Zoom rival StarLeaf leaps ahead in UK during pandemic


The coronavirus pandemic has hit us all quite hard and it overwhelmed health services in many countries. Keeping the pandemic in check and reducing its spread requires constant vigilance and effort. The online video conferencing provider StarLeaf is helping with this by working with the NHS to ensure a safer environment for non-COVID patients. Here’s why the Watford-headquartered video conferencing app is being opted for instead of rivals like Zoom, by the NHS. 

Ensuring total functionality during the pandemic

StarLeaf is currently working with over 100 English NHS organisations. Healthcare providers employ its services to ensure that mental health, physio, dermatology, outpatient and GP appointments are carried over video calls. Additionally, Fetal medicine, hepatitis C, neuro-ophthalmology and renal clinics and consultations make use of StarLeaf’s service to reduce unnecessary travel, face-to-face contact and thus, keep COVID-19 from spreading. 

Many NHS organisations use the company’s services as it offers stringent cyber-security measures. The company is directly connected with NHS’ Health and Social Care Network, which ensures information is accessed and shared using a secure, private cloud connection, which is custom designed for the NHS. There’s also an NHS specific data centre to ensure that any sensitive patient information discussed and exchanged during meetings is transmitted, and stored securely. Unlike competitors, StarLeaf doesn’t route data through servers in China and all patient data resides within the UK. 

In a conversation with UKTN, Mark Richer, co-founder and CEO of StarLeaf reveals more about how the company is supporting the NHS. He says, “When the pandemic hit, the NHS faced the challenge of how to continue operating effectively with many of its staff having to work remotely, during a period when the health service is under immense pressure.”

“Social distancing measures mean that many employees, specialists, partners and patients have been asked to stay at home, but still need to be involved in team meetings, training sessions, consultations and appointments. StarLeaf was rolled out almost overnight, helping these vital conversations and meetings to continue via video calls and chat,” Richer notes.

Competing with tech titans

Zoom rose to popularity during the pandemic and Microsoft Teams had the benefit of a large user base. As per Richer, “StarLeaf is very different to both Zoom and Teams. Our focus is on ease-of-use, reliability, interoperability and cyber-resilience. With Teams, you get a complicated and closed-off architecture that makes it difficult to collaborate with people using different systems. You also don’t get the 99.999% uptime guarantee you get with StarLeaf, and when things do go wrong, you’re relying on being able to contact Microsoft to raise the issue, and fixes aren’t guaranteed. People using Zoom will see similar issues, with the added issue of the security threats they have faced in recent months.”

“We compete with other video call providers by offering an enhanced experience. StarLeaf is built for enterprise – this is what sets us apart from others in the market. Many of our customers choose us because of our stringent security measures, as well as being easy to use, comments Richer. “With open and clear security practices, StarLeaf is secure by design, which has enabled us to achieve the ISO/IEC 27001 security certification. With points of presence and data centres in the UK, users can rest assured that data safely remains in the country, unlike many of our competitors.”  

COVID impact and past the pandemic

Those who are into entrepreneurship know that there are lessons in hardships. Shelling out some advice for companies battling COVID, Richer says, “We founded StarLeaf in 2008, at the height of another financial crisis, so my advice would be that difficult periods of time do always pass. I’d also suggest that now is a time for learning – the decisions that businesses make to stay afloat in coming months will give you the experience and character to thrive once more, when this pandemic passes.”

StarLeaf was founded in 2008 in Cambridge, and it has raised £30.16M so far in external funding from Highland Europe and Grafton Capital. Since COVID cases started coming in and lockdown was enforced in the UK, the demand for the company’s services skyrocketed and it added 59 new hires to our team this year. There are more open positions in the startups’ sales, marketing, business operations, technical and engineering departments.

We know that the post-pandemic world will be a very different one. However, will it spell trouble for video conferencing apps once people commence working out of an office? Richer has an interesting take on this subject. “For the next few years at least, you’re going to have people who need to be in the office, and people who need (or prefer) to be at home,” says Richer. “Because StarLeaf also has a full range of meeting room solutions as well as mobile, it’s easy for us to provide the same secure, reliable, easy to use experience whether people are at home, out-and-about, or in the office. The future of work will revolve around a mix of WFH and office-time – StarLeaf caters for all of these scenarios, so we’re prepared for the future.”

Image credits: StarLeaf