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.

I love the feeling of unboxing a brand new IP phone, specifically, when it’s one that comes from Digium. Yes, I’m a little biased, I admit it – but I’ll do my best to refrain from dancing in the rain with this post.

So, during ITExpo 2017 (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida), Digium unveiled their new D65 Color Screen IP phone. Malcolm Davenport and the good people at Digium were inclined to send me a couple of phones for testing, which I was fairly happy to do – specifically due to the addition of the Opus Codec to the hardware.

If you are not familiar with Opus – you had most probably been living under a rock for the past 3-4 years. Opus is the codec that makes tools like Skype, Hangouts and others work so well. Unlike the traditional g7xx codecs, Opus is a variable bit rate codec, provides HD voice capabilities, has superior network conditions handling (via FEC) and in all – is a far better codec for any VoIP platform. You’re probably asking what is FEC? I’ll explain later.

Consistency and simplicity are a must – and Digium phones are both. One of the things I really like about Digium phones is that they are simple to configure, even without DPMA. The screens are identical to the previous models and are so tight together, that getting a phone up and running takes no longer than a few seconds.

Minor disappointment – the phones were shipped with a firmware that didn’t include the Opus codec – so I had to upgrade the firmware. Ok, no big deal there – but a minor nuisance.

So, I proceeded to get the phone configured to work with our Cloudonix.io platform. What is cloudonix.io? Cloudonix is our home-grown Real Time Communications Cloud platform – but that’s a different post altogether. This nice thing about Cloudonix is that it utilizes Opus to its full extent. Ranging from dynamic Jitter Buffering, Forward Error Correction across the entire media stack, Variable bit rate and sample rate support (via the Cloudonix.io mobile SDK) – in other words, if the Digium phones performs as good as the Cloudonix.io mobile SDK – we have a solid winner here.

So, I hooked the phone up and then proceeded to do some basic condition testing with Opus. All tests were conducted in the following manner:

  • Step 1: Connectivity with no network quality affects
  • Step 2: Introduction of 5% packet loss (using `neteq`)
  • Step 3: Introduction of 10% packet loss (using `neteq`)
  • Step 4: Introduction of 15% packet loss (using `neteq`)
  • Step 5: Introduction of 20% packet loss (using `neteq`)
  • Step 6: Introduction of 25% packet loss (using `neteq`)
  • Step 7: Extreme condition of 40% packet loss (using `neteq`)

Test 1: Media Relay and server located under 150mSec away

  • Step 1: Audio was perfect, HD Voice was exhibited all the way
  • Step 2: Audio was perfect, HD Voice was exhibited all the way
  • Step 3: Audio was good, HD Voice was exhibited all the way, minor network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 4: Audio was good, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, minor network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 5: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, moderate network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 6: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, major network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 7: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, extreme network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in

Test 2: Media Relay and server located under 250mSec away

  • Step 1: Audio was perfect, HD Voice was exhibited all the way
  • Step 2: Audio was perfect, HD Voice was exhibited all the way
  • Step 3: Audio was good, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, minor network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 4: Audio was good, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, moderate network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 5: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, major network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 6: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, major network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 7: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, extreme network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in

Test 3: Media Relay and server located under 450mSec away

  • Step 1: Audio was perfect, SD Voice was exhibited all the way
  • Step 2: Audio was perfect, SD Voice was exhibited all the way
  • Step 3: Audio was good, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, minor network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 4: Audio was good, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, major network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 5: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, major network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 6: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, extreme network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 7: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, extreme network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in

Ok, I was willing to accept the fact that if I’m able to carry a good audio call, for almost 3-4 minutes, while `neteq` was introducing a static 20% packet-loss condition – sounds like a winner to me.

All in all, till I get my hands on the Digium D80 for testing it’s Opus capabilities, the D65 is by far my “Go To Market” IP Phone for desktop Opus support – 2 thumbs up!

The box! What is the box? is it the teaching and constructs we’ve been taught over the years? the sum of experience and know-how? the various community or industry constraints and rules put upon us to conform? – Regardless what the box may be, everybody always tells us to “Think outside of the box”.

