via680 aims to revolutionize medium with new software
By Karl Henkel
“Did you get my email?”
It’s a phrase articulated innumerable times at businesses all over the world.
For years, it appeared to be the only way to ensure that a co-worker or business acquaintance received and read an email.
Via680, a Youngstown Business Incubator portfolio company headed by Tony DeAscentis, former Turning Technologies vice president of marketing, just launched Ving 2.0, a new software it hopes will revolutionize email and streamline business communication.
“There’s this huge cultural phenomenon going on,” DeAscentis said. “People are saying, ‘I’m tired of email.’”
Via680, which launched the first version directed at the health-care industry a couple of years ago, worked on the relaunch for the past year. DeAscentis and the 14-member staff last summer decided to rewrite the software in preparation for a relaunch, this time directed at many business sectors, including finance, retail, manufacturing, services and education.
It previously was used by Youngstown-based Humility of Mary Health Partners, which used the software to communicate with heart-surgery patients. HMHP has since stopped using the software due to the complexities and regulations regarding individual patients.
Via680 then expanded its target audience.
Here’s how it works: Anyone with a Ving account creates an email that could include video instructions, a slide show, or a question form.
That person can then send the email to as many recipients as he or she chooses — regardless of whether his or her recipients have a Ving account. The recipient receives a link where he or she can access the video, slide show or form — hosted on a Ving server — and can then view the entire contents of the email.
Meanwhile, the original sender can view real-time updates to see who has watched the video — and how much of it they have watched — or read specific sections of the email.
If the sender notices a mistake or needs to make a correction, he or she can do so without resending the email.
“You can’t do that with [regular] email; you can’t do that with voicemail, and you can’t do that with direct mail,” DeAscentis said.
It is hoped via680 will revolutionize the medium, which has fallen out of favor to newer, more popular forms of communication such as text messaging, Facebook and Twitter.
“Go find somebody that can’t wait to go sit down in front of their inbox and start sifting through email after email,” DeAscentis said.
It’s not as though fewer people use electronic mail; according to a recent survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 92 percent of Internet users still use email, the same number that did in 2005.
But more and more use social-networking sites (65 percent now compared with 11 percent in 2005).
DeAscentis says Ving 2.0, available to business for a one-time $5,000 licensing fee, could make email a top communication preference because of its instantaneous reciprocity, something still not available with text messaging, Facebook and Twitter.
All three are examples of evolving communication forms, but email has stayed the same for more than three decades, said Jim Cossler, CEO and chief evangelist at YBI.
“Organizations are relying on ancient technologies that have not kept up with business,” he said. “Communication is ubiquitous. Everyone uses it.”
It’s the all-encompassing prospect that has via680, formerly known as BizVeo, excited.
And in just a few weeks since its launch, the product has caught on quickly, especially locally, where the Youngstown Better Business Bureau recently was trained by a via680 staffer for future use of Ving.
“We thought in place of an e-newsletter or scam alerts, we thought it would be a neat way to get our message across quickly and easily,” said Melissa Ames of the BBB. “We will be using it very soon.”
Other organizations have taken notice, such as the University of Pittsburgh and Youngstown State University’s Williamson College of Business, DeAscentis said.
It was even used to distribute a video regarding the potential of adding “way-finding signs” in Youngstown. (Think of the color-coordinated signs in Pittsburgh.)
“Email has been around forever,” DeAscentis said. “What other technology can you say has been around forever that hasn’t changed yet?
“Part of the premise as to why we believe we’re going to be so successful is leveraging a cultural phenomenon around the way people like to communicate.”