog). What they want is more time to work out the details and with their Ebeneezer Scrooge spending rate, they have sufficient runway to continue the development.

Speak.io really isn’t “integrated” with Slack, they simply use Slack for single sign-on and to suck down team member info to create your audio group, hence, it could be fashioned to work with a number of other platforms (e.g. HipChat). However, Slack was the obvious first choice.

Does Speak.io have a sustainable business? No idea. It’s free but the cost to operate this is nearly zero so the objective is to build experience and a user base.

The team would be a great acqui-hire but you’d better come armed with more than just money. Knowing this group, they’re truly trying to break open this nut of new age communications and your fancy expresso machine and chef lunches likely aren’t enough to entice them out of the Tenderloin (though I easily fall victim to just coconut water). This is a team that will have to be wooed that their singular focus will be allowed to continue.

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