TransNexus Offers Robocall Prevention With SHAKEN/STIR

Learn how we can restore the trust in phone calls

Alec Fenichel, Senior Software Architect at Transnexus, talks with TMC’s Editorial Director, Erik Linask, about robocalls and how the FCC is pushing for all carriers to implement a framework called Stir Shaken. With STIR/SHAKEN, received calls will either come in with a green check, reassuring they are good, or they will be quickly blocked by your carrier if they are bad.

The FCC has not formally mandated an official timeframe that carriers need to address the issue by, but they have set their expectations for the end of 2019. California, on the other hand, has mandated it for the end of 2020. You can expect STIR/SHAKEN to be widely deployed in another six to 12 months. Besides focusing on robocall prevention, TransNexus is also working with Least Cost Routing and Total Fraud Prevention. 

Learn about the FCC’s timeline of the widespread implementation of STIR/SHAKEN with Alec Fenichel from TransNexus.

#Vectors2019 #SkySwitch #TransformCloudComm #TransNexus #Robocalls

 

Full Video Transcript Below

Erik Linask  0:07  

We’re here at day two of Vectors 2019 in Orlando. Joining me this morning, Alec Fenichel from TransNexus. Alec, great to have you here with us. 

Alec Fenichel  0:16  

It’s great to be here. 

Erik Linask  0:17  

So, we’re starting day two of this year’s event. What were your thoughts on day one? 

Alec Fenichel  0:23  

Well, you know, this is my first time coming to a Vectors and let’s put it this way, I’ll be coming back next year.

Erik Linask  0:28  

Excellent. We love hearing that. So, let’s talk about a topic that probably everybody knows, robocalls. How big of a problem is it these days?

Alec Fenichel  0:38  

It’s hard to say or put an exact number on it, but I get at least two calls a day. I hear the same thing from just about everybody. So it’s getting more and more attention. And I think the FCC is really starting to get a lot of complaints and that is their number one complaint by far. And so it’s been a lot of pressure on people to solve this problem. 

Erik Linask  0:57  

And how is the FCC reacting?

Alec Fenichel  1:00  

Well, you know, they’ve been slow. But really what they’re pushing is for all the carriers to implement a framework called STIR/SHAKEN. And this is a framework for signing telephone calls similar to the way HTTPS works on the web, to prevent spoofing, and that really is going to clamp down on some of these bad actors.

Erik Linask  1:15  

And so what is the end result for people that have been receiving all these calls?

Alec Fenichel  1:21  

A lot less robocalls, when you do get those calls, they’re going to come in with a green check saying they’re good, and those bad calls will be easily and quickly blocked by your carriers. So for consumers, you really won’t have to do anything.

Erik Linask  1:33  

That’s always good news for the consumer. What is it going to take for carriers to implement STIR/SHAKEN?

Alec Fenichel  1:40  

Well, I kind of equate it to a fax machine, having a fax machine when no one else has one is pretty useless. So it takes widespread adoption to be useful. But the FCC has been pretty clear, they expect all the tier one carriers to implement it by the end of this year. And we expect tier two and tier three to follow shortly thereafter. So by the end of 2020, we should see very widespread adoption and that will really cut back on the robocalls.

Erik Linask  2:04  

Is there any kind of a formal mandate as far as a timeframe or when carriers have to have addressed the situation by?

Alec Fenichel  2:12  

So the FCC has not formally mandated anything, they’ve set their expectations for the end of 2019 however, California has mandated it for the end of 2020. So any carriers with any presence in California will be required to implement STIR/SHAKEN by the end of 2020.

Erik Linask  2:26  

And do you anticipate similar situations happening nationwide?

Alec Fenichel  2:32  

California is definitely on the progressive side. So I’m not sure if other states will follow suit. And I don’t know that they need to, all the big carriers have some presence in California. So really, once one does it, you pretty much have to comply. It’s kind of like emissions. California does it, now you’re stuck there.

Erik Linask  2:49  

Fair enough. So aside from that, what else is going on at TransNexus?

Alec Fenichel  2:53  

Well, we’re still doing a lot of Least Cost Routing and Total Fraud Prevention and that hasn’t gone away, robocalling is just taking the driving seat from that.

Erik Linask  3:03  

And so what brought you here to Vectors 2019?

Alec Fenichel  3:07  

Yeah, I’m actually speaking about STIR/SHAKEN as well as other robocall prevention techniques. You know, STIR/SHAKEN is not going to be widely deployed for another six to 12 months. But there’s a lot that you can do today to stop robocalls as a carrier, or as a voice over IP provider. And so I’m going to talk about that as well as STIR/SHAKEN today.

Erik Linask  3:24  

So those kinds of topics are not only relevant to the big carriers, but to the voice over IP and UC providers as well.

Alec Fenichel 3:32  

Absolutely. If anything, it can be even more important to them because it really provides a mechanism where they can differentiate themselves from the other carriers.

Erik Linask  3:41  

And as far as implementation, it’s a similar situation with them, as with the carriers?

Alec Fenichel  3:46  

Yes, we have customers who get up and running in a week, under a week. It can be very quick, especially when you have a simpler network, single switch, it can be pretty simple.

Erik Linask  3:56  

Is this is something that VoIP providers are actively looking to do, or are you having to approach them? Or how is that, you know, relationship building?

Alec Fenichel  4:06  

Yeah, I think right now we’re doing a lot of education. A lot of people don’t know the tools that are out there. But once they learn about them, we get approached pretty regularly. In fact, we get approached on a daily basis from enterprises that are saying, “Please help me I need to stop these robocalls.” So there’s clearly a market out there for the Enterprise’s and we’re seeing some carriers are being proactive, and some are coming to us and saying I have a big enterprise that needs this feature, and I need to solve this for them or they’re going to find another carrier.

Erik Linask  4:33  

That certainly makes sense. I think we can all agree that we’d love to have a lot fewer if not absolutely zero robocalls. 

Alec Fenichel 4:41  

Absolutely. I can barely answer my phone anymore, it’s just non- stop.

Erik Linask  4:46  

We’re all on the same page. Alec, thank you so much for joining us enjoy the rest of your time here at Vectors.

Alec Fenichel  4:51  

Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Tour Our New Corporate Headquarters in Tampa, FL

In the past year, SkySwitch has experienced rapid growth in both our offered services and the expansion of our team. In order to best accommodate this, we have moved into a new corporate headquarters in the Westshore area of Downtown Tampa. Take a peek at our new office.

Our open-concept space includes six private meeting rooms, all equipped with the latest in real-time collaborative technology.
The SkySwitch Executive Team: William Brister, VP of Customer Success, Frank Babusik, COO, Blake McKeeby, CTO, Harlan Hamlin, VP of Business Development, Andy Abramson, CMO, Eric Hernaez, Founder and President, Jayson Jones, VP of Sales, Corey Stoker, VP of Support.

For more information on our recent move, read the full news release here. You can also find our announcement covered in Tampa Bay Inno and shared in ChannelVision Magazine, Cloud Communications Alliance, Telecom Reseller and Channele2e.

Don’t forget to follow us on social media for behind-the-scenes updates as we continue to make our mark in the Tampa Bay area.

3CX Makes SkySwitch A Certified Solutions Provider

Greg Steinig talks why 3CX and how they plan on “cross-pollinating” 

TMC’s Editorial Director, Erik Linask, speaks with Greg Steinig, VP of Sales at 3CX during an interview at this year’s Vectors 2019 conference. They talked about his session introducing 3CX to the Vectors attendees, how 3CX is getting their name out to other resellers and their new partnership with SkySwitch. By working with SkySwitch, 3CX is able to offer its partners a one-stop-shop for buying their hosting, SIP trunks, DIDs, phones, etc. 

SkySwitch’s white-label SIP trunking portal lets you assign access to customers and agents under the resellers’ own brand. The fully-automated reseller portal provides control over essential services, such as Inbound CNAM, E911 and even SMS. Plus the SIP origination and termination services are built on a scalable geo-diverse network, all developed to provide resellers with the services and support needed to sell 3CX successfully.

3CX Vice President of Sales, Greg Steinig talks with Erik Linask about how their partnership with SkySwitch makes it easier for you. 

#Vectors2019 #SkySwitch #TransformCloudComm #TMC #3CX 

 

Full Video Transcript Below

Erik Linask 0:07
Hi, we’re here in Orlando, Florida, at Vectors 2019. That is SkySwitch’s user conference. Joining me this morning is Greg Steinig from 3CX. Greg, good morning.

Greg Steinig 0:17
Good morning, thanks for having me.

Erik Linask 0:19
So, we’re here on the third day and final day of this year’s show, you know, what are your thoughts? What have you seen?

Greg Steinig 0:25
It’s been a fantastic show and the thing that I’ve liked is that people are actually excited to see 3CX here. First it was, what are you doing here? And then when they realize what it is we’re doing here, it’s, you know, you saw that, you walk by grabbed my hand, man, that’s great. We’re going to be a partner of yours and that’s been really exciting for us.

Erik Linask 0:44
Absolutely, that’s fantastic. With that said, talk a little bit about your relationship with SkySwitch and why you are here at Vectors.

Greg Steinig 0:51
Excellent. So we’re a an IP PBX solution. We’re a software company right, and in the past you put together your own server, you hosted it yourself, you got your own SIP trunk, you kind of built it all yourself, you made your margins on all those edges, you were very profitable and you didn’t have to discount your services. But there are some partners out there, it’s easier for them to go to one place and buy one in place and just do it all at once and so SkySwitch is our partner for that.

You can be a SkySwitch partner, you can go into their shop, you can go ahead and buy 3CX, you can buy your hosting, you can buy your SIP trunk, you can get your DIDs, you can buy your phone, and it’ll be delivered. The phones will arrive to the customer and everything’s cool. It’s one stop shopping and the supports there. The price for us is the same if you bought it direct or buy it through them and we’re really, really pushing this relationship with him because it’s really advantageous to many, many, many of our partners.

Erik Linask 1:50
So why work with SkySwitch? You know, there are a lot of other potential folks that you could be working with out there.

Greg Steinig 1:57
Well, you know, that’s that’s a good question and SkySwitch isn’t our only solution partner or solution provider, but they’re a really good SIP trunk solution, and they have a white label solution and their pricing is very, very good. Our existing partners that do business with them are very, very happy with that. They like the fact that when the customer gets the bill, it says, you know, our partner ACC Telecom, right? He likes that. And so we explore this and say, well, let’s bring them into the fold at least as a supportive SIP trunk. Then as we were talking to Eric, we realized, hey there’s other business here, other partners that aren’t aware of 3CX, so we can make this bigger than it is. And we did that. So we’re going to cross pollinate, some of our partners are going to choose them as SIP trunks and hopefully all their partners will choose us as at least one of their choices for a PBX.

Erik Linask 2:47
So you had a chance to get on stage and talk a little bit here this week. What’d you tell the attendees?

Greg Steinig 2:54
I really told them about 3CX and then I told them like, this is our partnership, we’re going to make it easier for you. They didn’t know who we were, they wondered what in the world is 3CX and what are they doing here because they see us as a competitor of Netsapiens. And quite frankly, most of these users or partners, what SkySwitch calls them, they have their hosted solution with Netsapiens, but they’ve got tons of on-prem customers, too, and they can’t move them to the cloud. But guess what 3CX is Windows and Linux, it’s in the cloud or on-prem, we give you freedom. It’s just one more arrow in their quiver. It’s good for them, and it’s good for us.

Erik Linask 3:34
I feel like we’re starting to see more and more of that’s a sort of co-op-petition in the market where, you know, you may have some some competition or competitive environment, but the collaboration the partnership element outweighs that.

Greg Steinig 3:49
That’s true. Now, overall, the market is moving towards, you know, standards and collaboration and partnership and everybody kind of chooses their lane and you know, we have an API, we create a receptacle and someone creates a plug and they use it for telemedicine or they use it for their CRM or something like that. It just made sense. One of the things that a SIP trunk operator wants is to have sticky end users. And when it’s so easy to port a number, they’re not sticky so you add other services.

3CX is a huge partner environment when we look at 3CX and the money that the 3CX makes, and then the money that our partners charge for their phones, and their SIP trunks and services and everything else, where the size of RingCentral. And people never see that coming, and that’s who we are, and we make profit, where everybody else loses money. And we focus on the small to medium sized business that needs more functionality than what they can get from Google Voice.

Erik Linask 4:55
So when you talk about being being that size of a business, you know, you’ve done that fairly quietly. 3CX has been around for a little while, right? How have you been able to do that? You know, without, you know some of these resellers and others in the market realizing it?

Greg Steinig 5:10
Well, Nick galley is a visionary, right? And he took a look and said, I want to be in this business, but I need to make my money where everybody else isn’t looking. Now I have experienced when I got out of the army, I went to work for Enterprise Rent-A-Car and nobody had ever heard of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Until one day Enterprise Rent-A-Car was the largest car rental company in the world, because they focused on a market that no one was aware of it was called insurance replacement. And guess what? That’s not at the airport, that’s a local offices. And that’s kind of what Nick has done. He said, I’m going to focus on these end users, these businesses that aren’t served by the big guys.

If you think about it, what was it 1995, Clayton Christensen, The Innovator’s Dilemma, you know, the guys that enter the market, they go to the top where the people can pay for it right, so you got Avaya, Mytel, used to be ShoreTel and Cisco, and they’re right there at the top where everybody has tons of money. But guess what they forget about the middle where people don’t need high end functionality but they do need something other than OOMA or Jive, or RingCentral, or some of these others. And that’s exactly where we fit. We’re right there saying, look, we’re going to give you enterprise great functionality for a price that is, I mean, incredibly inexpensive, because you shouldn’t have to, you know, leverage your firstborn male child to get a phone system and that’s our belief.

