Monday, 23 August 2010

Where is Silicon Roundabout?

You have heard of Silicon Valley in America, and you've heard of Silicon Fen in East Anglia and now you have Silicon Roundabout, just round the corner from Silicon Street in Central London. The home of HulloMail, the voice messaging company. 
We've been getting a lot of coverage in the UK Nationals recently, featuring in the Telegraph, the Sunday Times, the Metro and now, today,  The Guardian.

Jemima KissPosted byJemima Kiss Monday 23 August 2010 09.54 BST
HulloMail chief executive and founder Andy MunarrizHulloMail chief executive and founder Andy Munarriz
• What's your pitch?
"We answer your phone when you can't, sending messages left by the caller straight to your phone - you can play it back as if it where a music track on your iPod. It also tells you when someone called you but did not leave a message. You can see all your voicemails in one single list with a photo of the person next to each message - this saves you time as you can play each messages by simply selecting it. You don't have to make a call and listen to the person telling you who called, when they called and then wait to hear the messages in the order they were left. It's much less frustrating!

"We have another a cool feature that lets you send a voicemail without having to call that person. Press record, leave your message and then send – it's is quick and free.

"HulloMail is a cloud-based service. Users sign-up by downloading the mobile app from the relevant marketplace (currently AndroidBlackBerryand iPhones in the UK, USA and soon Ireland). Part of the sign-up process sets your mobile divert to our cloud answer service (voicemail, in layman's speak). We then have the ability to answer your phone calls when you don't – essentially, we replace your mobile operator voicemail service. When someone leaves you a message, we then push it directly to the HulloMail mobile app on the phone and also to your email, so you can play it directly from your device or as an MP3 attachment.

"Finally, we let you send new and reply-to voice messages to your contacts without having to make a physical call. These messages are called Hullos - short voice messages you can send directly to fellow HulloMail users or anyone with an email address."

• How do you make money?
"We make most of our money from technology licenses and services, but this will shift to revenue from co-branded cloud-based services for consumers, in conjunction with mobile operators. We also expect the consumer services to pay for themselves when we launch paid-for advanced features from autumn 2010."

• How are you surviving the downturn?

"We are keeping focused and not overextending ourselves. We are lucky that smartphones are still selling like hotcakes and users are hungry forapps."

• What's your background?
"My background is in software and systems design. I consider myself a technologist with a passion of user interface design.

"I've worked for 20 years in software and telecoms. I also founded VoxSurf in 1999, which pioneered the world's first web and open standards-based call completion and messaging platform. This is currently deployed to 35 million users globally. I previously worked for companies such as Accenture and Sprint, specialising in the design, development and installation of service delivery platform architectures to a number of industries. This ranged from phone banking to field force management. I've also authored several mobile web and messaging technology patents."

• What makes your business unique?
"Being the 'son of VoxSurf', HulloMail is in a sweet spot of having large-scale services deployed with mobile operators and now a consumer focus of our own in one of their core service areas. I believe this is a unique and fresh combination in the industry today and places us in a very good position to modernise voice messaging services as a consumer brand. Our strategy to scale the business is to offer mobile operators a co-branded HulloMail. We are extremely focussed and good at what we do so our goal is to work with mobile operators in a fresh way to help deliver a service that people want.

"We are passionate about providing consumer-led innovation as opposed to simply delivering technology for technology-focused solutions, which is what I believe many traditional vendors currently present to mobile operators."

• What has been your biggest achievement so far?
"We licensed our technology to one of the largest telco vendors in our space that continues to use it as the basis of one of their successful platforms today. I cut the code of the prototype for what became our technology platform over a two-week holiday. It still puts a smile on my face when I think of it."

• Who in the tech business inspires you?

"In business James Dyson inspires me. I would imagine that telling VCs you have re-invented the Hoover must have been as hard as telling VCs you have re-invented voicemail. He had to go to Japan to prove a point. I've been luckier - I only had to nip over to Ireland.

