How many times have we heard or said the phrase: “It’s not you, it’s me” or “I’m sorry, but it’s not going the right way” – why do we say these phrases? why are we all so self involved with the way we see the world? are we that self involved and incapable of seeing other perspectives? – the answer in most cases is “YES”. Sorry to say, most CEOs and managers are so self involved, so self centered – that apart from their little point of view, they are incapable of seeing the big picture (or in some extreme cases, any picture).

Over the course of the past few months I’ve come to learn that running your own venture is not about myself and it’s not about the venture – it’s about one simple thing, my ability to let go and let others do their job. Being a tech-head and a CEO is always problematic – it’s the never ending conflict between the “I’ll do it myself in 10 minutes” and the “I need to let go”. It’s so hard to let go, personally speaking, it’s virtually impossible at times. But, and this is the biggest but in the world, if as CEOs we want our companies to evolve, grow, expand and succeed in their goals – we must simply let go.

What have I let go? I have let go of my own personal desire to know each and every line of code in our platform. I’ve let go of my own fear of not having intricate details of each and every one of our products. I’ve let go my overbearing nature of telling other people what and how to do things, and most importantly, I’ve accepted the fact that just like myself – other people prefer to be shown the way, but walk it on their own. Personally speaking, it’s one of the most frightening thing a person needs to do. It’s like walking into a self-driven car, put the destination and sit in the back, grasping the seat with fear, praying and hoping that the car doesn’t crash into another one along the way. But, if you learn how to communicate with said self-driven car – you rapidly realize that while it is autonomous, it listens to you. You are able to direct it and point out various flaws to it – after all, it is intelligent, but still lacks your years of experience and know-how.

So, as I’ve let go of some things, I had to take ownership of other things. While I no longer cared how the “Object Factory” was implemented, and the reasoning of using one library against another was no longer an issue to me – I’ve discovered that my mind started racing to deal with the larger questions. For example: “How to increase my deal funnel?”, “How to I convey my thoughts and ideas in a clearer way?”, “How do I turn my ideas into actionable items?” – and then I realized one little thing, all these questions are no longer about me, they are all about THEM.

Who are THEM? Them are the company employees that work alongside with me with a shared vision, them are the various prospects that we converse with, them are our customers and partners whom we’re at constant communications. It’s no longer about my own personal wellbeing or success – it’s about theirs. Their success become my company’s success, their personal growth and advancement are my advancement and growth – and as they grow and advance, so do I, as a leader, as a CEO, as a person – and as a human being.

In the world of business it’s easy to forget. Easy to forget that we are all human, that we all make mistakes, that at the end of day we all crave and desire the same basic things. I used to work to someone who said: “If an employee doesn’t challenge me technically, I have no use for that employee” –  what a stupid thing to say. This is not a Trivia contest, this is not an academic decathlon, business has its own set of challenges and issues. Some are technical, but most of them are not.

So, what CEO will you be?

For those of you that know me in person, most of you know the various turmoils I’ve gone through during 2017. There is so much I would like to write about, but due to various reasons, I can’t (or don’t want to) write about. Instead of dwelling about what I can’t (or won’t) write about – I would like to write about my own personal process of growth.

Being an entrepreneur is very challenging – everyone will tell you that. If you would ask various entrepreneurs what are their challenges, most of them would indicate one of the following:

  1. Raising funds for my venture
  2. Defining the product
  3. Building a strategy
  4. Hiring the right people
  5. Dealing with customers
  6. Dealing with employees
  7. Dealing with investors
  8. Dealing with Banks
  9. Dealing…
  10. Dealing…
  11. Dealing…

Then if you ask most of them what is the thing they need help with, they will most probably answer: “Oh, I already have people working on all of these – they’re covered”. The thing is, that most entrepreneurs won’t admit, or purely are afraid to admit – the only thing the challenges them truly is: LONELINESS. It never quite hit me, at least as hard as it did during 2017, how lonely is the seat of the CEO.

If you ask my dad how hard the role of the CEO is, he will comment: “It’s not hard, you get the deals, other people do the work and you collect the cash.” – and that is soooooooo wrong. Most CEO’s are alone. Alone with their decisions, alone with their achievements, alone with their failures, alone with their mistakes and alone with their guilt. As CEO’s we are always examined, by our employees, by our customers, by our partners, by the market – if in some manner it is capable of thought or perception, you are being examined, judged and executed according to it. You can be perfect at everything, mess up one little thing – and from that moment you are cursed (at least by one of them) – or if you’re in Hollywood, you’re toxic.

