Archive for the 'VOIP' Category

Launch Silicon Valley 2008: Introducing GlocalReach

June 10, 2008

As Nicolai mentioned we’re presenting our company at the Launch Silicon Valley 2008 event in San Francisco today.

GlocalReach has been selected as one of 30 out of 266 applicants. We’re really proud to be one of the select few as there are some other startups with really exciting products in the group!

If you want to get to know us a bit better you’ve come to the right place. Here are a few blog posts you can read that tells our story.

First out is Nicolai Wadstrom, one of our co-founders and the chairman of our board, presenting himself:

I am an serial Entrepreneur, I am 35 years of age, and have been starting companies for the past 12 years, ranging from consulting companies, software companies, media companies, computer games and internet companies.

We’re building services for reach management. Managing how people reach you, that’s the core of our services. Since people today use many different ways of reaching each other it’s important to understand how the communication protocol is part of the message itself. Another important aspect of any communication technology is its emotional bandwidth.

As the price of voice communication (telephony) goes down, VoIP spam (SPIT) will be an increasing problem. Read how researcher Daniel Putz investigated different strategies for preventing SPIT here.

What about social networks? Well, our first service, ReachCards, is not a social network. At least not like Facebook, Myspace and the other giants. We believe in social slicing, being part of many social networks based on interest and social context. So, we looked at how research in evolutionary psychology points to what is commonly called Dunbar numbers. One important Dunbar number is 150, that’s the average circle of friends a person has:

The existing social networking sites and somewhat older social tools such as the address book in your mobile phone does a pretty good job of managing these 150 people. With GlocalReach, we’re trying to build the tools necessary for the outer circles, beyond the Dunbar number.

At these circles, people know you more by a role you have or a category of people you belong to. They might know you as a politician, a programmer, a neighbor, a nurse or a blogger. If you have a slashed career people will know you by many labels and roles. GlocalReach will help you manage these roles and how people reach you from the outskirts of the social whirl. That’s our place in the social network universe.

Speaking of cards, the business card is the traditional way of doing an “add to friends” in your social network. We know what adding a friend to Facebook means – the implications of doing it are built in to the service, but what does it mean when I give you my business card? What do I commit to? What do you as a receiver commit to? Here are some thoughts on the subject.

That’s a few of the things that has kept us busy the last year. Follow this blog to keep yourself updated as we move forward towards the goal of helping people manage how, when and why they can be reached.

Erik Starck
Managing Director, Co-founder GlocalReach

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While you’re waiting

January 24, 2008

Yes, I know… our beta is delayed. We’re still working on our reachcards as well as a complete redesign of our home page. Here’s a glimpse of one of our cards:

While waiting for us to finish, enjoy a few good blog posts from across the web.

First of is Web Worker Daily, writing about why you need an online persona:

Many web workers know that if you build your professional profile online, you might be able to skip resume writing and interviewing when looking for a new job or new clients. A strong online presence can sell you better than any one page summary or one hour meeting.

We couldn’t agree more. Your online presence is at least as important as your offline dito. In fact, they’re starting to become inseparable. That’s why you need an online business card just as much as you need a physical, offline one.

Seth Godin has a very short post about reach management: The more people you reach the more likely it is that you’re reaching the wrong people.

Garrett Smith pronounces the phone call dead:

Every week, I communicate with 75 year olds and 15 year olds a like. I believe there is a succinct dividing line between those who still value the phone call, those who still prefer to make a phone call and those who do not see the value in a phone call and would prefer to keep all of their communications electronic and textual. I believe that this “dividing line” is those who are currently the age of 26.

Garrett may be right. Yesterday I attended the Emote 08 conference here in Stockholm and one of the speakers was Anssi Vanjoki from Nokia. He showed the following slide:

This is data fetched from a small program that monitors the actual usage of a smartphone. It is not how people think they use their phone, it is showing how they’re actually using it.

Notice that voice is only 12% of the usage!

Messaging, which has a much smaller emotional bandwidth, is by far the most common usage of the phone.

In fact, it makes you wonder why they still call it a telephone – which is exactly why Nokia has started calling them multimedia computers.

OK, that’s it for now. Now I need to get back to finishing the reachcards and our new company home page. See you there!

Please don’t SPIT in my ear – VoIP Spam

October 19, 2007

Spam, spam, spam… the number one enemy of your inbox. It has almost killed email, my 10 (or is it 11?) year old ICQ-number is almost unusable thanks to all the unwanted messages I get and anyone who has a blog with comments knows that sooner or later you’re going to have to deal with unwanted comment spam.

