fun with video

See how Josh jangls

we love a challenge

Om posted this morning and announced our funding among other things. It's always interesting to see what resonates with whom. Most early
stage company coverage must have a contemplating question (like is this going to work?) otherwise it wouldn't be early stage. Om posed three challenges to jangl, which I'd like to riff on for a sec:

1. The Jangl system doesn't make much sense unless it gets massive user adoption.

2. The system, which I have only viewed, not used is far from friction less. Despite all the good work, it could be a lot simpler.

3. Skype, Skype, Skype.


We love a good challenge, otherwise we wouldn't be here. Here are
some thoughts to the challenges Om poses...

#1: Getting massive user adoption is one obvious measuring stick we have. Of course, we're swinging for the fences. However, getting massive user adoption for us isn't the same as it was for Skype, for example. At first Skype only worked at all if the people you wanted to talk to had Skype. jangl is about enabling new relationships. There is not a required network effect before jangl “makes sense”. We need two people with cell phones (or any other kind of phone) to add our value. That value we add does not change significantly whether we have 100k or 100 mm users. Of course, the more people using it the more people know what a handl is.

#2: I think Om is referring to the first-time use of jangl, as containing friction. Certainly, once it's set up for the first time, there is zero friction. You add that person's jangl # into your contacts as you would any 10-digit number, and call that number every time. In the set up process, you're giving someone your jangl "handl" and they either call the main jangl # and submit that handl, or else go to and enter that handl. In return they get a number that's used on an ongoing basis for you. We like this approach because it's viral, which helps with #1. Of course, a lot of this is simplified with the jangl widget. Oh, another thing I think Om experienced when he called my jangl #, was a caller screening feature I have turned on. It required him to introduce himself before connecting to me; that's an option/feature, not a requirement. Finally, I'll say that all other VoIP based solutions are tied to
VoIP access; rendering them full of friction, i.e. headsets or ATAs. We don't have either.

#3: Skype a challenge for jangl? Well they got the ebay deal so that's certainly a challenge-but I'd argue that we are more of a partner potential to Skype than a competitor. Skype is about free or
cheap talking. jangl is about being a social utility on any phone, but likely your mobile phone. Will Skype eventually do the kind of thing we are doing? Perhaps, but they are client software that the
consumer has to download. We don't have any client software or hardware and work on any phone. In any case, Skype has done great things and paved lots of way in the first gen of consumer VoIP. I think the next gen of consumer VoIP is more about lifestyle.


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funding and thai food

jangl spent the past month fund raising. It wasn't nearly as painful as it was in the past, but some moments were packed with angst. See, when you go out and raise venture capital, you're selling a piece of your company, as you probably know. When we did our first round last Fall, we were selling an idea, the promise that two guys were worthy, the promise of a go-to-market partner, hope and prayers that we could do something that would create value.

Well, just seven months later, we were at it again, raising a second round. . .this time selling a bigger and more proven team, real market traction, the completion of two consumer beta rounds, and imminent plans for a wide launch.

We went out on this extended pitch over the past several weeks, while we still had plenty of runway, mostly because we didn't want to find ourselves in the dead of Sand Hill Summer trying to rally.

While Douglas and the crew were busy getting the wheels up at the ranch, Ben, Pradeep and I were out pedaling. The downside to fund raising is certainly the time it takes from focusing on executing. Driving in the Prius with XM helps, but it really is like crossing seven seas for us. Plus you're up all night revising slide decks and praying the demo gods are on your side.

The upside is the great Thai place on University (the one around the 400 block), the time-killer shopping spree at Stanford Shopping Center (too bad the closed Luomo)... I always end up with some new duds. The other upside is that if you're meant to do this, you thrive on every bit of it.

I must say though, fund raising is like a sport anymore. You're going to get in front of all kinds of folks...folks that are genuinely nice and fun to talk to, folks who can't stay awake, folks that only get a portion of the story, folks that give you confidence that you're really onto something, folks that keep their face in their lunch, folks that ask good and tough questions and folks that ask totally irrelevant questions. It's a delicate balancing act. You have to have your act together and truly anticipate the questions VCs will ask.

You have to remember that no one knows more about your business than you.

