Silicon Valley’s Best Kept Secret Is Out

Thirteen years ago, a serial entrepreneur, who I had worked with in the late 90s and early part of the start of the century, Adityo Prakash talked to me about an idea. The idea was to drive drug discovery, not the traditional way, purely in the lab, but through complex algorithms that would simulate certain interactions in silicon to find drugs for many diseases that impact human health.

 The 13-year quest of Adityo Prakash and Eniko Fodor’s Verseon, a story they kept by design as much as possible in stealth from a communications perspective, could become one of Silicon Valley’s best success stories of a company that has not been on the radar so far.

Last week Sky News in the U.K reported the plans for the company’s IPO. If Verseon is starting to come out of stealth mode then that is because they are ready to show the world just how disruptive the results of their drug development process can be. I expect to see this company go from strength to strength over the coming years.

In essence, what Verseon does is use complex proprietary algorithms to design new drugs that can’t otherwise be found. For the pharma industry this is massive because patents keep expiring on the current drugs and the industry needs these new drugs on a steady basis to produce better treatment outcomes for patients and keep up its many hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue.

For me, this is very personal. Back in 2002, when I was redefining my agency's direction, Adityo approached me for help. That was before he had raised any money. I took a gamble. I helped him with his brand design and initial website, and we brainstormed over Hawaiian food a few times, and together we came up with their original communications strategy. That strategy was to be in stealth mode to most people, while being just visible enough to those who mattered.

You see, at the time their idea was one of those great ideas that was too far ahead of its time. But, as pal Alec Saunders once quipped about what I do, it seems I had picked one that should keep getting bigger.

 

 

 

 


Why T-Mobile Is Winning Customers

I keep watching as T-Mobile is winning new customers and have to admit, that having been one of their customers for over 15 years, as well as with Verizon and AT&T, the Magenta network is constantly getting better. And they are doing a better job than the competition of telling the world that they are.

Honestly, I haven't used my Verizon iPhone 5 that much since the iPhone 6s arrived. The first reason was how poor the voice quality on Verizon has become, especially on calls routed via Google Voice or Switch to the phone. This is the opposite when compared to T-Mobile, where the audio quality is either HD when the other party is calling also on the T-Mobile network, or just better, because their network isn't as crowded. 

The second reason was obviously that I had new iPhone 6's (6 and Plus) that were only GSM editions. 

The third was  even more important. When I'm on T-Mobile's LTE network and using a conferencing service that has an app, like WebEX or GoToMeeting, the audio quality exceeds Verizon and AT&T, though the coverage areas is not as large.  Too often, especially on AT&T if I'm in motion on the highway, I'll drift from LTE into 4G coverage. Out here in San Diego, in the areas surrounding I-5 I found that T-Mo's LTE coverage was not as geographically wide, but where it was, it really was and it didn't come and go as often as AT&T does. 

Lastly, I'm a big user of iTunes Spotify, Pandora and TuneIn when I'm in the mood for music, and while I also have access to SIRIUS XM in the car and via their Apps, sometimes I just want my music or the music I like. T-Mobile's unlimited music delivery means none of what I'm listening to goes against my data cap.

My primary iPad, the iPad Air 2 is also on T-Mobile, so while I haven't yet given up my iPad on AT&T's SIM that is totally and will forever be "unlimited" I found that for the most part I'm not lacking in coverage that often.

Ironically, where I have found T-Mobile to be weakest is at major airports, and that's something they need to address. But it comes at a time when I'm also finding AT&T's coverage in some airports to be less available as airports like San Diego have modernized, but their DAS system is virtually non-existent, if they even have one.

Right now, I'm loving how good T-Mobile is. I'm sure though that the Blue and Red guys will catch up, but by then Sprint will have expanded their network enough to be someone to consider again.

P.S. And, there's one massive reason why they are winning too. It's all in the customer service. Over the past seven months every single need I've had has been addressed professionally, and within the day, on a par with American Express' level of care. 


Just Call Me - Conference Call 3.0

I have seen the future of Conference Calling, and it's "Just Call Me."

Just Call Me was created by Voxygen, the UK telecom product design company started by Dean Elwood (VoIP User, Truphone, etc.) Voxygen started up a few years back with the premise of approaching telephony as "Voice as a Service", the new Just Call Me service is currently only available for O2 users in the UK, but given Voxygen's relationships with Telefonica and other mobile carriers I suspect that won't be the case for long. (To learn more about Voxygen check out the profile from back in January by pal Martin Geddes.)