Erik Linask 6:32
Certainly that’s a valid argument, as far as capabilities, features, functionality, you know, all the things that businesses are looking for, 3CX is comparable to all the other providers that you mentioned.

Greg Steinig 6:46
We we do it all. Now there’s a level that we’re not going to do it. So say Tech Data, their phones go down, they lose a million dollars a minute, so that’s a million bucks. If our system goes down, it may be down for a minute right? Well, they’re willing to spend a million dollars to avoid that. But there’s a lot of businesses out there that are willing to lose a call or two, and not have to pay for that. We have enterprise rate functionality. Within the last couple of years, we’ve picked up companies like Barracuda Networks, and Subaru of America. And I mean, we’ve got a lot of logos going our way because they realize that, they can do business with a partner who’s selling 3CX and move a ton of money out of that budget and somewhere else. School districts are another huge win for us. We’ve got school districts all over the country that are switching to 3CX and having the money in their budget to hire more teachers. Because it’s ridiculous that these phone companies, these competitors of ours, charge that much money for something that’s so basic.

Erik Linask 7:48
Excellent. That’s…

Greg Steinig 7:49
That’s inflammatory, right.

Erik Linask 7:50
Greg, this all sounds wonderful. Sounds like it’s been a really productive week for you here at Vectors. We’re so glad you were here and thanks for joining us this morning.

Greg Steinig 8:00
Thank you very much. Thanks for having me, appreciate it.

Vectors Keynote Speaker, Jeff Pulver, Talks About Why Voice Will Always Remain the Ultimate App

Jeff Pulver Gives Tips to Telecom Resellers on Paving Their Own Way in the UCaaS Industry

Jeff Pulver, Executive Vice Chairman at Skrumble, a featured keynote speaker at Vectors 2019, dives into why “Now Is the Best Time to Be Selling UCaaS.” Technology is constantly evolving, and the UCaaS industry is no exception. In his engaging keynote, listen to Jeff talk about his journey in the telecom industry, his concept of “Purple Minutes” and why voice will always remain the ultimate app.

Jeff Pulver tells an inspirational story about following his passion led to the birth of Vonage.

#Vectors2019 #SkySwitch #TransformCloudComm #TMC #PurpleMinutes #VoIP

Good morning, and thanks for being here. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here with you. I do believe today is the best time to be selling what you’re selling for a number of reasons. But most importantly, it’s because I tried playing with this stuff over 20 years ago. 

 

Now, free will dial up back in 1995 was an experiment that tested the waters on a lot of things. And it was a foreshadowing for what would happen in the future. In addition, free will dial up effectively gave birth to Vonage. Because not only did I start free will dial up – but I’ve never been actually at a conference where there was a session about how to compete with a company that I started. I find that fascinating. Makes me like, try to figure out who you really are.

 

It’s because you don’t think about these things when you do stuff and I came here to share my story about my journey of how I ended up on stage here today, but I will tell you that up until the day before Vonage launched, there was a fight in the company whether or not to launch consumer service or business service. Literally up until the launch date, there was an internal fight. So you know, it’s not so obvious necessarily what people do or how they do that. But what led up to the creation of Vonage, free-will dial up had three different iterations. And I was actually extending and expanding FWD back in 2000. And I ran across somebody who I’ll explain later, he ended up taking another company of mine and flipped it into Vonage. 

 

But before I get there, just curious how many people in this room are either ham radio operators or grew up with someone who was a ham radio operator in their family, or a relative? Wow, some people actually know this stuff – good. Usually I, particularly when I talk to kids, no one knows what I’m talking about. I just spoke out at a junior high school in Bermuda, 22 kids, and nobody had any idea what I was talking about. But, I was trying to explain it to them, because I asked them how many people use WhatsApp and, like, they all raise their hands. I said, how many of them use FaceTime or Messenger and they understood that. And then I had to tell them, “Well, it’s probably your parents who appreciate this, but it’s free.” And they said, “Yeah.”  I said, “Well, you’re welcome because I did that.” Because I did. 

 

And the whole thing about innovation, I believe it’s starts inside. And for me, the way I ended up playing with, say computers and telephones, is as a kid I actually played with radios and telephones. So when I was in fourth grade, fifth grade, it’s kind of blurry – I grew up in a world where I didn’t have too many friends. Now, maybe all of you had the most amazing experiences in elementary school and junior high school and high school – I didn’t. I grew up in a world where sometimes I had to be my own best friend. And that was just who I was. And so my parents empowered me and my sisters to explore our inner creativity. We got to become who we were by finding our hobbies, discovering our passions, and I’m very fortunate for most of my adult life to be able to live my passion. Although, I don’t necessarily know what that is at any moment in time – it shifts, but I shift with it. 

 

But the thing with me is that an early indication of my in my interest in programming was, I had a next door neighbor who lived across the street from me, my friend Robert Sherman. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever had friends in your life who, you call them on the phone and every conversation is predictable. You know exactly what’s going to happen and ultimately just hang up. So when I was like, eight, I had a tape recorder. And I would for six months, run this prank where I’d call my friend Robert and pre anticipate his response for an entire conversation on his phone to play. Stop, play, stop, play, stop, play, stop, play, stop, hang up. He never caught on. He never caught on.

 

And so that was my first own experience with AI and telephony, and it’s kind of like there’s a foreshadowing that I had a chance to play with stuff. And that was the same time of my life that I was building model rockets. We built estes rockets – and if any of you guys build rockets, right? And sometimes we build them, they go up the parachute and come out and we lose them.

 

Occasionally, if it was a clear field, maybe, maybe they go horizontal. And it was also a time of growing up where we had a chemistry said, I did not need a permit from Homeland Security to experiment. And I do think we suffer a little bit as a society that we don’t blow enough things up as kids. We’re not allowed to be creative, that we don’t have that chance to explore who we are by playing. And I’m not saying to do harm to anybody, or to ourselves, just to play. 

 

So there I was, without too many friends. And if I had friends in school, I just didn’t like them. So it was my choice to stay away. And what I my father for the longest time, told me to call his brother, my Uncle Fred and I never did. And I don’t know how you were as a kid, if you actually listened to your parents, but there’s some things I listened to and some things I just didn’t listen to, and to call my uncle was just not my thing. 

 

It turned out my uncle was a pioneer in cable television. He actually had a factory in the 1960s. He was one of the first people to build cable TV test equipment. And he had built a business, took it public on the New York Stock Exchange in the 70s. He had a factory on Long Island where he manufactured stuff. And lo and behold, one day I come home from school and there’s my Uncle Fred waiting in the kitchen to see me. And I have not seen him since the last holiday family gathering, and I’m like, “What’s up?” And he takes me for an hour from where I lived in Queens out to his office in Farmingdale. And it’s like, this is just weird. And I get to his office and he has a factory and you know, it’s like, I meet everybody in his staff and they’re all nice to me, but I’m his nephew, so of course they’re nice to me. 

 

And then my life changed forever, about 15 minutes later. Because 15 minutes later, I walked into his office which was maybe this size, maybe a little bit bigger. It was not that big on the factory floor but he had a desk and he a box on that desk. And I didn’t realize till a little bit later that on his side of the box, he had a microphone. On my side of the desk there were two chairs. And he flipped a switch and all of a sudden the box started to glow. I didn’t realize there were radio tubes, I had no idea what was going on. But then, after it started to glow, there was noise that was coming out. And the big thing was – he heard voices, I heard noise.

 

And as you tune the dial, he would acknowledge the noise, and I’m just like, I have no idea what he’s talking about. And then he started speaking a very cryptic language, because he found the clear spot. And he said, “CQ, CQ. This is KTQQ, I’m calling CQ.” And he would repeat, “CQ, CQ this is KTQQ, I’m calling CQ.” 

 

I’m like, “What?” But I’m mesmerized by the fact that my uncle speaks another language. And then he lets go of the microphone, and I could not believe there was a queue of people for over an hour. My uncle sat there while I was listening, talking to people saying his name was Fred, he’s in Farmingdale, New York. And he gave a signal report, relative, which I learned later about.  I had no idea what “5 9” was, “5 7” was, “5 5” was…but he gave a signal report of how loud the voice was. So I had no idea that my uncle had spontaneous friends from all over the world that everybody, no matter where you live spoke English, whether it was USSR, South America – didn’t matter.

 

And as I’m sitting there, I realized that my uncle actually had the cure for loneliness. And that if I simply were to take his radio and put it in my bedroom, that I could have friends before school and after school. The school itself would be tolerable because I can connect with people outside that world. So after I sat there, politely listening to my uncle make all these friends, he explained to me that when he says CQ, that’s in Morse code is da de da de da da da. And for those of you familiar with 70s disco music, it turns out to be the disco beat for many 70 songs. Apparently there’s the correlation between musicians and amateur radio in the 70s, at least for the baseline. And so the CQ is from the telegraph – CQ as in “seek you”. So it’s putting an outcrying for a call, for a request to have a conversation to the world. You know, to a world where I was growing up and we’re not supposed to talk to strangers, all I did was was listened to strangers, talking to strangers, and ultimately, I would be one of the strangers reaching out to others. 

 

And so, those of you who are who are old enough to appreciate the early days, the internet, you remember ICQ? Yes, some of you? Maybe? So ICQ, my friend, Yossi Vardi son, was one of the four founders of ICQ and its name was really internet CQ. It was the first successful messaging service on the internet. And Yossi happened to be a ham operator, they named it ICQ. But there I was, asking my Uncle, could I take his radio home and put it in my bedroom and play with it? And he said, “No.” I said, “Wait, wait, I just want to borrow it. I want to set it up. I’ll get an antenna. I promise I’ll be I’ll be kind to it.” He said, “No.” 

 

And that kind of blew me away. Like, why? I’m a nice nephew. Like, what? I’m his favorite. I think his only one, but why?

 

Because he explained to me that in order to use this radio, I need a license. But I actually had to study college level physics. I had to teach myself Morse code at the time. And I had to study parts 97, one of the rules and regulations to be an amateur radio operator, as published by the Federal Communications Commission. Like, oh. I still asked another time, but I still had no. 

 

But he told me I can come to his office anytime I wanted to listen to him and watch, but you know, the thing about growing up in my family is that I learned how to be obsessive about hobbies. And passionate, and sometimes I’m passionately obsessive, it’s hard to tell. But I also, when I was growing up, learned about failure.

 

And the one thing I’ll tell you about failure, because to this very day when I’m successful in doing something, I don’t really know why I was successful. But when I fail, I know why. And I learned as a kid, that my definition, my definition of failure has not changed since I was a kid. That to me, failure is not learning from failure. That’s it. We can all make mistakes. But if we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to learn from where we came from, and not repeat that mistake over and over and over again, because I think that’s what Einstein would consider insanity. Anyway, that’s the only thing about failure. 

 

So, as me as a kid, nine years old, tried to get ham radio license and it didn’t work. But I learned about radio. I was a maker. I built radios. I took a tape recorder that I used for my friend Robert, I took it apart, unfortunately, as my sisters always like to remind me, we started a fire because I didn’t put it back together right. But it was fun experimenting. And finally, it took till I was to a 12 and a half years old to finally got my ham radio license. And when I got my license to communicate, my life changed. Literally, my life changed. I actually had confidence to be who I was. To learn to find my own voice. To understand that my ideas maybe mattered a little bit and  just follow that path. 

 

And I spent a lot of time being lonely and isolated while I was trying to teach myself these rules and regs. But when I got my license to communicate, I like to think that I had a voice and I haven’t really shut up since. And that inner voice gives guidance, and one of the first things I did as a ham operator is play with phone patches. 

 

So, you’re probably old enough to remember the TV show Mash, maybe. And Radar O’Reilly, he was not at all someone I ever looked up to. But on the TV show, he was the one who was doing phone patches during the Korean War back to loved ones. And I thought, this is cool. So I got a phone patch. And I also would find people overseas who wanted to talk to loved ones in New York City, in some cases outside New York City, and I just patched it in. My parents never complained about the phone bills. And there I was, living my life, in my own world, because not very many people had any idea what I was doing, but it gave me options for creativity. It taught me a hell of a lot about innovation. It taught me a lot about determination and taught me a lot about believing that if you learn to believe in yourself, anything becomes possible. Even the craziest, craziest things can happen if you believe. And sometimes if someone else believes in you before you even know how to believe in yourself, that’s even a bigger gift. I thank my father for that. 

 

But as a kid going to junior high school on ham radio, I was geeky enough as it was. And of course, I didn’t have too much in common with too many people, but I let this slide. And when I was in high school, I actually started three different businesses, naturally, organically – it just happened. 

 

I used my ham radio for a nefarious purpose once. I think the statute of limitations is been there already, so I don’t have to worry about this too much. I ran an underground radio station on shortwave on stormy winter nights. And on federal holidays for about 10 years, I was “Ray Haber coming to you live from somewhere on the east coast. This is WARG as in ‘we are really good’.” And I operated, you know, I told my sisters to watch out for white vans. My sisters to this very day – if they were here, you can interview them – they’ll tell you when they see a white white van, they run because I told them that was the FCC coming after us to shut us down to arrest us. Now we never actually did anything bad. We didn’t do anything bad on the air. We didn’t say anything, we didn’t curse, unlike some other people, I didn’t curse, I wasn’t against the government. We were just having fun. This whole idea of using technology for fun is something which I don’t think enough of us engage in. But I was having a great time being a DJ. 