At the same time, you have to illustrate an open mind, entertaining their thoughts and musings. If you don't ebb and flow on this, it can cost you. In a first meeting, VCs will often bring another partner and/or an associate to begin. This way they can deliberate in real time and, fundamentally, decide: invest more time to learn, or kill the deal quickly.

We always punted quickly when we weren't feeling the love. "You got to know when the hold 'em, know when to fold 'em," per Kenny Rogers.

There is of course the handful of meetings you have, where the real good partners/firms lend some great insight or provide a great intro.

At the end of the day, a good fund raise rally leaves you tired, relieved, accomplished, a little bit smarter.

After all was said and done during this latest round, one firm stood out for us, and we, apparently, stood out to them.

And that makes three.

Now I just need some of that Thai food.


mobilecrunch talking privacy

MobileCrunch posted an article recently about a company that provides a widget for users to post in a MySpace profile. This widget allows visitors to send a text message to the user from the web, without incurring a fee on the sender's end. Oliver at MobileCrunch, along with many of his commentators, pointed out several security flaws in the service from this company. These issues relate to both the person sending and receiving the SMS message.

As you may know by now, jangl is going to be offering a service that bridges a gap between the online modality of communicating to the offline (read phone) modality. In doing so, one might expect a widget approach as one piece of functionality. In our implementation and others we have planned, we have absolutely built in ways to keep both the sender and receiver of our services secure, private, and with strong abilities to evade abuse. Stay tuned for more.


Counting phones at Counting Crows

This past Sunday me and my boy Nick went to see Counting Crows for the umteenth time. (Ben and I actually saw them this past March at Pulver's VON conference. In fact the same people standing next to me there, where standing in front of me here. Bizarre). Anyway, during the opening act (cool band called Augustana) I saw countless people walking with either a fake margharita or 24 ounce cup of beer in one hand, and their celly in the other. So the deduction here is that it's as common to have a phone in your hand at a concert as it is a beer! Hey, I'd rather it be a phone that those gross garlic fries anyday! I'm always conscious about the "no photography" rule which is printed on every concert ticket, but I saw boatloads of people taking pics from their phones and not getting hauled away, so I thought I'd sneak one into my Q.



Stowe doesn't wear a beret!

It was cool meeting Stowe Boyd a couple weeks ago. I had been meaning to mention it, but was buried in my playbox for a few weeks. The purpose of our meeting was to introduce Stowe to what we're up to, and get his feedback. This cat is very cerebral, and has lots of product sensibility. He immediately suggested we reel in our jangl groups functionality, suggesting it would be more viral. He's absolutely right about that. He also suggested consumers could have a setting whereby they indicate their geography at any given time, for callers to tap into. (No this isn't an LBS thing, it's a user setting thing).

He and I both work on a mac, so we were comparing notes, rather he was showing me how to get more wiz bang in typepad. I did walk away with a cool "It's not a beret" sticker. As you can see in the pic, it's not a beret.

Back to the term viral for a sec...not to get into the weeds here but it seems it's used incorrectly so often anymore. Not by Stowe-actually this has nothing to do with it other than the fact that we chatted about this when we met. Some companies say their service is viral because users are exposed to their service in some way as part of an experience. Well I'm sorry today's standards it's not viral unless newcomers are not only exposed to the service, but also become part of the service, inherently. We'll have our day soon, hopefully proving we've built virality into our offerings.

Anyhow, I look forward to getting Stowe in on the upcoming beta.


Chris groked it quickly

I had the pleasure of sitting down today with Chris Shipley from Guidewire Group who probably sees as many startups as a VC does. She spends her time mapping trends to the marketplace and displaying those insights in a variety of ways, not the least of which is the very well known DEMO show. I knew one my intentions was do actually demo jangl today, yet I know she's probably seen some of the most masterful demos ever. So I took it from the top and talked about how consumers are now accustomed to what e-mail, IM and social networking have done to their communications world, and how it can be anonymous yet personalized, asynchronous yet real-time, controlled yet footloose, and all the while a new medium that consumers would push to new heights, to make it on their terms. Then there's your phone, where none of this has really happened. So we're mapping that mode of online comms out to phones, any phone, regardless of carrier or access type. Chris groked it quickly, and even further validated the approach we're taking to our services and to building a company. I learned that she's got some new stuff going on her end too. Without getting into details that aren't mine to be getting into--suffice it to say that anyone involved in emerging companies ought to be talking to Guidewire Group.


the communications liberation

We had a meeting today where we verbalized what we’ve already realized. We aren’t about anonymous phone services so much as liberating people’s phone behavior. As characterized by Tim in a meeting today anonymous calling gives us the mental picture of an old white van with shades in the windows. That’s not us at all. We have a bigger solution, a bigger vision. Our vision is to liberate people’s communications behavior, allowing them to port their online communications behavior to their phone.

