VoIP startup Jaxtr has just launched a new service called FreeConnect that gives members the ability to talk to each other on their mobile phones, free of charge, for as long as they’d like. The service seems too good to be true – unless Jaxtr begins serving ads with each call, FreeConnect has no apparent way of making money. But Jaxtr’s interim CEO Bahman Koohestani says that the company is using the service to expose itself to new members, who may be enticed by the more convenient and feature rich premium services offered by Jaxtr.
The biggest deterrent to using FreeConnect is the number of hoops that users will have to jump through to get started. For starters, both members have to be members of Jaxtr. To initiate the call, you first need to enter the number you’re looking to reach into Jaxtr, which will then spit out a local number for you to call using your cell phone. After calling that number, Jaxtr will send a SMS message to the person you’re calling with a number that’s local for them. Once they dial that number, you enter a free mobile call that can go as long as you’d like. The process is tedious, but after creating the initial connection you can use the same local numbers to reach each other in the future.
Users can skip this ordeal entirely by placing calls using Jaxtr’s (very cheap) paid service, which is probably what the company is hoping will eventually happen. Koohestani says that FreeConnect is not just a trial promotion, but I can’t see the company keeping it going for long unless it can increase membership and convert a significant fraction of new members into paying customers.
The last few months have been rough on Jaxtr. Only a few months after closing an $11 million funding round, the company was forced to lay off 13 employees, and then saw its CEO Konstantin Guericke resign (VP Engineering Bahman Koohestani is acting as an interim CEO).