 

And when I was in third grade, I read a book that changed my life called Steal This Book. It might be out of print by now, but it’s by Abbie Hoffman. If you remember Abbie Hoffman,  he wrote about loop lines. Those of you who have who are from the telco world, you might remember loop lines. But there was an interesting combination that if you call 212976977 on one side, you get a very annoying “Ehhh!” If you call 212976979, the noise went away and the loop line connected. And that particular pair traced back to a phone booth in the South Bronx. So when I was “WARG coming to you live from somewhere on the East Coast”, and Ray Haber, I would take requests. Unfortunately, they didn’t come too much. Can anyone guess in the 1970s what these loop lines might have been used for other than me trying to take requests for my radio station? What do you think?

 

*Audience responds*

 

Right, but if you’re a nefarious character, what business what you might also be using it for? It was for drugs and it’s for prostitution. My sisters whenever they got on the air and we got a hold, most of the people calling were yelling at my sisters to get off because they were impeding on their business. And then I used to subscribe to a very geeky newsletter, a shortwave listeners newsletter, and the one time WARG ever gotten any mention, the only comment was ‘announcer loves his own voice’. That was it. Nothing about the programming, nothing about the music, just ‘announcer loves his own voice’. I was like, oh God – but it was fun. And that was what I did. 

 

So, it turned out that I had like no social life in junior high school or high school. But girls who would not invite me to their sweet 16 paid me money to DJ their parties. So that was my first business. And then my father had a data channel, a mini computer in the house, which I broke into. I learned how to program. And I started using – amateur radio, as geeky as it is, is also a very competitive hobby. And I learned how to write code, particularly to do contests where we would wake up on Friday morning, go to sleep Sunday night and to talk to as many people as possible in many different places of the world. And while you could have done it with pen and paper, I figured we should use a computer program for that. So I learned to code. And then going into the 12th grade, I noticed the deficiency in the language that I was playing with which was data general business basic, it didn’t have any floating point arithmetic. So I created a module that added floating point arithmetic to data general’s language, and I started a software publishing company. That was me in high school, and I did a lot of other things but somehow in my life, I ended up on Wall Street, which I still don’t quite understand. But I ended up on Wall Street. And I taught myself. 

 

I didn’t take calculus in college but I had to teach myself calculus when I was doing software development, because I learned how to program financial functions, and became an expert in fixed income mathematics. And I had to learn about McLorran power series expansions and all sorts of other stuff. And so I had to code this. In order to code it, I had to understand it. And that was one of the things I learned a lot, I taught myself. This is way before there was YouTube. I actually had to go to the library, got the books and read. There’s no one to actually explain to me, give me the download of exactly what there was – I had to actually engage and all that. 

 

And one day I’m reading the newspaper on my way to work. And I read about CU-SeeMe, coming out. This is in 1994. And CU-SeeMe, anyone here ever use CU-SeeMe in 1994? One or two. So remember, that was a 120 by 160 square. It gave you maybe four, five, six, seven-second frames per second video. That was hot. That was on a high speed line. 

 

And so I started playing with all that. And then in ‘95, I learned that a software product was coming out, that’ll let you talk on the internet. And that’s all I knew. And on February 12, 1995, the software comes out, I happen to conveniently be home from work that day. I download that software, and oh my god, I could talk on the internet. And what was oddly bizarre to me was about 20% of the people online, were using ham radio call signs as their social media identifier, some WA to BOT, and there it was picking off people all over the world, and we’re pretending to be on the radio, but we’re on the computer. And this was weird, but cool. 

 

And I very quickly created a mailing list called the iPhone mailing list, so it was called internet phone. But the people who use – anyone here use iPhone back in the day, anyone? We called it iPhone, so the first iPhone technically really didn’t come out in 2007, it was from ‘95. And I use this mailing list as a bridge. So people like me could find each other when we’re not online. And, oddly enough, people started asking questions about how this product works. Now, my background, I went to college, I have a BB in accounting, I know nothing about telecom. But somebody asked the question, how’s the software work? No one else is responding. I respond. Within three months, I’m like the subject matter expert on the software. I should remind you that no one from the company itself ever came online to answer questions. So it was me. And I was having fun.

 

And then in September 1995, a question comes across from a guy in Italy with the subject “enterprise computing”. And a simple question was: Is it possible to interconnect a telephone and a computer? And I took out my old phone patch, and it worked. I said yes. What I didn’t know was that there was somebody lurking on my mailing list who was an engineer in Jakarta, Indonesia, who was an engineer who was very familiar with a certain type of modem. Back in 1995, there were two types of modems, one that used Rockwell chipsets and one that used Cirrus Logic chipsets. So this guy in Indonesia, wrote some code for a Cirrus Chipset Logic modem that turned dial tone into IP, basically let you flip. So if I put two of the sound cards in a computer: one gave me internet, one gave me dial tone. And what that meant was, I can now configure in September 1995 a gateway, a year or two or so before these actually worked. And what I was able to do through the iPhone mailing list, is launch something called free world dialup. Literally, it was free, it connected the world and around on dial up. And it was simply a phone patch extension.

 

So if you were in New York and you had somebody in California and you want to call a friend, you could do that, or if you’re sitting anywhere in the world. We had about 500 active nodes. And this was a company with no business model. I used to work at One World Trade Center. And if you were on my mailing list and you said you wanted to set up a node, I would buy the node for you and FedEx it to you. It was costing me more in FedEx charges to send it than the modem did. But I sent out modems all over the world to people who participated. And within a few weeks – now, back in 1995, the internet only had 16 million people on it. And, I can’t tell you how noisy it was. And how scary this was, like, oh my god. 

 

Now, most of you are, I’m guessing that some of you are engineers. So you could appreciate if I told you that there was no jitterbug for no echo cancellation, it had sucky quality of service. It just didn’t sound so good, but it worked. It worked, it was a foreshadowing. And so I launched free will dial up in October ’95, 24 years ago almost to this very day, and the world goes nuts. The business media – I’ve never had more press in my life, than in the next two months, because as word got out about this, about what was going on, the media took immediate attention to this. 

 

I remember in November of ’95, the Sunday Times of London had a story about Bill Gates and the road ahead. On the back page, was the story about free world dial up and the threat to the future of British Telecom. What? Really? Really. 

 

Now, talking about fake news, that was actually true news. Someone actually thought we were a threat. Which leads me to one of my life lessons, which is do non-scalable projects. Do projects that no one else would ever think, or if anyone else thinks that you shouldn’t do them because it doesn’t scale, try it out. If you want to innovate, if you want to disrupt, if you want to be an innovator, you want to actually do this stuff that others don’t expect. If you do the unexpected, because we had no business model, we didn’t raise a diamond venture funding. I was funding all of the modems out of my salary from working at Cantor Fitzgerald securities. And there’s no business model necessarily associated with having fun. But oh my god, it was mind numbing. And what happened in six months, I learned all about the FCC all over again, because six months later, 300 phone companies in America went to the FCC. And this was in March of ’96. The answer was two simple things: the sale and use of internet telephony software to be banned in America, and the makers to be regulated as phone companies. And on my mailing list, these people who were lurking and people who were actively just talking, they were saying “what was I going to do about this?” And I said, “I don’t know. I don’t know anything about politics. I don’t know anything about the FCC, except that they gave me my ham radio license because I qualified.” 

 

That wasn’t enough. And I started to have self doubt. But I remembered being a kid and I decided, you know what, I’ll take a stand. So back in ’95, ’96, you can make things up and get the three letter domain for it. So in 1995, I had the domain for VON. VON.org, VON.com, VON.net. And I decided depending upon my mood that VON was either “voice on the net” or “video on the net”. And in about 10 days, 110 companies from all over the world decided we’re going to join the Voice on the Net Coalition to say no, let’s fight this petition at the FCC. 

 

What I didn’t know until about a year later is like how scary we appeared to be to the FCC. Because it turned out we were able to keep Voice over IP unregulated in America for nine years. For nine years. And never before in the history of lobbying, at least in Washington, had a group of people assembled through the ether. And you may wonder, how could you do this, Jeff? You have no background in telecom, you have no background in lobbying. 

 

Well, this is a reason why a friend of mine in Tel Aviv considers me the Forest Gump of communications. Because sometimes you just do it. And you just you happen to witness the beginning of something. And so I took the lead, and I did it and it was fun. It put me on a journey which I’m still on. Because once I started representing free will dial up, and fighting the act of petition. These lobbyists did not know what to do with me. I was the name but they never saw me. They couldn’t really see what it looked like, or even if I was real. And then in May of ‘96, there was a New York Times business section. And on the front page was a story about – I worked at Cantor Fitzgerald Securities and unfortunately that year, Mr. Cantor was dying and Howard Lutnick was fighting Mrs. Cantor for the reigns.

 

And page eight was this huge picture of me on a computer talking about internet telephony and how wonderful it was. What I didn’t realize that was that was my exit strategy from working on Wall Street. I had no idea. But a few months later in, like around July sixth or seventh, after a fourth of July weekend, I’m at work. And if you guys ever worked in an IT department, at Cantor we had 1,000 people. There were maybe 125 people in systems. I was the one person in systems responsible for new technology. There are 124 people responsible for keeping things working. 

 

In ‘93 to ‘96 when I was at Cantor, it was a fireable offense if you put an IP device on the production network during trading hours. You could be fired if you’re caught. It was, like, pretty clamped down. And I had a really hard time introducing anything new. But the department loved to reorg. They loved to reorg. So I show up five minutes before a meeting, I look at the org chart and I raised my hand. Yes, Jeff? There’s a typo. What’s the matter? I’m not on the org chart.

Then the guy said, “Didn’t you fire him? Didn’t you fire him?” That’s how I found out I got fired. 

 

And I had the kind of job on Wall Street where I could have lasted all summer before they realized I was fired. But I had to raise my hand to draw attention to the typo, and then I was like, “Okay, what am I going to do?” I didn’t want to go back to Wall Street. I had spent seven years of my life prior to going to Cantor building trading systems, real-time market data distribution systems. But I had this passion. And I decided to take a chance and live my passion, which is what I hope – any of you guys living your passion today? Yes, maybe? Yes? Right. Those of you not raising your hand, during lunch talk to the people who raised their hands because seriously, if you could find a way to find your flow and live your passion, life is different.

 

The rules may be similar. You may have to figure out how to pay your bills, you may have to figure out how to live. But you know, being your own boss, setting your own culture, learning to listen to your inner voice and having the confidence to be who you will become, is an amazing transition. So what I decided to do is I decided to run a conference in New York City. Oddly, the dates I picked were September 9th and September 10th, 1996. And all I did was advertised this conference on my mailing list. And I got a response but I never knew how many people were going to show up. And the thing was, in the summer of ‘96, it was the summer my father made me grow up. 

 

See, what I didn’t mention before, is when I ran the software company, when I was 23, 24, 25. My father guaranteed payroll. My father figured if you’re silly enough to work for me, your salary was secure. Didn’t matter how much I was paying you. I only had seven or eight employees, but it didn’t no matter how our sales were, my father guaranteed payroll so everybody was okay. But when I got fired, I didn’t have savings. I was married at the time, I had a relatively high burn rate. In fact, I had fiber to my house in ‘96. I was paying more for my internet access than my mortgage. So I knew the internet was going to be big. I didn’t know how big it was going to be. I wasn’t going to give that up. 

 

And so, I realized in order to make this conference happen, I needed $15,000 because I had to put down a deposit for the room rental and for catering. And my father won’t give me the money. A VC I went to didn’t give me any money. Ultimately, it was American Express. I had an Optima card. And back in the summer of ‘96, I went to JFK Airport. I put my credit card in and walked out with $15,000 in traveler’s checks. That’s how I funded my event. And surprisingly enough, 224 people showed up at the first conference, from all over the world. A few of those people within a years time would start companies that have billion dollar market caps and more. It was a conference of innovators, of thinkers, of doers. And it was something, which was just, I was too shy. I would not go on stage. I didn’t even say “hi” to anybody. I helped with the invitations, a friend of mine from London helped be the MC. And then I had a fight with him. And I learned from me anyway, partnership are hard. Stand up for yourself. But it’s also because I didn’t know anyone from England. I didn’t realize every time he was saying “brilliant”, he wasn’t being sarcastic. Any one of my friends, if they said something was brilliant, they were saying it wasn’t brilliant. But he kept on saying “it’s so brilliant” and “so brilliant”. I realized, oh my god, I can’t handle this guy. He’s being so mean to me, when he’s actually being nice. But I didn’t know. I had not really traveled the world so much. So we broke it up. 

 

So then in April of ‘97, after the conference, I go to Silicon Valley and I meet a few people. Ultimately, I found someone to help me run a conference. And then I changed the name of the conference to VON, to Voice on the Net. And it was held April 1st to the 3rd in ‘97 in San Francisco. 500 people showed up. One of them though, was sort of like me, he was an entrepreneur. He was from Dallas. He grew up in Dallas, and he had this theory that for his startup, he thought people who traveled away from their hometown would want to go on AM radio and tune into the radio stations that brought them home.Their high school sports, that got them to tune into the local happenings. So he came to my conference to pitch. His name is Mark. And his last name is Cuban. And three and a half years later, he sold his business to Yahoo for $4.6 billion. 

 

He changed the name of the company from, I believe it was Audio Net to Broadcast.com. Then I, theoretically, I understand he may have made more money shorting Yahoo stock after that. But, that’s Mark. And there are a lot of people like Mark who came forward to do stuff. And what I found myself at the center of, was opportunity. Where we can dream and the dreams can manifest into something bigger than us. But we had to allow ourselves a possibility that it didn’t matter if we fell down, because we could pick ourselves up and try something else. And the conference business for me only occupied maybe 15% of my time. I started investing in startups, I started doing startups, I learned a lot about failure, oh boy. 