However, is “Thinking outside of the box” real? or is it something else? I personally believe the first element, and also the crucial part of that phrase is “Thinking”. Most people are not truly accustomed to thinking, they are mostly accustomed to “doing”, “following”, “leading” – not “thinking”. So, what am I ranting about exactly?

As a technology innovator I don’t believe the box is really there, a problem is a challenge to be resolved – it is not a box. As you can’t confine a problem/challenge to a box, it is an amorphous entity – my thinking patterns can’t be “outside of the box, simple because there is no BOX! The box is only in our mind – forcing ourselves to “Out of box” thinking is actually putting ourselves back into the confines of the box.

Solving complex challenges requires thinking first, then innovation and delivery. While thinking is something most people take for granted, as they believe they do it all the time, it’s actually a fairly complex process. Thinking involves one very special thing – that is letting go. Letting go of your own inhibitions, letting go of your own fear – and foremost, the willingness to step out of your normal comfort zone and looking at problems from a fresh new angle.

Over the course of time, I’ve been involved with multiple ventures that required this type of thinking. Some were successful, some had failed miserably – and some had went up in flames, that left the earth around its remains mostly scorched – with friends now not willing to talk to one another. Why have these companies failed? why have they gone to ashes? most of them actually had very innovative products and ideas, it can’t be that they truly went up in flames – or was actually something else that causes its demise?

Again, we come back to the box – and the realisation that the box, isn’t really a box – it’s an IKEA set of honeycombs, stacked together into a highly complex array of shelves, that are barely viable to the naked eye – but to the keen observer, will present multiple opportunities and possibilities.

Companies, regardless of their industry, are normally built of the same operational units:
1. Management
2. Marketing
3. Sales
4. Operations
5. Human Resources
6. Research and Development
7. Manufacturing

Now, normally – we would expect “out-of-box” thinking from R&D, Marketing and Sales. However, these will always be limited to the ability of Management and Operations to think “out-of-box”. If company management is limited by its thinking – that will automatically affect all operational units in the company – which will eventually bring to its slow and gruesome demise.

Another reason for untimely demise is the inability to respect the so called “Box”. It may be that you are willing to let go of the box, you are willing to say: “The box isn’t real”, but, it may be that your target market or audience is still kept in the “Box”. In such a case, taking your audience out of the “Box” is a highly challenging task – where most pioneers will fail. Why will it fail? it takes a very special individual to be able to do that. Not only he needs to be a true visionary, he needs to be able to convince other people of his belief. And most importantly, it can’t be some random hired person – it has to be a founder, a true believe of the cause, a person so capable of immersing himself in the idea – that it becomes an integral part of his being, anything else will just not work.

It takes a true genius to take an audience and shift their minds from the box, very few had succeeded. Look around you? how many people do you know of who are capable of doing that? Personally speaking, I can list a few, but counting will require less than my right hand. Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Stephen Hawking – these are all pioneers who had challenged the “box” and managed to educate the audience that the “box” isn’t really there. Was Steve Jobs a technology genius? – NO. Is Elon Musk a master electrical engineer, most probably not. They are thought leaders, mind shapers – they are the ones will look at and say: “He’s a smart guy, maybe I should listen to him”, and it’s not really because they are smart. It’s because they were able to convince us, with their own conviction and determination, that they should be listened to.

Dr. Who once said: “I’m just a mad man in a box” (Yes, I’m a moderate whovian), that is further from the truth. The tardis is always “bigger on the inside”, and thus, the “Box” isn’t limited to own physical borders, and anything always “out-of-box”.

So, next time you encounter a problem, try challanging yourself by saying: “Ok, let’s think about this from a new point of view, maybe there is another solution”. Next time when you interview someone for a position at your company, try to say: “Ok, is this guy truly what my team needs? or do I need something else?” – look at the box, shatter it to pieces and build something new from it – out of chaos comes order – out of rubble comes greatness.