Posted by: Olga Kharif on May 10, 2007
Hi everybody! I am posting this for my colleague, Catherine Holahan. Catherine says:
Journalism is one of those professions that attracts the loquacious. Most people simply wouldn’t get involved in a field that requires they have conversations all day and then write about them unless they had the gift of gab and liked to blab. So, that’s why I’m interested to see these services vying to make it easy and cheap to place VoIP calls via my mobile phone. Today, March 10, at 9a.m., a new player has entered the mix. Mobivox, a Canadian-based startup, will officially launch a service enabling anyone with a mobile phone to make on the go, Voice Over Internet Protocol calls across the World Wide Web.
I met with Mobivox CEO Stephane Marceau Wednesday. He’s a former VP at Bell Canada who thought VoIP was too disruptive a technology to take off under the helm of the big telecos. Marceau started the service to solve a few problems he saw with regular telephone service — needing to remember telephone numbers, difficulty making conference calls, and expensive long distance rates — and a few pain points with traditional VoIP services like Skype, such as inability to make calls on the mobile and the need to download software.
Once you set up the service on the Web, there’s no need to download any software. Though, you do have to call the local number Mobivox’s assigns before making calls. In that way, it’s kind of like using a calling card, without needing the card or to pre-pay. Then Mobivox’s disembodied female attendant connects you to everyone else, regardless of where they are or what service they are using, simply by saying their name.
The service, which was released in beta to 1,100 testers and is now launching publicly, enables you to import all your contacts from Skype and other services. (The company plans to make the service compatible with Microsoft Outlook in a few months.) You can also make new contacts by simply entering the phone number and assigning a voice-recognized name. If you want to connect more people to the call, hit the star key and say the new person’s name. Up to ten people can be on the call at once.
Mobivox raised $3 million from Brightspark Ventures and Skypoint Capital. It charges for International calls, though the cost is typically cents per minute thanks to negotiated wholesale rates with International telephone carriers. In the future, Mobivox plans to charge for premium services and potentially incorporate advertising into their business. It’s too early to say exactly how that will work.
Of course, Mobivox has plenty of competition in the mobile VoIP space. There’s EQO and iSkoot — a Massachusetts company that has more than $13.2 million in financing and is backed by Charles River Ventures, Khosla Ventures, ZG Ventures, and Jesselson Capital Corp. The competition seems to guarantee cheaper phone calls for the rest of us as well as more used minutes for the cell phone companies. And that’s good news for any chatty Cathy.