 

But I also learned a lot about who I was and about believing. And it’s that belief that once you understand who you are, we’re not invincible. But we can do so many other things that we necessarily are known for. I mean, I’m not qualified based on my education to be successful. But I also don’t allow that type of thinking in my mind. When I was doing the VON conferences, the crazy thing happened was – so the first conference Mark shows up and 500 people come, to then we had I think, approximately 800 people in Boston in the fall of ‘97. And then we got to 1100 people. In fact, I knew that VON was going to be successful because we were at the Fairmont Hotel in 1998, in the spring of ‘98. Back then, it was before broadband, everyone’s using dial up internet. The community of people who stayed at the Fairmont Hotel crashed the PBX there, every day. They never experienced it. They never had such demand for dial out because there was optimized, you know, for phone calls for short phone calls, not for long bursty communication. So we’ve successfully, two things happen. One was we crashed their PBX and then they started this policy of how long could be on the phone. And, but it was interesting. 

 

And then the other thing I started doing at my conferences, I started inviting the Federal Communications Commission over to the events. The FCC started hosting town hall meetings. Because what I noticed, was a lot of noise in Washington, because when I experienced these 300 phone companies going against my simple project, I realized they’re things called lobbyists. And they like to lobby. And there are these big phone companies out there. And they like to keep their market position. And they don’t like startups. They don’t like, they couldn’t even spell the word disrupt. Disruption would come from somewhere, but not from them. So I made sure that if any lobbyists were whispering in the ears of any of my friends in the government, I invited the government people to the conference. So we could bypass the lobbyists, and they can hear for themselves and see for themselves what technology is.You’re welcome for that too, because that actually helped a lot because lots of people try to get into and stop the innovators. But when we cut out and provided facts, then the lobbyists started coming to the conferences. Which is just funny. And you know, ironically, when I ran VON, it was basically a three and a half year cycle that went through. And the event went from being 224 people. I mean, in 2000, and in ‘99 in Vegas, we were to literally 2,000 people. And it was just an intense community and lots of innovation happening. 

 

In the early days, it was vendors talking to vendors. Not because they weren’t customers, it’s because the ecosystem had to be built. And then the next year ecosystem was being built because if you’re making ships, you need to be on boards. If you’re a systems integrator, you need the boards you need to write software. Then we need the appliances, then we need the devices. So in 1995, I was playing with modems, putting them in a PC and then dial logic comes out and starts to harden this stuff. In 1998, I noticed something very strange happening at my conference. I was so proud of the fact that people would show up and listen to the people speaking. And I’m very into hallway conversations where people, you know, mingle in the hallways and they chat. And some of the best conversations, best content you get is in the hallways.

 

But out of the blue, people coming to my conference wanting to rent meeting rooms. And it really bothered me. Like, why? Is it the people they’re going to meet not good enough? Is it that the sessions aren’t good? Why do you want to have these meetings while the conference is taking place? So it turned out that in real life, I had so many entrepreneurs coming to my conferences, and they were putting gateways down in all these cities. So somebody basically had a gateway in Tokyo and Sydney and London, in Santa Domingo, somebody else had Miami, New York, LA, Chicago, and these people are coming to my conferences to try to extend their networks. And back then we didn’t have interoperability because if you had one type of gear and different type of gear, nothing really worked. 

 

But I realized, this is interesting, and I know markets. So based on my experience on Wall Street in 1998, I created the minutes exchange. If you basically had a presence in different cities, you could put a bid asking for termination into your city. And I ran a matching engine to help make people do business. And that was going well, very slow, but steady growth. Then in the year 2000 there was so many people going public with B2B exchanges. I was feeling so left out, so left out. So while I was running the conferences, I reached out to a friend of mine, who introduced me to this guy named Jeff Citron, who had started Datek online, he started Island ECN. And he was living in Brielle, New Jersey. And so he came to my office. And he fell in love with the idea of of making a minute’s market. He was very successful in equities. And he decided to take his magic to minutes. And the thing was, before I met him, I went to Edison, New Jersey. My office was on Long Island, I went to Edison, New Jersey, I found the office space because I figured if I want to be successful in communications I had to be in Jersey, near AT&T. That’s where I can get good engineers. But Long Island would be good for aerospace engineering but not so much teleco. And Citron came into my office, and then one day – so free will dial up was evolving. Eventually we didn’t touch the PSTN ever, we would just enter an IP. And I thought it was interesting, just to connect people endpoint to endpoint, don’t touch the phone network. And Citron was really into the minutes business. So they move out. And I got a phone call after the move out saying, “Jeff, you know, this minutes exchanges is interesting, but it’s at best a multi-million dollar business. And I want to be a multi-billion dollar business. So we’re going to change our focus, and that broadband telephone company that you were talking to Henry about in the hallway? We’re going to do that.” 

 

I said, “Oh.” And then in April of 2001, I found out that MinEx changed its name to Vonage. Where VON was “voice on the net”, Vonage was “age of voice on the net”. And so that’s how I accidentally became the person who started Vonage. And ironically, we prototyped the services on free will dial up on Cisco 79, 60 phones. We played with 8186 ultimately when we were rolling it out, but all the prototyping and free will dial up itself, free will dial up was the first UCaaS service in the world ever. We were cloud based, literally. Our customers self provisioned. The nice thing about SIP is, anyone who wanted to volunteer to help people with SIP had a 55555 number that I gave the password to anybody who wanted to have an endpoint,  sip endpoint. Anyone can connect. I also interconnected with Asterix at the time so we had the largest Asterix/SIP network ever, and that ran for a long time until it didn’t. 

 

But you know, I did a lot of things where I didn’t care about business models. What I cared about was, could we make a change? Could we move the needle, can we affect something positive? And we did that. And it worked. And, you know, for every company that I’ve ever been successful in, I never did a business model for it. I never did forecasts or projections. I had to figure out, is this something disruptive? Eventually, sure, you have to make payroll. Sure you need to understand your expenses. But, you know, after investing in over 400 startups, I can tell you that most entrepreneurs don’t have a clue how much someone is going to cost. At the best they can do, is they could tell you maybe what the expenses might be. So whenever I see entrepreneurs with a full deck of projections, I tell them they’re showing me science fiction, because unless they have a crystal ball where they really see the future, I want the crystal ball. I don’t want their startup, I want the crystal ball. I want to know exactly what’s going to happen because any of you guys have – so you all own your own business? Many of you have your own companies? Yes? 

 

So, any of you, like, put together decks to show other people to bring in investors sometimes? Well, those of you who ever do, or have friends that do, there are two things I’ll tell you. That most decks have a hockey puck in it, where at some moment in time, things take off, you know, geometrically for no real reason. They do. Not in real life, but in the forecast. And the other thing is, for those of you familiar with Gartner graphs, most startups always put themselves in the upper right-hand quadrant, always. You know, I’ve never seen anyone with the tenacity to put themselves in lower less and say, but we’re awesome at that. Why is that? Why can’t we be awesome in the lower left? Because if you put yourself in the upper right, I don’t believe you are. Because we put yourself up against all these other companies, maybe you strive to be, maybe you mentally think you are. But you have to show it by execution, by doing. But if you’re already starting in one place and you know grow someplace else, that’s much different. But I do a lot of coaching with startups. I I found that after investing in so many, I can at least provide some feedback to those so they have a clue.

 

Although, being clueless to me is a strength. I will tell you that some of the best things I’ve achieved in my life was not knowing I couldn’t do it. In fact, Vonage happened that way. That when we went out to hire engineers once money was raised, most of the senior engineers that heard the proposition said, “No, we can’t do it.” They didn’t get hired. It was only the people who didn’t realize he couldn’t do something, who were the ones who were hired. And I both strongly believe in that. There’s a fine line between being clueless and being intelligent without having the negativity associated with making stuff happen. 

 

I also find being vulnerable is a good thing. That while you may want to be super strong and super present, that if you allow yourself to be vulnerable when you’re talking to somebody, maybe it’s a customer, maybe it’s somebody working with, that they understand that you’re human too. Because it’s so easy for us to lose our feelings. It’s so easy for us to have a wall up. And when we drop that wall and we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, customers realize we matter, that they matter to us. It’s like how often when you’re talking to a customer, do you say, “Hi, how are you?” Do even pause long enough for them to answer? I mean, you prepare for them to say I’m having a bad day. How many of your customers do you ask about their kids? Do you ask? I mean, like, how personal do you get? And it’s not that personal. But it turns out that in life, you can either look at every customer as a line in an Excel spreadsheet, that represents something to your bottom line. Or maybe they mean something to you much more. 

 

We could also learn from our customers as much as we can learn from our kids. You know, there’s an entire generation that’s been born that’s out there that I don’t think many of us, you, we, service, are millennials. I have a niece she’s 25, my niece Emily. I tried working with her a couple years ago, but she and I do not speak the same language. She speaks in emojis. She speaks in lower case lower words, no capitalization, no punctuation. Like, where was I? When did this happen? 

 

And I think that, you know, when you look at Unified Communications, we think about how we want to connect people. That we actually want to find ways for everybody to communicate. It’s not so much about a gender or race. But there’s a generation that’s probably one of the biggest challenges we’lll have into the future, to figure out ways to help empower meaningful conversations millennial to millennial.

 

I’ve always had about one to one, one to many, many to one and many to many conversations. We throw millennials in the mix, and it makes it so much harder. It’s so much harder, and if any of you are a parent, uncle, aunt, relative, grandparent, you understand. It’s just so hard to communicate. I’m a very strong believer that voice will forever be the killer app. You know, being able to see somebody close up and say, “I love you”. There’s so much meta information being shared in your voice. Forget about what Google might be tracking or what Facebook might be tracking. But the ability to share, in voice, something is incredibly powerful. If you can’t be there in person, if you can actually have a meaningful conversations that they can hear you, that’s amazing too. 

 

Yes, a picture has 1000 words. Sharing video is an amazing experience, but the face-to-face – you know, in 1996 when I started my journey, I was in awe of people like Moore’s Law and Metcalf’s Law that I wrote down on my mailing list, I shared something called Pulver’s Law, which I have never promoted. But I’m being reminded of it when I’m here. And I wrote down that in ‘96. I wrote that the more virtual we become, the more we need to have face-to-face meetings. I think it’s even more true in 2019 going to 2020. That if you’ve ever send someone an email and got them angry without the intention of making them angry, or a text, because you missed a comma, or they read it wrong. Unless you see them face to face, it’s really hard to hug it out. It’s very hard to communicate effectively, in a way that we have. I mean, to me the challenge is not can we have the best platforms out there? Can we service the customers the best? But it’s like, how are they communicating? How are we communicating with them? And how do we connect? And that’s something which is not gonna be about chatbots. It’s not gonna be about the AI. It’s about you. 

 

And I strongly disagree with a speaker who I listened to a little bit yesterday, when I was a Cantor Fitzgerald Securities, my office was used, my little cube was used for training over the weekends. Every Monday morning I walked back into the office and there were three words: relationships, relationships, relationships. And we were a broker’s broker, so we actually made markets between brokers. And the only way that we were able to generate revenue was taking people out. Like, if you were a broker at Cantor, six days a week you took customers out all the time. And on unemployment Friday when it came out, hopefully you did get more trading volume from the people that you took out the night before. And then every day they do that, and you see exact responses. Because we had six competitors and if we didn’t treat people right, someone else would. And it’s those relationships that get you through hard times and good times. Those are the relationships that you have, sometimes for life. And they’re meaningful in every way. For some people, yeah, it’s a percentage of how much my bonus will be. But for others, it matters. And you know for me, part of this journey was not to give up a good fight. 

 

And something amazing happened to me – I don’t know any of you guys are willing to admit that you sometimes get premonitions? Sometimes? Maybe a little bit? I’m a strong believer. I acknowledge premonitions. I’m a very strong believer in serendipity and synchronicity. I believe that if you meet somebody, there’s a reason maybe that you met that person, even if you don’t understand it at that time. And then if you make a wish, you can manifest a dream. I’m saying it out loud, so I’m making it real for me. I host breakfasts around the world, particularly in New York City, and Tel Aviv, where I bring people together, where generally I only ask people to say their name, and what they’re passionate about. What they’re doing for a living is interesting, but that only leads to a transactional relationship. And I found that passion-based networking is some of the best networking you could ever engage in. For me, though, I found myself in a particular situation that in the December of 2000, I got a phone call from a competitor asking me what my exit strategy was. I should mention that in three years time, my revenue went from zero to almost 18 million. My EBITDA got to about 6.6, 7.5 million. So it’s pretty fast growth. And this is from a competitor who runs a conference business. He says, “What is my exit strategy?” I had to say to him, “what’s an exit strategy?” I didn’t know. Because I never I did – I did everything bootstrapped. I didn’t have any investors. I didn’t know any of it.

 

Apparently I was a benevolent dictator, as people called me. Because the nice thing about being a startup is you can set your own culture. In the culture that I had, I learned to take having fun seriously. I was very much into music. So Fridays in my office between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day was pizza karaoke Fridays. Where from 12 to two, you bring the pizza in, and when people were tired of pizza, whatever else they wanted, and we would sing. And it was fun. Eventually I opened a record label, so I used it as a way to showcase talent. But it was a fun way to show that we could have fun, and at the conferences for me were all about fun. It was a fun plus business and it worked. And, so anyway, this guy asked me what my exit strategy is. And I said, “I don’t know.” So he says, “Why don’t you consider selling your business?” 