Regardless of what you believe, there are things CEOs can’t talk about with other people. Things that CEOs can talk to other CEOs only – why? because no one other than another CEO will understand these. A CEO may be tackling financial issues, business issues, operational issues or any other type of issue – he is always the CEO, for good and for bad.

Since July 2015 I’ve been undergoing a personal coaching process. For some it would seem really odd that a CEO may need coaching, specifically when that CEO provides mentorship to other start-ups. However, allow me to say the following, every CEO, and I do mean EVERY CEO, needs a personal coach to work them. The coach doesn’t tell you what to do, he simply provides another level of external reflection on your actions and thoughts, kind of like an alter-ego that may sometimes say: “You know, that’s a good idea, have your considered all possible options? can you see other options? can you backup your decision with fact or just gutt feeling?”. Your coach can be a hired business/personal coach, or for the lack of a better term, it can be another CEO you trust, or a seasoned family member with some serious lifelong experience – but it has to be someone you look up to, someone you trust and most importantly, someone who is capable of listening and reflecting with you – not simply tell you what to do.

Since September 2016, the business coaching had evolved into CEO peer review sessions. Peer reviews are really important – I never quite realized how important they are, till I started attending these myself. As I previously said, the CEO chair and office are a lonely one. Being inside a Peer review group of CEOs helps get an additional perspective on things. There are various forms of review boards, the one I am part of is called TAB. Don’t get me wrong, the review board is there not to echo your thoughts, it is there to provide you with a set of “slanted mirrors”, with each CEO in the review board seeing your issues from a different angle – each one giving his own feelings, reflections and experience into the mix. Personally speaking, without the assistance of the review board I’m a part of, I’m not sure I would have been able to pull off 2017 as I did.

Thus, allow me to provide you with the following pieces of advice:

  1. If you are an entrepreneur or CEO and you are contemplating upon an issue, feel free to contact me via the message board – leave me your email, I promise to come back to you.
  2. If you are about to lose your mind about something relating to your business – relax! It’s nothing more than a minor anxiety attack, take a deep breath, pour yourself a nice little drink and reflect. After 5 minutes, trust me, it would all look extremely simple.
  3. Make sure you have someone to confide with – it’s important. If you are going to some form of therapy, DO NOT CONFIDE with your therapist – they are therapist, not business people. Only confide with people who can truly appreciate your currently status and position, anything else is just imagination.

And the most important advice is the following:

With every challenge and difficulty lies an opportunity. Winners see the opportunity in everything, losers see only the difficulties – be a winner

 

As the world around changes, services are rapidly changing from human rendered services, to bots and applications that run on your mobile device. Ranging from your local pizza shop, to a multi-billion corporation – all are rapidly moving to the bot/application economy paradigm – in order to facilitate growth and lower their TCO.

According to SkyHigh Networks study, the following may come as a shock to most – but most  enterprises will use up to 900 different cloud applications. These require an amazing number  of over 1,500 different cloud services in order to work. Out of these 1,500 cloud services, a group of 50 top-most cloud services can be observed, normally relating directly to infrastructure – we’ll call these “Super Clouds”.

The “Super Clouds” can be divided into several “Primary” groups:

– Infrastructure Clouds (Amazon AWS, Google Compute, Microsoft Azure, etc.)
– Customer Relation Clouds (Salesforce, ZenDesk, etc.)
– Real Time Communication Clouds (Twilio, Nexmo, Tropo, etc.)

It is very common for a company to work solely with various cloud services – in order to provide a service. However, using cloud services has a tipping point, which is: “When is a cloud service no longer commercially viable for my service?” – or in other words: “When do I become Uber for  Twilio?”

Twilio’s stock recently dropped significantly, following Uber’s announcement – http://bit.ly/2rVbzxG. Judging from the PR, Uber was paying Twilio over $12M a year for their services, which means that for same cash, Uber could actually buyout a telecom company to do the same service. And apparently, this is exactly what’s going to happen, as Uber works to establish the same level of service with internal resources.

Now, the question that comes to mind is the following: “What is my tipping point?” – and while most will not agree with my writing (specifically if they are working for an RTC Cloud service), every, and I do mean EVERY type of service has a tipping point. To figure out an estimate your tipping point, try following the below rules to provide an “educated guess” of your tipping point – before getting there.

