“Online contact is great, but nothing beats human interaction” – Desiree van Maasakker, Let’s Zoip

The idea for Let’s Zoip was born during the COVID pandemic. It was an opportunity to go back online, according to co-founder Desiree van Maasakker. “Video calls became highly relevant again, and we saw that the market hadn’t evolved since Skype. It was time for a change!”

Let’s Zoip’s platform is more than a video conferencing program. It’s a tool for businesses and organisations to host virtual guided tours during video conferences without having people visit their location. Let’s Zoip wants to help people connect with others in as many ways as possible. It was a necessity during the lockdowns, but many companies still value the possibilities.

Desiree focused on retaining human interaction in a digital world. “You want to ensure that something like a video call doesn’t get impersonal because you’d miss your point. Compare it to a conversation in the real world: it’s nicer to sit beside someone than across from them. That’s why ‘Create Human Connections’ is our slogan.”

Through the world of education

Desiree isn’t a stranger to the world of online conference calls. She started her first business in 1999, an internet platform to connect people. It was kind of a precursor to social media. Desiree founded a couple more internet businesses: in web hosting, RSS feeds, and, more creatively, 3D animations. “I had a lot of knowledge and experience with online businesses. For me, the global pandemic felt like a chance to renew a market.”

Let’s Zoip’s starting point was a high school asking Desiree and her business partner Tom Peters, whether they offered their VR services online. The school was looking for ways to stay visible during the lockdowns and had upcoming open days. “We were working on a comparable plan for fairs. That high school’s idea made us immediately change course. That is how the online guided tours came to be. Education is a great market to work in. Imagine you’re in primary school and having to choose a high school without ever setting foot in the building. Then such an online tour can really help you get started! Solving that issue makes for rewarding work.”

Working hard during start-up

Desiree explains that they had to work hard during the start-up phase. Because besides the platform for digital guided tours for schools and businesses, Let’s Zoip didn’t want to drop their idea for fairs. They were building a tool enabling users to share and look at 3D models. They decided to work on both projects simultaneously.

When the platform was finished, the labour didn’t end. “We were helping dozens of schools host guided tours. It all went great until they all had open days through our platform simultaneously. Hundreds of people per school walked around the buildings digitally. Our servers were working overtime and were eventually overloaded. You cannot prepare for everything; sometimes, you just have to experience it. Now we can say that our platform can handle a lot, and we know its limits exactly.”

Never done

Since that enormous open day, Let’s Zoip has learned a lot. “We now have a market-ready product. But to be honest, in my eyes, the platform will never be finished. We provide software as a service (SaaS), and these products need constant updating. However, we have moved on from the growing pains. The next step might be even more important: making choices.”

Entrepreneurship is all about making choices, like excluding target groups. Let’s Zoip is now in the middle of this process. It was one of the biggest learning points from Briskr’s Business Angels Network Nijmegen (BANN). “We have a solid story but we lack a clear target audience. Which sector, which country? What kind of solution are we truly delivering?”

Two conclusions came from the preparations for BANN, says Desiree. “We already have a lot of traction in the education sector. Schools are happy with our solution and also see the opportunities. It is also a great market: you get to help children. The second focus is towards recruitment. It is a nationwide challenge for employers to find staff, and our software can be excellently combined with a vacancy. We see the opportunities here!”

“Before you are allowed to pitch at BANN, there is an introductory period. I think that’s an excellent idea: you get help from coaches via Briskr to prepare as well as you can. This way, you get everything into focus, which doesn’t hurt. It was also a nice confirmation for me as a spokesperson that I enjoyed being in front of a group and convince people!”