 

I said, “Cause, I’m having the best time of my life.” And if he had known anything about my background, he’d understand that I’m having the best time of my life. And then I hung up the phone, and then I went to thinking and said to myself, “you know, maybe I should sell.” 

 

So I felt, like, disloyal to the community at large, because by 2000 VON was taking place twice a year in the United States, and I was in Europe. And I was expanding, and I felt so scared to sell. But it’s like the voice of God, or someone, saying, “Maybe check it out. Maybe you want to.”

 

Because my father died. My father passed away in April of ‘98. My father was diagnosed with cancer in April of ‘97. He was told he had one year to live. He told me to continue on my business, continue doing what I do. And I had my first offer to sell in ‘98, my father’s trying to tell me to sell but it was only for $5 million. I try to explain it to my dad, even though he didn’t hear me so well. I could do a little bit better.

 

I kind of regret that I didn’t spend more time at home that year because my sister’s, my mom, they dealt with my dad ultimately in hospice, and I hope I don’t cry, but it was really hard. But so in 2000, when I heard to sell, I decided I’m going to sell. A negotiated deal in July of 2000 in LA. Crazy enough, the deal closed in September, closed on September 10th. So being lucky is ok. I learned, never apologize for being lucky. Never apologize for being lucky. And for one day in my life, it was an amazing exit until the next day was September 11th. And the thing is, I worked at One World Trade Center. Almost 700 people died from the company I used to work for. When I looked at the people who passed away from Cantor, I knew almost about 400 of them. So I was never so grateful to be alive. I’ve never been so grateful for being fired. Whenever people tell me they’re fired. I think say, “Congratulations, getting fired can save your life.”

 

And, I only found out three years ago that my mom and one of my sisters got a phone call from Cantor on 9/11 or 9/12 that I died. I think I was in Atlanta for a press conference with the guys that were doing COMDEX to announce the acquisition, so I didn’t die. But they had to deal with this heaviness. And then on, September 12th, is my birthday. So I had some three messed up days in my life, totally elation, total devastation, and I had to celebrate my birthday.

 

And then when I sold my business, it turned out that even though I had a great exit, I was so depressed. Because I went from having so much fun to selling to a company that did not understand my culture. And I had so many other businesses around me in an orbit, like one core company, but it had like all these other companies and everything was based around that. And when you take that planet out, everything else falls to the ground. But I was so bad – I’m still so bad at firing people. That I wasted about $3 million on payroll until everybody quit. And then 17 months later, I had a chance to actually buy the company back two weeks before the company I sold it to went bankrupt. So I bought it back. And I relaunched my business again. 

 

But I never expected to that depression. And then in January 2003, I woke up with a premonition. And this is a crazy, badass premonition. Because we had been through the.com crash, been through 9/11, been through the telecom crash. And I had this crazy idea to go to the attorneys who I worked with on the VON coalition…”Can we go to the Federal Communications Commission and ask a simple question?” 

 

And that’s that voice communication, if it originates just on the internet and doesn’t touch legacy phone network, for it not to be regulated as telecom? And these lawyers said, “Sure, we can do it.” 

 

It took five weeks, they file a petition. I remember calling and speaking that night saying, “Okay, so when’s the fight going to begin?”  And they said, “What fight?”

 

I said, “You know, the fight for the cause.”

 

“Jeff, if you hear martian signals in your ears, you could file petition the FCC, but it doesn’t mean they’re gonna take any action on it.”

 

I said, “Oh.” But then, like, sort of like, be careful what you wish for, cause 10 days later, the FCC took my petition, put it out for public comment. And for any of you who’ve ever been through a pleading cycle, you’ll know that the first 30 days, people around the world attacked me. They attacked me personally, they attacked in business merits, the need for the petition, mostly for the lobbyists who were trying to be friendly with, and then I fought back. And then in May of 2003, the Department of Justice and the FBI went after me. They accused the free will dial petition to being a way to harbor Al Qaeda. And so we had a meeting in a so called undisclosed location. Back in 2003, the government repossessed MCI as buildings. So we were in an old MCI building, and it was like three people from the government, 10 of us – because I had the CTO of free will dial up and legal team – and it was very, very uncomfortable to go this meeting, go to the second floor. It says Computer Crimes Division. I felt like I was on the set of Law and Order. And I go in, and they open the conversation saying, “Hi, we’re not here to talk about the merits of your petition. Our comments are of public record. But do you mind asking a few questions?”

 

And my poor CTO, Ed Guy, was there. I think in about 25 minutes, he lost two or three pounds of water weight. He was sweating profusely, and I jump up and say guys, “Listen, if you think that free will dial can help you get the bad guys, it’s now yours. Host it. Whatever you want. It’s yours. If you want to own it, you want to host it.” 

 

And I was serious. Like, if I can help you capture one bad person, it’s yours. So it was a little creepy that only two out of the three people in the room from the government introduced themselves to us. But I left that meeting at least with one new friend. The next day we went to the White House, to the West Wing. President Bush had a telecom czar, and I’m telling you, it’s very much like Forrest Gump. Or Walter Mitty, I don’t know. But I go to the White House, West Wing with the telecom czar, and as we’re leaving and he’s telling us all this BS. Yes, it’s good for America and everything else. And then we’re leaving the meeting and he sees the doors – we had to go upstairs to this two-floor elevator, I don’t know why but he had glass walls – he opens the door and he just yells as the doors closing us, “Thank you for not asking for subsidies!”

 

I’m saying, “Crap!” We could’ve gotten subsidies for this! Who knew? But on February 12th, 2004, in a slightly controversial vote, Michael Powell, the son of Colin Powell, issued something called the Pulver Order. That’s why today, in America, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Google are not regulated as telecom providers, and that’s why our kids are able to communicate for free. It’s because of this. And the Pulver Order is actually honored in over 100 countries around the world. And, you know, if I had any idea how impossible it was to go to Washington and effectively in a year plus, make this happen, I probably never would have started the process. But because I didn’t know it was impossible, it happened. 

 

These days, I spend my spare time looking up at the night sky. You know, in the last 20 years, we’ve gone from having a billion stars in our universe to 100 billion stars. This is a photograph I took in Turks and Caicos and middle Caicos, looking up at the Milky Way. And allegedly around every star, there are five exoplanets. So, what you’re looking at is the edge, that’s about 23 million miles away. And that represents 100 billion stars and 500 billion exoplanets. So, there’s probably life out there somewhere. 

 

Anyway, that’s my journey. I appreciate the opportunity to share with you my story, with the hope that someone here is inspired. That if you’re fighting someone, even if it’s yourself, listen to yourself, and give yourself the benefit of the doubt that magic can happen if you believe. And maybe encourage someone else to live their dream. Life is very hard. But doesn’t mean we can’t dream. It doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. And I’m telling you, after doing the first Unified Communication platform globally 19 years ago, there’s never a better time than today for you to actually make this happen. 

 

Back at the VON conferences, we used to dream of services we could deliver to customers. Now you’re living that dream. Those things that we once said what we could do are now possible. I created a term back in 2002 called “purple minutes”, because most people I was running into, executives at telecom operators who were buying soft switches, they were simply replacing their hard iron with soft switches and simply delivering the same services – which I call black and white minutes. I said, “Why don’t you do something purple? Why don’t you do something never before possible, or at least beyond possibilities?”

 

Today we’re living in a purple world, maybe it’s a rainbow world. But you guys are in a position to service customers, service their needs and help them empower their dreams because we never needed communications ever before than today. You also have the idea that, you know, 20 years ago, 24 years ago, we only had 16 million people on the internet. Now you have 3 billion. So, you know, you could really connect the world and provide as many services to them as you can dream, and maybe connect. Anyway, thanks for your time. I’m Jeff. I’ll be around for a little bit.




POLY = Plantronics + Polycom: A Different DNA

Darren Knapp Talks About What’s New With The POLY Brand and Their Partnerships

This year at Vectors 2019, Darren Knapp, Director of Global Cloud & Service Providers Group at POLY talks with Erik Linask, TMC’s Editorial Director, about what’s new at Poly. He gives insight into the new brand that has emerged from Plantronics plus POLY, new products and their partnership with SkySwitch. He also talks about the features of POLY’s new Device Management service and how they give that as a value-added service for their endpoints. 

Darren Knapp talks about POLY’s new products, services and their partnership with SkySwitch. 

 

#Vectors2019 #SkySwitch #TransformCloudComm #TMC #POLY #Plantronics #Polycom

 

Full Video Transcript Below

Erik Linask: Hi, we’re coming to you live from Vectors 2019, Orlando and joining me now Darren Knapp from Poly. Darren, thanks for joining me.

Darren Knapp: Hey, thank you very much, I appreciate being here, with this group. It’s been amazing. Great crowd.

Erik Linask: Good. Well, glad to hear that. It looks like it’s been a great show so far, absolutely. So Poly, company or combination of two companies that pretty much everybody in our audience has heard of. But tell me about that combination, the rebranding and you know, sort of what’s happened?

Darren Knapp  Yeah, so listen, it’s been fun for me. I come from the Polycom side, that started in 2013 and you know, we focus on phones for the telephony space. But now with the combination of playing Plantronics plus Polycom, I mean, for me as a tech guy, it’s a lot more fun. We’ve got so much more to talk about. And you know, gadgets to play with and show off. And so it’s been really neat. But part of the story is that you’ve got two well-established companies in Plantronics and Polycom with decades of experience of doing unified communications.

And  now bringing it together and saying, look, really, it doesn’t matter what you’re using, who you’re connecting with, right? So if it’s you and me on a phone call over headsets, or if it’s me, calling the boardroom, and they’re on video, so you know, one to one, one too many, many, too many. We’ve got that solution covered from a voice and video perspective. And then we’ve got some cloud solutions in the middle that help manage it all. So things like our device management service that gets in there and lets your knock, on a live phone call, begin running a packet capture, looking at live call stats, and things like that. And really, those are game changers and the big revelation for the crew here at Vectors is we don’t even charge for that, you know, we just give that as a value-added service for our endpoints.

Erik Linask: So what’s changed? You know, you talk about some of the great things, some of the great things that happened when you combine two companies with such a rich history in this space. You know, there’s got to be some new stuff as well.

Darren Knapp: Yeah, you know, I mean, it’s, it’s a different DNA, it feels different. The biggest changes I’ve seen from my position, you know, I’m a director of our sales team, our global sales team for the internet, telephone service providers, ITSPs. And, for me, the biggest changes I see is this passion to create and innovate, and we’re coming up with things that are different that nobody a year ago, nobody neither envisioned or certainly didn’t bring to market.

Like our Alara 60, I take my cell phone and connected to this device. It’s my headset, it’s my speakerphone, it’s my dial pad, it’s my charger, everything for my cell phone. It’s just built around it and it’s the perfect solution if all you want to use is your cell phone. Two devices were developing for call center, plug and play USB devices for video that are sub $1,000 that act like and feel like a $10,000 video system. So it’s a different DNA and looking at, hey, everybody’s known us for quality, that’s never been the problem. But value, I would challenge that neither Plantronics nor Polycom were considered value companies. And so what you’re seeing now is this, hey, we need to be aggressive on making sure that the customer has all the value-packed in right, so they’re paying a reasonable price point for devices going to just absolutely do everything that they need and provide that quality. That’s the biggest difference in the DNA of the company.

Erik Linask: You’re right, I think that both brands were, you know, pretty much across the board recognized as being higher end product providers. Does that kind of evolution you know, that’s been software-driven, you’re able to do so much with the product.

Darren Knapp: Yeah, and there’s so much. I mean, you think about the phone, it always blows my mind. So Polycom IP phone had 9 million lines of code in it. It just, you don’t even think about that. But there’s stuff in there that people have no concept of regarding security or something like our acoustic fence that does noise cancellation on steroids. And when we could be in a concert hall, and I can pick up a Polycom phone on a handset and start talking to somebody and they might hear a little bleed, but really not. So I mean, and we’ve done this before, had it in front of a DJ booth, and pick up our phones and start doing these demos, and people are just blown away with how good the noise reduction is. That’s all software. I mean, those are algorithms built in to leverage the high-quality microphones, one on the speakerphone one on the handset, and doing these crazy things that you can’t even, you know, envision until you actually hear it.

Erik Linask: So with that said, you know, you’re here at Vectors. Tell me a little bit about your relationship with SkySwitch.

Darren Knapp: Yeah, so we were a partner-driven company, right? We don’t really do anything direct, everything we do is through partners. And for us, SkySwitch, number one great group of people, just love the people who run the entire company. But second, their strategy of providing a platform to their partners, gives us you know, strategically it gives us a lot of leverage, right? If we are providing a good solution and a good partnership, to SkySwitch, well, that is imparted to all of their partners. Being here at Vectors, we’re seeing that you know, people are coming in and the message resonates at an event like this where we’ve had a steady stream of people at our command center, we’re signing up partners, and we’ve got a list of right now you know, 30 new partners, you know, you just don’t do that by cold calling, right? So for us, it’s just phenomenal to come and be in front of people and talk to them and get to, you know, kind of evangelize the message.

Erik Linask: So with that said, what is the opportunity for Poly? What do you see for the growth of the UC market and how that’s going to impact Poly?

Darren Knapp: Yeah. So it just keeps going up. We started seeing some changes in, 2006 to 2008. You started to see it start to elevate and people started moving off-prem and going to the cloud. And then we had some issues, right, the broadband wasn’t as good as it could have been. Remember, the iPhone was invented in 2008, right? So we’re not talking about that long ago, but yet technology’s changed crazy. So the broadband is gotten better. The cloud platforms have gotten better, the stability has gotten better. And so you’ve got this realization now that the tipping point has happened, and people are saying, okay, time to get rid of this antiquated system and move to the cloud. 

