Blackboard founder transforms Zoom add-on designed for teachers into business tool

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When Class founder Michael Chasen was in college, he and a buddy came up with the idea for Blackboard, an online classroom organizational tool. His original company was acquired for $1.64 billion in 2011. Chasen later developed Class, a Zoom add-on, during the pandemic to help teachers make better use of Zoom in a classroom setting, something they struggled to do early in the pandemic.

But Chasen says people who used Class kept telling him they needed something similar for business, and on Thursday Class announced the release of ProFeatures for Zoom, designed specifically for business users.

Instead of simply sharing a single screen where only one participant has control, ProFeatures lets everyone edit a document in Microsoft Office or Google Docs, brainstorm on a Miro whiteboard or edit code together in Microsoft Visual Studio, as a few examples. If the SaaS tool you want isn’t part of the default set of tools, there is a built-in browser to access any website or app.

What’s more, you can have multiple tabs open, allowing people to share multiple screens instead of just the presenter.

“I had all these clients saying, ‘Hey, I’d love to use this for my regular meetings’. So I had my developers take our product, turn off the learning tools and just leave the fundamental improvements that we made to Zoom,” Chasen told TechCrunch.

While Class was doing fine — the company has raised $164 million, per Crunchbase — Chasen saw the opportunity to expand his business. “So we have two products now. We have Class for Zoom and Class for Microsoft Teams. And now we also have ProFeatures for Zoom,” he said.

He has already been able to sell $17 million worth of ProFeatures enterprise licenses, even before he officially had a product, so he knew he was on to something. Individual users can use it for free, but the power comes when multiple people in the meeting are using the advanced features.

The money comes from an enterprise license, which provides enterprise features like centralized control for IT, single sign-on and other things that an IT department needs to control usage in a large organization.

But Chasen says he’s found the tool has a viral quality to it. “We actually have something really interesting, which is the viral marketing that we do, and no one’s done this yet. So if you join a meeting, let’s say you’re with 10 other people in regular Zoom, but you have Pro features, when you share a document, everybody receives a message from you saying, ‘Hey, I’m sharing this Word document. You can only view it in Zoom with screen share. But if you had ProFeatures, you could edit it. Click here to download ProFeatures,” he said.

Zoom ProFeatures open with people editing a Word document together.
Zoom ProFeatures open with people editing a Word document together. Image Credits: ProFeatures

If you don’t want to share the ability to edit with the entire group, you can limit who can see it or what participants can do, such as view, edit or comment. In addition, you can choose to revoke those permissions after the meeting ends.

Finally, there is an AI component, the ProFeatues AI Assistant, which can transcribe the meeting as well as capture all of the documents, files and webpages shared within the meeting — and it can answer questions on everything discussed in the meeting, including the documents and web pages that were shared.

ProFeatures is available from Class starting today.



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Blackboard founder transforms Zoom add-on designed for teachers into business tool


When Class founder Michael Chasen was in college, he and a buddy came up with the idea for Blackboard, an online classroom organizational tool. His original company was acquired for $1.64 billion in 2011. Chasen later developed Class, a Zoom add-on, during the pandemic to help teachers make better use of Zoom in a classroom setting, something they struggled to do early in the pandemic.

But Chasen says people who used Class kept telling him they needed something similar for business, and on Thursday Class announced the release of ProFeatures for Zoom, designed specifically for business users.

Instead of simply sharing a single screen where only one participant has control, ProFeatures lets everyone edit a document in Microsoft Office or Google Docs, brainstorm on a Miro whiteboard or edit code together in Microsoft Visual Studio, as a few examples. If the SaaS tool you want isn’t part of the default set of tools, there is a built-in browser to access any website or app.

What’s more, you can have multiple tabs open, allowing people to share multiple screens instead of just the presenter.

“I had all these clients saying, ‘Hey, I’d love to use this for my regular meetings’. So I had my developers take our product, turn off the learning tools and just leave the fundamental improvements that we made to Zoom,” Chasen told TechCrunch.

While Class was doing fine — the company has raised $164 million, per Crunchbase — Chasen saw the opportunity to expand his business. “So we have two products now. We have Class for Zoom and Class for Microsoft Teams. And now we also have ProFeatures for Zoom,” he said.

He has already been able to sell $17 million worth of ProFeatures enterprise licenses, even before he officially had a product, so he knew he was on to something. Individual users can use it for free, but the power comes when multiple people in the meeting are using the advanced features.

The money comes from an enterprise license, which provides enterprise features like centralized control for IT, single sign-on and other things that an IT department needs to control usage in a large organization.

But Chasen says he’s found the tool has a viral quality to it. “We actually have something really interesting, which is the viral marketing that we do, and no one’s done this yet. So if you join a meeting, let’s say you’re with 10 other people in regular Zoom, but you have Pro features, when you share a document, everybody receives a message from you saying, ‘Hey, I’m sharing this Word document. You can only view it in Zoom with screen share. But if you had ProFeatures, you could edit it. Click here to download ProFeatures,” he said.

Zoom ProFeatures open with people editing a Word document together.
Zoom ProFeatures open with people editing a Word document together. Image Credits: ProFeatures

If you don’t want to share the ability to edit with the entire group, you can limit who can see it or what participants can do, such as view, edit or comment. In addition, you can choose to revoke those permissions after the meeting ends.

Finally, there is an AI component, the ProFeatues AI Assistant, which can transcribe the meeting as well as capture all of the documents, files and webpages shared within the meeting — and it can answer questions on everything discussed in the meeting, including the documents and web pages that were shared.

ProFeatures is available from Class starting today.



Source link

Disclaimer

We strive to uphold the highest ethical standards in all of our reporting and coverage. We StartupNews.fyi want to be transparent with our readers about any potential conflicts of interest that may arise in our work. It’s possible that some of the investors we feature may have connections to other businesses, including competitors or companies we write about. However, we want to assure our readers that this will not have any impact on the integrity or impartiality of our reporting. We are committed to delivering accurate, unbiased news and information to our audience, and we will continue to uphold our ethics and principles in all of our work. Thank you for your trust and support.

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