Denver, Colorado-based VoipReview.org (www.voipreview.org) is an online comparison shopping site for consumers looking for Voice-over-IP phone service. Eric Laughlin is the firm's CEO, who we spoke to last week about the service and to learn a bit more about the Voice-over-IP industry
Techrockies: What is VoipReview.org?
Eric Laughlin: VoipReview is the first, and most popular comparison shopping site for VoIP services, as far as we know. It started about 4 years ago, and we have been referenced by major publications such as the New York Times, BusinessWeek, the Wall Street Journal, and other industry publications. We also power Voice-over-IP search engines like CNET and Tucows. What we do is we provide comparison shopping for VoIP services, from broadband voice services like Vonage. We also have over 4,000 user reviews on 160 providers.
Techrockies: Where did the idea for the site come from, and how are you funded?
Eric Laughlin: About 4 years ago, I heard about VoIP, and tried to find information about providers. I couldn't find anything. It was hard to find who was out there, and information about them. I saw the immediate need for a site to make a choice for VoIP services. We're completely self-funded, and didn't get any venture capital or angel funding.
Techrockies: What's your business model -- is this leads or advertising driven?
Eric Laughlin: We sell advertising. Any company can be listed for free, or they can upgrade their listings, where they get some perks with their upgraded listings, such as we update their calling plan data for them, give them a logo, and other perks. It's advertising based, though we also launched into the business market last year, and that is a lead generation model.
Techrockies: What's your background, and how big is the company now?
Eric Laughlin: My background is I've been running Internet businesses since 1998, quite a long time ago for the Internet. This is one of the businesses that has really caught on and stuck. We're growing rapidly, and we are about five employees, and currently looking to hire more in the next few months.
Techrockies: I'm sure you've been watching all of the woes Vonage is having. What's the future of VoIP services, and where is the industry now?Eric Laughlin: Everything is going to be over Voice over IP, because of the efficiency of the technology. I won't go into all the details, but Voice over IP uses an existing network, one of the things about VoIP which will cause it to be around, and that makes it the number one choice, and maybe the only choice. In terms of which players are going to be around, there is a lot of negative hype around Vonage, which is greatly exaggerated. There is going to be room for independent players, cable players, and companies like Vonage.
Techrockies: How are you seeing consumer adoption?
Eric Laughlin: There's still some confusion out there. Many people think you have to have a computer to use Voice over IP, and don't realize that's also what cable companies are selling as phone service. Penetration is only in the six to eight percent range, maybe. Most of it is cable company phone service, which most people don't realize is Voice over IP. Independents only have a two to three percent market penetration. There's lots of growth because of such a low penetration rate, and there's lots of savings to be had for consumers.
Techrockies: Based on what you see on your site, who are the leading providers?
Eric Laughlin: Vonage is definitely the leading provider, with the most subscribers. SunRocket is 1/10th the size of Vonage. Cable companies are right at their heels by the number of subscribers--Comcast, Time Warner, and other have millions of phone subscribers using Voice over IP.
Teckrockies: Thanks for the interview!