So we’re seeing on average at least 16% growth for partners who are looking to grow. Now there’s plenty of partners out there that are happy to just to kind of, you know, chug along and add a couple of partners or customers per year. But for the most part, anybody who’s interested in growth is looking at double-digit growth. That’s great business. And so if you’re looking for a business model for growth, this is a great place to start. We’re talking to managed service providers, we’re talking to rural telecoms that only offered pots lines, and all of them are coming to an event like this to say, Hey, this is a fast path for me to start, I could put in my information, do my partnership, and within a month or two, I’m up and running, selling Voice over IP and, you know, hosting unified communications.

Erik Linask: So it’s been about half a year. So a little bit more than that, since you emerged as the new brand. What is the response to the reception been, particularly from your partner community?

Darren Knapp: I mean, there’s always a couple of wisecracks right you know, “Polly want a cracker.” So we’re always going to get something funny like that. But you know, for the most part, I think everybody’s light bulb goes off and they go, wow, it’s a one-stop-shop for a company that gives me everything, that’s gives me you know, the headset, the video, the phones, and all these new things that we’re developing. And it’s the brand power, even though it’s a new brand it’s caught on quickly. Everybody gets Polycom, Poly, Plantronics, it’s all one. And so the brand power also helps you as a smaller provider, get to market and get in front of a medium-sized customer and say, my solution is built on this enterprise-grade product. And so we’re able to, you know, help them sell and help go upmarket. We also do things like we invest in our partners, we spend joint marketing funds, like here at this event with SkySwitch. But also a smaller partner, we might give them $5,000 to go to an event or do an ad campaign or something like that.

Erik Linask: Is it just me or does the new logo have a distinct resemblance to the traditional Polycom conference phone?

Darren Knapp: That’s sharp man, you’re on it. I’m not in the marketing department, I can’t take any credit for it, but they had a few ideas. The Poly logo is based off the conference phone but it’s also based off the propeller, and the Plantronics side got its roots in the aviation industry. So Plantronics, the big fame is that we were the ones that went to the moon on that first lunar trip, that was a Plantronics headset. And if you look throughout the FAA and everybody who’s using professional-grade headsets, that’s all Plantronics. So it was a homage to the propeller and to the conference phone. So that’s where that logo came from.

Erik Linask: Very interesting. You learn something every single day, but Darren thank you so much for joining us. Enjoy the rest of your week here at Vectors. 

Darren Knapp: Appreciate it man. Thank you very much.

What’s New in Team Collaboration: The PBX With Microsoft Teams

Micah Singer Talks Channel Opportunities for SkySwitch Resellers

At Vectors 2019, TMC’s Editorial Director, Erik Linask, spoke with Micah Singer, Managing Director of TeamMate Technology. Watch the interview to learn all about the channel opportunities that await SkySwitch resellers when it comes to the evolution of Team Collaboration software, like Microsoft Teams, and how it works with the PBX. 

Micah Singer gives a recap of his Vectors 2019 session and explains the new team collaboration opportunities for telecom resellers.

#Vectors2019 #SkySwitch #TransformCloudComm #TMC #TeamCollaboration #MicrosoftTeams

Full Video Transcript Below

Erik Linask: We are here at day two in Orlando, Florida for Vectors 2019. Joining me this afternoon is Micah Singer from TeamMate Technology. Micah, great to see you.

Micah Singer: Thanks for having me. Really appreciate the time.

Erik Linask: So you know, we’re getting to the second half of day two here, what are we seeing and what are your impressions from the first day and a half?

Micah Singer: I feel like it’s a really energized group of resellers and MSPs here. SkySwitch has done a great job of, I’d say, staying really current with the market. So, a lot of the things they’re talking about seem like right in the strike zone of what this group wants and can sell. So, a very, very compelling event.

Erik Linask: But you know, you’ve been in this industry for a little while, but you’ve got a new startup now. Tell us a little about that.

Micah SingerYeah. So I’ve been in the, more or less, PBX space for about a dozen years. My background is, I was the founder and CEO of VoIP Logic and sold to Broad Soft a few years ago. And really, as I looked around the team collaboration space or software,  the developments in that category have just been really compelling. It feels like a whole new opportunity.

You know, it’s this promise that we’ve heard about for so many years, about different kinds of business and enterprise software coming together in one place, including communications. Companies like Slack, and I’d say Microsoft and Cisco and Google, have really done a great job of leading the way with these platforms. And, you know, I feel that the PBX still has an extremely important role to play.

So TeamMate Technology was built and what we were founded to do is integrate the PBX with team collaboration software. So, what we’re doing is, we’ve built a piece of cloud software running Azure, and it speaks SIP and it speaks API’s and it basically turns these team collaboration platforms into softphones, for any PBX.

Erik Linask: So there are certainly those who can argue that you don’t need your additional PBX vendor anymore. You can do it all using Microsoft or, you know, some of the other providers out there. You don’t buy into that. 

Micah SingerYeah, it’s a fair argument. And I recently posted on LinkedIn and there’s two sides and they’re strongly passionate. So there’s definitely a group that feels that is potentially true. And there’s a real strong push for the PBX still – I think it depends on how you use the PBX.

So, for light PBX users, I think things like the features of Microsoft Teams are actually maybe a replacement. But I think a lot of people still use the PBX for what it was meant to do: called complex call control. You know, voice communication among large teams, extension dialing, and they’ve integrated a lot of historical systems, like for compliance, HIPAA, or FINRA and reporting.

So I think we’re in a transition phase for sure. But I think the PBX will be a generational change. It’ll take many years before it sort of goes into the sunset.

Erik LinaskWell, and you know, I was talking with Jeff Pulver yesterday, right here. And he made the point, and I have to agree with him, that voice just is not going away. And the things that business users do with voice isn’t going to change all that quickly. So, the PBX is still going to be needed.

Micah SingerYeah, I mean, one point I hear all the time, and people talk about the PBX going away, but I mean, let’s face it – if you tried to sell a PBX from 20 years ago today, you wouldn’t get any business, so the PBX has really evolved already. And what it does looks really different. It’s a lot. It’s starting to be a lot more integrated with desktop computing and mobile and other places.

But, I mean, voice isn’t going away as you said, and PBX will evolve. And I think it will present really nicely and some of these other collaboration tools can be continued with meaningful use.

Erik LinaskSo, what does it take to make that connection between teams and the PBXs that these resellers here this week are bringing to market?

Micah SingerSIP; SIP is really important. So, it takes the ability to translate lots of different, essential information coming from API’s, from Teams, or Slack or other systems into SIP instructions for the PBX. So PBX speaks SIP and you have to speak SIP if you want to work with them. So for us, that’s meant building a web app that is intermingled with a SIP proxy, a form of SIP proxy that we’ve built from the ground up to support this integration.

Erik LinaskAnd so how does that all work? What’s your relationship with SkySwitch as a result of that?

Micah SingerI’ve known SkySwitch for a while. Originally as competitors, mainly, and I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done and for bringing things to market in a timely fashion.

A lot of what you see here today, a lot of why people come to this event is to learn. And, they were one of the first to really believe what I’m selling can be used in their reseller and MSP base. So they’re an early adopter, we’re getting close to launch with them, something that will be made available to this crowd as one of the first offerings that we’ve done as a new company.

Erik LinaskExcellent. Well, we certainly look forward to seeing that. Thanks for being with us here and enjoy the rest of Vectors 2019.

Micah SingerThank you very much.

Small is Where The Business Is, Says IDC’s Amy Lind

Big is Good but Small Customers Are Better

Amy Lind, Research Manager at International Data Corporation (IDC), was one of three featured keynote speakers at SkySwitch’s annual user group conference, Vectors 2019. During her keynote, “The 2020 UCaaS Market For Resellers: Big Is Good, Small Customers Are Better,” she provided insight into the landscape of market opportunities for resellers from a small business perspective and the pain points of SMB telecom.

Learn more about why SMALL is where the business is for resellers from
Amy Lind, Research Manager, IDC.
 

#Vectors2019 #SkySwitch #TransformCloudComm #TMC

I’m Amy Lind, I’m an analyst with IDC. I cover communication services and UCaaS, and I’ve been with IDC for 22 years as of next week. I can’t believe it. So today I’m going to walk you through IDC’s view of unified communications and collaboration market. We’re going to talk about big is good, but small customers are better.

So a couple of takeaways, I want you to think about it as we go through the presentation. First, is there 65 million small businesses in the United States with fewer than 100 employees. This represents a tremendous opportunity for channel partners. We’re going to go through and look at those opportunities. And I’m going to share some recent survey data we have that looks at small businesses and unified communications. 

The second one is, after years of hype, UCNC is finally mainstream. According to our survey, one out of every two businesses in the United States has unified communications and collaboration. The third thing is that it’s all about the cloud. And by that, I mean cloud-based unified communications as a service. And really, the cloud changes everything. It changes everything for small businesses, and it changes everything for channel partners like you. 

The last point is, simplicity is driving adoption. Solutions need to be easy to use, they need to be easy to deploy. But that’s the first stage. The second stage is really about usage. And driving usage is really the user experience and education, educating small businesses and their employees on the capabilities that exist and how to use them. And driving usage is really a critically important thing to do in the cloud market. And that’s because if you drive usage, you can increase customer satisfaction, you can reduce turn. And more importantly for you for channel partners, you can increase your revenue.

So I want to go through the agenda really quickly, I’m going to start with the small business opportunity, frame it out for you. And then we’ll look at the competitive landscape. From there, we’ll do a dive into the trends and buyer perspective. And then I’m going to present the future view, which is IDC’s typical forecast slide, I have to put one in, and then I’m going to end with some conclusions or recommendations.

So this is IDC’s view of how we segment the business market. So the SMB segment is businesses from five to 999 employees. But it’s really important to segment two sub-segments within the SMB market because when we start looking at some of the sub-segments, there are a lot of differences that come out. For the purposes of what we’re going to be discussing today. We’re going to be looking at small businesses, those businesses that have five to 49 employees.

It’s important to remember that for small businesses, many of them started as home-based businesses. That means that their technology acquisition is very similar to consumers, to consumer technology purchasing. Small businesses typically are not early tech adopters. And that’s largely due to resource constraints, and they just lack the skills within their organization. They typically are more likely to operate in an ad hoc manner, which means that when they are going out after technology, they’re not doing it in a conservative way, looking out three or four years and budgeting, they tend to go out and just buy it as needed. Many small businesses don’t have a dedicated IT person. And typically, when they’re buying technology or looking at technology, they’re focusing on implementing core technologies, PCs, printers, desktop phones, the basic tools that allow them to get their work done, but that you know, not really the cutting edge technology. 

So diving into small businesses a little bit more and some of the metrics. So in this slide, we’re looking at the three pie charts in the middle, for the employees that are five employees up to 49 employees. And the key with this segment is that, on average, the revenue ranges from 300 to 400,000, all the way up to 1.1 million. And that’s at the high end of the segment. But when we look at average revenue per user, per employee, it’s more consistent somewhere around 25,000. The other thing that’s important to remember about this segment, as you move upmarket, that the percentage of revenue that these businesses apply to support current operations goes down, as they tend to invest more in innovation and in expansion. 

So IDC does a survey every year, we survey businesses in the US that have five or more employees, and we just filled out our survey in September and so I have really great brand new survey data to share with you. So one of the things we did do in the survey was asked about technology investment and initiatives over the next three years. And this chart here is showing the technology investment for small businesses that are five to 49 employees, and then large, small businesses which are 50 to 99 employees. And as you can see, I mean, it’s fairly similar in the sense that they both ranked cloud services as being a top initiative or priority that they’re doing. For the small business segment, they said, upgrading their network infrastructure, and then improving WAN and network security, where the top three. 

For both segments unified communications, the red bars, there were only 15%. And at first glance, it seems that they’re just not investing in unified communications. But that’s actually not true. The boxes that are in red, mobile access to corporate and business applications, real-time networking, and migrating call centers to IP platforms. I would argue those are really UC functionality as well or components of UC and so when you put it all together, UC starts to bubble up much higher. But the important thing to keep in mind here is that for both small businesses and large, small businesses, cloud services was the number one investment and initiative that they’re planning on doing. And I think that really signifies small businesses are becoming more comfortable and more interested in UCaaS and cloud, and that’s something that the provider channel needs to capitalize on.

 

So we’re going to shift now to looking at the competitive landscape. Before we do that, though, I want to put some definitions out there. So what is unified communications and collaboration? Many people have different definitions of it. For our sake, for IDC, we define it as the integration of advanced telephony, messaging, IM and presence, and conferencing services, audio, video and web conferencing with collaborative and mobile applications. Unified communications and collaboration enable real-time communications and collaboration, anytime, anywhere and on any device. Unified communications as a service is a cloud-hosted multi-tenant, public cloud, typically, UC&C service that is shared across multiple businesses and delivered, managed and maintained by a communication service provider, or by the channel partner, or even in some cases by a vendor. Their services priced on a per-seat user basis, with a standard suite of features included in the monthly subscription fee.

So with that, we’re going to take a look at the IDC market glance. This is our overview of the competitive landscape for unified communications and collaboration. So all of these different boxes, we put the top three to five players in terms of vendor market share into these boxes. And the one I’m particularly focused on is the one that’s in red, UC solutions and services. We’ve segmented that into two categories. One is over the top providers like RingCentral, 8×8, Vonage, Fuse, Nextiva, and the other one is UCaaS service providers, AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, The Carriers. With the OTT providers like RingCentral and 8×8, they all got their start in the small business segment. But they’ve all made a concerted effort to move upmarket into mid-market and enterprise sector. And they’ve really abandoned that small business customer, its transactional customer and they just feel that they can generate more revenue off of going after the higher value customers.