Rules of Thumb

  • Your infrastructure cloud is the least of your worries
    As storage, CPU, networking and bandwidth costs drop world-wide – so does your infrastructure costs. IaaS and PaaS providers are constantly updating prices and are in constant competition. In addition, when you commit to certain sizing, they can be negotiated with. I have several colleagues working at the 3 main competitors – they are in such competition, where they are willing to pay the migration prices and render services for up to 12 or 24 months for free, in order to get new business.
  • Customer Relation Clouds hold your most critical data
    As your service/product is consumer oriented, your customers are your most important asset. Take great care at choosing your partner and make sure you don’t outgrow them. In addition, make sure that if you use one, you truly need their service. Sometimes, a simple VTiger or other self hosted CRM will be enough. In other words, Salesforce isn’t always the answer.
  • Understand your business
    If your business is selling rides (Uber, Lyft, Via, etc), tools like Twilio are a pure expense. If your business is building premium rate services or providing custom IVR services, Twilio is part of your pricing model. Understand how each and every cloud provider affects your business, your bottom line and most importantly, its affect on the consumer.

Normally, most companies in the RTC space will start using Amazon AWS as their IaaS and services such as Twilio, Plivo, Tropo and others as their CPaas. Now, let us examine a hypothetical service use case:

– Step 1: User uses an application to dial into an IVR
– Step 2: IVR uses speech recognition to analyze the caller intent
– Step 3: IVR forwards the call to a PSTN line and records the call for future transcription

Let us assume that we utilize Twilio to store the recordings, Google Speech API for transcription, Twilio for the IVR application and we’re forwarding to a phone number in the US. Now, let’s assume that the average call duration is 5 minutes. Thus, we can extrapolate the following:

– Cost of transcription using Google Speech API: $0.06 USD
– Cost of call termination: $0.065 USD
– Cost of call recording: $0.0125 USD
– Cost of IVR handling at Twilio: $0.06 USD

So, where is the tipping point for this use case? Let’s try and separate into 2 distinct business cases: a chargeable service (a transcription service) and a free service (eg. Uber Driver Connection).

  • A Chargeable Service
    Assumption: we charge a flat $0.25 USD per minute
    Let’s calculate our monthly revenue and expense according to the number of users and minutes served.

– Up-to 1,000 users – generating 50,000 monthly minutes: $12,500 – $9,625 = $2,875
– Up-to 10,000 users – generating 500,000 monthly minutes: $125,000 – $96,250 = $28,750
– Up-to 50,000 users – generating 2,500,000 monthly minutes: $625,000 – $481,250 = $143,750

Honestly, not a bad model for a medium size business. But the minute you take in the multitude of marketing costs, office costs, operational costs, etc – you need around 500,000 users in order to truly make your business profitable. Yes, I can negotiate some volume discounts with Twilio and the Google, but still, even after that, my overall discount will be 20%? maybe 30% – so the math will look like this:

– Up-to 1,000 users – generating 50,000 monthly minutes: $12,500 – $9,625 = $2,875
– Up-to 10,000 users – generating 500,000 monthly minutes with a 30% discount: $125,000 – $48,475 = $57,625
– Up-to 50,000 users – generating 2,500,000 monthly minutes with a 30% discount: $625,000 – $336,875 = $288,125

But, just to be honest with ourselves, even at a monthly cost of $48,475 USD, I can actually build my own platform to do the same thing. In this case, the 500,000 minutes mark is very much a tipping point.

  • A Free Service
    Assumption: we charge a flat $0.00 USD per minute
    Let’s calculate our monthly revenue and expense according to the number of users and minutes served.

– Up-to 1,000 users – generating 50,000 monthly minutes: $9,625
– Up-to 10,000 users – generating 500,000 monthly minutes with a 30% discount: $48,475
– Up-to 50,000 users – generating 2,500,000 monthly minutes with a 30% discount: $336,875

In this case, there is just no case in building this service using Twilio or a similar service, because it will be too darn expensive from the start. Twilio will provide a wonderful test bed and PoV environment, but when push comes to shove – it will just not hold up the financial aspects.This is a major part why services such as Uber, Lyft, Gett and others will eventually leave Twilio type services, simply due to the fact that at some point, the service they are consuming becomes too expensive – and they must take the service back home to make sure they are competitive and profitable.

When Greenfield started working on Cloudonix – we understood from the start the above growth issue, and that’s why Cloudonix isn’t priced or serviced in such a way. In addition, as Cloudonix includes the ability to obtain your own slice of Cloudonix or even your own on premise installation – your investment is always safe.

To learn more about our Cloudonix CPaaS and our On-premise offering, click here.

