“Meaningful human connection is a universal human need, and we are looking to use our technology to help fulfill it”
We’ve caught up with Virginia Liu, Senior VP of Marketing and Ecosystems at Agora – the leading global real-time engagement (RTE) API provider. Virginia will drive us through Agora’s mission, how the company is changing consumer behavior, the impact of the pandemic on their work and much more! Read the full interview!
In a nutshell, for those who don’t know Agora, what is it that you do? What’s special about your company? How is Agora disrupting consumer behavior and how people collaborate?
Agora is the leading global real-time engagement (RTE) API provider. We provide developers with easy-to-integrate APIs to incorporate voice, video, and live streaming into whatever applications they are working on. More so, we help developers go beyond simple video conferencing (think: Zoom) to create fun, engaging virtual environments for a wide variety of use cases from workplace collaboration, remote education, mobile therapy and beyond. Our ultimate goal is to make RTE simple, seamless and ubiquitous for all — in any application or platform, and from anywhere in the world. Our belief is that meaningful human connection is a universal human need, and we are looking to use our technology to help fulfill it.
My name is Virginia Liu and I serve as Agora’s Senior VP of Marketing and Ecosystems. In my role, I help uplift our customers’ stories, as well as energize the different developer ecosystems that we are a part of. It takes a village to build the next killer application, and our team is dedicated to support our customers’ innovation and help them go-to-market faster.
Sometimes that requires us to tap our partners to bring technology to the table we don’t necessarily specialize in. I spearhead the community aspect of Agora and take great joy in getting developers exactly what they need.
Can you tell us more about the kind of apps/companies that Agora has been working with during the pandemic? And it’s biggest accomplishment?
During the Covid-19 pandemic, our team noticed that people may be experiencing “video conferencing fatigue,” but not “social fatigue.” Our technology can help bridge this innate, human desire for connection. During this time, we saw a huge rush to fill gaps in engagement caused by social distancing and quarantine. From remote learning to workplace collaboration, we powered some of the most critical applications and platforms on the market.
With this huge rush to digital, Agora’s Software-Defined Real-time Network (SD-RTN™), a dedicated network designed for low-latency and scalability, was put to the test. With massive increases in web traffic, our network withstood the sudden spike in demand and provided crucial avenues for human connection. For example, when the COVID-19 coronavirus was rapidly spreading in China during the Spring Festival holiday, we managed to quadruple the number of peak concurrent users and reached 1.6 billion minutes of daily usage with zero downtime.
Another one of our biggest accomplishments in 2020 was taking Agora public in the midst of the pandemic. Agora was officially listed on NASDAQ in late June, with our team completing the entire IPO process remotely. As a company specializing in RTE, we were uniquely positioned to tackle such a milestone event with zero in-person interaction. Everything from our press tour to the bell ringing was done 100 percent online — a true testament to the utility of technology like our own.
Can you tell us more about the recent announcement of the Agora Startup Program? What is this about and how will this empower global entrepreneurs?
The Agora Startup Program was put in place to empower global entrepreneurs and startup founders to help them go-to-market faster. With an ever-increasing dependency on virtual collaboration, we noticed a lot of founders were unsure where to start or how to get the funding they need to bring their dreams to fruition. To bridge the gap, we created this program to pair founders with one another, accelerators, and top venture capitalists.
We have extended the invitation to apply into our program to founders from all corners of the globe. With the goal of finding innovation wherever it lives, we hope to break the technology industry out of traditional hubs like Silicon Valley. To support this global mission, the program itself is being administered remotely, with members of our startup squad spread sprinkled throughout the world.
The program as a whole works through partnerships such as Global Accelerator Network (GAN), Blume Ventures, Techstars Toronto Accelerator, and more. To date, we have secured 76 partnerships with accelerators, VCs and incubators.Our partners will be participating in our monthly “show-and-tells” and give critical feedback to the startups. Additionally we will be offering the startups the following:
- Free kickstarter packages: Agora will provide cohorts up to 1 million free minutes of use for Agora’s proprietary Software-Defined Real-Time Network (SD-RTN™), which delivers extremely low latency and high availability voice, video and live streaming. The program also includes free access to Agora Analytics to help developers analyze call usage and quality.
- Discounted HIPAA support: It’s crucial for healthcare startups to build on secure and compliant infrastructure. Relevant startups in the program will get discounted HIPAA Business Associate Agreements (BAA).
- Constant backend guidance: It takes a village to build an app or platform and Agora’s deep bench of expert developers and RTE evangelists will be on call to support founders the whole way through.
How do you imagine the development of the voice, video and live interactive streaming space in the future?
While voice and video chats aren’t new, they have primarily been available in standalone apps like Skype, Zoom or FaceTime which are dedicated specifically to communication and limited to point-to-point connections. This makes these tools more of a utility than an immersive experience. This is why we built a “developer-first” real time engagement platform with easy to use APIs and a hyper scalable global virtual network, SD-RTN™. We also engineered and optimized audio and video algorithms for a wide variety of use cases to ensure the best results even in poor network conditions for all use cases. Additionally, we made it easy for developers to create apps that are compatible for most devices—from mobile phones, tablets and personal computers to smart TVs, wearables, VR headsets and smart appliances.
Moving forward, we see voice, video, and live streaming being integrated into exciting use cases that tap some of today’s hottest technology. From augmented and virtual reality to applications leveraging artificial intelligence, the need to connect with humans through various mediums will never go away. Agora will be at the forefront of enabling the next generation killer apps that utilize real time engagement.
At 4YFN, we encourage all innovation ecosystem players to “Join the startup movement”. What do you understand as the “Startup Movement”?
The “Startup Movement” is really about teamwork. At Agora, we are all about building a community of RTE evangelists. By tapping our partnerships to help our startup customers go-to-market faster, we not only support their visions, but the general evolution of technology itself. What could be more exciting than that?
Why are you partnering with 4YFN?
We’re proud to be a supporting sponsor at 4YFN Connectivity Hub and share real-life RTE use cases from 2020. Agora and 4YFN have similar goals: to enable startups, investors, corporations, communities and public institutions to discover, create and launch new ventures together. We’re excited to be part of the driving force for change in the tech industry and couldn’t be more philosophically aligned with 4YFN’s vision.
Agora is the audio company powering the social app Clubhouse, have you seen a growth on Agora’s investment?
While we cannot confirm or deny any engagement with Clubhouse, we can say their audio sounds amazing! It is interesting to see the rise of audio-only use cases on the Agora platform since the pandemic. Compared to video, audio has lower friction and may be the preferred medium for certain use cases that do not require much visual aid. Developers choose Agora to power their audio apps because we are the only RTE platform provider that can deliver crystal clear audio reliably and consistently across the entire globe, no matter where their users are.
The word “Agora” is Greek for an open gathering space where people can speak freely. I am extremely humbled to see so many “Agora”s have been created by our app developers, turning the entire world into a global village.
Thank you Virginia for sharing your thoughts with us, see you 28/06-1/07 at 4YFN 2021!