From the monthly archives: February 2007

The world of start-ups – specifically of software startups – is a wonderful place to be. Several factors have come together to make the soil especially fertile right now. The three main ones are …

  • two rapidly expanding delivery platforms: the web and mobile devices
  • a huge set of open source software as building blocks
  • a large and varied ecosystem of private investors and VC firms for funding

There’s also a fourth factor that I think is almost on par with the others: the social network created by blogs and by sites like Linked-In and Facebook. This network makes it easy to find out what everyone else is doing and get connected with the right people.
If you want to innovate with your product or service, you have to get really immersed in your space and learn where the boundaries are. Innovation happens at the edges.

Building this “edge awareness” used to be much harder, say five years ago. You had some online conversations — email newsletters, discussion boards — but they were hard to follow. You had industry magazines (which came out monthly, if you were lucky). And you had conferences which came around a few times per year and were your only real chance for human networking. Now, it feels like a conference is going on around the clock.

One of the things that drew me to this space was the depth and liveliness of the conversation. You can see from the blogroll on the right where I’ve been spending my time. There are a ton of very bright people writing about Voice 2.0 and neighboring topics. A giant collective hat tip to all of you!

I’ve had a great time building my edge awareness and I’m going to try to contribute where I can.

 

 

sidewalk.jpg

 

(Drawing from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.)

 

FōnCloud is a Voice 2.0 startup. We’re focused on the convergence of the internet and telephony. Lots more on that later. But first some background…

 

My previous start-up was in streaming media space. I know I surprised a number of people by making such a sharp turn with this new start-up. It sure would have been easier to stay in the streaming world. I knew it well, and it was comfortable. I could build on my existing knowledge base, rolodex and reputation.

 

But Jason and I were looking for a space where the right piece of software could be really disruptive. When we got involved with streaming media in the late 90′s, almost everything about it was unknown and undefined. We ended up working on the quality assurance problem with our product. But you could have picked any aspect of the game and found a technical challenge that needed solving — encoding, serving, usage tracking, ad insertion, metadata, archiving, media management, etc.

 

Today, those problems are largely solved. It is, in fact, a great engineering success story that today audio and video are served routinely to millions of people via the internet – a platform that was not originally designed for anything but text.

 

There are certainly plenty of opportunities still in the space of online video, but not many that are technical in nature. Today the challenges revolve around getting content (licensed, created or user-generated), marketing it (banners, cross promotions plus the whole search engine game) and monetizing it (membership, banner ads, embedded ads). These challenges don’t really line up with my strengths and don’t get me excited. (Video search is one exception. Still lots of room for improvement there, but I don’t like the business models around it.)

 

By contrast, the Voice 2.0 world has the same excitement I felt when I first got involved with streaming. There are unsolved challenges everywhere you turn. And the right bit of software can make a big difference.

 

Left Turn