The good news is that VoIP has moved away from its PSTN-replacement phase to a more experimental phase, where start-ups are combining presence, personality management, unified messaging and mobility and coming up with new applications. The bad news is that none of them have hit a home run, yet. TalkPlus, a San Mateo, Calif., based start-up hopes it is the one to hit it out of the park.
The company has been in business since 2004, and is finally getting ready to announce its first beta, perhaps as early as the first week of November. On Monday, October 30th, the company is going to announce that it has received a $5.5 million in Series A financing from Menlo Ventures.
We met with Jeff Black, the chief executive and the founder of the company over the weekend, and he gave us a demo of the service, which is essentially a “virtual number” on your mobile phone. The service needs a tiny application that is downloaded onto your phone and becomes your virtual mobile number, which can make and receive phone calls.
Here is how it works: the service gives you a TalkPlus number that you can pass around freely. The service connects to a TalkPlus server over the data network, and allows you to authenticate your number. All out bound calls from your phone can be made via any of the two phone numbers you have – your cell phone, or this virtual number.
Outbound and inbound calls use the voice channel, and connect to the PSTN network. There is no voice quality degradation, typically a problem with mobile VoIP offerings. Those who are receiving your call can only see your virtual phone ID.
When they want to return your phone call, they can hit call and the call is returned to the virtual number. When they hit send, the call is then routed to the TalkPlus softswitch and then onto your mobile phone. The original cell phone number can stay anonymous, if you so desire, a feature that can come in handy if you are looking for love online or in the bars.
No surprise, TalkPlus is about to hook-up with one of the top five dating sites on the Internet. The service will be free while in beta, but will cost about $10 a month and will come with a slew of features. TalkPlus will share the revenues with its partners, Black told us.
The new service has shades of Jangl, Grand Central, iotum, and several other Voice 2.0 companies. We find the concept intriguing, and once we get our hands on the beta software (which currently runs on most regular phones, but not smart phones,) we will bring you a review. We will look at their business model at that point as well.
What we do love about the service – ability to add a second phone number to your mobile phone. A few European carriers tried to do that with dual SIMs, but to have a work and personal number on the same handset – that alone is a reason to check out TalkPlus.