Blog Post

Jangl This

Hello, this Is Wildfire…. how can I help you…..

It was a bubble ago, when I was first introduced to Wildfire, a follow-me, find-me telephone service, that tracked me down by serial dialing all my phone numbers: office, home or mobile phone. Its simplicty is what made it more than memorable, and it is a damn shame it did not catch on with the masses. It was also an early window into the concept of presence, on wireless and wireline networks.

The transition towards an all-IP network might have flattened the network layers, but it has also increased our communication options. From instant messaging, email, Internet phone numbers, wireless numbers and what not. We are becoming instantly reachable, which is great, but it also poses strange problems. Embarrassing IMs projected on the big screen right in middle of a big presentation! It has happened to us before. Those Schmiddy ads by Verizon are very very real.

Perhaps, that is why we need a way to manage our presence. Presence – which determines how we are going to be contacted, by whom, and how much access we can provide to those who want to reach out and touch. Presence, would be our first line of defense in this hyper connected age. I for one use the Cisco Call Manager features that come with my hosted IP-PBX account from M5 Networks. (I have managed to set-up rules to better manage my call-inflow.) Others use Skype to manage their communications flow. But the presence nirvana is still ways off.

And it is no surprise that start-ups are beginning to throw their hat in the ring. You are all too familiar with iotum, a company I have written in the past. iotum is like the swiss army knife of presence, but there are others who are taking a more niche type focus – such as consumer centric Jangl, a Pleasanton, Calif.-based start-up that just raised $7 million in funding from Cardinal Venture Partners, Storm Ventures and Labrador Ventures. Jangl has raised $9 million in two rounds so far.

What is Jangl?

The company was started by Michael Cerda (CEO) and Ben Dean (CTO) after they met at a VoN show. Though less than a year old, the company has made some solid progress, and is about to go into private beta, and will open for public beta later this year. “In the world of VoIP you have a lot of friction,” says Cerda who spent much of his life selling gear to telecom operators. “You need headsets or ATAs, and consumers need simplicity.”

Jangl has created a bidirectional number, which is acts almost like a direct hotline between two callers. Lets imagine a hypothetical scenario. You meet the girl of your dreams, and she decides that it is too risky to give you her phone number. She, being a hipster that she is, gives you her Jangl handle, say *crazygirlfromthebar. You somehow remember that, and sign-up for Jangl and give her a tingle. (You can sign-up for Jangl by going to their website, or sometime in the future sending a txt message to JANGL.)

Before she gets your call, you have to give your name and some information. If she really wants to talk to you, she agrees to receive the call, and well, there is an instant connection. The system assigns two of you a special number – 925-CRAZY4U. The anonymity of your numbers is protected. Now you can also decide when to pick-up those calls, or send them to the voice mail. Similarly the system can route your calls to different phone numbers as well. All that calling should bring in some good termination dollars (not to mention wireless minutes that will get consumed,) for the carriers, so they should be happy.

Jangl, is introducing a MySpace widget to get some viral traction for its service. This could be quite useful for dating services, and other web platforms such as Craigslist. (My inner cynic says this is Skype-eBay’s ideal scenario minus the $2.6 billion price tag.) “We are thinking more than just privacy but more on relationships,” says Cerda. He says this virtual number should be like your voice URL.

“We are positioning it as a mobile service, and will add premium services which will be attached to your phone bill. ” Cerda seems to have learned the lesson – people pay for mobile services but not for web services. In the future versions of Jangl, Cerda says they will introduce more personalization features. For instance, press 1 to get pics sent to you or press 2 to get directions for a party.

Jangl, Cerda says can do all that is because it has married its own platform with building blocks from companies like Syniverse, Voxeo, mBlox and Level 3 Communications.

The Challenges?

Cerda and Co., might have put together a good solution, but their work is far from done. The tiny company faces a ton of challenges. I can think of three right now, though there might be more.

1. The Jangl system doesn’t make much sense unless it gets massive user adoption.
2. The system, which I have only viewed, not used is far from friction less. Despite all the good work, it could be a lot simpler.
3. Skype, Skype, Skype.

All in all, interesting company to keep an eye on!

13 Responses to “Jangl This”

  1. you’re absolutely right. our new web copy is going up soon which showcases a more diverse set of use cases. yes there’s some dating-since dating is an obvious use case, but there are others. Our aim is to be less transactional and more social-relationship building/or not. Have a peek at some of the videos we recently finished:

    …there are additional links at that page. These are just at my personal .mac site for now while I wait for our new web copy-which goes up this weekend.


  2. ah, now i’m intrigued…if you pull off the communication medium of choice ‘on the fly’ for users, then there’s something cool going on…although the potential there is for far more than dating type stuff…imho, you oughta drop the cute girl/guy spin and make it about ‘connecting with new people’ in general…for example, i could imagine using this (my ‘jangl’ id) for every major tradeshow and conference or event where i might want to chat at a booth but later might change my mind (or completely forget what the exchange was about)…likewise, i’d put my older boy on it (versus giving out his cell phone to anybody ‘new’ from outside his social circle) but that’s not specific to dating, just connecting…

  3. is there a market for anonymous disposable numbers? Yes and it’s niche. To gain mass adoption there must be much more to the story-and there is.

    failed to capitalize on the opportunity to exploit communication agnostic solutions? No, not at all. This is absolutely communication agnostic.

    Check in with us in about a month..


  4. the challenges you present are spot on (namely skype) though i also see a more substantial issue or two: first, the service, while presented as simple and intuitive (as in “yeah, i don’t like to give out my number”) is in fact a multistep process that feels like the analog equivalent of making users click on ten links just to send a note…but the real issue i see is the potential for disposable or alias numbers, both voip and non-voip, just as we’ve seen with email (like and creditcard numbers (mastercard protection services offering valid alias limit accounts)…it’s only a matter of time before sprint, tmobile and the big carriers come forward with an alias-for-security offering that runs across landline and voip – and for that i would pay real money (e.g. keep your ‘real cell number’ and use up to 5 alias numbers, keep them or toss them) – vonage is already well equipped to offer this with their integrated account services for multiple line/number holders, and it’s a short technical walk for skype …

    what bummed me out is that, given their ambitions, they have completely failed to capitalize on the opportunity to exploit communication agnostic solutions, similar to elgoog or microsoft’s vision of going from voice to im to email (etc) on the fly, particularly since this service bridges an acceptance step for initiating communication (like they could simply say “would you like to connect with this person now? and you reply “yes, but by IM not phone”)