Consumers have come to adopt online communications. This is where we can police inbound communication, and protect ourselves or hide behind outbound communication. Or said differently, this is where we can finally express ourselves in new ways, proliferating ourselves on new channels. How many times have you written something in an e-mail, that you’d never say in person? Lots. But when doing so you weren’t necessarily thinking “I’m anonymous so I’ll say this or that.” It was more like “I can do this so I will.”

So as consumers we’re hip to this mode of communication online, yet there’s this other communication we’ve had for a hundred years (the phone), that hasn’t caught onto these web modalities. That’s where jangl comes in. This is where the cultural relevance comes into play.

Mobile phones specifically allow us to talk and text, but with some web enabled stuff and some voice over IP stuff behind the scenes, we get to a point where for the first time we can apply the web mode to the phone. So yes...we’re giving people the ability to police inbound communication, and protect themselves during outbound communication. Said more accurately, we’re giving people the ability to act on phones the way they’ve come to act online. So it’s not about “disposable, anonymous phone numbers”, it’s about liberating an old school habit!

SMS is the next inflection point in text communication

Ben and I have been talking lately about SMS being the next inflection point in the evolution of text messaging. For time sake, I'll spare handwritten letters, faxes and telex, and go straight to modern times with e-mail and then IM. In each of these inflections, consumers basically did the same thing from a behavioral stand point. Consumers embraced a medium, got used to it, found new ways to leverage it, and ultimately personalized it.

E-mail: Consumers used unix based e-mail systems at schools, then eventually through ISPs such as AOL, Prodigy and Compuserve. Then they went out and used e-mail services like Hotmail and Yahoo!. Many people used these services for specific purposes, such as lurking or socializing. They eventually personalized their e-mail addresses, such as, but also had other less revealing addresses like

IM: Consumers' buddy lists on IM services began as a few friends or relatives. It was truly a tight buddy list originally. But over time, as consumers gained more comfort with the medium, they began adding people to their buddy list-perhaps people that they only met online somewhere. Now, some people have more buddy list friends than offline face to face friends. What's more, is consumers now customize their avatar, dress it up, buy Nikes for it, etc.

(Not to deviate from the thesis, but mobile phones in general have been this way too. For example, mobile phones used to be scarce, only used for emergencies or for business, but are now standard issue. Wallpaper, colored phones, ringtones, ringback tones, etc, are all examples of personalization. Again, consumers start the adoption curve carefully, but then take the medium head on).

So here we are with SMS, the next inflection in text messaging. This is really quite analogous to IM, but with mobility and a phone number addressing scheme. Consumers are indeed growing more and more comfortable with this medium, using it more, even though it costs money each time. Consumers are even texting with people they don't know well. What if e-mail addresses contained your home phone number? No way right. Well that's what happened with SMS. We figured someone had to try and address this issue, so that's one of the things we're doing. That's a long winded way of saying that I think jangl will play a part in the continued evolution of text messaging. There's basic usage and then as consumers get more comfortable with it, we'll help them personalize it. We'll even take it so far as to say consumers will be able to publish access to their phone number in places like MySpace. As always, there's more to come.


we got the beat

It's been fun to watch what was an early rendition of our story expand from what was one blog by Mike Bazeley. It was more surprising to see it picked up by Gadgets Blog on CNET, mostly because we haven't even talked with them yet. There was one clarification I thought I'd make to the following blurb from that post:

START BLURB: "The first time someone calls a Jangl number, they go through an approval process that consists of back-and-forth key commands between the caller and the Jangl user.

If the caller is approved, they're added to the "white list" and all succeeding calls are connected more quickly. If a caller is not approved, they will never know the Jangl user's true phone number. The service thus bails the user out of a number of potentially uncomfortable situations."END BLURB

Ok, so there is no set of back and forth key commands. We believe it's critical to make the user experience much more seamless than that.

