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

Why didn’t GoDaddy acquire Fone.Do?

GoDaddy - Step 4

Yesterday GoDaddy announced that they are acquiring the Hosted PBX provider FreedomVoice for $47m. Over the past year, GoDaddy met with many companies in the Hosted PBX space including us in their search for an ultimate phone solution for their customers. See below part of  our well received PPT  that we presented to GoDaddy.

Before I explain why they picked FreedomVoice and not Fone.Do (even though our technology is much more advanced), we need to understand more about GoDaddy and their customer base.  (BTW, everything I will write in this post, is based on publicly available information). As my friend the telecom analyst Peter Radizeski commented yesterday:

This line in the press release cracks me up: “GoDaddy has 14 million customers and many of them have struggled to find affordable and simple telephony solutions,” said Steven Aldrich, Chief Product Officer, GoDaddy. Really? There are approximately 2000 Hosted VoIP providers in the US. You can’t get away from the adds from 8×8, RC, Vonage, MegaPath and others, so if GoDaddy’s customers are struggling, well, that says something about the perception GoDaddy has of their customers.

Actually, when you look at who GoDaddy customers are, the PR is understandable. GoDaddy define their customers as VSBs (Very Small Businesses) with 1-5 employees with the majority being 1 man businesses. Some like to classify their typical customer as a One person, non-tech, business owner (usually female) who lives in the “flyover states”. As they explain in their annual report, GoDaddy sees their mission as supplying the Digital Identity to their customers. Until now this identity included 3 components – Domain, Email and WebSite. Recently they made a strategic decision to make a phone service the 4th component. In the slide at the top of this post you can see our mockup where we showed our vision of this 4th component.

GoDaddy understands that phone service is no longer a separate service from other digital services. More-so in this age of WebRTC, voice (and video) communications are integrated web services that are just another application in our digital life. I think we expressed this vision very well in these slides that we presented to GoDaddy in our first meeting a few months ago. If you read the GoDaddy PR, I think you can see traces of our vision in their future plans…

So why did they pick FreedomVoice and not Fone.Do? Well, historically Godaddy acquires businesses with a medium size customer base which they can grow and integrate into their existing product line. So, though we were probably a closer fit for GoDaddy, they preferred an established company and not a startup. Though, if I was them I would have preferred a solution with a better suited solution for the future of communications.

What did I learn from this experience? That in the future, we will see communication services integrated in every web application. That is where we are going and that is why we are such strong supporters of WebRTC!

 

Gmail. Can You Please Teach Me to Use Gmail??

12734266_10153385101116596_4688000587754398582_n

If I would ask you to teach me, an internet savvy person,  how to use Gmail, what would you think? That I was probably joking – right? How about Facebook? Your banking? do you need training for those websites?

Of course not! Nowadays all web applications are designed and built to be easily understood by anyone who uses a web browser.  Well, all except business telephone services.

Installing and maintaining a small business phone system usually means calling a technician and spending hours configuring the system. Then each time you want to change something, again a technician is called to change the configuration. As someone who is a partner in a number of telephone companies, the situation is very familiar to me. Employees leave, new employees come, offices are closed for vacation and messages need to be changed. Each change like this calls for a modification in the phone system.

Why can’t a phone system be as simple as using Gmail? They definitely can!

Go ahead and try out Fone.Do. In only 2 minutes you can be up and running.

 

 

Fone.Do Awarded “Best of Show” at ITEXPO 2016

ITEXPO Best of Show

 

We had an exciting time last week at Fone.Do! While the IP Communications community congregated at the ITEXPO, we were busy with our booth.  We enjoyed sharing our latest developments with the thousands of visitors.

On Wednesday we were selected as one of 8 startups to present at the IDEA Showcase. Each presenter had 5 minutes to present their company and another 5 minutes to answer questions from the judging panel. It was a challenge to present the revolutionary aspects of Fone.Do in only a few minutes, but I think we did a good job!

The last day of the show, Thursday brought a big surprise when we were presented with the Best of Show award. The truth is that based on the feedback from the visitors to our booth, we knew we had built something special, but the validation that came with the award was definitely rewarding for our team.

Walking the aisles at ITEXPO it was evident how software is taking over the telecom world. At Fone.Do we are ready!

IMG_20160126_154309

 

 

Fone.Do – The World’s 1st “On Demand” PBX for SMB!

