Jeff Pulver is Naysaying the Naysayers
I rarely do this, but this posting by Jeff Pulver is worth responding to line by line. This may not be directed at me, but it might as well as been.
After spending the past week reading various perspectives on some of the recently funded (mostly) mobile focused VoIP startups, I find it amazing how some members of the Blogosphere feel as if they have an inside track to the future success of one or more of these startups.
I wish I had the inside track to some of these companies. I might be able to make some money or at the very least make an intellegent choice about which service provider to trust with my phone service. But seriously, I don't. I know only as much as I can read on the Internet, if that.
As if what they have to say about a company actually meant something more than just words.
Hey, I'm just a guy with a web page that some people read. I don't have any illusions that my words will make or break a company. I don't know that I'd want that power, honestly.
Now while I am sure the marketing and PR folks at these startups are now more than ever concerned about getting to the "right side" of whom they believe are the opinion leaders in certain parts of the Blogosphere, at the end of the day it is up to the customers of the company to determine whether or not the product or service is a success and not a blogger.
Bloggers may have an impact on whether or not the company gets customers. Or they may not. Bloggers can get things wrong. Heck, anyone can get things wrong sometimes. Ultimately, though, it is the customers that help pay the bills and ensure the product or service is successful.
If members of the Blogosphere are interested in having their opinion mean something significant, may I suggest they apply for a job at their local VC firm and see what happens? Or even better, if they discover a better way at solving a problem than currently exists, why not start a company that solves that problem and then go out and raise some money themselves? Turns out that criticizing a vision is easy if you don't have one to share yourself and but even more challenging if you do.
I get paid fairly well for my opinions, just not in this area. Seriously, though, if there were local VC firms where I lived, it would be an interesting place to work. However, I don't live in Silicon Valley or anyplace where VC firms would give a damn about.
It seems to me what Jeff is saying is that in order to criticize what these companies are doing, you have to have a better idea. I don't think it's entirely fair, not everyone is that bright. But since you asked, Jeff, here's my vision: I want communication that works instantly without me having to think about it too much or retrain my contacts to use a different method to reach me. And right now, a lot of the Voice 2.0 companies like Rebtel, Jajah, and even Grand Central, make me think too much or ask the people that need to reach me to think too much.
The problem is not only PSTN-centric, but it starts there in the concept of "identity." Each telephone number on the PSTN is an identity. You call a number on the PSTN with the express desire of wanting to contact someone in particular. Historically, telephone numbers were tied to a physical pair of wires. Now a number can be tied to a mobile phone (regardless of the technology) and/or sent over an IP network.
I would like to take a phone number and "Extract" it from a physical location, mobile phone, or whatever, and instead tie the phone number to the identity of the person. In a sense, this is what Grand Central tries to do. However, where GC fails is in dealing withlong-established phone numbers. Yes you can call forward the snot out of things, but it's costs extra
Given that we are now living in the "second wave" of the IP Communications industry, I have to believe there are reasons why some of these companies got funded. Given the relative size of the fundings, there were some "very smart people" working in the background in each of these cases that helped make this happen. And to be venture backed means the investor is willing to take significant risk for a significant reward. Just remember, if these companies where all so clearly winners from the start, they would not be funded with “Venture Capital.”
The fact is I can only judge any of these companies based on the information I have. Jeff, you've gotta be more connected with these guys than I am and have more information than I do. After all, I'm just a guy with a web page.