Plivo's open-source replacement for Skype creates a stir with 13k+ conferences created in two weeks


Plivo is a startup that makes it easier for businesses and software developers to use Cloud-powered Voice and SMS communications. The company was founded by Venky B. (Bangalore) and Mike Ricordeau (San Francisco) in 2011. Scaling from a project on Github, Plivo has always been about open source and this year, during their Open Source Show and Tell event, something exciting happened.

“We were frustrated with the present alternatives for conference calls,” writes the team at Plivo and to tackle this issue, they launched the, a free open-source out-of-the-box audio conferencing app exposed via an API. Plivo put up the links on HackerNews and Reddit calling it an 'alternative for Skype' and the results were revelatory. Within two weeks, 13,419 conference rooms were created with 38,097 unique visitors and 65,718 page views. Plivo was also able to increase the sign up to paying customer conversion rate by 120%.

The app solves some primary concerns with conferencing: 1) Too many softwares to install (everyone needs to have the same software) 2) Voice quality issues 3) Too cumbersome and 4) Not enough privacy. This application based on HTML5 solves all the issues and the user can dive into a call by creating a conference room and sharing the link with the participants. Each conference room self destructs within 24 hours to maintain privacy (say a Snapchat for conferencing).

VoiceChatAPI is free to use, but there are nominal costs associated with running the app (SIP pricing). However, the hosted version is free. The contributors for this project were Kunal Kerkar and DH Lee of Plivo. Talking about the project, they say, “We (re)learned about the power of open source and how if you build something useful, people will support it; whether it's time, code contributions, or just spreading the word.”

Plivo is based out of San Francisco now and had first been accelerated at The Morpheus in India. The company went on to YCombinator and then raised funding from Andreessen Horowitz and others. It is now close to 30 member team with customers across the globe. Talking about this particular project and where it fits in the grander scheme of things, Venky says, “We wanted to spark more dialogue about how we communicate and empower people to reach for better solutions and it looks like people were listening.”