Dubai Entrepreneur Launches Video Chat App While Dreaming About Life on Mars


Reactions only happen once. That’s the motto of Vidium (http://vidiumapp.com/), a new video chat service that hopes to reinvent the way we stay in touch with distant relatives and friends. Co-founder and CEO Khalid Al-Jaaidi says the idea came to him at random, but the epiphany moment didn’t happen until he experienced a personal frustration with the way digital chatting currently works.

“A friend of mine from Malaysia sent me a 25-second voice clip on Whatsapp,” he recalls. “As I was listening to it, I was reacting on the spot as if I was actually talking to her, only to reach the end of it and realize I had to send her back a reply, remembering when I had laughed and when I had said that and this. It felt extremely unnatural to go through that and made me realize that there is a huge gap here. We’re in 2014 and we still can’t communicate properly at ease over long distance!”

Enter Vidium, video chat reinvented for a world on the go. Vidium allows users to replace exhaustive video calls with fast and short video messages, while at the same time keeping all the benefits of video calls by capturing your reactions as you are watching the other person’s video.

“Vidium solves two key issues,” Al-Jaaidi says. “Because you don’t have to be online at the same time as the other person, you don’t have to worry about the connectivity issues that so many people have when making video calls. Second, you don’t have to schedule a time to chat, which can get really difficult with time zone differences.”

“We’ve taken the very best experiences from the apps we use every day and applied them to this medium, along with our own unique ‘reaction capturing’ twist. It’s a new way of looking at sending a message, but when you use Vidium for the first time, we believe you’ll say ‘this makes perfect sense’.”

Al-Jaaidi and his software developer co-founder, Heloise Andrade (the two met at a local hackathon) recently launched the Vidium app for iPhone. They believe that the service will be popular with young people who are either studying or working abroad and regularly use video chats to stay in touch with family, friends and significant others back home.

The development of Vidium has faced a few challenges. Andrade, who has a degree in computer science and worked at IBM as a developer, says, “One of the technical challenges with Vidium was to get a video to play at the same time as the front camera records a person’s reaction, without any interference between the two.” She says a lot of reading and researching eventually led to finding a solution.

Building the right team and go-to-market strategy was also key, says Al-Jaaidi, which is one of the reasons he applied last year to the TURN8 Seed Accelerator, a program founded by DP World to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation in the region.

“I applied to TURN8 because I saw the benefits of accelerator programs, and I needed a platform to accelerate my growth as a person, and Vidium as a company,” says Al-Jaaidi. “At TURN8, my co-founder learned and progressed through a year’s worth of work and experience in a short period of time.”

The Vidium team recently graduated from the TURN8 program and presented to investors and the media, along with other participants, at an Investor Demo Day on 17 January. They believe that the connections made as a part of the TURN8 accelerator will help Vidium demonstrate a track record of growth to attract investors.

Although the road to this point has been challenging, Al-Jaaidi embraces each obstacle, as is his way. “I’m naturally attracted to things that I perceive as hard and challenging. Whether it’s jumping out of a plane, or eating the spiciest burger, or climbing the tallest peak in Southeast Asia – all of which I’ve already done.”

It’s this drive and zest for life that led the 21-year-old Dubai native to apply for the Mars One mission, a conceptual plan to establish a human colony on the planet Mars by 2025. It makes sense for a guy who dreamed of being an explorer when he was a boy, who commonly used rocket ships or outer space as themes in his school projects, and whose heroes are Elon Musk – the founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors – and a character from a video game about exploring other galaxies. What is perhaps surprising is that this young Arab would want to go on a one-way trip to Mars, as those who are selected will not be able to return to Earth. Ever.

Still, Al-Jaaidi approaches the idea with enthusiasm. “Having a challenge and experience with a set goal in mind that defines your every day is a very powerful purpose. A purpose that could benefit mankind on a futuristic level is definitely one that’s on my radar.”

Al-Jaaidi may actually have the opportunity to realize his dream as he has been shortlisted for the Mars One project twice, having passed a number of interviews with the selection committee and a thorough physical exam. He believes the final decision will be made sometime soon.

Of course, like any good entrepreneur, he has kept in mind the potential for using Vidium on the mission. “While there will be Internet access on Mars,” he explains, “the only way colonists will be able to keep in touch with their loved ones is by text messages, photos, or video messages. Video calls would likely be impossible due to the immense distance that needs to be covered; there would be a delay of between 3-20 minutes.”

For now, Al-Jaaidi is keeping his feet on the ground and his head in the business of launching a successful startup.

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