February 27, 2012
If you are a super busy startup founder, always out on the road doing business development, talking to funders and potential partners, and pretty much tethered to your smartphone, imagine how much easier your life would be if you could instantly get a lot of information about the person calling you. Is that person the assistant to an angel investor? Is it your contact at a company you are pursuing a partnership with?
“Most people hate telephony.”
Michael Zirngibl, co-founder and CEO of Ringio, flat-out admitted during a chat last week. But because we still rely on our smartphones for actual phone calls, he and his co-founders Sam Aparicio and Ashish Soni decided to simplify the best of enterprise deployments to make it easier and affordable for small businesses to integrate their CRM and online address books with their phone.
DC-based Ringio lets companies with 5-50 employees get a virtual phone solution in less than 10 minutes. As you accumulate data about the people in your address book and your customers, you can have more informed conversations – and decide whether or not to actually answer the phone when it rings. It is really affordable, too – their flat subscription fee is only $25/month.
Though this is his first startup, Zirngibl’s entrepreneurial streak actually started at MicroStrategy. After finishing business school in Germany, he landed a job here in the U.S. with the big DC-based tech company. He was almost immediately put on an innovation team and sent back to Germany to develop new products in a kind of lab. “We created MicroStrategy Narrow Casting,” Zirngibl said. “It was software that would take snippets of data that reside in data warehouses, conduct business intelligence on it, and send the relevant pieces of information to customers based on what they cared about. It was actually featured in a Super Bowl ad.”
After acting as product manager for Narrow Casting, Zirngibl launched an internally incubated company called Angel.com that allows businesses to set up interactive voice response (IVR) and call center apps in cloud-based model. It is still doing very well as part of MicroStrategy with 200 employees.
Like all entrepreneurs, the itch to start a company was impossible to fully scratch while working for someone else. “I needed to satisfy my entrepreneurial desires, so I left 3 years ago when the idea for Ringio came about,” Zirngibl said. “Our big growth area is selling the technology to companies that already have an established customer base, like web carriers and large telecom operators. We make it easy for them to create a banded app on top of their services. Our first big client is Miami-based RingByName.”
Their next new thing launches during Q2 – it is a version of Ringio that can work with any phone. The app will be demoed in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress.
So far, they have had lots of interest from international carriers that want to layer apps across the top of their services. “With this technology, telephony is no longer faceless. For salespeople, this is awesome.” After seeing it in action (I called Zirngibl while sitting next to him and got to see all my social media information pop up on his iPad and iPhone), I definitely agree with that statement.
Ringio was initially self-funded. They did a friends and family round, got money from Baltimore angels, and funding from the Center for Innovative Technology in November. Right now, thing are looking up for them – new products launching and lots of potential partner interest – all great news if you’re looking for a new gig, as they are aggressively hiring developers right now.
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