OPW INTERVIEW -- Nov 17, 2006 -- Do singles really want to spend their evenings tapping on a keyboard in front of their computers or would they rather be talking on the phone or in front of each other, to see if they have chemistry? Match just launched matchTalk which is powered by Jangl. I’m advising a new service, Vumber, which is designed specifically for dating sites to help their customers connect by phone (any phone, any where), without divulging their real phone number. Here’s my interview with the President and CEO of Vumber, which is due for launch shortly - Mark Brooks
What are your backgrounds?
Jodd: I founded several telecom companies, common carriers for Hispanic and niche marketplaces, and have been a consultant on very large telecom projects for companies like Wells Fargo, CompuServe, and AT & T. I live both in the technical world and the marketing world.
Cliff: I founded and headed up the Computer Telephony Integration Lab for Williams Communications. We developed software applications that are used by many of the industry’s largest call centers.
What is a Vumber?
Cliff: A Vumber is an anonymous, disposable phone number that can be associated with any phone that you have. It could be your cell phone, your land line or even your fax! It’s completely anonymous and disposable. You can manage it via the internet or through the phone.
Who uses a Vumber?
Cliff: A Vumber can be used by any person needing to protect their identity. What makes our service unique is that not only can you receive calls on your new number but that you can call them from that same number. So, say if someone calls you on your Vumber;. You’ll actually receive the call at your number. But, you’ll also be able to dial out and show the on the caller-id display of whoever you’re calling. Vumber is a true, two way anonymous calling service. This is the only solution that works in both directions on any phone.
How does it work for internet dating companies?
Jodd: Email is somewhat anonymous but being able to talk to someone, in an anonymous fashion, is very important to people at the beginning of a dating relationship. A lot of people would like to be able to use their regular phone to talk with people they’re interested in dating. Especially women. Women, particularly, prefer to connect by phone to hear someone’s voice, before going on a date.
We expect to be able to use this as a driver for new revenues for internet dating services. The Vumber service offerings will be designed specifically for internet daters. We will partner with internet dating sites by offering them CPA based distribution or, if they prefer, their own white label offering. So, they’ll be able to brand the Vumber service as fully their own, and create member packages that will give their users their own unique Vumbers, under their own preferred brand.
So Vumber is essentially a throw-away number for singles?
Jodd: It can be a throw away number or you can keep it for a long period. It doesn’t have to be used just for dating. It can be used any time or any place when you would want a secondary number. It can be disposed of at will and you can have multiple numbers. You can also change those numbers if you wish. You may change how each call is treated in real time, so if you want all calls to go to voice mail or given a busy tone, you can do that too.
The major use is protecting identity and being secure. In the beginning of a relationship, singles shouldn’t give out personally identifying information like their home number or cell number. Once they’ve given out their number to someone it can lead to a lot of discomfort and insecurity if a person they’re interested in turns out later to be someone they’re actually not interested in at all. This can turn people off their whole internet dating experience.
Who’s your competition?
Cliff: We have not seen any company offer a similar product in which you can get an anonymous, two way, disposable number that works on any phone. Some companies offer complex anonymous scenarios that require either a special cell phone or the use of sign-in codes No-one offers a two way anonymous phone number like Vumber.
Tell me more about your patent..
Jodd: We filed a complex technology patent which covers the basis of the Vumber operation. We’ve been told after a significant amount of work that this is may be a landmark patent in the telephony arena and we feel quite comfortable that other people, while they may have various pieces of what we’re doing, won’t be able to offer a total solution for inbound and outbound calling and telephone number management.
What are your plans for 2006 and 2007?
Jodd: We’ll complete the Vumber system for Q4 and show it to selective potential partners. We’re currently talking to users and beginning beta trials. All the feedback so far has been very positive. We want to start to show it to selected companies and then partner with them to make it work for their specific needs and niches.