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1Mby1M Deal Radar 2012: CallFire, Santa Monica, California

Posted on Monday, Nov 12th 2012

CallFire is a Santa Monica, California–based text messaging and voice platform for businesses. It was founded by a group of friends with a passion for technology and a desire to build a successful company from the ground up and perhaps alter the course of telecom along the way. CallFire provides a cloud platform for businesses that powers two-way communication between businesses and opt-in customers, enabling companies, government agencies and grassroots organizations to instantly and affordably communicate with key audiences. Today, CallFire has 25 employees, more than 50,000 customers and annual revenues of $10 million – and has yet to receive a dime of venture capital.

Dinesh Ravishanker is CEO and co-founder of CallFire, along with Vijesh Mehta and Komnieve Singh. Ravishanker leads corporate strategy, product development, and business development for the company. He is also co-founder of Hallo, an iPhone and Android app that allows anyone, including celebrities, to reach supporters using their actual voices. Ravishanker previously served as president of Skyy Consulting Inc. and has led business analysis and user interface design projects for the U.S. Navy, Pfizer, & Unisys Corp. He earned a B.S. in computer science and an MBA from UC Irvine.  Ravishanker is a recognized leader in the voice space and has focused his career exclusively on the most basic form of human communication – our own voice. A highly entrepreneurial executive, he has a track record involves driving sales through innovative business development and online marketing techniques.

Ravishanker recalls thinking about what was really needed was a way to make call centers more easily scalable.

What the team came up with was a way to simplify telephony, making sophisticated, expensive carrier-class telecom capabilities available through an easy-to-use GUI and API platform, which could be customized in virtually any fashion. With that platform – which was eventually dubbed “CallFire” – businesses, government agencies and grassroots organizations could instantly and affordably create and track text and voice messaging campaigns.

Before taking this brainstorm to market, the three partners became four, with the 2005 addition of Punit (Pete) Shah, a colleague from UC Irvine who went on to study software at Harvard before becoming chief information officer. In 2006, the company added a fifth partner, T.J. Thinakaran, who also completed undergraduate and graduate studies at UC Irvine and joined the company as chief operating officer from IBM, where he was a delivery solution leader.

CallFire blossomed from both inspiration and necessity. Ravishanker incorporated Skyy Consulting in 2004, during his time at UC Irvine’s Merage School of Business. The company began as an open-source software consultancy. The open-source market was blossoming and the founders stumbled upon an open-source VoIP platform that was quickly adopted and nourished as the primary consulting domain. It was then, out of necessity for clients – CallFire began to develop a enterprise telelphony platform – that this platform was created. It is now known as CallFire.com – a genuine pioneer in cloud telephony.

The founders had landed a project with a company that required the use of VoIP technology to complete. That was the beginning of it all. After completing that contract, it was easy to land some more. After several service and custom application contracts the team decided it’d be best to focus on building a product. One year into it, the founders knew they had something. Clients continually mentioned the problems they faced. Ravishanker and his team decided to come up with a solution.

The CallFire solution competes with EZ Texting, Twilio, Varolii, GroupTexting and ConstantContact.

CallFire offers an easy-to-use web application (not simply an API) for services that previously were too complicated or expensive for the typical business. It has created a definitive next-generation platform capable of scaling to meet the exploding global demand for advanced cloud telephony features, services and capacity.

Built from the ground up using technologies leveraged by Internet giants like Facebook, and the feedback of hundreds of customers over a five-year period, CallFire offers a cross-data center SaaS platform with no single point of failure. With CallFire, customers can build almost any telephony application in the cloud.  Customers can opt for a simple user interface or build more complex apps from scratch.

CallFire is high-touch, with a product and service support system in which clients always reach a live person, not a recording.  Hands-on customer care is integral to the culture. Thanks to the cloud, CallFire enlists dozens of carriers, thereby avoiding performance or service issues in the event any one carrier is overcrowded or congested. CallFire is committed to democratizing telecom – scaling it and making it available/affordable to every business, whatever its size, location or discipline. 

CallFire is on a mission to shake up the economics of the telecom business. Providers have historically charged too much for too little. CallFire makes these powerful tools available to everyone, not just big businesses. The company’s business model focuses on providing complete application solutions for businesses, while its open API enables applications to be customized in virtually any fashion.

CallFire integrates a 100-year-old medium (the telephone) with a 30-year-old medium (the Internet) to create a solution that empowers users to communicate via voice effortlessly. Users can send out voice broadcasts to large groups (in some cases hundreds of thousands) in minutes, or can have a distributed call center anywhere in the world work in unison as one office. At the end of the day, to quote Guy Kawasaki, it is all about making meaning in this world. The “meaning” CallFire is aiming to make is to help people communicate using their innate vocal faculties.

Since its formal roll-out in 2007, the CallFire platform has served clients across a diverse array of industries, from automotive, education, and entertainment to finance, healthcare, marketing, and real estate. The platform has been particularly popular with political campaigns, insurance agents and agencies that provide emergency notification and has been embraced by such major brands as Sprint, FedEx, Home Depot, Allstate Insurance, Curves, Gold’s Gym, the Boy Scouts of America, and by political candidates and issue campaigns from both major parties. Even so, most of CallFire’s clients are small businesses looking for an easy and affordable way to communicate with their
customers.

The company has never experienced a quarterly loss. CallFire is currently in the $10 million annual revenue range and growing.

 

This segment is a part in the series : 1Mby1M Deal Radar 2012

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