There is a feature users may or may not choose to use to screen calls. When this feature is enabled, the caller is prompted to make an introduction when calling a jangler, i.e. "Hey it's Mike, the guy from the bar." While Mike holds the jangler's real phone rings and she's allowed to hear the intro, and choose to accept or reject. I think that's what Bazeley was referring to in his post.

One other point to at least allude to...all this talk has been about talk. Guess what else mobile phone numbers are used for? Yep, text. It may turn out that more people jangl with text functionality than voice functionality. We'll test that in the upcoming beta.


The paper lives on

I went to the store to get some bagles for the family this past Sunday. I kind of felt everyone was looking at me for some reason. On my way out of the place I saw a huge picture of Ben and I on the cover of the Business & Technology section of the Contra Costa Times (we live in CoCo county). I knew there was going to be an article covering east bay financings, and that we'd be a part of it, but I had no idea our mugs would take up half the page. The online version was without pics, but is a nice article in any case. The upside, in my small town of Alamo, is that people realize only now that I don't sell computers for a living. It also goes to show us that people really still do read the paper. I haven't had a subcription in years.

While this and lots of other commentary lately characterize jangl as the source for private phone numbers, we view ourselves more as the source for liberating consumers communications. As Ben mentioned to me over the weekend "You are no longer just a number."

BTW, we had to create a new blog here, so unfortunately, those with RSS feeds have broken links. I'm posting this message on both sites.


The paper

I went to the store to get some bagles for the family this past Sunday. I kind of felt everyone was looking at me for some reason. On my way out of the place I saw a huge picture of Ben and I on the cover of the Business & Technology section of the Contra Costa Times (we live in CoCo county). I knew there was going to be an article covering east bay financings, and that we'd be a part of it, but I had no idea our mugs would take up half the page. The online version was without pics, but is a nice article in any case. The upside, in my small town of Alamo, is that people realize only now that I don't sell computers for a living. It also goes to show us that people really still do read the paper. I haven't had a subcription in years.

While this and lots of other commentary lately characterize jangl as the source for private phone numbers, we view ourselves more as the source for liberating consumers communications. As Ben mentioned to me over the weekend "You are no longer just a number."

BTW, we had to create a new blog here, so unfortunately, those with RSS feeds have broken links. I'm posting this message on both sites.


Anonymity: 1-way or 2-way?

There seems to be growing noise (and thus confusion) around what constitutes an anonymous calling solution. Most of the noise is based around the 1-way anonymizers (meaning only that my privacy is protected when people call me on that number, but not when I call them). These are the many companies that offer consumers a number, a bridge, or a number + extension, whereby the consumer posts these private numbers or hands them out. These numbers then forward to a real number so consumers can receive calls without having to forfeit their personal privacy. When that consumer needs to call the person back, caller ID compromises the anonymity that was originally desired. Of course, more sophisticated users could presumably activate 'caller ID blocking'. Brother I've been in telecom, networking and related areas for over a decade and I couldn't tell you what the code is to activate and de-activate caller ID blocking. We've certainly learned from the several hundred folks in our closed beta programs, that they don't either. In fact, in our first closed beta, we too had one of these solutions. Not only did we confirm the obvious on this point, but another very important issue became apparent... Let's say I hand out my 1-way anonymous number to 30 people. Well I want to dispose of the number because one of those people are hassling me. So I dispose of it, and now I've disposed of the number that the other 29 people had! Wrong answer. Of course I could black list the person hassling me by blocking their phone number, but then they could just call me from another number.

Consumers need these kinds of solutions to behave like a utility. If they want to maintain their privacy, then they want to maintain their privacy 100%. 1-way implementations are 50%. The obvious point here is that solutions like ours are 2-way solutions, where one's privacy is secured when making and receiving calls. The trick is to build them around a simple yet functional user interface (both voice and graphically). Not only are we doing this, but we're making it work with familiar user behavior...we're making it happen in multiple modalities. You'll see what I mean soon.


Extra, extra. Read all about it.

