Editorial

The Evolution of Vodia: A Conversation with President and CEO Christian Stredicke on Vodia’s 10th Anniversary

Eric Altman, Sales Engineer, Vodia: I understand Vodia is reaching its 10-year anniversary. It’s a pretty significant thing. Can you go through the evolution of Vodia? Where we’ve been and, actually, where we’re going? Christian Stredicke, President and CEO, Vodia: It started much longer than ten years ago. It started in 2005 and under a different name, Pbxnsip. “PBX” for PBX, “n” for and “sip” for session initiation protocol. At that time you clearly saw the cloud already, and there was no product readily available that was ready for the cloud but was carrier-grade. There was BroadSoft and a company called Sylantro which was ultimately acquired by BroadSoft. But these were really big, big deployments. There was nothing for a small MSP so it would be able to run a small PBX in the cloud. That was the original goal, to write software that can be used by these people.

The transcription below the video has been revised for readability:

Eric Altman, Sales Engineer, Vodia: I understand Vodia is reaching its 10-year anniversary. It’s a pretty significant thing. Can you go through the evolution of Vodia? Where we’ve been and, actually, where we’re going?

Christian Stredicke, President and CEO, Vodia: It started much longer than ten years ago. It started in 2005 and under a different name, Pbxnsip. “PBX” for PBX, “n” for and “sip” for session initiation protocol. At that time you clearly saw the cloud already, and there was no product readily available that was ready for the cloud but was carrier-grade. There was BroadSoft and a company called Sylantro which was ultimately acquired by BroadSoft. But these were really big, big deployments. There was nothing for a small MSP so it would be able to run a small PBX in the cloud. That was the original goal, to write software that can be used by these people.

EA: Do you think, in that timeframe, we’ve reached those goals?

CS: Well, timing is everything, as they say, and we were a little bit early for the whole topic. I mean, at that time people were struggling: “I cannot answer calls.” Actually they were really basic problems for the SIP protocol. And we may have been a little bit too much ahead of the times, and there was a little bit “dilly-dallying” for a couple of years, and we were honestly a little bit frustrated with the lack of market visibility, and we said, “okay, we’ll move it to snom.”

At that time, most of the phone systems were sold as one bundle. And to a certain degree the big companies are still doing it today, but I would say at that time 90 percent of sales came from closed systems, and we just wanted to have a piece of that pie. So we said, “okay, we’re selling the phone system along with the phones in a closed system that just works, and there’s no interoperability issue whatsoever.” So that was the motivation to put it to snom. We called it snom one, so the product name changed at that point.

Again, timing is everything, and that was the time when it DID take off! The partners at snom weren’t super excited about that, so they said, “hey, now you’re competing with us” and “you don’t want to cooperate with us”…so it didn’t take long and then we said, “okay, let’s spin it off again.” But they didn’t want to use the Pbxnsip name – it’s a little unfortunate, everybody was like, “how do you spell that?” It was a really hard name, so we picked a different name. We called it Vodia, and that was 10 years ago.

So we repositioned it back in the market and BACK to interoperability. At that point, snom – not just snom, but pretty much all the mainstream phone models in the market, the phone vendors…at that time the cloud was becoming a reality. It means we shifted, really, from what we wanted to do more into the cloud space, not so much CPE. And, so, yeah – that was ten years ago, and that’s what we’ve been doing over the last ten years now.

EA: You said, “timing is everything.” And at least, at this time, I feel that everyone “gets” the cloud, whether it’s working from home in the pandemic that got them to do that, or just people willing to go into the cloud. I’ve been in this business a while and talking to those resellers and all who would sell that one package, that premises equipment, they were very hesitant – not because they don’t know phone systems, it’s they weren’t sure of the cloud yet. And I think we’re at a stage now, I think you would agree, that the cloud has been accepted.

CS: So the pandemic…we were trying to tell people for years, you can work from home, you can work from the lake, you can work from the hotel, you can work from the car, everything, so we’re trying, for years and years and years to kind of promote it. Again, it’s like, I mean it takes a long time to educate people, obviously.

And then the pandemic came and suddenly there was the boom: from one day to another, everybody HAD to work from home.

EA: Exactly.

CS: So that gave us a big push. And interoperability-wise, interestingly, it wasn’t about VoIP it was about the browser. So, people saying, “I do not even want to use the software” – actually, “I want to CLOSE the browser at the end of the day when the work is done.” That’s essentially the number one feature of the browser, so you can be really sure no one’s going to call you, right? So that was like, from one day to another we had to deliver that. Luckily, we were ready with WebRTC, so we could deliver that. And over the last two years I would say it was more about apps and browser and then essentially putting the browser into the app…and of course a lot of fine-tuning there.

EA: Closing the browser doesn’t keep you from getting calls anymore, because of the apps, which I think is necessary – everybody is working with apps, every day, so you have to have an app.

CS: Right. Clearly I think the lesson is that user acceptance plays a very big role for work from home because nobody wants to get to this 24/7 role, it’s the work-life balance… and we need to do whatever we can do to make sure people aren’t getting disturbed outside the core working hours. So we have a service flag you can set up and say, “what are the working hours?”, and then outside of those hours we’re not calling the mobile devices. However, if you’re logged into the browser that might be a different story. Or if you’re on a desktop VoIP phone, maybe you’re doing a little bit of overtime in the evening, whatever, right? Staying long in the office? It’d be kind of weird if the phone doesn’t ring. So these little fine-tuning things, that’s making a difference.

EA: Even going back to the basics, I know personally I do this, good old “do not disturb.” You can put yourself in “do not disturb” and then, you know, for the rest of the day you’re not going to get the mobile app calls and you’re not going to obviously get the best “top of browser” calls because that’s closed, so…

CS: And then you have to make tune-up service for the next century, so eventually it has to time out, whatever, maybe at the end of the day or after an hour, two hours…I think we all know that from the “do not disturb” from the cell phones these days, right? They have that, of course, so why doesn’t the PBX have it? These are the little fine-tuning things we need these days, and I think that’s where it’s clearly heading.

EA: Sounds good. Would you like to discuss any future things that Vodia has in mind?

CS: The past, the present and the future, right? No really big surprises. Clearly the apps aren’t going away anytime soon, and I think we’re going to see over the years more and more percentage of apps. But on the other hand, people definitely do want good old-fashioned PBX functionality. So it is a business tool that, despite all the texting and all the other stuff, it’s not going away anytime soon. People want to call a company or support department, they don’t want to call a specific person, and they want to do it from a cell phone and they don’t want to have to do it from an app they have to install first, so this is something we’re going to see for years and years to come; however, they want that transformed into modern technology, and I think that’s clearly what we’re working on and where it’s heading anyway.

EA: And what they’re doing personally, they can do in business. People are on cell phones, they’re on apps, they know how to work with that, so why not work with that in the business as well. But there are still going to be a few that want that desk phone, they want things to be just like they were, and that’s fine, too. Being able to support both of those is really the key.

CS: Exactly, so we can deliver the best of both worlds, so people can pick what they like the most. Some people just want a desktop in the office and nothing at home, right? And others say no, I want it on my mobile phone, wherever I am I want to be able to connect to the PBX. And we can deliver this in the same organization, and I think that’s a beautiful path into the future. Everyone can do their own timing; we’re not forcing anyone.

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