This Dream Took Only 30 years To Actually Come True

800px-Alt_Telefon

We all have dreams, sometimes they just take a long time to come true. This dream of mine took 30 years.

Back in the mid-80s I was a young guy in Israel looking to get into business. The personal computer business was at a boil. Supply could not keep up with demand and after doing some research, I figured out that if I imported Citizen printers, the 120D to be exact, I could make some good money.

However since Citizen had an distributor already in Israel, I went looking for someone in the US, who could buy containers of printers and ship them to me in Israel. A friend gave me a lead to Mike in NY.

There was no real email at the time, remember this was 1985, so I called NY.

“You have reached PC Computers Inc for Sales press 1, for support press 2, for accounts rcv press 3, accounts payable 4, for HR press 5…” and it kept on going on and on, I think there were 10 options!

Finally I got Mike on the phone and we setup to meet in NY. Walking into his office, I was surprised to see that it consisted of 2 rooms. Mike I said, where are all the people? Sales, HR, accounting etc…

Oh, Mike answered, it is just me and PJ here.

Wow, I thought to myself, this is MAGIC! Transforming 2 people into 10! Unbelievable.

Remember! This was before Voice over IP. We are talking 1985.

Sometime later, I was in a computer store in Jerusalem, browsing magazines. A magazine called Computer Telephony looked interesting and I took it home. In it was an editorial by a man named Harry Newton, whom I am sure many of you remember (Harry is still live and kicking in NY BTW). In it Harry writes that the reason he likes Telecom is that it is the only business that you can sell the same product, a telephone minute, for 4 cents and for $4.00

I remember the excitement I felt when I read those words. Here was a product was essentially worthless on its own, all the value was dependent on the packaging. There is endless room here for creativity, I thought. The more creative we are, the more value we can generate.

Well, I knew then, that one day I would get into the phone business and put my creativity to work. It took only 18 years to a finally got around to it.

Fast forward to 2003, and I was looking to start a new business, and my friend David Schlacht of then NDS and later of DirecTV, told me that Voice over IP, was the next thing commercially.

My first step was to become a reseller of Net2phone’s Voiceline product. Voiceline was similar to Vonage — a box that basically replaced your copper phone line dial tone with a IP based dial tone that you could take anywhere. So I spent the next 2 years selling these boxes mostly to expats in Israel and USA.

Compared to what we have today, it wasn’t much, but you could actually sit in Israel and act as you were in NY, for example. Today I am convinced that these little boxes actually facilitated the immigration of many families to Israel, since their US phone number enabled them to continue their previous work remotely.

Pretty soon, I was disappointed with the functionality, after all this is IP technology and there is so much more you can do. As my imagination went to work, I started submitting ideas to Net2phone management, how to improve the product. Net2phone was very attentive to my ideas, but alas, execution was a different story. For example, when I suggested a softphone, they promised it by August. But it turned out that they did not commit to a specific year…

I knew that we could do much more!

The next step in realising my dream was The Flat Planet Phone Company. At Flat Planet our goal was to implement all the ideas that Net2phone would not implement. We provided a platform so a reseller could easily setup his own “phone company” and cherry pick ready made services to resell such as Hosted PBX, calling cards, conference calls, call center queues etc.

Good, but still not Great.

Over the years Flat Planet grew into a very nice profitable business. But I wasn’t happy. 2 years ago, I looked back and realised that almost 10 years have passed and we together with other hosted pbx providers are selling the same product from 2006. In the same time the internet has changed tremendously.

How many of you needed training or technical support to use Facebook? Gmail? Or your banking? You probably didn’t. But to setup a telephone system for your business — is complicated and involves technical knowledge with onsite or remote support.

Both are based on IP technology, so why are telephone systems so complicated to use?

I knew that we could do much more!

The advances in web development technology together with the technology that I think is a real gamechanger — WebRTC — meant that we could now do real magic!

Fone.Do was formed with 3 objectives.

  1. Ease of Use. If you can use Facebook and Gmail — you should be able to setup a full business phone system in 2–3 minutes. Most of the existing services compete on features. Company A has 40 features. Company B has 50, so lets do 60 features. We decided to take the 20% of features that 80% actually use and only implement them. Make it easy for both users and providers
  2. Open Cloud. We believe a cloud isnt a cloud just because you are in a remote data center. There is so much information out there in the cloud. When you receive a call you should get rich information about the caller, social media, local news and proprietary info such as crm. You should be able to also route calls based on that info. So maybe if someone calls with 500k twitter followers like Jeff, you will give his call priority, or if a call comes in from Buffalo where there is a storm at the same time that a call comes in from Miami where it is 80 degrees and sunny, the call from Buffalo will get priority.
  3. Mobility. The system based on WebRTC should work in a browser, on your mobile or with your deskphone with similar ease.

At Fone.Do we hired web developers and not telecom engineers. We all know how long it takes to develop and deploy commercially a feature in the telecom world. Since our developers didn’t know anything about SIP and VoIP, they worked like you do with a web app. Their motto — Just do it!

I know there are pundits who believe that WebRTC is just a passing trend… But I believe that telecom has changed.

There is no more “Telecom Network”. Now that we are in the IP world, your Network is a strong as your APIs. Companies like Twillio, Tropo and Nexmo are successful because they are understand this. WebRTC is a gamechanger. Jeff said many years ago “voice is just another app”, With WebRTC it truly is!

Thirty years have passed but we truly can now be creative.

HTML5 and APIs are all you need!

So what did we do at Fone.Do? Here is a short overview of the functionality…

Here is the link to the actual slides of the prensentation that I gave at MoNage Fall 2016 in Boston.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1GmKA5TICeNImHk6mQJwfF5GB