SNW -- July 2 -- Konstantin is the Founder/CEO of Jaxtr. He was also a co-founder of LinkedIn, and their VP Marketing. - Mark Brooks
What’s your background Konstantin?
I’ve been in the Internet since 1995. I basically started off marketing around virtual worlds and avatars and chats, and building communities where people have roles and responsibilities. Most recently before Jaxtr, I co-founded LinkedIn, which is for leveraging existing business relationships for information research, recruiting, and that sort of thing.
What is Jaxtr?
Our mission is to bring voice to social networks and blogs. With the free Jaxtr service, users can link their phone with their online network. This way, they can hear from callers worldwide and at the same time they can keep their existing phone number private. That’s the core of it. It’s a free call and can be used as a way to make mobile calls internationally for free or at local rates.
Who would you regard as your top competitor?
There’s obviously some people focused on making free international calls like Skype, for example, but with Skype the hidden cost is inconvenience. You have to download software, wear a headset and you can’t use your regular mobile phone. I think companies like Jangl and Grand Central are headed in our direction.
There’s something about talking to people live that’s very exciting but often there are situations where you just want to leave someone a voice message saying, I’ll be 10 minutes late. You don’t want to start getting into conversation. You’re just about to leave the office and you don’t want to get into conversation with your dad halfway around the world. So sending voice messages as well as text messages, through our integrated system is useful. We’re not just about live calls. Of course, live calls, to many people are the main attraction.
What are your favorite new features?
We just added VoiceBlast that allows our users to record, from their phone, a voice blast greeting to their widget. When you have the widget embedded on your Friendster page or MySpace page and people come to the page, your voice speaks to the visitor right way – or you can set it up such that it only plays if visitors click on it. We found that’s something that our users really like and they’re having a lot of fun with it. They can actually update their VoiceBlast by calling into a phone number, so it’s very much geared towards the mobile on-the-go generation.
So you’re helping people define themselves by their voice as well as their picture and profile?
Yes, voice is so important, and how people speak, and the real-time aspect, it all just gives you a much better feel for the person. Just hearing a voice and how people express themselves adds an important dimension. So this is just the start of people basically using the phone message as a way to communicate with other people use and using a microphone and the web as a sort of megaphone.
How are you promoting Jaxtr?
Our users sign up and make the service more useful to them by sharing it with their friends and family. They want to talk to somebody for free and they want to be able to do it from their mobile phone as opposed to a landline phone or sitting in front of a computer with a headset on. So that’s really the motivation. I call that user-generated marketing.
Then, of course, the users who put the widget onto their blog and their social network profile, a lot of people see the widget and say, “oh, I want to get one of those.” Jaxtr has a lot of privacy built in. It’s not just about not sharing your phone number but also controlling basically which phone rings when the person calls, who goes to voicemail and who gets blocked. This is particularly important when you’re in situations where you don’t know who the caller is.
So in terms of promoting it, we think of our marketing budget as giving away something pretty valuable, so that users will want to tell their friends about it. Word of mouth is really the best way. Most people on MySpace care more about what their friends are using than what a company is pushing to them. So we’re putting 100% of our effort into making users happy through providing them with a great service and providing them with incentives that they want to share.
What are your plans for the company?
As a company I think we are really going to focus more on letting users use their voice for self expression and enhancements to caller services.
Our users can use local numbers in cities around the world, so we’ll expand both the number of countries inform where you can call using local numbers as well as the number of cities, so that Jaxtr calls will almost always be free. I think that is going to be very attractive. We already find that most of our users are outside of the US -- particularly in Southern Europe and Latin America.
Look at all the telecom companies and all the revenue there is. That’s a very large revenue bucket and a lot of it is international and mobile. But there’s always been the separate world of mobile phones. People who are on MySpace, if they’re not on MySpace they’re probably talking on their mobile phone. So we are trying to bring the two worlds together.