On one of my personal blogs I am told that “Akismet has caught 228,182 spam for you since you first installed it”… (Akismet is a spam blocker for the WordPress blog tool.) That’s almost a quarter of a million messages. As a comparison, I have about 900 legit comments, so the spam comments outnumber the non-spam comments by about 245 to 1.

Spam happens whenever there is a way of contacting someone at practically no cost. Sending one million email messages doesn’t cost more than sending a hundred, if you have the addresses. If just one out of a thousand recipients respond to the message, it’s worth it. And people do respond. Spam works, otherwise we wouldn’t receive them.

So what happens when telephony becomes a zero cost communication channel?

We won’t get away. We will have spam over internet telephony, sometimes labeled SPIT:

SPIT hasn’t really taken root worldwide yet—but remember that e-mail spam was just 17 percent of e-mail traffic in 2002, where by November 2004 that figure was estimated at 93 percent.

Daniel Putz, a student at Växjö University has written an interesting undergraduate thesis on the subject. He writes:

As SIP numbers work nearly the same way as email addresses, it is easy for detection software to locate a SIP telephone simply by randomly calling numbers. Since a call can be established for free by any computer which is connected to the internet, and since the bandwidth of today’s internet connections allows sending many calls simultaneously, a sender nowadays can send many calls from anywhere at any time – for free.
Additionally, using commercial messages instead of voice is made very simple by playing a record the moment a receiver answers the
phone. As I have already pointed out, even someone new to the field of sending commercials on the phone, is able to send spam calls to
unsuspecting receivers.

He then proceeds to go through a few solutions to the problem. One of them is a pay-per-call variant:

This technique is based on the idea that a receiver gets paid for every message that is not wanted. Every sender is charged for a spam message. Only senders which are on a non-charge list are not charged.

Clever, but difficult to implement on a large scale. It’s still interesting how one of the core features of IP-telephony (free calls) also is one of its largest downsides. Maybe we don’t want free calls but cheap-enough calls and easily managed calls. Maybe a small cost per call is actually a feature to keep the network clean.

Telemarketing is still a problem (or at least most people would consider it a problem) but not bigger than today. No matter what, I will never have 245 as many telemarketing calls as regular calls to my phone. They might be annoying, but I’m not drowning in them. And of course, a good reach management solution would help deal with the problem.

Putz then puts his theories to the test by performing an experiment involving volunteers that (unknowingly) receives spam phone calls from the brave researcher. He then measured their response and asked them how they felt when receiving the calls.

Let’s just say they weren’t very happy. (Although as far as I know, no undergraduate students were hurt when performing the study.)

They also, interestingly, expected the operator (or the government) to fix the problem.

Voice spam is far more intrusive than email spam. It’s so intrusive that it might make the vision of free phone calls on the net a dream only. At least not without blocking out anyone but your closest friend. In my world, that’s not very free.

A solution to SPIT will be the difference between free calls and cheap calls for VoIP. It remains to be seen where we end up.

By the way… some good news! I just received an email telling me that “this email address was randomly selected” and that I “have subsequently
emerged [as] a winner and therefore entitled to a substantial amount of 753,000.00 Pounds”. Wow! Maybe finally we can afford to finish our beta.

Erik Starck
Managing Director, Co-founder GlocalReach

What does “here, have my card” really mean?

August 17, 2007

We live in an age of advanced communication technology. The number of mobile phones worldwide is 3 billion. That means that there are potentially 3 billion people that can call your mobile phone at any given moment.

Wow! Imagine that. Three billion people, all with the ability to at any given moment talk to anyone else of the three billion.

Our phones have to be ringing all the time, right?

Well, as you probably know, it doesn’t (although sometimes it feels like it does) and there are two reasons for this. The first reason is a simple matter of cost. International calls are quite expensive and calling up strangers from all over the world quickly empties your wallet (although this will change as we’re moving to a 100% VoIP-world (55 million VoIP-users and counting), leaving the door open for VoIP-spam).

The second reason is even more important: there’s also a social cost to calling a stranger. What do you talk about? What value can you bring to each others life? Most people would say it’s rude to disturb someone with a phone call when you don’t know the person and the purpose of the call is unclear.

The third reason is noise. You can’t find someone to talk to even if you did have a valid reason to talk.

That’s why one of the most important communication technologies we have is based on a simple piece of paper: the business card.

businesscards_smaller.jpg

The business card carries an important social meaning. Giving someone your card signals to them that it’s OK to contact you (during business hours – and not on the weekend, unless explicitly stated) using the contact information on the card. It also contains a short description of who you are in one particular role for example as a representative of a company.

