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TMC's Chat with Fonolo
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January 16, 2009

TMC's Chat with Fonolo

By Rich Tehrani, CEO, Technology Marketing Corporation

Fonolo is a small start-up with some “really big plans.” The company started about a year ago, after deciding to tackle the most common sources of frustration with the phone system like touch-tone menus. Wanting an easier way to manage calls with large companies Fonolo is devising ways to enhance user phone experiences.

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with Shai Berger (News - Alert) of Fonolo:
Who has influenced you most in your career and why?
My parents.
What excites you most about our industry?
The wild creativity and rapid innovation that characterized web development over the last few years is now coming to the broader communication world.
What areas do you wish you could devote more energy/attention/resources?
Mobile development.
What pain does your company take away for customers?
We make it less frustrating for consumers to deal with large companies over the phone. Specifically, our Deep Dialing technology lets you skip past phone menus. Our Intelligent Call History feature automatically organizes your calls, along with note and recordings.
How did your company get to where it is and where is it headed?
We started about a year ago by brainstorming about what bothers us about phone communications and how we could fix it.
What does your dream mobile device look like?
The functionality of an iPhone combined with the stability and keyboard of a Blackberry.
If you were forced to head Nokia, Google (News - Alert), Yahoo, Microsoft, GM, Cisco, Nortel or the US… Which would you pick and why?
Yahoo. It has the biggest opportunity to improve!
Poof – you become President Obama’s top advisor on tech. What should he do to foster more technology use in the US and abroad?
Increase competition in the broadband and wireless space.
How has open-source changed our space and what more can it do for us?
It’s hard to overstate how groundbreaking Asterisk (News - Alert) was. It did for the phone systems what Linux did to operating systems. As we saw with Linux, when you have a key component available as open source, it spurs innovation both in technology and business model.
When does Microsoft become a major force in communications?
Apple (News - Alert)? RIM, Nokia?
They all are, already.
What surprised you most about 2008?
The q4 market crash, of course!
Assuming we need it (and who couldn’t use some extra cash), what do we tell Congress to get a multibillion dollar US government communications bailout?
I don't think that would be a good use of tax-payer money, actually.
Is the green movement dead now that oil is plummeting in cost?
No, because oil replacement is only a small piece of the overall green movement. Furthermore, it's clear that the long-term trend of oil prices is upward.
How does IP communications help in a recession?
Reduces travel costs, naturally. It will be interesting to watch consumer spending on communication services and see how “recession proof” it is. There is a strong feeling that people have developed such a dependence on their cell phones that they will cut anywhere else, before they cut there. This recession is the first opportunity we have to actually test that.
You are speaking at ITEXPO which takes place Feb 2-4 2009 in Miami. Why do people need to hear what you say, live and in person?
Even though Fonolo is a consumer service, it's important for companies and call centers to follow what we're doing because a) we've learned a lot about what consumers want out of these interactions and b) our service is changing the way consumers and companies interact. I will be talking about how the call center and the IVR system need to evolve.
Make some wild predictions about 2009/10.
Every carrier will be offering flat-rate data plans by the end of the year.

Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world�s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO (News - Alert)). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.

Edited by Jessica Kostek

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