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Interview with Paul Guerin, CEO of Jabber

Our interview today is with Paul Guerin, CEO of Jabber. Jabber is a Denver, Colorado-based company that provides instant messaging and other platform software for the enterprise market. We spoke with Paul and Dave Uhlir, VP of Marketing, to get an idea of how the company is doing and to understand its business better.

Techrockies: Why don't you tell us a little bit about your products and company?

Paul Guerin: Jabber is a company that has been in business since 2000. We currently have approximately 55 employees. We are largely considered to be one of the three, enterprise instant messaging vendors in the marketplace--the other two being IBM and Microsoft. Jabber is differentiated in the marketplace in that we are based on a technology called XMPP, versus the SIMPLE architecture. This enables us to be a more customizable, extensible product offering and in fact enables us to be a platform for building real time, messaging applications--the best example being instant messaging.

Techrockies: Who are the kinds of customers who use your product?

Paul Guerin: Jabber has 150 to 200 customers, and we have a significant footprint in the federal government marketplace--principally DOD, Homeland Security, and security agencies. And we also have a very big presence on Wall Street. Some of the largest financial institutions are Jabber customers. And we also have technology companies as customers, including ISPs, companies like France Telecom, Bellsouth, and Hewlett Packard. Those are the three segments that our customers are primarily in.

Techrockies: Why would someone use your products versus MSN Messenger, Skype, or one of the consumer applications?

Paul Guerin: That's easy to answer. If you are a bank on Wall Street, traders wouldn't use Gmail. For customers, the issues around security etc. etc. require that you implement an enterprise solution rather than a consumer solution. The larger reason they want to use our stuff versus a consumer solution is that they often want to customize the communications they want to have. They may have to set up a text conferencing room, with multiple people, but you might have to have a Chinese wall that does not allow a trader in the room at the same time as an analyst. The ability to program and customize the solution is what our customers come to us for. Another example is you might want to use your instant messaging system to connect to a proprietary database. For example, you may want the latest and greatest in your IBM database forwarded to an instant messaging window. So, a trader who might be talking to a hedge fund customer can at the same time be monitoring news on a stock he's interested in. The minute anything happens--whether it be information from a internal or external database, he can be aware of it. The ability to program and use it for more than just chat, and security are three of the main reasons.

Dave Uhlir: I would also add, if you are running on a public infrastructure, there are issues, even beyond Wall Street and that regulated space, there are intellectual property issues. If you are a law firm, a chip designer, or anything dealing with intellectual property and you're letting employees use public systems in their day to day communications--internally or externally--you're putting at risk your protection of intellectual property. That's why public IM doesn't make sense for anything that is really of value in your communications.

Paul Guerin: That information sent over public IM systems is not encrypted, and not secure. Quite frankly, for a lot of regulated industries, it's not even legal to allow that kind of thing.

Techrockies: Do you do anything with instant messaging archiving and firewalling?

Paul Guerin: All of the messages and events that occur with Jabber users are stored in a database which matters if you have Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPPA, or other compliance requirements. We record all of the events and messages. It's important to not only retain the messages, but if you're trying to demonstrate that an investment banker was not in a chat with a trader, you can prove that they were not in the same room at the same time. The other thing that enables you to do is similar to email--you can store and forward--we can deliver that message when they do become available.

Dave Uhlir: We also provide a lot more than IM, such as presence information. In the IM case, presence states if you are ready, willing, and able to enter into an IM conversation. There's also many other applications of this. For example, is this database available and ready to provide data to middleware processes. If you're on a web page, and there's contact information, what are some of your contact options--for example, click on someone and start a call over Voice over IP. Jabber isn't just an IM company. We're a middleware and information routing system, which is just starting to get broad adoption.

Techrockies: Talk a bit about federation--we see you've been doing some work there?

Paul Guerin: Federation is the ability for one user of an instant messaging system to send an IM to another user of an instant messaging system, and also to be able to include them in their buddy list or their roster. Can we see each other's presence and can we see messages? That's what federation is all about. Since its inception, Jabber has been a company that strongly, strongly believes in federation. Towards that end, we interoperate with AOL, we interoperate with IBM at the same time, and we interoperate with LCS, which is Microsoft's system, IMPS which is a way to communicate with cell phones--and of course, Google. Google is built on the same protocol as Jabber, as are sixteen or seventeen other services. All of those companies that are based on Jabber can automatically federate and talk to each other. All that has to happen is the users of those services have to open up server to server federation. No work is then required, and we seamlessly exchange information.

And, quite frankly, when Google last year introduced their service and announced that they were going to base it on the Jabber protocol, that was a huge boost--not only for Jabber and real time presence but it's been a boost for our business as well. It's been a really strong endorsement of the technology.

Techrockies: Can you talk about your investors and funding?

Paul Guerin: The company today has three primary investors. That is Intel Capital, number two is Innovacom, Innovacom is an European VC that invests money on behalf of France Telecom. And then our primary investor right now is a private VC fund out of out of Wyoming, JONA Group. Jona invests in technology companies specifically in the Wyoming and Colorado corridor, and primarily in high-tech companies.

Techrockies: How much have you raised, and are you looking for more funding?

Paul Guerin: The total funding in the company since its inception has been approximately $18 million dollars. We are in discussions with investors at this time about raising what I call expansion capital. We're clearly not an early stage company since we've been around for awhile and have 150 to 200 customers, but the market for our products is really getting hot right now, so one of the things we're doing is looking for some expansion capital.

Techrockies: Great -- so you mentioned Jabber is more than instant messaging?

Paul Guerin: Jabber is really a platform for building real time presence-based applications, with instant messaging being the best example of that. Say, for example, you had a customer support center. Today, how that works is you get on the telephone, send a fax, or send an email. Suppose instead that you are a person at Company A responsible for supporting printers. In your buddy list you can see the availability of “HP Support” and instead of calling a 1-800 number to get help or find out even if someone is available, you can see that they are there right away. Perhaps when you click on “HP Support” the first thing to come up in your chat window is a form, which you fill out and depending upon the nature of your issue – encapsulated in the form – your request for support is immediately routed to the right representative, based upon their presence and role, who can immediately start an IM session with you. This session could be upgraded with a click to start a voice conversation, and the initial form routed again – along with the IM session – to a database as a trouble ticket,. Here, presence and role are used to route a support form – or in another scenario – a purchase order, in a way that enhances an existing and broadly used method of communications. Customer support is all about providing help faster and more efficiently. In this example and many others, presence and instant messaging technology are used to improve existing processes. Beyond IM, Jabber has emerged as a platform for building applications, and extensions to existing applications, that feed a broad set of use cases for leveraging the inherent advantages of presence, real time messaging. Beyond IM, the ability to efficiently and correctly route chunks of XML in real-time, based on presence, differentiates Jabber from the other companies in this market.

Techrockies: Thanks!