But that leaves those small business customers somewhat stranded in terms of their options. UC service providers like AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink, they’ve traditionally gone after large enterprise and multinational corporations. While they do offer small business solutions,

AT&T for instance has a partnership with RingCentral. Verizon is offering One Talk which is a mobile UCaaS solution, and it started with very small businesses. They traditionally have not been very good at serving that segment. I will say though, that there are two exceptions that have come out this summer. One is on the OTT side, and that is 8×8, they announced 8×8 Express. The other is CenturyLink, CenturyLink Engage. Both of those platforms are targeted to the very small business sector. They are e-commerce platforms or solutions. And the interesting thing with CenturyLink is they’re bundling it in with broadband, and they provide a Customer Success Manager to every customer that helps them walkthrough, you know, the beginning of the sales process all the way through to the end post implementations, and guides the customer through the whole process. And I think something like that is possibly going to disintermediate channel partners, but it’s something I think that you can take some learnings from and adapt that to your own business models.

So here’s another slide looking at the competitive landscape. Again, this is from our survey, and we asked of small businesses that we’re looking to implement UCaaS, which kind of provider would you be, you know, considering using. And we asked them to rank it on a scale of one to five. And so here I’ve got it listed by the most; the extremely likely and likely. Microsoft came out at the top, not surprising. They have, you know, good mindshare with small business sector there on the desktop. I thought it was interesting though, that web and video conferencing providers like Zoom and PGi actually had such high mention, and I think with Zoom, in particular, it’s an interesting case because they do the freemium model for video conferencing. And so they are, you know, attracting small business customers with something that’s a freemium model. It works for their purposes and it sucks them in and they find it, you know, a very good enjoyable experience because it’s simple to use. 

Looking at the telecom service providers like Verizon, AT&T and the cable operators, like Comcast and Charter, with them, the interesting thing that they’re doing is obviously they offer broadband to the small business customer, and they bundle that broadband often with a digital voice service, and so they’re able to target that small business customer and lock them into that bundle. But our way of thinking in our definition, that’s not really UCaaS. That’s just a voice service bundled in with your broadband. 

So where I think the opportunity lies for the reseller, and channel partner community is to really focus on becoming a trusted advisor to small businesses and focusing on possibly being a managed service provider. If you look at the managed service providers, if you look at extremely likely, likely, and neutral, they actually have amongst the highest mentions. And so I think pursuing that trusted advisor role helping small businesses with their strategy around migration, around voice, and using that as a pathway to unified communications, I think that’s one way that you can create additional value. Additionally, focus on bundling and value-added services and adding that customer support piece in and I think that you know, it’s really compelling in a differentiated offering.

So, this slide here, we’re shifting gears, looking at UC trends. I’m not going to go through all of these on this slide, we’ll go through each one of these individually, but I wanted to kind of put it out there so you can see that. So the first trend is voice migration. So migrating from TDM Voice to IP is really the foundation for unified communications, voice migration is happening. It’s happening gradually. It’s not happening nearly as rapidly as we’d expected. According to our survey, 89% of small businesses use voice over IP. But if you look at the next line, 85% of small businesses still use and value TDM. And so what that says to me is that there are very few businesses that have the only TDM, or only voice over IP, many businesses have a mix and that we’re still in that transition point where eventually they will move completely off of TDM to voice over IP. 

The reason small businesses aren’t migrating to Voice over IP, they don’t see the business value in VoIP, they also feel that it’s too expensive and other projects have higher priority. And what that says to me is, it’s really more a mentality of if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. They have other priorities. They feel that voice is complicated. They’re not quite sure what they should be going with. It seems costly to them. They have a system that works for them. So there’s no need to upgrade it. But if you look above that 47% of small businesses said that they purchased their phone system four or more years ago. And so we’re getting to the point where these systems are going to start becoming the end of life are not supported. And so I think that’s another opportunity for the channel. To help those small businesses, figure out what their migration strategy should be, help them make that move, and move them to the cloud. 

So the next trend is using UC as mainstream. So this is three years of survey data, where we asked about usage of the adoption of unified communications. So what we really see is that one out of every two businesses has unified communications in their organization. I think it’s interesting to note though that 40% say that they plan to adopt UC&C within the next year. But where it gets really interesting is when you start looking at it by the size of business.

So if you look over at the five to 49 segment, only 25% of small businesses have UC. And I think that that is really pertinent because that shows that there’s an untapped market out there that is right for the channel to really help those guys come in and get UC. So that brings me to the next point. The investment drivers, why should small businesses invest in UC and why are they investing in UC?

So we asked small businesses that have UC and those that plan to adopt UC, What were the reasons that you are looking at UC? And the top reasons were, support a mobile and remote workforce, help employees feel more connected, increase employee productivity, and improve communications and collaboration. The interesting piece to this is that cost saving is relatively low down. And this is the first year of the first survey where we’re seeing cost savings not being the number one reason that they invested in UC. And so I think it signifies that there’s a shift in the market, businesses are starting to look at different use cases and the benefits differently. They’re not looking at, you know, the hard cost savings, they’re looking at softer reasons for migrating or for investing in UC, and again, I think that there’s a role for the channel partners to play in helping them with that, and helping them to focus on use cases and benefits of UC so that when you’re engaging with small businesses, rather than talking about the technology, start by talking about the use case, helping them figure out what problems they need to solve and figure out what that use case is. Do they want to support their mobile, you know the workforce? Do they have a mobile workforce? Do they want to support remote workers? Do they want to increase employee productivity? I think being a trusted advisor and a partner and helping them figure out some of those issues. I think that that is where the channel should be going and focusing because that’s the way to then ensure that the small business is loyal to you.

 

So we also asked of that 27% that do not have UC and are not planning on adopting it, why they don’t want to invest in UC, and the top reasons are, it’s too costly to justify the investment, other projects have higher priority and there’s a lack of in house expertise. And you think the key here for the channel, in particular, is to, again, approach these businesses and present yourself as a managed service provider, helping them to understand that when you move to the cloud, then you’re giving up management to the channel to the person that’s providing you the service. And it frees up their employees, they don’t have to worry about it and it gives you some added value because now you’re a trusted advisor. And you can help them with other things. You can sell them adjacent services, you can upsell them on other things, you know, whether that’s, you know, bundling value-added services in whether it’s doing video conferencing or collaboration, whether it’s expanding into the collaboration stack, I think there’s a lot of potentials there. And you think the problem is that these businesses that said that they don’t want to invest in UC, aren’t really understanding, you know, what it means. And again, that comes back to demonstrating use cases and benefits to them. 

So, the next trend is the shift to the cloud. So I would argue that cloud is not quite as mainstream as UC&C, but we’re getting really close. This slide here is showing that 53% of businesses that either have adopted UC or attending to adopt UC is planning to do a multi-tenant cloud solution. As you can see only 36% wanted you premise-based and 11% are looking at dedicated hosted. And I’m actually surprised that the dedicated hosted is as high as it is, my guess is that some of the small businesses either didn’t understand what that is, or they’re probably at the upper end of our segmentation.

So one of the other trends along with Cloud is Hybrid, Hybrid is gaining traction. Three out of four small businesses said that they plan to deploy or have deployed a Hybrid UC solution. And the reason that hybrid is gaining traction is that it enables businesses to leverage their existing assets to quickly scale UC, and they have the flexibility to really roll it out where and when they want, and how it makes sense for them. And again, I think that there’s a role for the channel to play on this by working with these small businesses on their Hybrid strategy and helping them with that migration and helping them to do an assessment of where they are, where they want to go and what they ultimately want to get to as their end goal.

  

So the next trend within the shift to the cloud is, we see business dynamics driving the shift to the cloud. So, for instance, things like accelerating business growth, there are a lot of businesses that are growing very rapidly. And cloud isn’t the ideal solution for those businesses, cloud is very easy to scale and click to scale, and then enables those businesses that have high growth trajectories to add, you know, new users whenever they need them. It also helps because you can also bring it down. So for seasonal businesses, it’s useful because, you know, they don’t have to pay for a sunk cost for half of the year whenever the year they’re not using those licenses, and so they can scale up when they need to and scale down when they don’t need to, or when they don’t need them. 

Distributed businesses as well, so there are a number of small businesses that have multiple locations, and they have mobile and remote workers. And cloud is ideally suited to distributed business. It allows the small business to roll out the capabilities to the employees wherever they happen to be located and it’s very easy and flexible to do that. One of the other points here is outdated equipment. Many small businesses are struggling with outdated equipment and dissatisfaction with their current system. And again, there’s a role for the partner to play in this, in terms of helping them to migrate, not just to a new solution, but to migrate to the cloud. 

So, there are some benefits to UCaaS and we’re going to talk about those benefits for both the small business and for the providers, sorry, the channel. So there are new market demands happening. So customers’ buying behavior is changing. They’re looking to buy more on value and on business outcomes and use cases. They also want solutions faster. They want off the shelf products, but they also want customization and this is true even for the smallest businesses, but at the same time, end customer budgets are tight, and service reps, not service providers, but channel partners need to keep that in mind. They need to understand that customers want solutions that are easier to use, and that deliver value faster and cheaper. And you need to tailor those solutions and how you approach those small business customers in a flexible way that meets their needs. And when you’re engaging with them, you need to be cognizant of the tight budgets and the different needs that they may have.

 So for small businesses, the benefits of UCaaS and the importance of choosing the right partner is critical. So again, in our survey, we asked small businesses, what their perception was of the benefits of UCaaS, and then we asked them what their concerns were about UCaaS. And it’s really interesting for the small business segment five to 49, scalability and flexibility was the top number one thing that they pointed out, whereas, for the large small business segment, they were looking more at cost savings. 

I think for the Small Business segment, skill-building and flexibility is key, pitching it to them as a managed service that you manage for them, they don’t have to worry about that it eliminates the need for management, for maintenance, for upgrades. It’s incredibly flexible and scalable. It can go up and down to meet their needs. So for instance, you know, seasonal businesses, landscaping, ice cream stores, retail, this is ideally suited to them, because it allows them to, you know, scale up when they need to, scale down when they don’t need to, and they’re not paying for those licenses. Again, along with that is the shift from a Capex to an op ex-model. That’s critical and I think that that’s something that the partners need to focus on with small businesses to encourage them to make that shift and explain to them that you know, the value of monthly recurring revenue model, it may seem scary at first, but in fact, I think it is better for them in the long run rather than sinking all of your costs into, you know, one time Capex on-premise system. 

So there are benefits to your cash for partners as well. You know, small businesses want integrated, affordable and easy to deploy solutions. They don’t want siloed services, they want really more integrated solutions. And they want flexibility and they want that optics, not Capex model. For the partners, making that shift to monthly recurring revenue also helps them because it helps them to invest in their future, it helps them be more competitive, and it helps them to meet small businesses where and when they really need to be. The other issue for channel partners is project revenue is not replicable and it’s hard to invest in your future and grow your business really with more of a project-based revenue model. 

So the concerns with UCaaS, we did survey small businesses about their concerns. The number one concern that came out was security and specifically for the small business segment, they said data security. It was two times more of a concern for them than it was for the large small business segment but for both segments, security was a top of mind concern. And I think it’s critical for partners to really address concerns that small businesses have about UCaaS. One of the things to be cognizant of, again, is to focus on use cases and benefits, but also to demonstrate for small businesses the value of moving to a monthly recurring model, and increases in customer satisfaction, reduction in churn some of those benefits, it’s vital to really kind of point those out and work with the small businesses in a consultative sales approach. 

So the new work experience mobile and remote workers, more workers are becoming mobile, distributed and virtual. There’s this proliferation of BYOD devices in the business as well. Many users, you know, it’s the device of choice. They want to be able to work wherever they are, wherever they are and on whatever device they want. And really, it’s this notion of this anytime anyplace worker that requires ubiquitous mobility. But the challenges that many workers are still using old tools, email, audio conferencing, faxing, paging, and to date, we have not really seen a truly mobile UC&C fixed-mobile convergence solution, it really does remain nascent. And I think that that’s where there’s again, some value that the channel can provide, in terms of really pushing that mobile piece.

  

So we also asked about the features and capabilities that small businesses are interested in. And this is really interesting to me because This is the first year we’ve seen collaboration, email, cloud-based file storage, video conferencing, file sharing and collaborative applications bubbling up to the top. In the past, it’s been voice calling voice over IP, IM chat, audio conferencing. And we’re really seeing an increase in interest and usage of the collaborative applications. And I think that demonstrates that small businesses are becoming more sophisticated. They want integrated solutions, they don’t want just with telephony-based UCaaS, they want to have Slack, Zoom video conferencing, collaborative applications, bundled in and are integrated with their solution. They see value in that. I think the other one that’s valuable is a cloud-based file storage Box, Dropbox, integrating all of that in, and then file sharing, of course. What I find most interesting and we see this every year though, is the mobile client app is relatively low. And I think that’s because most businesses when we survey them, don’t understand or just don’t think of it as a separate feature, they think of it as just being automatically incorporated in. And I think that’s probably the same with presence as well. 

To that point, what I find interesting for small businesses is they’re not that particularly interested in the integration of business apps, like CRM and ERP, at least for the five to 49 segment. But when you look at the large-small businesses, that 50 to 99 segment, they’re much more interested in presence, integration of business apps, even FMC and call recording. So you start to see this difference in the features and capabilities that they want as you go upmarket and become larger. 