Well we’ve taken another step toward our organic evolution at Jangl. We’ve abandoned our former stealth website with only a betareg page and a blog, for a less stealthy (but not overwhelmingly telling yet;) website. We still laugh when watching the eyebrows go up and down in the home page animation. In addition, we met with Mike Bazeley of Silicon Beat this past week. He ‘gets it’ on several levels. I’m still improving the way we tell our story too, and have already revamped my Keynote pitch since this meeting. It makes for an interesting transition when you live and breathe something everyday, to articulate your value proposition to someone new to it. Bazeley contemplated a few questions in his blog. I thought I’d take advantage of this media and perhaps color up some additional perspective on those questions.

1. Is phone privacy that big an issue that people will want to use this?

I think the whole phone privacy thing is bigger than we realize. It’s probably safe to say most of us look at caller ID before picking up a call (“Eww, I don’t want to talk to this clown right now”). And in the days of answering machines, most of us screened incoming calls before picking them up. Why? Because we want control over who we talk to and when.

2. Privacy aside, is there an opportunity to use Jangl to connect with your social networks?

Most of us have people in our social networking profiles that we don’t either know as well, or don’t know beyond being connected in that network. (For example, I don’t know Tom on MySpace, but he’s my friend nonetheless). So often times we have a way to IM or e-mail through those networks (anonymously mind you). We’re a way to port those communications out to our phones, where we spend even more time than on PCs (or Macs in my case:).

3. Can Jangl keep the connection time down to a reasonable level so that it doesn’t annoy people?
Would you wait 10,15,25 seconds for a call to go through?

It seems most calls take 25 seconds to reach someone anyway (or reach their voice greeting). So as long as we’re talking about substituting our connect time with that typical ringing wait, then I think it’s all good. Also, if there’s utility associated with that wait, we as consumers are proving that we are just fine by it (ringback tones: ‘please enjoy the music while we find your party’). In our case, we’re giving the OPTION to screen the incoming call from a mobile phone. So the length of time it takes to be reached will ultimately be up to the user of the service.

4. Will users endure micro ads in their phone calls?

If the ads are a) relevant b) of value c) brief and d) played when I’d otherwise be listening to the class 5 phone ring, then it seems like a fine user experience. Only time and usage will tell. If users won't endure micro ads, then they won't have to. I know the free 411 services are doing audio ads. I have no problem listening to an ad in exchange for paying $1.40 per 411 call. What's my privacy worth?

We’ll Jangl soon.


It takes two to "JANGL"

Ok, I've been sitting on this long enough. To any passer-bys to this blog, be it potential users of our services, press, vendors, partners, competitors, investors, etc... let it be known that we have changed our name from Buzzage, to "JANGL". If anyone wonders why, then have a peek at the prior post. Hopefully next time you log onto or, there will be something more than a green registration page!

We launch a flavor of our service into a partner's network any minute now, and then some number of weeks later we'll open up our beta 3 round, which will be much larger and deeper than our prior rounds. For those that have been registering, it will be worth the wait. Again, we're focusing on one's phone privacy initially, but using a method that you've never seen nor heard of. Hopefully this will become a phenomenon that makes us look back one day and wonder how we got on without it. I won't look too far into the crystal ball and say this will rival IM adoption and use cases, but it's an interesting proxy to contemplate-in many ways.

Let's jangl. Jangl me. Welcome to the jangl. Socially active consumers beware.


Give it a name

No I don’t mean the phrase from “Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead” and no I don’t mean the title of “The Names” 2nd release. I do mean Buzzage. Buzzage is an appropriate name for our company. The age of buzz. Buzz being what you do when you call someone. Give me a buzz. Etc. We’ve put a lot of work into innovating marketing into our service, so that when people call Buzzage users, they in effect become Buzzage users too. (They call that viral marketing in the business). The key to helping something viral see the light of day, is stoking the viral fire so to speak. Arguably one way to improve your chances at something like this is to choose a name that functions on a number of levels, which in are case are:

-The name of the service should be verb-able. For example, “Skype me”, “I googled you”, etc.
-The name of the initial service should be synonymous with the company name. This way you’re investing in a single name, as opposed to multiple brand names.
-The SMS short code should be available, and thus the word can’t exceed 5 characters. This is key since we’ll have an SMS component to our service.
-The name should ideally be one or two syllables.
-A toll free phone number with the name should be available.
-Domain name should be obtainable.
-It helps to at least sound like it has something to do with what you do.