The quick start guide and video on the O2 web page is a great place to start as it makes it easy to understand how the service works, which is simplicity itself:-

  1. The organizer schedules the call and invites participants

  2. At the appointed time the participants just dial the organizers mobile number to join the call.

No PINs, no dial-in codes.

For those who are asked to join but didn't receive an email invite, they just call the organizers mobile number and the organizer allows them to enter. What's really cool though is the ability for the organizer to direct non call participants to voicemail. This "in call" and in session whisper feature allows the right non-invitees to join the call, while keeping the organizer squarely in control. The host just dials “321” from their mobile to join. If they need to dial in from a landline (deskphone for example) there’s an admin code enabling that.

Available now in the UK, the elegance and simplicity of the service has me wanting to use the service. Beyond the simplicity of Just Call Me, it also overcomes the two biggest hassles I have found with conference calls of late. First, is simply getting people to be able to log on via apps. The second is the disruption that’s caused by echo and delay that third party services seem to arise on IP calls due to a multitude of network, software and hardware.

What Voxygen has done, by integrating the service within the mobile operator's network (O2), helps avoid much of that, as the service has the backbone reliability that carriers and operators can provide. This level of quality can only be achieved because mobile operators have interoperability standards they must follow for calls to pass between networks. Apply that approach  to conference calling, and you have a far better base to build on top of. That's something that has been missing from all the new over the top types.

 

While services like GoToMeeting, WebEx, Calliflower and UberConference run over the top (OTT), what Voxygen has done is "Through the Telco" or "TTT" as Elwood calls it. It's an approach whose time has come, and for constant conference call participants, something that has been needed for a long time.


Twilio Goes Video, Puts Pressure On TokBox Now

For the past two years, when it came to WebRTC video many early developers would look at TokBox and use their platform. Today, the heavyweight of heavyweights in developer programs, Twilio fired a broad shot across the bow and entered the fray. This is big news for WebRTC because Twilio has the key part of the equation. The developers. And that means a lot more than what they have in their stack. Their entry also begs the question how Genband will react as they have been tossing Kandy around for months but with hardly any news about deployments.

Tsahi also raises the same concern I have towards TokBox, but overlooks a key missing piece of the equation. That is the lack of Internet Explorer or Safari compatibility that plagues both TokBox and now will impact Twilio. Both would be well served by working with client, Temasys, whose commercial plug-in brings IE and Safari to WebRTC players. 

So for now, devs working with either Twilio or TokBox will still have to go to Temasys directly to license the functionality.

If I was a developer working on IoT products, apps for iOS or Android or someone looking to appeal to the millennial generation, I'd run, not walk, to Twilio's dev program as this will speed up the adoption of WebRTC even without Microsoft being friendly today. That day will come. Just like Christmas does.

 


Messenger Adding WebRTC Is Big News

BlogGeek.Me has the skinny on Facebook Messenger using WebRTC, and it is big news.

Messenger adding WebRTC is big news because it comes at a time when Skype has taken their eye off the ball. Skype is now chasing the business crowd, and in turn, not doing much to keep the consumer market loyal. And, the consumer market is what Facebook owns.


The addition of real-time communications based voice and video by Facebook, something they have been trying to offer for many years going back to the earliest days of their apps, keeps people inside the universe of Messenger. Given the volume of users who already take advantage of it as an alternative to text messaging,  between Messenger and WhatsApp, Facebook addition of voice strikes a blow against Skype, just as Skype hit the operators.


The deployment also comes at a time when telco/mobile operator voice minutes are declining. Mobile operators are equally under attack on the SMS front, with the assault coming from many of the alternatives that the worldwide youth market uses. And, because the youth market is app first, carrier agnostic, and not operator loyal the long term revenues of operators are at risk.


This risk is there because, in essence, the Millennials care less about the operator and are patently brand disloyal from the start. They also tend to be pre-paid subscribers because they have not yet established credit. Being pre-paid allows them to jump between operators when offered a better deal. They also prefer more about what they communicate than over whose network they are on and will switch in a minute if it suits them. They aren’t even cord cutters for they didn’t even have the cord to cut.


What this means is looking longer term is that Facebook and Messenger will already have the people using their service even before they have a mobile phone because tablets connected to Wi-Fi will be the kids first connection.


By adding WebRTC based voice and video, data channel capabilities and a p2p core just like Skype of old, inside a Facebook tied service you have the makings of an even bigger threat to the telcos that even Skype.

 

And, that's why it's big. BIG..BIG NEWS.