So the death of the desktop phone is greatly exaggerated. I was at Enterprise Connect a number of years ago and the buzz at the show was all about how the desk phone was dead, and it was just going to go away. And yet, many of us still have desktop phones on our desks. And I think, you know, looking at the survey, small businesses would say the same thing. The desktop phone is the number one device, mobile and smartphones are growing, it’s 54%, and then web browsers are 52%. And I think that there are a number of providers and platforms out there, like SkySwitch with their Reach UC Mobility, and Reach UC Connect product, those are offerings that are softphones and web browser-based.

And I think we’re going to see an increase in those categories. I think mobile and smartphone is going to increase as well but I think it’s going to take a long time. And the key here for partners to walk away with from this slide is that you need to meet the small business where they are. There are some small businesses that are going to want desk phones for the foreseeable future. There are others that are going to be mobile-first. There are others that are just going to be interested in just a cell phone, and you need to be flexible and present them with whatever option they want. 

This is the piece that I find most fascinating. So we asked small businesses in the next year, do you think your organization is going to increase their use of desktop phones or decrease, and 57.6% said they expected to increase, that just blows me away. I don’t think it necessarily correlates to what we’re seeing on the vendor side in terms of IP phone shipments. But I do think it’s really a compelling piece that just says that the desktop phone is going to be around for quite a while longer.

So finally, adoption versus usage. So simplicity and education are critical to overcoming uses barriers. We asked of small businesses that have unified communications deployed, what percentage of your user base is using the capabilities. Only 48% came back and said that 48% of their users were actually using the capabilities. And the reasons that they weren’t using the capabilities were IT staff was not prepared to support or deploy the capabilities and users were not trained on the technologies, or where the capabilities existed was expensive, and years of users have adopted workarounds. And you think that this is critical. 

Simplicity is key to driving adoption. It has to be simple to use, it has to be simple to be deployed. But education and good user experience are critical to overcoming barriers to usage, and usage is going to be the next step in the market, in terms of development. And the problem with the cloud model is if you don’t get people using the capabilities, then they’re going to turn, and so it’s critical to really push that usage so that they don’t turn so that they increase their customer satisfaction, and they use the capabilities. I think one of the challenges is really trying to figure out how to educate and make these small businesses and these users aware of the capabilities. And one of the things I think, to focus on is adoption services, and working with the small business customer, with the customer success manager to really push education training videos, get the word out, these capabilities exist, this is how you use them, and help guide that small business through the whole process from pre-sale, post-sale, post-implementation, and get there usage up, because otherwise we’ll be at risk of losing that customer. Once they turn, it’s twice as hard to get them back.

So here’s my obligatory forecast slide. The US telephony-based UCaaS revenue snapshot. So in 2019 in the U.S., I am estimating that at the end of the year, the UCaaS market telephony base piece of it will be 5.4 billion. It will have a five-year kicker of 10% and it will grow to 7.3 billion in 2023. I’ve also segmented it for the small business market. And the forecast for small business telephony-based UCaaS expands from 2.1 billion in 2019 to 2.7 billion in 2023. It’s roughly somewhere around 30-35% of the forecast. I’m pretty bullish about the small business market because I think that there’s a lot of room for growth there. There is an untapped market. There are 65 million small businesses, and many of the providers have backed away from that segment. And so I think it’s a really great opportunity for the channel to capitalize on. And once again, just to recap, the delivery model is a fully managed multi-tenant cloud solution, the pricing model is spot rate monthly recurring and the keys in terms of the market perspective are it’s a highly fragmented ecosystem. Like I said, It ranges from network-based and over the top providers, to vendors serve as eyes, managed service providers and the channel. But I do think that specifically, the small business sector is right for the channel to take and own, but one of the key things, as I said before, is education and adapting the business model is really critical to channel success, particularly in the small business segment. 

And so with that, I’m going to turn to my recommendations. The first one is the value proposition for many small businesses remains unclear around UC&C. The channel needs to focus on solution selling, demonstrating use cases, positioning itself as a trusted advisor. You know, many on the channel you’re in your local community, you understand these businesses, you know what their needs are, you know them and that’s something that differentiates your ability to target them from Verizon, AT&T, RingCentral, and 8×8. They don’t know these customers, they don’t know what their needs are. They’re not in the local community, they’re much more of an anonymous type of provider. I think it’s key for the channel to create conversations around how UC&C can benefit small businesses, I think you’ll find greater receptivity if you do that.

For many of these small businesses, decisions are past due, in terms of migrating from TDM to voice over IP. And I think the channel can play a critical role in helping these customers to migrate, help them establish a migration roadmap, figure out what it is that they want to go to in their end state, help them to get there, work with them and define near term and long term goals. We have seen a growing level of comfort with cloud-based solutions and while cost savings are not as high in terms of investment priorities, I do think emphasizing the total cost of ownership and the return on investments for small businesses is still critical. They are still very conscious of cost. You know, budgets are tight. And so if you can demonstrate, some cost savings, especially around moving from a Capex, one-time type of model to an op-ex model, I think that that will be compelling. Partners also need to prove that UC translates to benefits for the business and that will help to stimulate their competence. And again, that comes back to use case. 

To capture new revenue opportunities and growth profitability partners do need to expand their horizons, they need to move beyond their core value proposition, what they’ve been used to delivering. They need to provide integrated bundled solutions, they need to move into value-added services and customer support. And customer success is a key area where you can focus on that as well as position yourself as a managed service provider, that’s a trusted advisor. And then finally, as I said, simplicity is key to driving adoption but the user experience and training are key to driving usage. Solutions must be easy to buy, they must be easy to install, and they must be easy to use, particularly for small businesses.

Recap of Vectors 2019 – SkySwitch’s Best Conference Yet

Welcome Reception

SkySwitch’s annual user group conference, Vectors 2019, kicked off this year at the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando. The conference began with a welcome reception where attendees were able to network over hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. The evening’s entertainment included sets by DJ BillyRo from San Francisco, who helped set the high-energy tone for the rest of Vectors with his upbeat atmospheric selections.

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DJ BillyRo at the Welcome Reception spinning a variety of atmospheric melodies.

Problem Over Product

Day one began bright and early at 7 a.m. with breakfast sponsored by Adaptiv Networks. Following breakfast, Eric Hernaez, President and Founder of SkySwitch, and Jayson Jones, VP of Sales at SkySwitch took to the stage to welcome attendees with the Vectors Opening Ceremony.

Shortly after, Keenan, from A Sales Guy Inc., shared his unique selling techniques and perspectives on problem-centric selling versus product-centric selling. During his keynote, Keenan taught the audience how to apply his highly-acclaimed book, Gap Selling, to their sales methods in the UCaaS industry.

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Keenan from A Sales Guy Inc.

The day continued with fast pitches from sponsors and sessions from the SkySwitch sales team, Billy Robbins of Intent Company and Jeff Dworkin of the Cloud Voice Alliance. To wrap up the day, everyone made their way over to Hard Rock Live at Universal’s CityWalk for the Vectors Annual Dinner Party, sponsored by Compliance Solutions Inc., featuring Grammy-nominated reggae artist Julian Marley. Marley rocked the house, with songs from his new album during his 90-minute set, giving attendees an unforgettable night of reggae music.

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Julian Marley rockin' the house at Hard Rock Live.

UCaaS Today

Day two kicked off with a groundbreaking panel on the main stage with Scott Brillman, Joe Barasoain and Harlan Hamlin with their session, “E911: The Changes in 2020“. In this panel, they discussed the importance of “Kari’s Law” and how to be part of a positive change using technology sales and strategy as a way of enforcing code.

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E911 Panel discussing the importance of Kari's Law. (Left to right: Joe Barasoain, Harlan Hamlin, Scott Brillman)

Right before the Lunch & Learn, sponsored by Adaptiv Networks, our featured keynote speaker Jeff Pulver, Executive Vice Chairman at Skrumble and co-founder of Vonage, discussed economic, financial and technological trends in the telecom industry during his session, “Now Is The Best Time To Be Selling UCaaS.” 

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Jeff Pulver, Executive Vice Chairman at Skrumble and co-founder of Vonage

Attendees also heard from Spencer Scott of Loup, Micah Singer of TeamMate Technology, Darren Knapp of Poly and many other speakers that introduced new innovative strategies and tactics within the telecom industry. 

Small Customers in a Big Market

The final day was full of informative sessions from Greg Steinig of 3CX, Bill Stucklen of Stack Advisors and Paul Johan of Ballast Point Ventures. To end Vectors with a bang Amy Lind, Research Manager at International Data Corporation (IDC) wrapped up the event on the main stage with her session, “The 2020 UCaaS Market for Resellers: Big is Good, Small Customers Are Better.”

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Amy Lind, Research Manager at International Data Corporation (IDC)

TMC, Telecom Reseller, ChannelVision News and UCToday 

Many of the Vectors 2019 speakers were interviewed by ChannelVision News, TMC, Telecom Reseller, and UCToday for in-depth discussions on what’s new in telecom, and where they believe the industry is headed. Speakers, sponsors, and resellers participate in podcasts and video interviews with Martin Vilaboy, Doug Green, Erik Linask, and Patrick Watson as they led with a variety of introspective and informational talking points.  

Wrapping up Vectors 2019

To wrap up our best event yet, attendees awaited the results of the Vectors 2019 QR code Scavenger Hunt and raffle.  The first place winner won a brand new iPad, while other winners won prizes like a Poly Studio, Poly Trio 8300, Netgear Orbi Smart Speaker, a full year of Adaptiv 50 MB Internet service and all sorts of other new and exciting technologies. Vectors 2019 was an informational, action-packed conference — and SkySwitch’s biggest one yet! We can’t wait to show you what’s in store for Vectors 2020. 

SkySwitch Executives responsible for Vectors 2019! (Left to right: Frank Babusik - COO, Jayson Jones - VP of Sales, Eric Hernaez - President and Founder, Andy Abramson - CMO, Corey Stoker - VP of Support, William Brister - VP of Customer Success, Blake McKeeby - CTO)

Want to view more photos from Vectors 2019?

Check out the full Vectors 2019 photo gallery below! 

Supreme Court Sets the Stage for Changes to VoIP Taxation

The U.S. Supreme Court has set the stage for VoIP service providers to challenge regulatory oversight by states.  It happened on October 21, 2019, when the Court decided not to hear the case  of Charter Advanced Services (MN), LLC, and Charter Advanced Services VIII (MN), LLC, v. Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC).

The case was an appeal of a District Court decision which found that Charter’s VoIP service is an information service that cannot be regulated/taxed by the states.    The situation stems from a decades-old FCC rule mandating that if VoIP is a telecommunications service, it gets taxed and regulated in the same way as “traditional” telecommunication services by both the federal and state authorities, but if it is an information service, it may not be subject to state regulation at all.

The dispute has been brewing for years because the FCC has steadfastly refused to say  whether VoIP is an information service or a telecommunications service, leaving it up to the courts to decide on an individual case basis (as a side note, in 2005 the FCC ruled that ‘computer-to-computer’ VoIP is an information service, and therefore not taxable, as a result of the efforts of Vectors keynote speaker Jeff Pulver).

By my count, 33 states currently impose taxes and other regulatory charges on VoIP services by relying on the “telecommunications” classification.  By choosing not to entertain Minnesota’s appeal of the lower court decision that VoIP is not a telecommunications service, the Supreme Court endorsed the idea that VoIP is an information service.  This is sure to have repercussions throughout the other 32 states.

On the other hand, this decision could be the impetus for Congress to step in and pass a law that subjects VoIP to more regulation – an outcome that might not be surprising in a political climate that looks favorably on oversight of cloud services.

SkySwitch Brings E911 Experts to Vectors 2019

With the passage of Kari’s Law, 2020 will bring changes to the E911 requirements for VoIP service providers.  The changes have special impact on providers that serve customers located in multi-tenant environments such as the retail, health care, and hospitality fields.  To help SkySwitch resellers learn more about the changing environment, SkySwitch is featuring an expert panel on E911 at Vectors 2019.   The panel will feature Fulton County Georgia’s Director of Emergency Services, Joe Barasoain, and the City of Baltimore’s Director of 911 Services, Captain Scott L. Brillman.

Joseph A. Barasoain became the Director of Emergency Services in September of 2014. His 26 years of experience spans three states and includes roles as police captain, chief of operations, emergency manager and law enforcement training instructor. Joe is a graduate of the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute Executive Leadership Program as well as the University of Richmond’s Professional Executive Leadership School. In addition, Joe holds a Master’s Degree in Management from St. Thomas University and is an APCO Registered Public Safety Leader.

Captain Scott L. Brillman is a public safety leader with expertise in emergency management and organizational change, serving in the Baltimore City Fire Department since 2003. Captain Brillman currently directs Baltimore’s 911 communication center, which under his tenure won the International 911 center “Team of the Year Award” from the International Association of Public Safety Communications Officials for the 911 center’s excellence in professionalism and performance in 2016. Captain Brillman proudly leads a workforce who handle more than 1.5 million emergency calls per year; the busiest in Maryland. He is currently tasked with transforming the organization into a “next generation ready” communications center, and with planning and implementing future innovations for the City’s 911 public safety system.

Vectors 2019 is SkySwitch’s annual user group conference developed to provide SkySwitch’s customers with valuable training and content. Attendees can take advantage of networking opportunities with SkySwitch partners, resellers and industry experts while sharpening their skills and learning about the latest tech advancements in the UCaaS industry.

Don’t miss your opportunity to get first-hand knowledge from experts in the field.  Register to attend Vectors 2019.

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