 

Screenshot from 2016-01-10 15:03:11

 

On Demand services (otherwise known as Uber type services) are taking the world by storm. Though some may dismiss it as a buzzword, the truth is that we are in the midst of a revolution.  One of the best examples is AirBNB. The founders of AirBNB saw that  on one hand millions of people travel and the other hand at the same time, many homes and beds around the world are empty. By putting the two together they invented a new market. Uber is another great example. Why own a car which is not in use most of time? Uber, Gett and Lyft will provide you with a car and driver as need, on demand!

Here at Fone.Do we noticed all the small businesses working off their mobile phones and saw an opportunity. Most startups operate from multiple locations. The mobile phone is their best tool of communications. But lets face it making and receiving calls on your mobile is at the least unprofessional. What happens when you are in the bath, washing your 2 year old and an important call comes in from that Fortune 500 customer? Do you take it, or not?

This is just one situation that we thought of when designing Fone.Do . Our solution is to give you a professional facade wherever you may be. Fone.do works in your browser (with no download), on your mobile and your deskphone. The same business number goes with you at all times. You now have on your mobile a 2nd number for your business with all the related switchboard services. So the next time you get a call in the bathroom, the caller will hear a professional welcome message and the call will be routed either to a colleague or to the company voicemail  without any embarrassing situations.

If you know how to use Facebook and Gmail, you can setup your own Fone,Do system  in 3 minutes. Try it for free and see how liberating an On Demand Phone System can be for your small business.

 

Screenshot from 2016-01-10 15:00:16

 

 

 

 

 

Fone.Do @ ITEXPO Official Industry Disruptor!

idea-showcase

January. The time of year that Telecom Snowbirds head down to Southern Florida for ITEXPO,  Usually held in Miami, this year Fort Lauderdale will host the thousands of attendees. Fone,Do will be exhibiting for the first time our new WebRTC based PBX phone system for small businesses.

Ten years we sold the “same, same” small business telephone solutions, while the internet reinvented itself many times over. Last year we decided it is time to bring small business telecom to the Internet. Fone.Do built from the ground up, a small business phone system using Web Developers instead of Telecom Engineers.

Fone.Do is so easy to setup and maintain that anyone who uses Gmail or Facebook – can be up and running with a Fone.Do system in just 3 minutes.

ITEXPO  announced that Fone.Do will be one of  the industry disruptors to be judged at the IDEA Showcase on the 2nd day of the conference. IDEA Showcase is focused on bringing companies transforming markets to a select audience looking to catch the next wave of technology innovation. Companies will have five minutes to present their unique value proposition and the audience and panel of judges will determine who is the most disruptive.

We are looking forward to see you in Fort Lauderdale on Jan 26-28th. Fone.Do will be demoing our system at Booth 636.

636

Can Pigs Fly? Sometimes they can!

Moshe presenting Fone.Do at TADSummit  2015

Moshe presenting Fone.Do at TADSummit 2015

Can Pigs Fly? I don’t want to offend anyone, but I am just using a common idiom to make a point…

Last month, I took part in TADSummit 2015 in Lisbon, Portugal. TADSummit is  an intimate conference which brings together  small innovative developers like  Fone.Do together  with Big Telco and their suppliers. Among the 250 attendees, there were big guys like Telenor, Orange, T-Mobile, Cisco, Oracle and Huawei, rising stars such as Nexmo and Kandy mixing with relative small outfits such as Apidaze, Telestax, Zen.ly, Vivaction and others (just to mention a few!).

Towards the end Alan Quayle the conference organizer, led a panel and  announced the TADS Mentor initiative. The mentoring  program will assist innovative startups with technical and business mentorship. Werner Eriksen of Telenor Digital, who was sitting in the audience, pointed the discussion in a new direction when he suggested that maybe it is the Telcos who need a mentoring program!  Sad that it may be, I must say that there is something to that statement. While Werner’s company, Telenor is probably one of the most innovative Telcos, most of their innovation is shunted off to a small group that it is kept at arms length from the mother ship.

At other companies the situation is even worse. So while people like Werner, Sebastian Schumann of T-Mobile, Fernando Mendioroz of Digicel, among others are doing great work – in most their work stays in the PoC stage.

Same story for many of the other Big Telcos. Features like MultiRing (one number on multiple devices) are considered new, innovative products. Now, lets take a look at the  Internet, see how it has changed tremendously in the last decade, while Telecom has stagnated. With new technologies like WebRTC, ubiquitous bandwidth, abundant APIS and smart mobile devices, so much more can be done.!

CEOs of the Big Telcos need to turn innovation into their personal mission. The technology is there, as is the need. Those who do not heed the call for change, will be left being that term that they all abhor – Dumb Pipes!

So, while it may be true that Pigs can not fly – Telcos can! But it is up to their captains to take control. Will they?