Etel cont. Tom shows us “Where is the Money!”

The Etel Mashup Contest sponsored by StrikeIron, Sylantro, and Tellme was a real eye opener. Thomas Howe, the winner (he took home $1500), put together an easy to understand and monetize application, After Hours Doctor’s office. All the details are posted here . Read the details and you will learn how a smart guy with a good idea, available tools and a few hours to spare whips up a solution for a common problem. Do read all about it!

My friend Garret Smith was also very impressed with Tom’s win!

There are plenty companies who need solutions like this. Reminds me the start of the CTI market 10-15 years ago, when alot of money was made solving painful problems with standard application generators. There are great opportunities out there. Let the goldrush begin!

“Those who can afford it don’t need it

…and those who need it can’t afford it.” Thats the theme this morning at Etel. A lot of attention is focused on the fancy solutions on smartphones that enable you to speak for free between mobiles. But – as my friend Pat Phelan says, the majority of cell phone users in the world who need to save money, have cheap $20 phones and can only dream of a smartphone!

Pat thinks that we are too wrapped up in technology and are missing out on the big picture. On that point it was enlightening to see Nokia’s presentation about the future of the smartphone and right after that Sean from Microsoft Research India about business solutions for rural India. The $100 ARPU vs. the $2 ARPU. The Digital Divide….

Case in hand – how does a delivery driver check on his delivery route. In the USA – he uses a Internet enabled palm device with GPRS, while in India where the driver makes $150 a month and has a $20 phone, Microsoft set up a SMS server to handle driver enquiries. Two worlds, two solutions!

Once you realise the latter market is tens time as large as the former, you wonder why aren’t more startups targeting the “second world”….

Ten, Nine, Eight …. Two, One TAKEOFF

Just got back from the Etel Launchpad. My presentation went smoothly, though it was different from most of the other ones who were showing more of an user experience. Veteran Grand Central had a cool slick presentation. MySay.com was really a My Space for the telephone. Mysay gives you one number to listen what your friends are doing and tell them what you are doing, sorta of a social network for phones. You call in and leave a message what you are doing and can listen to what others are up to, or ranting about. Twitter for voice??

Peerant has a distributed call center which works with Skype where you can set up an application on the fly based on your campaign. Pretty cool.

Tomorrow I have a bunch of meetings scheduled from 6:30am so I am going to call it a day and get some sleep!

Blogging Live from Etel

Well, Etel has started and I am in the first session with Brian McConnell a serial telephony entrepreneur. He is talking about how to start a telephony business without breaking the bank or taking VC money. He must know something, since he has done it a few times already :-).

Though the conference has just started, in a few minutes I already ran into Jim Van Meggelen, Ken Camp, Moshe Yudkowsky and touched base electronically with Pat Phelan, Frederick from Jajah and Thomas Howe. Thats what I find really exciting about Etel, the possibility to meet informally with the top doers and thinkers in IP telephony.

Brian is sharing his experience starting businesses. Some of the important points that he made was you shouldn’t look for VC money unless you really need it, or take paper in private companies since you may get wiped out. He took good ideas at the right time and grew the company with his own cash / credit cards. Sure he didn’t build Skype, but then how many do? There is room for small companies to find their niche and make money.

Brian brought up the issue of how bad the IVR experience is at the big companies and how there is room to blend the IVR with their datebase so you can just call in and they will give you info based on their DB, without asking questions. For example you are on a airline waiting list, you can the airline, your Caller ID is fed to the DB and right away the agent says hello Mr. Maeir, your flight has not cleared yet, anything else? Wouldn’t that be great? He also had a great story how he couldn’t get thru to a human being at his bank, so what did he do? he set up automatic lines to dial the bank and say ” this is a disgruntled customer, press 1 to hear his complaint etc..) he did this for hours and it made such a big splash that within a day he was on network TV

From the amount of pain I hear about this – there is definitely a big market for SMART IVR solutions. Look at the Mashup Contest that is taking place here to hear more about this – my friend Thomas Howe will be showing an interesting medical triage solution.
More later!

Packing for Etel!

I am preparing to leave Monday morning for the O’Reilly Emerging Telephony Conference where I will be presenting at the Launchpad.

It is almost a 24 hour trip for me to San Francisco, but after reading all the enthusiastics posts by our partner Alec at iotum, Andy , David, Pat and others, I can’t wait to be there :-) Seems that it is the place to be to hear how telephony will develop in the near and far future. Plenty of smart people presenting there, I hope to return smarter!

Thank you to  Surj Patel  & Om Malik for inviting me!

Yes, VoiP works

Picking up Luca’s theme (who picked it up from voipgirl ) – Yes, VoIP works . Of course it does, otherwise it would not be used so extensively by carriers to transport international calls. Sure quality may have degraded slightly in the last few years, but weigh that against the benefit to international trade of low cost, easily accessable international calls. Hey, a few years ago I was paying $1 a minute to call from Israel to the USA. Today I pay 2 cents

r e t a i l !

Are you aware that thousands of USA citizens have moved to Israel in the last few years and continue to “work” in the states thanks to their VoIP and USA DiDs? That says a lot for the technology, if so many people are willing to depend on it for their work. Says a lot also for the global village, job mobility and open trade… So – yes VoIP works!

On that note Radvision has some hilarious videos on what IP communications can do for your job. I like the 4th best!

Vonage and SMB

Paul Kapusta has a great post on Gigaom as to what happened to Vonage’s SMB offering. My friend Garret Smith of Smith on VoIP also offers his theory what happened and why Vonage can still succeed in SMB. Both are worth reading!

Just to add my 2 cents – In many cases a founder of a startup has to hand over the reigns as the company matures. The founder was the right person at the time, but is not able to bring the company to the next stage. Can we say the same about industries? Vonage did a great job of bringing VoIP into the mainstream, but they don’t understand the CoIP (Communications over IP) world and are not willing/able to roll out a platform above their basic cheap dial offering.

So we should be all grateful for the work they did, but it is time to look to other companies for industry leadership and innovation.