Starting a telecommunications equipment or software business might seem like a daunting challenge to most would-be entrepreneurs.
(article continues below)
There are so many niche areas within the telecomm industry that it can be quite overwhelming. The key is to find a niche that is underserved where you can offer something that people want but can't yet get.
That's what Bruce Kaskey, the founder of Chicago-based OrecX, had in mind when he founded a company that helps businesses record phone conversations using an open source software solution.
We spent a little time with Bruce to find out how he discovered his niche and how the market is reacting to his call monitoring and recording solutions.
Bruce, how did you come up with this business idea?
I had worked in the call recording marketplace prior to creating OrecX, my current company, but was prohibited from re-entering the industry because of a non-compete agreement.
After the non-compete expired due to an asset sale, I decided to get back into the call recording industry.
After evaluating several public and private companies' marketing and partnering approaches, it was pretty clear that there was not the same opportunity to build value as was done with the past company.
About that time, I was approached by an individual with whom I respected from a previous work experience, and he suggested "open source" as the means to build value. Honestly, I knew very little about open source but after a week or so of research, the light bulb went off, and we immediately started with the specifications plan for the open source project, Oreka.org. After Oreka's launch, we created OrecX to capitalize on commercial opportunities.
Who are the big competitors in this space and how are you positioning yourself against them?
There are two public companies that are the biggest players in the call recording industry with about 45% market share. Over time, they have created a product that is complicated, costly to sell, difficult to install, and tough to maintain. As a result, large companies are their primary target. OrecX has positioned itself as the call recording application for the "masses" because we are low-cost, simple to install, and easy to use.
Some people think Open Source is risky because there isn't a single big company backing up the software, as is the case when you, say, buy some software from Oracle. How do you respond to that?
With common sense.
The language of Oracle is spoken by only a few thousand highly specialized support people while the languages that make up open source applications (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and Perl) are spoken by the tens of millions from all over the world. In addition, since the language of open source is not proprietary, self-support, channel support, and OrecX support are options to give the customer more control and flexibility.
Open source is here to stay, and many well-known companies have opted to go with open source solutions. It's now a mature idea with companies like IBM building billion dollars businesses around it.
So turning the question around, why wouldn't a company want great software at a dramatically lower cost and be in control of the relationship?
Interesting. Sounds like you've got a solid product with some great differentiation in the marketplace. How is the market responding to your offering?
The demand is strong. The first indication was the number of downloads received when we posted Oreka on Sourceforge.net.
Within 2 months, we were rated in the top 1% out of approximately 400,000 open source projects. On the commercial side, we secured over 100 companies from around the globe with the first two years OrecX's launch.
Since our site is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs, I'm curious how you found the startup process. Was it easy to start your business? Did you go out and raise capital or did you bootstrap the company up on limited funds?
The open source development effort (Oreka) and initial launch of OrecX were bootstrapped.
That required a personal investment and a leap of faith that giving away valuable software would jump-start a business.
After we secured customers and had refined our model, we sought and received funding from two private investors with knowledge of software and the call recording space.
For other aspiring entrepreneurs out there who might be interesting in starting a telecom equipment or software company, what words of wisdom can you share with them? What's your advice to somebody who is in the same spot you were when you first started thinking about starting your company.
Jump sooner rather than later.
If your idea is good, the market will tell you so. If you wait to craft the perfect plan or have the perfect customer lined up, chances are the opportunity will have passed you by.
Great advice. Thanks for your time and we wish you all the best as you move forward in growing OrecX. And for those of you out there who are looking for a good VOIP-ready audio recording software for call monitoring and call recording, it sounds like OrecX has some great products for you.