From the monthly archives: March 2008

Wow! We are blown away with all the attention received by our announcement at EComm. Looks like we really hit a nerve.

Wireless North calls us a “start-up to watch” in a post titled Deep Dialing is Cool: “One of the unexpectedly cooler demos at eComm08 … helps you, as a consumer, kick the butt of any dial-in customer service system… Turns out there’s a lot of room left for innovation left in the telecom industry even for dusty old applications like ‘voice’ as developers create new value by mashing-up voice with web interfaces and external data sets. ” Thanks! And I agree that there’s an avalanche of innovation coming in this space.

 

Alec Saunders says “It’s like a search engine spider that catalogs the worlds IVR trees, rather than web sites. What a clever idea!” Yes, that’s an analogy that helps a lot of people understand what we’re doing.

 

Stowe Boyd says “I personally find the phone interface for dealing with company’s customer support, billing, or sales operations as one of the greatest ills of modern civilization. Fonolo … offers an end run around this headache: a good example of a highly focused solution to a serious pain point, perhaps?”

 

Dameon Welch-Abemathy (otherwise known as Phone Boy) writes in VoIP-Weblog: “Another great tool that came out of the eComm conference last week was Fonolo. If you’ve ever called a company that has one of these interactive voice response systems with a phone tree from hell, you will appreciate the value Fonolo brings to the table.”

 

Latest Geek Stuff has a write-up that includes some Q&A with me: “I’m sure many of the folks would agree with me how cumbersome and time consuming these IVR menu options are… the good news is that some of the folks at Fonolo are working hard to help overcome this mess.”

 

Finally, here is a 5 minute video summary, courtesy of vator.tv:

 

Phone Tree animation1) Never listen to a phone menu again.
We’ve come to fix those dreaded touch-tone menus (“Press 1 for this. Press 2 for that…”). Fonolo transcribes the phone menus of large companies, so you can navigate them visually.

2) Skip the navigation. Get right to the business.
Pick the company you need, scan through their phone menu, then click the spot you need to call. Fonolo will automatically dial, navigate their menu and then dial your phone. When you answer, you will be connected right to that spot. We call that “Deep Dialing”.

You probably call the same set of companies all the time. At Fonolo.com, you can bookmark any point in a phone menu and access that bookmark as a simple URL through your browser or smart phone.

3) Stop scrambling to find notes from your last call.
When you make a call using Fonolo, your call is routed through our servers so that we can “Deep Dial” for you. But having Fonolo as an intermediary on the call has another advantage – it allows us to build and maintain an “Intelligent Call History” for you.

You probably keep a log somewhere of calls you’ve made to certain companies – time and date, name of the agent, what was said, etc. This is especially important when documenting a billing dispute for example. Fonolo automates this process, making it simple to keep track of your calls, notes and recordings.

Each of us already gets call history information in a simplistic form – the monthly statements we receive from our phone companies. However, these documents don’t present information in a very useful way. It’s hard to find all the calls made to a given company. To make matters worse, you may have made those calls from different phones, (e.g. home phone and office) and there may be more than one target phone number (e.g. tech support and billing).

Fonolo’s Intelligent Call History takes things to another level:

  • It automatically organizes all of your calls to a given company, regardless of which phone you used or which number was dialed.
  • It stores recordings of all the calls that you can review at any time or forward to someone by email. (Coming Soon: transcriptions.)
  • It allows you to write text notes during a call that get stored with the history. You can later search and review those notes.

4) How does it work?
We’ve created technology that “spiders” the phone system, much like a web search engine spiders the web. Our system dials companies, navigates their menus and uses a combination of speech recognition, signal processing and human editing to maintain a map of “phone space”.

Since phone menus can change at any time, we continually spider each company to keep the database current. This is a very challenging technical problem (that we’ve protected with patents) and it yields a data set that has never been built before.

5) The big picture
Our mission is to make it easier for you to deal with large companies over the phone. Deep Dialing and Intelligent Call History are just the beginning. Stay tuned! In the meantime, sign up for our beta!

 

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Yesterday at the EComm show I had the pleasure of introducing the world to our new product, fonolo. Press release here. Some early blog response from Stowe Boyd here and Andy Abramson (who is handling our PR) here. You can hear me talking about it on Squawk Box here. And, most importantly, you can sign up for our private beta here.

Many thanks to our hard working developers for pulling out all the stops to make this happen!

 

Cat’s almost outThe Emerging Communications Conference is around the corner and it is shaping up to be an amazing show.

This conference is the brain child of Lee S Dryburgh and he calls it “The Trillion Dollar Industry Rethink.” He writes: “Communications innovation has been stagnant, in my opinion, for nearly a decade… there has been an obsession with transmitting voice over IP… Re-creating an existing service but changing the means of transmission may be interesting from the technology point of view, but the consumer couldn’t care less… [Now] an exciting race has begun but only for those who understand the communications industry has been asleep at the wheel.”

Phil Wolffe says that the conference will assemble “mindblowing visionaries and entrepreneurial cutthroats, telco rebels and minute-stealing traffickers, frontier architects and mad scientists, all in service to this profound change of our societies, our economies, our work, and our very lives.”

Brough Turner says: “tons of interesting people attending… this is not your typical telecom conference.”

Web Worker Daily says: “Industry heavyweights such as Skype, Google, Yahoo!, Twitter, and more … making it both an intriguing and stellar lineup.” And they have a podcast about the show available.

Alec Saunders hosted a pre-conference discussion using Iotum’s nifty Facebook-based Free Conference Call system. Audio available here.

I will be presenting Thursday at 12:15pm: Mapping Phonespace: Exposing the hidden structure of the PSTN

I will be using this opportunity to show everyone what we’re working on here at FonCloud. Read the session description for some hints!

 

I wrote about the advantages of being a start-up in Canada a while back here. As covered by “StartupCFO” here, the tax angle has gotten even better with the budget just released by the Conservatives.

We still need a deeper roster of VCs as I blogged about here.  However, I think the angel community is expanding and getting more organized. This week, I’ll be pitching to a local angel group called the Maple Leaf Angels. They hold monthly breakfast meetings in downtown Toronto where 3 start-ups are each given 15 minutes to present to the group.