OPW INTERVIEW -- Aug 31, 2007 -- Jangl has the best and most successful telephony integration on a dating site I've yet to see. It's live on Match.com. The service has been industry tested, is making money and is also live on AdultFriendFinder, Facebook and Tagged. Here's my interview with Mike Cerda. - Mark Brooks
What does Jangl do?
Jangl connects your phone and your online life, safely and privately. That’s it in a nutshell. Jangl bridges someone’s phone with their online presence. And, by online presence, we mean an online dating or social networking profile, a classifieds ad, an auction, a blog, or any other place where there is an online communication happening. The phone wasn’t part of that before Jangl. But by bridging the phone and the web, Jangl is making phone numbers behave and respond to consumers in the same way an email address does – with privacy, control and management features, and ultimately convenience.
What is Jangl’s founding story?
We set out, back in 2005, to build a lifestyle communications company that delivers services without all of the friction of headsets, downloads, and plugging into various pieces of hardware. We also wanted to offer services that consumers can use when they meet people in various ways online – not just another VoIP service based on cheaper long distance.
Thus, our focus on bridging phones with consumers’ online lives. Privacy was the first problem that we needed to solve and that’s what we focused on as a company: you can’t bridge the phone and the web without offering consumers privacy and control. Right after our initial $2 million round with Storm Ventures and Labrador Ventures in 2005, we began working with Match.com to power its MatchTalk service. Of course, that required us to scale very quickly. Six months later, we raised an additional $7 million. Storm Ventures, Labrador Ventures and Cardinal Venture Capital are the three investors in Jangl today.
Ultimately, as steep as that ramp was, it was good for us, because today Jangl is the only company of its type that can power a large-scale deployment like that. Social networks are growing so incredibly quickly, they have to partner with companies that can keep up. In part, that’s why Jangl today connects 20 million online profiles with phones – because we’re a consumer-oriented service with an enterprise-grade network.
Who are your top 5 partners?
Our top 5 partners are Match.com, Various (which has the FriendFinder properties), Tagged.com, Justin.tv and Facebook, with an application called Phonebook. Another one very interesting to me is Revision3 which, among other things, is producing Diggnation, a terrific show with Digg co-founder Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht, and The GigaOM Show with blogger Om Malik and Joyce Kim. It plays into our social media efforts.
Our service is obvious with regard to online dating and social networking because it lets people who are trying to meet each other talk on the phone without exchanging numbers. But, our service isn’t so obvious with social media. Social media is all about producing content and bringing an audience to that content and having everyone engaged in a continuous feedback loop. Jangl brings phones into that loop.
Do people really get anonymous calling yet?
I think they get it when it’s presented in the proper context. I don’t think people sit around and say, “Oh, I wish I had some anonymous calling capability.” People get to emailing and flirting with others online and want to take it to the next level, but aren’t sure if the other person really is who they say they are. They want to be able to control who calls them and when and that’s where we come in. You also have to understand that connecting the phone and the web is a brand new concept. When you describe to people what that means for them, the need for anonymity and privacy and control become much more apparent.
Where is the money?
For Jangl, the money is in licensing, consumer subscriptions and transactions and, soon, advertising. So, for example, take licensing. In online personals, money changes hands between the consumer and the property. When we provide the ability to talk on any phone, from anywhere, with anyone you meet online, we receive a cut of this premium feature.
In social networking, though, money is not changing hands between the consumer and the property. It’s changing hands between Google AdWords and the properties. In social networking, we’re trying to own and monetize the dial tone in those social networks, much the same way the social networks monetize the traffic.
The numbers are staggering when you consider that Jangl is de-siloing two huge markets: the phone and the web. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 200 million online profiles, and 225 million cell phones; worldwide, it’s 500 million profiles and over a billion mobile phones. The global advertising spend in social networking is about $1.4 billion right now, and is expected to double by 20101. Total mobile ad spending is at $1.4 billion, but expected to grow to over $14 billion by 20112. So the numbers are there no matter how you look at it. We’re bridging two huge markets that, for as much as they’ve exploded already, really still have the majority of their growth in front of them.
What are your goals for Jangl through the end of 2008?
It’s all about our service, partnerships, and advertising. Obviously, we’ll continue adding functionality to Jangl itself -- moving beyond talking and texting, and moving into content sharing, more precise control over when and how people can be reached, functionality based around groups of people. We plan to drive more activities through this utility we’re offering. You’ll see us do things in places like Facebook, where we build adjacent applications to promote usage of Jangl Phonebook. You’ll see us do things like this inside Tagged, as well, where we build a service along the lines of phone tag. We’ve got strategies around user-generated content, phone numbers, mobility, and new and interesting partnerships evolving in the classifieds and auction space. We’re doing a lot of plug-ins for other IM clients, for the various mail services that are out there.
In terms of partnerships, vertically, we’d like to get the majority of the top 10 online dating sites using our service, and we’re about to announce another win there. We are in a few of the big eight social networks and want to make our service available to the other social networks as they deploy APIs and so forth.
Also in 2008, we'll be launching our advertising play, talking with buyers and planners, with customers, with different parties associated with the advertising food chain. Again, we're mindful of doing it right – but already having multiple revenue streams lets us take enough time to ensure it is.
We see the rest of 2007 as a real estate land grab because we would much rather be in every profile as part of users’ communication flow rather than being a widget directory. If you can have residency in each of these profiles, half your battle is won. Jangl’s doing smart deals that get us there and that’s what we’re focused on for the rest of this year.