Today, whether it be via Skype or Gmail, making phone calls over the web has become part of our daily routine. While the name may not ring any bells for younger generations, Jeff Pulver is one of the pioneers of that very technology we take for granted. A co-founder of Vonage, one of the biggest and earliest VoIP companies around, Pulver is a self-described futurist, serial entrepreneur and long-time evangelist for VoIP technologies. But lately he’s been largely absent from the space he helped create.
But now the Vonage co-founder is throwing his hat back into the ring as an entrepreneur with Zula, a startup and app by the same name that aims to revolutionize team communication for an increasingly mobile world — for those who’ve grown up on smartphones and social networks.
Put simply, Zula, which is still in stealth, is one of that class of business products that is looking to capitalize on the surge of consumer apps that younger people, weaned on smartphones instead of rotary dials, have used for their first forays into virtual communications with others. Pulver wants Zula to follow them into the working world. No surprise then that they’ve privately been calling it the “WhatsApp for businesses.”
To do that, Pulver has teamed up with co-founder Jacob Ner-David, a serial entrepreneur and communications technology veteran in his own right, who, among other things, co-founded Delta Three, a VoIP provider that he led through a $1 billion IPO on NASDAQ.
With Zula, the two VoIP veterans are getting back into the game and are on a mission to reconsider how teams communicate and collaborate over mobile devices. Zula plans to launch in beta later this summer as an iOS and Android app and aims to help working professionals manage their teams, allowing them to communicate over text, send rich media, make conference calls and share files through a native, mobile-only platform.
While the world has already seen its fair share of productivity apps, messaging apps like Skype, WhatsApp and Viber (to name a few) have been on fire of late, Pulver thinks there’s room for a product that strategically combines the two. There has been a healthy amount of buzz about how popular messaging apps are becoming, he says, but there’s still a serious need for a mobile communication tool that caters to professionals who are looking for robust collaboration functionality to help manage their businesses while on the go.
To get started, the founders have raised $350,000 in seed capital from Israeli crowdfunding site OurCrowd along with contributions from local angel investors, like Gigi Levy and Oded Vardi — and their own pockets.
Since then the team has been dog-fooding the app themselves, Pulver adds, using it to discuss strategy, share company documents, make conference calls and playing around with the best ways to construct meaningful Q&A-style collaboration on mobile.
With a full public release for the app slated for September, there’s no doubt that the startup will be entering a noisy space. But the team hopes they can fill an important gap by creating a mobile-only solution that supports all of the critical functions that teams and working professionals need to stay on top of their tasks and manage their businesses.
Not only that, but with younger generations having grown up on instant messaging, Facebook and SMS, in creating a business-facing communications and collaboration platform for mobile, the co-founders believe it’s critical to create an experience that can appeal to young people entering the workforce. Pulver says that he thinks the best way to do that is to create a kind of “WhatsApp for business” — taken to the next step with a full roster of team collaboration features.
With Dropbox and other big players busy implementing similar plans for the mobile workforce, Zula will have to provide plenty of differentiation on the product front if it hopes to make waves in this space. It’s too early to place any bets, but with two VoIP and communications veterans leading those product decisions, we’re not the only ones who will be keeping tabs on Zula’s progress.
More on Zula in the video below: