I sat down for a casual breakfast and stream-of-consciousness chat with Ari Jacoby, CEO, VoiceStar, a few weeks back (during the Kelsey show) and managed to take a few notes amidst talking, listening, eating and various stop-ins from passer’s by.
The following is a reformulated (i.e., not literal nor verbatim) transcript of our discussion; I just formatted it this way as I think it’s easier to read (and far quicker to write)…
Q: Where does VoiceStar fit in vs. DCCI and Ingenio?
A: As a continuum, VoiceStar sits between the two. Call-tracking and pay-per-call are bifurcated. Call-trackers generally have sophisticated measurement, and may or may not be an ASP. VoiceStar is provided as an ASP service, with a focus on integration and PPC billing to accommodate publishers and agencies; very different beast. Ingenio has there own bidded marketplace; our clients license or implement their own. We can be both keyword and category driven.
Q: Is an auction model sustainable in the pay-per-call space?
A: Absolutely; calls represent the highest quality lead. [Ed: And, importantly, everyone groks calls, whereas not everyone really gets clicks]
Q: We heard talk on one of the panels about “re-packagers” moving into this space, ala SME Global Solutions, TrafficLeader, et al in the click space. Thoughts?
A: Arbitrage, flat fee packaging, call bundles are all potentially part of the mix, depending on customer need. [Ed: IMO, the arrival of re-packaging intermediaries seems to be positively influencing SME adoption in the PPC space; the same may hold for pay-per-call]
Q: How are you guys funded?
A: Self-funded; we’re profitable.
Q: Who are your current customers?
A: [Ed: I’m aware of a few non-trivial customers, but they’re not publicly disclosable at this time.] We have a deal with Russell Perkin’s InfoCommerce group. They provide our solution as a test-bed for their clients. We also have a test-bed for potential customers.
Q: What’s your revenue model?
A: Depends on our customer’s needs. We have deals both service provider and revenue sharing models.
Q: Everyone’s abuzz about mobile. I’ve been cell phone only for 3-4 years now; seems like routing mobile calls could impact margins?
A: Lots of mobile uptake in Europe. Can be very expensive if not implemented correctly.
Q: What does correct implementation look like?
A: Correctly means partnering with providers, pricing appropriately and being able to differentiate mobile vs. land-line on the advertiser side.
Q: Interesting. That makes me think that it’d be valuable for an advertiser to know (for mobile only folks like myself) what a customer’s proximity is to their billing address (i.e., are they actually mobile, or are they simply sitting at home with a cell phone)
A: That’s a very good idea; it would make sense as part of our roadmap
Q: The question of the day in the PPC world is click fraud. What does phone fraud look like and what systems do you have in place?
A: Call frauds a lot harder to accomplish than click fraud; different volume levels. We have lots of tech in place. We eliminate traffic from historically offending geographies. We also have hardware and software solutions to block certain call patterns. Finally, all calls are recorded for billing assurance; we flush these pretty quickly [Ed: Ari is sensitive to both the storage costs and privacy issues of persisting recorded calls for a long duration.]
This was a good chat (which hopefully translated well). I remain optimistic about the potential for bidded pay-per-call, and am glad to see new companies emerging in the space (and deals getting signed).