I’m sure the pros would say more, but this is the baseline for us. To that end we've decided on a new name as we near launch time. We’ve scoured dozens of names and approaches. A girl in her mid 20s that we haven’t even met before actually came up with our new name. Our PR firm and design firm helped a great deal.

Oh, what’s the name you ask? Coming soon. Real soon.

Wireless Ventures (20 more minutes of fame)


We had 10 minutes of fame at a previous Dow Jones Venture One Summit as I pointed out a few weeks ago. Since we hadn't launched the company to the public yet, I had to sing and dance, especially when their projector didn't recognize my mac. I guess it went 'good enough' though, since they asked us to speak at their Wireless Ventures event. (This time I made damn sure that the projector worked in advance). Since we still haven't publicly launched, I still had to sing and dance...only this time was able to say more since we're getting closer. That was cancelled out by the fact that there were 20 minutes of talk time though...

Anyway, getting to the point... It seemed as though there were lots of companies that had apps that would a) require a presence on the mobile carrier deck, b) require support for the various mobile devices c) require a huge split on the take due to premium SMS based billing and d) if they were ad supported, they were putting the ads on a mobile web app only. A & B could starve a start up, C could make it a painful haul, and D is simply painful for the consumer. On D...I suppose all this gets better as data rates on phones improve, but man, I've got a Treo and STILL can't deal with the web interface.

It seemed as though we were one of the only (if not the only) that have taken a step back from all these issues, and decided to provide a service that is agnostic to the carrier, the device (and the access medium actually). Since we're working at the common denomenator and keeping the junk behind the scenes, it will hopefully make for a more compelling consumer experience and more optimal delivery experience. I thank our lucky stars for this fundamental level of differentiation.

To this end, there was a VC paneled wrap up session in the end. Each of these VCs took the stage and had been assigned a particular track to pay attention to throughout the day. So in this session they would compare and contrast the presenting company strategies. One of our investors, Alex Mendez was among them, however he wasn't assigned to our track. Instead Roland Van Der Meer, another VC we think highly of was assigned to our track. One of his teamates Baris Karadogan, who we didn't know prior, stood in for him though. I met him briefly in the hallway, and it was clear he had a strong sensibility for the space. When asked to point out his pick of the day, his answer was Buzzage. Nice. I knew I liked him.


Your phone is your castle.

We were sitting with our PR firm today and our guy Tim came up with a phrase "your phone is your castle". It's good on a couple different levels. First, it's a play on 'your home is your castle'. Second it's actually true. Find me somebody that doesn't carry that phone with them at all times, whether it's the people that still wear them on their belts like cowboys with pistols, or those that toss them in their pockets, purses, drink holder in the car, or just sit them on the desk...if you can find someone that doesn't do one of these regularly, they're the exception.

We have a beta offering now (which is a portion of what we'll offer in the not too distant future) which actually allows consumers to control and manage who calls them and when. It's not a secret now that consumer privacy is the first of multiple facets of "lifestyle communications" that we're working on. Eventual versions contemplate these types of functions for a caller and a callee at the same time. So imagine you're posting a personal ad or a social networking profile, and you wish to include a phone number. What do you do? Stranger

Ten Minutes of Fame

We had 10 minutes to talk at the Dow Jones Venture One Summit this past week. It was fun to present on the same track as a former boss, who now runs a company called Stoke. (They seem to be doing some cool stuff from an infrastructure stand point). Since we haven't launched Buzzage yet, and since it was only 10 minutes, we kept our presentation high level. In fact, my mac didn't jive with the projector, so no one even saw my slides-which kept it even more cryptic-for better or worse. (If any readers here were in the meeting, send me an e-mail and I'll see about forwarding the slides).


I noted a few things during my attendance: that hype is as strong an attribute as ever for a company, that youth oriented companies are the rage, that there's more excitement on services folks can touch and feel, and that free services are just fine. It sounds bubblicious I know. The good news for all of us (as consumers), is that everyone seems to be much more in tune to user experience issues/opportunities than ever before. The opportunity/challenge is for companies to balance functionality with ease of use..

Turn it on, turn it on again, etc

Ok just to close an opened loop, the next round of beta did roll out today. (Enjoy, those who are testing, and thanks for taking the time). It's time to now open an unopened bottle;).