Europe has already given us one great VoIP company – Skype, but it looks like European market seems to be interested in giving us more. One of the sexiest entrants to this crowded VoIP game is Vox.io. It is a Slovenia based VoIP company that makes phone calling highly social. Currently it has a web app for browser based calling and an iPhone app.
Founded by Tomaž Štolfa in January 2011 at Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, the company is still pretty young and the team is relatively small (of about 8 employees). However, it has already created some excitement in the media.
The company’s USP lies in its dead-simple design that allows you to directly call from the browser and also the replacement of random phone numbers with Vox.io usernames that are easily shared in your business card. Thus, I don’t have to remember a random phone number such as (+1-443-889-****) and can instead just note my friend’s username (such as vox.io/mike).
The other aspects that are interesting are:
- Browser based calling without the need to install any special apps
- It requires you to verify your phone number, so that the call receiver knows the identity of the caller. This is in contrast to many other VoIP players who allow callers without registering a phone number.
- Easy integration with other social networks such as LinkedIn, Youtube
- A well designed chat app that can possibly replace SMS
- Group calling to include up to 5 people and free calls withing Vox users.
While it provides you options to import Google and LinkedIn contacts, it has no option to import from Facebook. There seems to be no apps for Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry. That might limit its reach, as a big chunk of mobile users in Europe and Asia run Android.
The market is ripe for a rapid growth as a big chunk of the mainstream phone users are yet move to VoIP. Even the biggest player in this market – Skype – still has only 40 million users, that is a fraction of the total number of users for telephony (more than 3 billion) in the world. That leaves a rapid headroom for growth.
The primary competitors – Skype, Viber, and Jajah require apps to be downloaded and installed and doesn’t have as friction-less usage as this application. This is an interesting market and only time will tell if users would prefer ease of use vs. quality (that is reported to be slightly better on Skype than on Vox). Also, there are network effects at play in this market as users of Skype cannot call users of Vox for free and vice versa. This lack of standards and interoperability could make it a winner take all market, with one or two companies only surviving, as the market matures.
Balaji Viswanathan writes for Invest IQ about interesting start-ups in Central and Eastern Europe. Balaji is the founder of Agni Innovation Labs that helps startups and small businesses with their marketing and management strategy. He has been blogging for the past 8 years on technology, finance and business related topics.