ETel Coverage: LaunchPad Event

by Bruce Stewart

The first-ever ETel Launch Pad event was quite a crowd-pleaser. It didn't hurt that uber-blogger Om Malik was the host of this Demo-style event, and he definitely added a bit of class to the presentation. It also didn't hurt that the event sponsors hosted a reception afterwards, and the libations were flowing freely. But the highlight of the evening was definitely seeing what the chosen entrepreneurs were up to. ETel is all about celebrating the people and companies who are pushing the boundaries and chipping away at the closed systems and walled gardens that have stifled innovative communications services for so long. It's an exciting time in telecommunications.

The entrants were: GrandCentral, OpenFire (previously WIldFire) by Jive Software, and Cellcrypt, Peerant, mySay, the Flat Planet Phone Company, and Project Goth's MIG33,

Craig Walker and Vincent Paquet of GrandCentral demo'd their service, including showing off my favorite feature, the ability to listen in to a voice mail message as it's being left (and break in if desired).

"Voice is collaboration" is the premise behind Jive's OpenFire, which is an open protocol real time collaboration tool. OpenFire now supports SIP, Jingle, and XMPP. They believe that the IM client will be the one desktop client that survives the migration to the network, and they base much of their work on the instant messaging model.

Cellcrypt is focused on voice security, and has a voice encryption client for cell phones, the Cellcrypt Communicator, and launched today a secure voice mail product. The idea is to develop voice security that is as easy to use as https is for secure web transactions, simple enough for mom to use. A new release of Cellcrypt Communicator will be announced next week, which will support more handset models.

Peerant is in the peer-to-peer space, leverages existing P2P and VoIP systems, and is built with Ruby. An eBay demo was shown where a remote call center employee gets access to various information from the caller via an intelligent screen pop. The Peerant P2P Web Manager makes setting up and adding agents to such call center campaigns extremely simple.

mySay is a phone service for staying in touch with their friends, a bit like a voice-based twitter I think. People call mySay, listen to the updates from their friends, and add an update to their friends if they like. mySay is an Irish start-up and their beta is launching in April, but they gave a preview to the ETel audience of their service.

Moshe Maeir is the founder and Chief Flattening Officer of the Flat Planet Phone Company, which was created to bring advanced telephony services to small businesses. They have built a system where SMBs that have multiple locations can operate seamlessly with regards to their communications. They also have developed a unique reseller model, where they will handle the hosting, provisioning, and support aspects of a company's communications
products and services.

Project Goth's MIG33 tries to address the issue that while PSTN and IP telephony rates have plunged, mobile calling, especially internationally, is still very expensive. MIG33 is attempting to bring together mobile VoIP, messaging, and social networking, and connect any two phones via VoIP. MIG33 is based on an ultra light J2ME client (and an AJAX web site and a VoIP desktop client). While most users sign up for the cheap mobile VoIP calling, they find the social aspects very sticky and compelling.

One unique factor to the ETel Launch Pad was that the audience got to participate in real time by casting votes for their favorite entry, using the Mozes SMS-to-Web service. It was neat to see the tallies for each entrant changing as the audience all started texting their choices. The winner will be announced tomorrow.