It says:

“I am X and I do Y. It’s OK to contact me using the methods described on this card if you need help with anything related to Y.”

Or:

There are three billion people out there you can call. This card tells you why you should call me.

Exchanging business cards is an internationally accepted way of connecting. It lowers the social cost of making a phone call. It clarifies the value that a conversation may have. That’s why we will make the business card a central part of the GlocalReach service. It’s at the core of how you manage how other people can reach you. Our beta is ready soon.

Update: marketing genius Seth Godin has a post on business card mistakes:

Precisely because they are an anachronism, they serve a vitally important function. In an era where no one dresses up anymore, they give you a chance to position yourself, to represent who you are and what you do in a three cent piece of paper. And yet… almost all business cards are terrible. They are the leisure suits of the marketing the world, the place where bad design not just lives, but thrives.

Emotional bandwidth and communication technologies

August 9, 2007

When 3G was first launched here in Europe, the operators used video telephony as the feature of this new technology. It seemed like an easy sell. Obviously, adding moving images to a voice conversation makes it better, right? And since it’s better we can charge more for it, the operators seemed to think.

Today, you won’t see any ads selling mobile subscriptions or phones with video telephony. It seemed video calls wasn’t better than voice calls, it was different. So different, in fact, that making it more expensive than voice calls is the complete opposite of how it should be priced.

One way of understanding how communication technologies are different from each other is to measure their emotional bandwidth. This indicates the extent to which a communication technology can transfer emotional data.

Humans are social creatures. When meeting someone face to face there’s a huge amount of emotional data transfered between you and the person you meet. Sweaty palms, how you move your arms and legs, what your eyes look at, a smile or a frown, if your face blushes or what your voice sounds like. Even how you smell. They are all signs of your emotional state – let’s call them emotional datapoints.

Accessing this emotional state of another person connects you to that person. By looking at a smiling person, you feel a little happier. A child crying makes you feel sad. The ability of a communication technology to transmit those emotions constitutes its’ emotional bandwidth.

A video stream with sound carries more emotional data than a voice conversation. This in turn is more emotionally intense than a written email or an SMS. The funny thing is – and this is what the mobile operators didn’t understand when they sold video calls for 5SEK a minutethe higher the emotional bandwidth, the longer you want to be connected.

For a few perfect examples of this, read the following:

An immigrant family from the Balkans living in Switzerland has a big computer screen in their living/dining room, with a Web cam focused on the dining table. The MSN messenger window is open all day, for incoming messages or calls from family back home or friends who migrated to other countries. And almost every morning they have breakfast “with” grandma (the husband’s mother) who lives in Kosovo with a similar Webcam set-up.

Or:

Several evenings a week, a retired grandfather in New York reads bedtime stories to his young grandson in California over Skype.

A family enjoying dinner together over an internet video stream. A grandfather reading bedtime stories to his grandson using internet telephony. That’s what emotional bandwidth is all about.

The GlocalReach service will make it easier for you to manage how you can be reached. In that way, you can also better control what communication technology you want to use in different contexts.

We want to give you a control knob for how much emotional bandwidth you transmit or receive. Our beta will be out this autumn.

Interviewed by Sriram Krishnan

August 6, 2007

The future of Singapore is in safe hands if there’s more people like Sriram Krishnan living there. While studying at KTH in Sweden he also managed to squeeze in a business developer job for Attana and helped organise the Hej! 2007 conference in Stockholm with practically no budget. Impressive, I must say.

He was also kind enough to interview me for his blog. The result can be found here. This is my view on the VoIP-market in answer to the question: Isn’t the VOIP market a bit too packed at the moment?

Back in the early 90s, the NMT mobile network (the predecessor to GSM) had about 10% user penetration on the Swedish market. Then some crazy people decided to bet billions of SEK in the more capable GSM network. “You’re mad!” they were told. “The market is saturated. There’s no room for further growth. All the people that want a mobile phone has a mobile phone!”

Well, they were wrong and the crazy people were right. Now there are more GSM subscribers than people in Sweden and many other countries
share the same stats. Partially this is because of what I wrote earlier: people play different roles in their lives and they want better control of how they are reached. So, they have one mobile phone for work and one for private use. Well, why stop there?

So, back to VoIP… Today 14% of the Swedish population uses their broadband connection for calls. That’s a 151% growth over one year. Of course there’s room for lots more growth.

At the same time I don’t think the evolution of VoIP will mirror GSM. It will be more like email, where you have many different email
addresses. So, I think we will see much higher market penetration than 100%, at least counting the number of “VoIP-accounts”.

We will also see VoIP-spam…

Read the rest of the interview here.