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AIM newcomer LoopUp Group transforming the conference call business

It is estimated that 13 minutes – or around a third of conference calls – are wasted trying to patch people or repeating information for the late-comers.
AIM newcomer LoopUp Group transforming the conference call business
A still from comedians Trip & Tyler's Conference Call in Real Life (link below), which has dragged in 14mln views.

A sketch by YouTube comedians Trip & Tyler that has attracted 14mln hits illustrates the chaos of the average conference call.

Played out in ‘real life’, with the participants sitting around a boardroom table, the four-minute video incorporates the incessant buzzing, beeps and awkward pauses that make these virtual meetings so aggravating.

It is estimated that 13 minutes – or around a third of these sessions – are wasted trying to patch people or repeating information for the late-comers.

It is an irritant, but if you look at the impact on an international scale and frame it in terms of lost man hours, then it adds up to a £14bn-a-year brake on productivity in the UK and US alone.

Or at least this is the figure arrived at by AIM newcomer LoopUp Group PLC (LON:LOOP), which commissioned Research Now to carry out the study.

Even if you heavily discount the figure, there is still a cost to business; which begs the question: why has conferencing evolved so little in the quarter of a century since it was first introduced?

It is a point picked up with very little prodding by LoopUp chief executive Steve Flavell, whose service purports to offer a pain-free alternative to the status quo.

He reveals there are alternative communications platforms out there developed by software firms and telcos. But they either fail to address the familiar chaos or are just too complicated to encourage widespread adoption.

LoopUp, which made its début on the junior market last month with a market-capitalisation of just over £40mln, thinks it has cracked the problem with its system.

Using Microsoft Outlook it takes just two clicks to organise a meeting and LoopUp sends out alerts to the host when their first guest joins the meeting.

It uses traditional telephony supplied by tier-one operators across four centres globally, but dial-in numbers aren’t the preferred method for joining LoopUp meetings.

Rather, you simply click a link displayed on your computer, smartphone and tablet, and LoopUp then calls you on the phone of your choice.

Onscreen is displayed the participants – so you know who is there and who exactly is talking.

Users can even share biographical details via LinkedIn and there is a “big, orange, Fisher Price-type button” on the desktop that allows them to share documents and presentations.

“Our product solves a big, well-recognised pain point. That pain point is the time wasted in these meetings,” says Flavell.

It certainly seems to.  The proof of the pudding, of course, is in the eating, or in the case of LoopUp adoption of the product.

The company boasts 2,000 client companies and it added 200 in the first six months of 2016 alone.

More than 70% of these new customers have already adopted features that set LoopUp apart – including the product’s Outlook and mobile apps – and they click-to-join their meetings rather than dialling in the old-school way.

These adoption figures are high, Flavell says, particularly when compared with the uptake of other software conferencing tools from the likes of Cisco, Citrix and Microsoft.

Use of LoopUp’s technology is high enough to encourage the company to offer the service on a pay-as-you-go basis rather than signing businesses up to year-long contracts.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, the model appears to promote loyalty.

Churn (the percentage of clients lost each year) stands at around 6%, or, put another way, the lifespan of a typical customer is 16 years.

If you measure churn and balance that off against up-sell to existing clients, then LoopUp is actually experiencing net growth of 6.7% rather than any erosion, Flavell says.

And actually, LoopUp product revenue (which represents £9.2mln out of the total £10.1mln in revenues in 2015) has been growing around 36% a year for the last three years, and the company has been EBITDA (underlying earnings) positive since the final quarter of 2013.

That strong financial track record probably explains why City investors were keen to get a piece of the action ahead of last month’s float, a process that brought in £8.5mln in new funds.

That money will be used to strengthen the balance sheet, and will also be ploughed into sales and marketing and continued product innovation.

The payback from making that inward investment is significant, according to Flavell, as he reckons every pound spent on the firm’s distribution returns £9.57 of gross profits.

Listed at £1, the shares have enjoyed a decent run in the secondary market, advancing 20p in the last week.

“Now that we are here [on the stock market], we are all about growth,” says Flavell.

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