Saturday, 6 December 2008

The Foundations of HulloMail

The HulloMail journey began in 99, when I thought it would be really cool if anyone (I am too embarrassed to say mum) could send an email by using a telephone.

I thought the idea was so cool that I told my mate Marco Santully (we were both working, sorry slaving at Accenture) he liked it too and so we decided to start VoxSurf.

As it turns out we went on to design an internet and telco mash up solution which became the template and text book next generation voicemail architecture. Our architecture in simplistic terms, was based on connecting a telco network to a media server which is connected to a web server (our app on the internet) which is connected to an email store (message store). Yes I know, it's not rocket science, but in 99 combining a VoiceXML (back then VoxML) media server and java servlets and come to that using Java for scalable realtime apps, was very optimistic! We made it work and work very well.

The idea included the notion that your email could answer your phone too - i.e. your voicemails would be in your email. We therefore believed taking and selling our idea to the telco would be the most sensible thing to do. As a result we found ourselves at the forefront of several battles during the early "web based services" days. The most time consuming was overcoming the general telco apprehension towards Internet Protocol (IP) based services - "It won't scale. It's not reliable!". Look now, its all IP ;)

By January 2008, despite having about 10 million end users through telco customers, the job became harder, more expensive to execute and with decreasing value being placed on next generation way of doing things, thanks to the incumbents slashing their old technology voicemail box pricing with promises of next gen down the road. The final disappointment came and continues to come from the telco’s approach of replacing old voicemail systems with new ones that do the same as the old one with a like for like end user experience - what's that about? However the telco grade credentials of the product and experience is a differentiator in this marketplace - one of our deployments runs on 10 web servers, answers 5 million calls a day and at peak time 127 calls per second...

Our vision from the start was to fundamentally change voicemail. For us voicemail and email are the same and so should exist together. Earlier this year with VC funding I bought the VoxSurf assets and along with Chris Webb (VoxSurf Chief Architect) and some of the guys we started HulloMail. We believe our way of doing voicemail makes life easier and hopefully you will too. Voicemails should be part of your main communications stream. You should own them, be able to save them as long as you want and do with them as you want.

We've now launched HulloMail in the UK and its available to any contract mobile. The basic service is free and we hope to charge for premium features. We will also offer the service directly to mobile operators wishing to offer a modern voicemail service to their customers. The good news for us is that their existing voicemail services are not in keeping with the new handsets being launched or reflective of technology use of today, so you never know, they may get interested in voicemail again. Although, it's really up to you ;)

Will this be a personal or HulloMail specific blog? The answer - HulloMail is personal! I'm doing this to communicate and inform you about our company and service as it develops. I also want to ensure our service meets your expectations and from time to time share views on what’s going on in the marketplace.