"Steve Jobs and his Apple team turned mobile on its head. Despite the negative vibe on their walled garden approach, it is thanks to Apple that companies like HulloMail could prove a mobile concept directly with consumers. Only five years ago it was impossible to deploy an app without getting involved with a device manufacturer and a mobile operator - the process length alone could kill the business."

• What's your biggest challenge?
"Scaling the business, by accelerating consumer growth."

• What's the most important web tool that you use each day? 
"Email – I believe that email continues to be the killer app. However I use email too much and I should call people more often."

• Name your closest competitors

"You have the traditional telco vendors such as an Ericsson orComverse, or Acision selling messaging systems to the mobile operator. You also have the web-based guys such as Google and Google Voice. Neither of them offers mobile operators a web-based cloud model coupled with actual consumer demand for the product, like we do."

• Where do you want the company to be in five years?

"As a recognised telco brand, which is deployed to millions of mobile users."

• Sell to Google, or be bigger than Google?
"If I was a mobile operator focussing on differentiating my services, HulloMail would be a good option to enable a horizontal voice and video messaging strategy across multiple devices. Is there a mobile operator bigger than Google?"

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The International Data Debate

From reading recent news articles, it would appear that the team at Research in Motion (RIM) has had a busy few months working with international governments in a bid to avoid data bans on their BlackBerry devices.
In particular, RIM has agreed to allow both Indian and Saudi Arabian security agencies to monitor data that is being shared by its device. So, is this a trend that we will see expand to other countries over the coming months and what does this mean for you? 
We take the use of such devices for granted, however if this trend was to grow, does it make voice a more compelling medium of communication?   After all, if you are concerned about having your data tracked, perhaps the appeal of simply picking up the phone to make a quick call will become more popular?
Is a world, depicted in George Orwell's famous novel, 1984, becoming more of a reality and in some cases the norm?  The reaction to these latest stories has been moderate; does that mean we are changing our view of privacy in this data-driven world? Maybe it's time to return to the 'private conversation'.
It’s an interesting topic and one that I’m sure people who regularly travel overseas will be monitoring.


Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The History and Future of Voicemail

The History of Voicemail
Some of you may think that HulloMail invented voicemail however we can not take that crown!  While doing some research into the history of voicemail prior to taking part in the Future of Voicemail series with Mobile Industry Review last month, we came across some interesting facts about voicemail that we thought we would share.
Many people believe the father of voicemail was Gordon Matthews.  Gordon was born in 1936 in Tulsa, Oklahoma and was an American inventor and businessman and started one of the first companies which pioneered the commercialisation of voicemail, VMX.  However the first recorded inventor of this technology was a Stephan Boies of IBM which is documented five years before VMX was founded. Gordon however was granted the first voicemail patent in 1979 for his voicemail invention and sold the first system to 3M. Subsequent sales of the service were to corporations such as Kodak, American Express and Intel.
The History of HulloMail 
HulloMail, was formed in 2008, however our journey began back in 1999, when our CEO, on a flight back from Dublin, designed a web solution to allow his family to send him emails by simply using their phone. We believed consumers would benefit from having access to their email from any telephone.  We built a platform and signed up our first customer almost from day one.  Since these early days we have deployed our technology globally and have a wealth of experience in voice, video and related services. After years of working successfully alongside telco businesses, we realised that the services being demanded by consumers were not being addressed by operators because of the technology and feature focus inherent in these organisations. In 2006, we began to evolve our business model to address these consumer demands. This evolution has brought us to where we are today, a customer-led innovation business.
The Future of Voicemail
This has been a popular topic of late as consumers are demanding better voice messaging experiences that their new powerful devices can provide.  In order to get a broad perspective, Mobile Industry Review suggested a series of interviews with key stakeholders in the voice messaging eco-system to assess the future of this important feature which is somewhat taken for granted.  View the full series here 
Our CEO provides some great insights into the future of voicemail - check out what he has to say! 
Do you agree with these observations and comments, let us know your thoughts.  
Where do you see voicemail and voice messaging in 1, 5 or even 10 years time?