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!