Stellar Startups: Saving money for the busy (and lazy)

Ehud Sharar's product allows customers to offload their expensive cellphone calls to their much cheaper voice-over-IP systems.

By DAVID SHAMAH
April 27, 2010 07:27
4 minute read.
The Jerusalem Post

cellphone biz 88 248. (photo credit: Bloomberg)

Sometimes you’ve got such a good product or service, you can sell it to anyone, anywhere. Like the guy who could sell coals to Newcastle. Or ice to the Eskimos. Or fish to people in Akko (that one’s in the Talmud). Those must have been some tasty fish!

Or, in our case, someone who can sell to cellphone service providers a system that allows – get this – customers to offload their expensive cellphone calls to their much cheaper voice-over-IP systems! It’s either a fantastic product, or Ehud Sharar, CEO of Focus Telecom (http://www.focus-telecom.com/), is one fantastic salesman.

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Actually, it’s a combination (although Sharar is too modest to take too much credit).

“We sell IP services to a number of cellphone and landline phone companies, including Bezeq, Cellcom and others,” he says. “Of course, if communications companies had their way, everyone in the world would use their product alone. But in today’s world, companies and individuals usually have a combination of services to meet their communications needs.

“There’s an added value for any communications company to act not only as a provider but as an integrator, since they can continue to increase and grow their relationship with customers.”

That dictum applies to any number of services in our increasingly integrated world. But Sharar’s company is the first to bring that integration to the cellphone and VoIP worlds. Focus Telecom’s Mobi2Save application lets users offload their contacts to their VoIP phone automatically and integrates it into their VoIP application, enabling them to save up to 70 percent on their phone bill, since they can make calls using their cheaper VoIP service.

Of course, nobody’s forcing anyone to make expensive cellphone calls instead of cheaper VoIP calls; all you have to do is open your VoIP interface and start dialing. But, says Sharar, few bother.

“Nowadays, most people keep their contacts in their cellphones, and they’ve gotten used to the idea of making calls directly from their cellphones by clicking on a name or pressing a button,” he says. “They would rather spend more money for the expensive cellphone call even when they’re at home or in their office next to their computer or landline phone, instead of looking up the number in their contacts directory and typing that number into their VoIP phone or punching it out on their landline phone. It’s just easier that way.”

And while, for many readers, the term “lazy” comes to mind (“foolish,” “wasteful” and other choice adjectives may pop up as well), I can relate: Life is so busy today, many people really can’t spare (or at least think they can’t spare) the 10 seconds needed to search for the contact and dial the number manually.

And so was born Mobi2Save – a seemingly simple application that automatically syncs between your cellphone and your computer, ensuring that you have one-touch access to all your contacts from your VoIP dialer. The syncing is done automatically via a central server, so there’s absolutely no extra work involved.

It sounds like something someone would have thought of long ago. But, Sharar says, as far as he knows, Mobi2Save is the only completely automated cellphone-VoIP syncing system around.

To make things even easier, especially for corporate customers, who are moving in droves these days to VoIP, Sharar suggests outfitting the organization with SNOM VoIP phones (Focus Telecom is the authorized Israel representative for the German makers of the phones).

“It’s an ideal combination,” he says, because even the configuration is done by the Focus Telecom back office, as the phones are already programmed to sync with the Mobi2Save servers; all users have to do is install the syncing app on their cellphones. And the cost of the syncing is included in the service provided by Focus Telecom for SNOM system customers. (Sharar says the syncing service will be available to anyone in the coming months and will cost between NIS 5-NIS 10 in Israel and its equivalent overseas).

Bottom line: With absolutely no extra work on your part, you can find yourself paying 10 agurot for a phone call that would have cost you 40 agurot on your cellphone!

While Mobi2Save is new (it was invented in Israel by Assaf Dahari; Focus Telecom has worldwide licensing rights), the Caesarea-based company has been around since 1995 and has been best known for providing atomic clocks for synchronization in telecoms, where 100% synchronization is essential for ensuring the integrity of data moving along data and voice networks. So, adding synchronization for the end-user is right up the company’s alley.

Bezeq and Israel’s cellphone service providers are working with Focus Telecom, integrating its IP phone systems with other communications solutions, and that integration will continue with the Mobi2Save product as well. Even though a company such as Orange (another Focus Telecom customer), for example, gets less money per call if a customer uses its VoIP service as opposed to its cellphone service, they’re at least getting something out of the deal, Sharar says. That the user is still an Orange customer, and that the company doesn’t have to go out and recruit him/her from another service provider, is a big boon for the company right there, he says.

And cellphone and landline providers do like the product, Sharar says. “We got a lot of positive attention at the recent CeBIT show in Hanover, and we expect to be working with many partners on this,” he says. “It gives a big added-value to IP telephony, making it more attractive and convenient.”

With Mobi2Save, even the very busy (not to mention the lazy) can start saving money on their phone calls!

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