Kast launches in the U.S. to take on Slack. This might not end nicely.

It seems to be the common refrain, that of vendors outside of the U.S. launching in the all-important U.S. market to fill a 'glaring hole in competitive products.' Does Kast stand a chance?

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You might not have heard about Kast before; I certainly hadn't before its email arrived in my inbox. Apparently, Kast is a competitor to white-hot messaging platform Slack. Given that pretty much everyone in the technology industry has heard of Slack, and almost no one has heard of Kast, I'd suggest that Slack isn't exactly panicking about this competitor. But I digress.

Apparently, Samba Tech, the company behind Kast, is the "leading independent distributor of online video services in Latin America." Samba Videos handles all digital logistics around the creation and distribution of video. Kast, the product being launched here, is a mobile-only video application that is designed to allow businesses and teams to collaborate in the workplace. Kind of like Google Hangouts, Skype Video, or conferencing solutions from Join.me, GoToMeeting or WebEx. Color me dubious.

Based in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Samba Tech claims that it services thousands of customers around the world. Seeing an opportunity for Kast in the U.S., Samba Tech has secured a $2.7 million investment from a Brazilian beverage billionaire (it gets more interesting by the minute!).

Anyway, about that international opportunity thing: According to Samba Tech, Kast was created because mobile video plays a huge role with consumers (witness Snapchat, Vine, Facebook, etc.), but business communication tools such as Slack and HipChat don't offer mobile video. Maybe that's because video isn't a particularly useful tool for collaboration among teams, and Slack's success is down to the fact that short, quick and data-efficient text-based messages are the medium of choice. Samba seems to conflate the fact that Snapchat achieves 10 million daily video views into some expectation that business use is sorely lacking similar functionality.

Well, first: Per Skype and Google Hangouts, that isn't the case. Second: In the event that Slack, HipChat and others determined that there was real customer demand for video, it would take them all of a few weeks to roll it out to their respective platforms, thereby making Kast's point of differentiation pretty much irrelevant.

"Big companies don't have a good way to engage with their employees," said Gustavo Caetano, founder and CEO of Samba Tech. "Many still use email or paper-based communication, but there's no real interaction; they're just receiving information. With Kast, sales, marketing, HR, engineering, support, leadership and more can use video to create and capture dynamic moments and ideas, or to deliver corporate information in a fresh and engaging way. We've been delivering high-quality video solutions in Latin America for more than 10 years. We've learned not just how powerful and popular mobile video messaging can be, but how to build a secure platform that works reliably at scale. Businesses should get ready to Kast."

Seemingly completely oblivious to the fact that there isn't a huge problem here to solve, Samba has got some moderately high-profile vendors to talk it up.

"Kast has the potential to become the corporate Snapchat, offering companies a secure, centralized and organized way for sharing activities, events and tasks from different times and regions through a multimedia application," said Tom Mix Petreca, solutions engineer at Rackspace. "Testing Kast has been a fantastic opportunity to leverage mobile video with our Latin America-Brazil team to spur creativity, streamline mass communication and support community growth internally. We're excited to share our experiences with the app companywide."

Sorry, but I just don't get it. There's no real problem here to solve, and if there were, others would be able to solve it just fine. Samba may be hugely successful in Latin America, but I don't see it gaining any real traction beyond there anytime soon.


Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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