Small talk is big again: Talko launches, Zeetl acquired by Hootsuite

Looks like voice communication is coming back. Well, not in a huge surge, but there’s some recent splashes that suggest voice still has a role to play.

Ray Ozzie, the brainiac behind Lotus Notes and Groove, and the former Chief Scientist of Microsoft, has launched his new startup, Talko. And it’s centered on voice communications. His premise is that we are not taking advantage of the possibilities for voice, despite the fact that we are walking around all day with a smartphone that allows us to express ourselves much more succinctly and easier that texting or emailing.

Talko is not just a phone app: it allows for asynchronous voice communications — audio chat, if you will — as well as synchronous. All the audio is recorded, and tags can be dropped on the stream to indicate that an important comment was made or a decision was reach, so it can be randomly accessed later on. Photos can also be dropped into the stream, as well.

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The value proposition for the tool is small group communications, especially for mobile groups, I think. Although I would like to see a Siri-like transcription, as well.

We’ll have to see where this goes, but I have to admit it seems like a feature not a business. If I am in a team that has been using Slack or Hipchat, I’m not sure I would switch to Talko for voice. But I might ask the makers of my favorite tool to include audio messages, too.

Interesting that Talko is currently available on iOS only, and not Windows. But then, Ray is a smart guy.

One area where voice is still incredibly relevant is customer care. That may explain why Hootsuite acquired Zeetl, a social telephony platform for customer support. This acquisition was announced as part of a funding round, in which Hootsuite raised $60 million, following $165 series B last August. Hootsuite reports that it has 10 million customers, up from last August’s 7 million.

The idea is to integrate Zeetl into the Hootsuite experience, so that a customer complaining on Twitter could be sent a link to a Zeetl voice account, and the interaction could go off line and be resolved.

Looks like voice is going to be sticking around for a while, at least.