Videoconferencing helps SBA clients

SBA-Cisco Systems-San Jose Entrepreneur Center

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A new Small Business Administration center is taking advantage of advanced videoconferencing technology to help entrepreneurs get training to develop their businesses.

The SBA-Cisco Systems-San Jose Entrepreneur Center in California is using a PictureTel Corp. 900 Series system from its iPower line of group videoconferencing systems to enable small-business clients to participate in training programs and other collaborative sessions remotely. PictureTel donated the system to the center, which opened in October 2000. An identical system is located at SBA's San Francisco District Office.

"It's very effective technology to enable experts to provide information to people in a timely fashion," said Brian Gallagher, senior account manager at PictureTel.

Darlene McKinnon, deputy district director for SBA's San Francisco District Office, which oversees the San Jose center, said the systems also expose small-business owners to tools that can help them connect with potential clients.

"We're helping them to understand how utilizing [this] technology can help them to maximize their marketing dollars without having to move away from the operations of their business," she said. "I encourage them to think about this as an investment in their marketing."

An SBA center in Oakland, Calif. that helps traditionally underserved areas will receive a system in October, McKinnon said. That donation should help show how technology can be "a great equalizer" in the small-business world, she said.

"It really enables me to bring small businesses the best of the best," McKinnon said. "It pays for itself when [businesses] close that first deal or expand that opportunity they have with an existing customer."

The iPower line, launched in August 2000, is PictureTel's foray into multimedia remote communications, combining videoconferencing, PC and Internet technologies. The 900 Series features a tabletop laptop connector and a high-performance PC that handles video and audio processing. It also provides access to local-area networks and Internet connections.

Gallagher said PictureTel customers had clamored for the ability to share PC and network information during videoconferencing sessions.

"The overall open PC architecture has been adopted by the marketplace," Gallagher said.

PictureTel's donation will enable the company to obtain feedback from SBA users for future refinements, he said. "They have a great application for what the technology is built for, [so] we wanted to get it in there really quick," he said.

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