The Old and the New, Archeology & VoIP

pottery.jpg Maeir is not a common last name, yes there are Mayers, Meirs and Maiers, but practically no Maeirs. Since there is not really much competition, I have a habit of just googling for “maeir” to see what the net is saying about me. Until recently most of the answers were related to my cousin Aren, however lately there has been a swing in my favor :-)

Before I reflect on what this result means, let me tell you a little about Cousin Aren. We were both born in the states, within 6 days of each other and moved to Israel with our respective families almost 4 decades ago. While I took the path of business, Aren became one of Israel’s leading archaeologists and is chairman of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University. Like me, Aren is an entrepreneur in his field and is known for his initiatives to use modern technology in researching ancient history. In fact he is currently promoting a remarkable initiative to completely digitize the whole process of an archeological dig.

While I fight the goliaths of the telecom industry, Aren has actually discovered evidence of the biblical Goliath ! So while I deal in the business of bits and bytes and Aren focuses on ancient coins and pottery we do have a lot in common.

Going back to my google results above, I wonder if my growing popularity on google vs. Aren’s results reflects on increased interest in VoIP or there are other factors in play here. Whatever the reason may be – I do recommend to take a few minutes to look at Aren’s blog.

Two Million Jajaers – Mazal Tov!

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Jajah announced Tuesday, that they have reached 2 million subscribers. A very nice milestone. However, I do not understand the bloggers who after congratulating the Jajah team for their accomplishment compare them to Vonage! True both have 2 million subscribers, but the comparision ends there. Vonage has a ARPU of $28, Jajah has close to a $0 ARPU. Big Difference. It would be more realistic to compare them to the 500 million Skype downloads.

That said, I really like Jajah, here’s why:

  1. Frederik of Jajah is a great guy!
  2. They took a classic plain vanilla product - international call back - and successfully packaged it as a new, easy to use revolutionary service.
  3. Offering “free calls” is easy. Put together a web page, a click to call button and spend your VCs money on termination. BUT, Jajah did not stop there. The Jajah people are are innovators.Their integration with global yellow pages is a good example. Their focus on the business market is another.

2 million subscribers are a good start. Jajah still has to prove that they can bring in substantial revenue and make a profit. Will they be different from their competition (Rebtel, fring, Truphone etc.)? Time will tell.

I wish them a Mazal Tov and best of luck for the future!

P.S. After I wrote this, I saw that my friend Luca, made similar comments

I am offering $3.22 per share!

Mr. Jeffrey Citron

Vonage

Dear Sir,

I am offering to buy your company for $3.22 per share. Please do not hesitate with your answer, you will not get a better price. Between the two of us , you do not really have a choice. This offer is good until April 1st at 12pm. You can reach me at sip:moshe@flatplanetphone.net. I am sure your engineers will know how to make a sip call, though your customers can not. By the way, If you had opened up the network for your customers, maybe you would not have been in this situation. Instead you decided to let others take technology forward, while you insisted on selling a simple landline replacement.

Jeff, let me tell you what I will do once I buy the company –

  1. The waste of a million dollars a day on advertising will cease immediately. Instead, we will spend a tenth of that on maintaining the best customer service in the business.
  2. We will introduce advanced IP services for Vonage customers
  3. Bring Jeff Pulver back together with a group of innovators / distruptors such as Jon Arnold, Pat Phelan and Thomas Howe. They will lead the Vonage Board of Innovation
  4. We will target the fast growing SMB hosted PBX market
  5. We will sell the company in 2 years for $6 a share. With a gross profit of $203.85 a year per customer, there is no reason we can’t!

Jeff, you bet the company on your strategy and you lost. On the way you invented a new industry and we are all grateful for that, but now it is time for you to go to a new venture. Good Luck. I hope to hear from you by Sunday at noon.

Best Regards

Moshe Maeir

=============

UPDATE – it seems that the market likes my offer, since Vonage opened today at $3.22 

Flat Planet Phone Co. selected to present at TWS2007!

tws2007-logo-promo.jpgTWS2007 is a local Israeli event designed to bring together internet startups and investors. Modeled after DEMO, it is a smaller event, but important enough for the local scene. After all while Israel is a small country we have made a large contribution to world technology.

So I have no doubt that the ten startups selected (out of 58 who applied to present) will have innovative presentations. While the web site itself is in Hebrew, you may recognize some of the contest judges in the pictures, such as Yair Goldfinger of ICQ fame, Deb Schultz, Baruch Gindin CEO, Gartner Israel, Eyal Niv of Giza, Meir Brand GM Google Israel, Barak Shain Microsoft Israel, Ofer Adler of Incredimail and others.

Coming after our selection to present at the Etel Launchpad last month, this is further validation of the value of our vision.

Free cell phone calls anyone?

The Independent reports today that a new startup founded by the former Nokia president has announced that they will be offering free cellphone service including SMS and voice, starting this July. The new MVNO, Blyk intends to support the free service, by pushing advertising to the subscriber’s handset. According to company founder Antti Ohrling, The company is hoping to ape the success of Skype in the fixed-line market, which also offered free telecoms services to drive adoption of its services.

Blyk’s service will be aimed at mobile phone users aged 16 to 24, a group that advertisers have traditionally found it difficult to reach. Blyk is banking on young people agreeing to receive and respond to advertisements to lower their mobile phone bills. Subscribers can choose to respond to advertisements to improve the relevance of the marketing to their tastes.

Blyk has argued that the missing piece in the mobile advertising jigsaw is the benefit to consumers.

Mr Ohrling is quoted on the company’s website saying: “Commercial television has been the dominant form of broadcasting. Free. Netscape introduced free internet browsing. Hotmail was the free e-mail. Google organized the internet for free. Napster created free peer-to-peer file- sharing. Skype launched free internet phone calls … I believe that free is also the future of mobile communications.”

The company has yet to reveal the details of how it will offer consumers free services or what form the advertising will take.

The research company M:Metrics has calculated that in the three months to January, some 16 million people received text-based advertising on their phones. While 5 million complained about the unwanted text, around 2 million responded to the text, 35 per cent of whom ended up buying a product.

Everyone likes free – the question is will they get enough advertising? If they do look for Google to overun them quickly!

The Thomas Howe Communications Primer

tom2.jpgThough I have only known Thomas for less than a month, he continuously surprises me with his outstanding analysis. Yesterday, Thomas posted the Next Generation Communications Primer. While you should definitely read the whole article, I am copying here 2 points which I found relevant to what we are doing at the Flat Planet Phone Co.

  1. The carrier-class argument no longer holds. It used to be that innovative applications for telephony were difficult to scale because you could only stack so many Dialogic cards in a server, and so many servers in a rack, before it became silly. Packet based architectures are intrinsically more stable and robust than TDM architectures, scale better, are easier to deploy and are less expensive to develop and maintain. In fact, architectures such as TDM and (in some ways) IMS actually contribute to lower reliability and innovation. Pure SIP, and it’s son P2P SIP, are systematically better.
  2. Programmable Web : Please visit programmable web. The web is now the platform, not a 2 million dollar piece of iron. When’s the last time you heard of an interesting application being delivered on any other platform? If you think that mashups are the province of geeks, I would remind you that every successful travel site is now a mashup. If you think there are no good web APIs for telephony, I would have you visit PhoneGnome, TellMe, Voxeo, FlatPlanetPhoneCompany, JaJah, Jaduka…

Do yourself a favor and read the whole article here. If you are trying to figure out where your company is going in the fast changing communications world , call in Thomas Howe – he will guide you!