Following yesterday’s post, I’ve decided to take another set of data – this time following the start of the year, with a specific data profile. What is the profile? I will describe:

  1. The honeypot server in this case was a publically accessible Kamailio server
  2. The honeypot changed its location and IP every 48 hours, over a period of 2 weeks
  3. The honeypot was always located in the same Amazon AWS region – in this case N.California
  4. All calls were replied to with a 200 OK, followed by a playback from an Asterisk server

In this specific case, I wasn’t really interested in the attempted numbers, I was more interested to figure out where attacks are coming from. The results were fairly surprising:

The above table shows a list of attacking IP numbers, the number of attempts from each IP number – and the origin country. For some weird reason, 97% of potential attacks originated in Western Europe. In past years, most of the attempts were located in Eastern European countries and the Far-East, but now this is Mainland Europe (Germany, France, Great Britain).

Can we extrapolate from it a viable security recommendation? absolutely not, it doesn’t mean anything specific – but it could mean one of the following:

  1. The number of hijacked PBX systems in mainland Europe is growing?
  2. The number of hijacked Generic services in mainland Europe is growing?
  3. European VoIP PBX integrators are doing a lousy job at securing their PBX systems?
  4. European VPS providers pay less attention to security matters?

If you pay attention to the attempts originating in France, you would notice a highly similar IP range – down right to the final Class-C network, that is no coincidence, that is negligence.

Now, let’s dig deeper into France and see where they are attempting to dial:

So, on the face of it, these guys are trying to call the US. I wonder what are these numbers for?

Ok, that’s verizon… let’s dig deeper…

Global Crossing? that is interesting… What else is in there???

 

So, all these attempts go to Landlines – which means, these attempts are being dialed most probably into another hijacked system – in order to validate success of finding a newly hijacked system.

Well, if you can give me a different explanation – I’m all open for it. Also, if any of the above carriers are reading this, I suggest you investigate these numbers.

 

 

Who would believe, in the age of Skype, Whatsapp and Facebook – telephony fraud, one of the most lucrative and cleanest form of theft – is still going strong. Applications of the social nature are believed to be harming the world wide carrier market – and carrier are surely complaining to regulators – and for a legitimate reason. But having said that, looking at some alarming fraud attempt statistics, thing will show you a fairly different story.

So, analysing fraud is one of my things, I enjoy dropping honeypots around the world, let them live for a few days and then collect my data. My rig is fairly simplistic:

  1. A have a Homer (www.sipcapture.org) server to capture all my traffic
  2. A have an amazon AWS cloudformation script that launches up instances of Asterisk, FreeSwitch and Kamailio
  3. All instances are pre-configured to report anything back to Homer
  4. Upon receiving a call – it will be rejected with a 403

Why is this a good honeypot scheme? simple – it gives the remote bot a response from the server, making it keep on hitting it with different combinations. In order to make the analysis juicy, I’ve decided to concentrate on the time period between 24.12.2016 till 25.12.2016 – in other words, Christmas.

I have to admit, the results were fairly surprising:

  1. A total of 2000 attacks were registered on the honeypot server
  2. The 2 dominant fraud destinations were: The palestinian authority and the UK
  3. All attacks originated from only 5 distinct IP numbers

Are you wondering what the actual numbers are? Here is the summary:

Row Labels 185.40.4.101 185.62.38.222 195.154.181.149 209.133.210.122 35.166.87.209 Grand Total
441224928354 19         19
441873770007       204   204
76264259990     1     1
17786514103         2 2
972592315527   1774       1774
Grand Total 19 1774 1 204 2 2000

As you can see, the number 972592315527 was dailed 1774 from a single IP – 185.62.38.222. I can only assume this is a botnet of some sort, but the mix of IP numbers intrigued me. So, a fast analysis revealed the following:

Amsterdam? I wonder if it’s a coffee shop or something. The thing that also intrigued me was the phone number, why would the bot continue hitting the same mobile phone number? I couldn’t find any documentation of this number anywhere. Also, the 97259 prefix automatically suggests a mobile number in the PA, so my only conclusion would be that this is a bot looking for a “IPRN” loop hole – which is again fraudulent.

So, if this what happens in 48 hours – you can imagine what happens over a month or a year.

DISCLAIMER:

The above post contains only partial information, from a specific server on a network of worldwide deployed honeypots. The information provided as-is and you may extrapolate or hypothesize what it means – as you see fit. I have only raised some points of discussion and interest.

Should you wish to join the lively discussion on HackerNews, please follow this link: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13354693 for further discussion.