Posted by Tom Foremski - December 4, 2006
Jajah is one of those rare startups that managed to put a tingle down my spine. It's best described as a telecommunications company creating new types of phone call services using Internet technologies.
Jajah is not a VOIP company, don't confuse it with Vonage, or Skype. Jajah uses VOIP but this is not about technology it's about spotting a very large business opportunity. And it's also about innovation in its proper sense.
Jajah has developed what it calls "web activated telephony" which is a mouthful compared with the simplicity of its service. You go to its web site, input your phone number, and the number you want to call, and click to connect--that's it. You use your own phone, there is no download, no headsets to use, it's dead simple. And for many users it is free.
I recently met with Roman Scharf, co-founder of Jajah. "We wanted to create a very simple to use telephony service and one that uses the current telephone system and telephones. Skype is popular but only 3 per cent of Internet users use it. You need to install the software, and you have to be at your PC, and use a headset."
Jajah takes advantage of free local calling by establishing local PBX sites in more than 100 countries and using its network to carry the voice traffic between them. The beauty of this approach is that it leverages the existing global telephone network, and more importantly, it has a massive potential market of existing phone owners--much larger than the number of Internet users.
But how defensible is this approach to competition? "There is a lot that we do on the backend that is not easy to do. Also, it would take at least a year to negotiate all the contracts with the telephone companies around the world." A year is a long time for a competitor to establish the back end infrastructure especially since Jajah is well into phase two--negotiating big partnership deals on the front end.
Mr Scharf says that telephone companies are concerned about Skype and Vonage but not about Jajah. "We work with the phone companies and we help them keep customers. In Germany, for example, there is huge churn in phone customers, the phone companies costs of acquiring customers, so that they can sell them all the other services, is huge. Partnering with Jajah allows them to keep hold of their customers."
Jajah is close to announcing some partnerships with large media companies that will expand its reach. It is also exploring business models that could eventually make all voice calls free, to anywhere.
But this is not all. Jajah will soon be unveiling some very inventive phone call products/services. I'm not able to talk abut them yet but I'm impressed with Jajah's creativity. I'm also amazed that nobody has thought to innovate on the basic telephone platform--which has barely changed in function in 125 years.
Jajah is name you will be seeing a lot because I'm certain that you'll be using its co-branded services in many places--online and offline.
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Robert Scoble recently launched his new video blog project called ScobleShow. He dropped by our office in Mountain View at the end of September and taped an interview with one of our co-founders, Roman Scharf. Roman also does a brief demonstration of Jajah Mobile with special guest Guy Kawasaki.
2513 Charleston Road
Mountain View, CA 94043
JAJAH Technologies S.A.
11A, Boulevard Joseph II
48 Ha'amal St.
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