The Top 10 VoIP Influencers

Updated: May 05, 2009

The world of Voice over IP has become the world of "everything over IP": voice, data, video and more joining in a converged network. The movers and shakers of the VoIP industry have themselves been moved and shaken, in some cases. Here is a list, in no particular order, of people who have been prime influencers of VoIP's evolution and emergence as the premier business communications platform.

1. Jeff Pulver , a pioneer and evangelist of VoIP since the early 1990s, resigned from the board of PulverMedia, the magazine and trade show company he founded, in April 2008. Venture capitalists TICC Capital Group pulled the plug after PulverMedia projected "a sudden and dramatic decline in projected revenues and earnings for the coming year," writing off more than $10 million in debt. Today, pulvermedia.com is parked on domain registrar Go Daddy, idle. But Pulver is not. His latest conference is titled, "Social Media Jungle," and examines how social media is changing the way we work and live. It may be unique in the modern history of conferences for offering a "PowerPoint-free zone" of panel discussions driven by honest, passionate talk instead of precooked hype. You can keep up with Pulver's newest passion at his personal site, Pulver.com .

2. Thomas McCarthy-Howe gave up life as an independent VoIP consultant to take the reins of Jaduka as CEO. Jaduka, a wholly owned subsidiary of NetworkIP, provides a Web Services API that lets companies implement time-sensitive voice notifications, event-triggered alerts, conferencing functionality and Web-initiated dialing, adding voice to business processes and letting them "speak" to employees, partners and customers. Two years ago, Howe resigned his position as CTO of a subsidiary or Comverse to study what he "believed was the next big thing in communications: using the Web as a platform for applications." It seems he found what he sought.

3. Shai Berger , the leader of Keynote Systems' groundbreaking Streaming Perspective performance measurement system, is now co-founder and CEO of Fonolo, a company with a humble and profoundly transformational idea: making voice menus easily navigable. Fonolo transcribes into text the voice menu trees of large companies, displaying options in boxes on your computer screen. Click on the option you want and Fonolo does the button pushing for you. It's speed-dialing for voice menus!

4. Mike Mann , the venture capitalist with a heart, founded Phone.com as a Web-based complete telephony solution for small businesses. It's part of Mann's WashingtonVC investment group. Mann has started, grown, and sold several Internet ventures including the ISP Internet Interstate and the BuyDomains.com secondary market. He is active in philanthropic organizations such as ByteBack.org and Grassroots.org. Mann also operates Make Change! Trust, a charitable fund that supports select non-profit organizations, and authored the book, Make Millions and Make Change!, "a road map for entrepreneurs seeking opportunities to contribute time and money to socially responsible causes."

5. Scott Wharton , founder and CEO of residential videoconferencing service provider Vidtel, Inc., has been recognized as a leader in the VoIP industry for more than 13 years. From 1999 to early 2008, he was the VP of Marketing at BroadSoft, Inc., a leading developer of VoIP application servers. Before that, Scott was vice president of marketing at VocalTec Communications, where he spearheaded the development of the first commercial VoIP product and one of the first IP video products for the consumer market.

6. James Tagg and Alistair Campbell are co-founders of Truphone, which promises to do to mobile international calling rates what VoIP did to landline long-distance rates. Truphone is even more disruptive than Vonage and Skype because it is more easily implemented: Just press a few buttons on your smart phone to start saving big dollars on international calling. Truphone's free iPhone application enables VoIP calls over wifi, cellular calls and the iTouch as well.

7. Bryan Martin , chairman and CEO of 8x8, Inc., has guided his company's Packet8 residential and business IP telephony service through stormy economic waters successfully, tripling its business customer base to more than 15,000 accounts in recent months. Martin holds 35 U.S. patents in the fields of semiconductors, computer architecture, video processing algorithms, videophones and communications. He was named one of the "Top 100 Voices of IP Communications" by Internet Telephony magazine in October 2006.

8. Alec Saunders and Howard Thaw , are co-founders of Ottawa, Ontario-based Iotum. These guys are troublemakers. Why are they offering Calliflower, a free conference calling service with all the bells and whistles? "Because old-school conference calling is a lucrative, high-margin business that's dumb as rocks and ripe to be disrupted by a service that meets the needs of real people and not corporate bean counters."

9. Randy Busch is CEO of Jazinga, one of the fastest-rising stars in the home and small-business VoIP galaxy. Jazinga's small-business telephony system is a single, affordable appliance that combines an enterprise-quality phone system with networking, email and fax. It is designed for small offices and home offices and requires little more than plugging in the device to operate. It has common telephone system features such as auto-attendant, voicemail, conferencing, call forwarding, on-hold music and more.

10. Andy Abramson is the VoIP blogger to the stars. His VoIP Watch blog is a must-read for everyone in the industry, from news editors to equipment makers and corporate purchasing agents.

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