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Immersing Themselves and Enjoying It

Nate Lentz
February 21, 2012

We are investors in ProtonMedia, a company which enables advanced levels of collaboration by bringing remote people, in the form of avatars, and disparate data together in virtual meeting and learning environments.   At the time we invested, it sounded like a stretch, yet there were major companies – in life sciences and in energy – using the product and willing to speak about its benefits.

This is a solution that is deemed to be much more engaging than Webex or GoToMeeting, given the level of interaction and the content sharing capabilities that it provides.   This is also a solution with significant economic benefits over in-person meetings, especially when the distance is far, costs are high, and personal and professional time are both highly valued.   So was the premise.

Last Friday, I had the chance to see ProtonMedia customer survey data from participants in major training sessions who used the Protosphere platform.  I have to say – I was more than a little surprised by the extent to which the data supported the value proposition.   In summary:

  • 88% of those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that the Protosphere solution was an effective method of delivering training
  • 95% of those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that using Protosphere had them more engaged than standard web tools such as WebEx or GoToMeeting

But what surprised me more was the next answer.

  • 35% of the survey participants preferred Protosphere to in-person meetings, 33% preferred in-person meetings, and 32% were neutral.

Thus 67% of participants were positive or neutral to Protosphere versus live in-person meetings.  To me, this was very surprising, especially as this does not factor the corporate economic costs of travel, which depending on the distance of travel, can be as high as 23x in real-dollar savings by using Protosphere versus live on-site training sessions (documented by one major pharmaceutical customer).

To top it off – people learn in Protosphere.  Tests taken after training suggest that people score equally after being trained in Protosphere as compared to in-person training, and may have modestly higher retention rates than if trained in Protosphere than those who participate in in-person training.  In comparison, web-based tools measured well behind Protosphere and in-person training.   This is not my data and this is not ProtonMedia data, but rather this is customer data that was collected independently and shared with the company.

While training is only one application for this solution, it is a proven one.   Scientific poster boarding sessions have also been huge successes for ProtonMedia and have won awards for the company.   Global sales meetings and product roll-outs have also been well received applications.  Board meetings are another use case– including occasional meetings where we, as investors, “eat our own dog food” and conduct full board meetings through the virtual environment – and we are tough critics.

For products like this – sales are to the enterprise, but adoption is up to the people who use it.   I am encouraged by the adoption story.  I am encouraged by ProtonMedia.   I would love to hear of other experiences with such virtual worlds.