Over the past few months I have gotten to better know both Jeff Pulver of VON and FWD fame. I’ve also gotten to know Rich Tehrani of TMCNet, the publishers of Internet Telephony and producers of the Internet Telephony conferences.
Both enterprises are in their own way the most ongoing and significant contributors to the growth of the VoIP industry. Both work very hard, striving to do what they deem best. But like anyone who plays the game in the middle in this industry called VoIP, remember I’m a PR guy, a blogger, a journalist and a panel moderator, I’ve enjoyed seeing the differences emerge first hand for more than five years or more.
Terhani is the classic publisher/editor who has become a trade show producer to drive both his business and the industry. A few years ago the Internet Telephony show was on its dying days. Crowds were thin, companies were unable to support the show. In essence Terhani was up the creek and looking for the paddle. And he found it.
That paddle has always been and like will always be the success of what Pulver creates. And while Terhani may disagree, and despite the business rivalry between the two, both play significant rolls in providing a forum for the VoIP industry to grow and flourish, but it’s Pulver, who without a doubt is the poster child for VoIP. When Jeff decided to re-launch VON after Key3Media screwed the trade show biz and VON up, he took a big gamble, seeing if lightning could strike twice. While others, including Terhani and I often get quoted about the growing industry, it’s the wide eyed, ever visualizing, and always responsive Pulver who keeps things going. His never tiring dedication is unsurpassed. His success speaks as I've said to his passion.
While Terhani provides the companies that attend VON another outlet for presence, exposure and sales, Jeff Pulver is more than just a trade show entrepreneur and publisher. He’s the catalyst for the VoIP industry. Pulver innovates with products and services that bring new companies to the space and enables those already in the space to have something more to sell around. Take Bellster, now called FWDOut. The rather misunderstood hobby type free net means there’s another new industry for developers to make products for. Those developers eventually grow up and provide additional panel members, speakers and presenters at conferences that both Pulver and Terhani put on. They also become exhibitors at both conferences, all because Pulver in his own way provides a playground for tomorrow stars today. Look at FWD (Free World Dial Up), as much as it was passed by Skype in notoriety, what it has done is provided a proving ground for interoperability and the use of standards based software. Pulver’s “come join with me” approach to developers and hardware manufacturers really started years ago with Bake Off’s and Interoperability Testing at his shows has led to many a relationships between other companies and technologies for which Jeff gets the greatest of all satisfaction. They end up as happy customers who one day grow up and prosper simply because he gave them the opportunity.
That launching pad has in turn has give Terhani a steady stream of potential advertisers and editorial content to sell ads around for his magazines. You see, without each other, the VoIP industry would not be growing as it is. The two in essence have a symbiotic relationship that makes this industry exciting and fun. Whether they both see it or not is immaterial, it is there and it exists.
This year’s VON puts Pulver and his team at the nexus of attention once again. While Internet Telephony is a great of an on-ramp for companies just getting started or who need an added boost to drive business, it’s less formal nature and more relaxed nature, with smaller crowds and less of the so called, and likely self named, super stars of the industry at the show, makes for a very easy to do business environment. And that's great ! But you see Terhani would say in many ways he competes with Pulver. But really that’s not so. You see Pulver competes only with himself. Each VON event has to be better than the last. Each event has to raise the bar, not because Jeff wants to, because it’s the only way he knows how. Take this years. With Michael Powell as one of the speakers I have no doubt that at least one national news organization will dedicate a crew to the session. Why? VON + VOIP + POWELL equals NEWS..BIG TIME NEWS.
I give both these guys credit. The trade show and conference business is risky business. Many have lost more than their shirts. Technology can be hot one day and craps the next. These two guys both make it easier for so many others to grow.
I say, go to their shows. Both of them. Support them. Both of them.