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Bootstrapping by Services from Wisconsin: SignalWire CEO Anthony Minessale (Part 2)

Posted on Friday, Feb 14th 2020

Sramana Mitra: What year is this happening?

Anthony Minessale: 2002.

Sramana Mitra: What was the competitive landscape like? Were RingCentral and Grasshopper around?

Anthony Minessale: It was right before that. We were alone in the wild when we were doing this.

Sramana Mitra: Is this SignalWire?

Anthony Minessale: No. I can speed the story up if you want to get to SignalWire. The way that we were building the software worked on the outside but technically, the open-source project we were using wasn’t meant for the way we were using it. It had a downside; it would break a lot.

As the product developer, I started digging into this engine. I was trying to fix it. There were two or three things that I built out of it and became dissatisfied. I decided to create my own open-source project called FreeSwitch.

FreeSwitch was created in 2005. It was a telephony platform that allows you to build applications that use multiple internet profiles for communications to manipulate audio. It uses SIP which was the predominant VoIP at that time. We were able to put up high-density traffic. It was a platform that was designed to solve my original problem and that helped the company survive.

When we moved on to other things, it got bigger. The solution got bigger than the problem. FreeSwitch became internationally known. Some of the generation of competitive landscape you mentioned turned to our technology stack to build some of those things.

The advent of our FreeSwitch project ushered in a new area of high-density VoIP applications. You started having adapters building services like the ones you mentioned. This project became so big that lots of large enterprise companies are coming to us for various things. It became clear that we needed to be able to keep up with them.

Because of what we created, there’s a large economic impact in the world. These companies are wanting more and more stuff. We started a path to make sure that we could keep up. That involved taking the code and making it so that people who are using it for industrial use would have some kind of support. We worked on that a few years.

The scalability problem of that was also there because we needed to reach the mainstream. The thing that we’re using right now is an example. We have been seeing that the more people want to use the technology, the easier it has to be to get it. When you put on too many servers, you run into a scalability problem.

Throughout this time, this experience has brought us to this mission that I’ve been on. It’s the category of software-defined telephony. Because of cloud computing and automatically provisioning as many virtual servers you want, making a software-defined telephone stack was critical.

In 2017, we created SignalWire which is the next-generation of this technology brought to the mainstream. It’s something akin to taking something low-level like Linux Kernel or Apache webserver. Telephony is twofold. You have to understand telecommunications, and you have to have all the background of a system administrator.

Enterprise companies continue to try and build things where they needed to create their own network of telephony servers and have a dedicated staff that only understood telephony as well as normal networking stuff. By creating SignalWire, we were creating an elastic network of predefined telephone servers that run in the cloud and can be manipulated so that the application logic is the only thing you have to worry about.

Our mission is to enable all the future generations of telephone and IP communication ideas to not require a giant learning curve and an expensive development time by having them focus on the business logic. We’ve been taking not only the technology in FreeSwitch but also adding more stuff on top of it to make it accessible through APIs and real-time connections so that you can run programs remotely.

We’re working diligently towards making it simpler. We’re building layers of functionality that people are oftentimes reproducing. Things like managing call flows, the routing of telephony traffic, and being able to authenticate. If you give someone a VoIP application, there has to be a server on the other side.

The larger we get and the more successful we are, the easier it becomes to have your communication app have a backbone and allow the SaaS model to apply to telephones also, which we are still pretty far behind. 

This segment is part 2 in the series : Bootstrapping by Services from Wisconsin: SignalWire CEO Anthony Minessale
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