The idea for effringo began in late 2004 when two ex colleagues from o.tel.o GmbH, Francis Billard and Jörg Dobbeck, met each other at a Christmas party. Within a few hours a plan was formed and it was decided to feed on the experience of people that they knew and could rely on.
As many people within any industry are aware, the hardest part of a start up is the task of getting the name right. This took a surprisingly long time until they hit upon the Latin name “effringo” which means “to set out”, which is exactly what they wanted to do, set out into a new telecommunications generation. The next few months were used in getting the team together and when the company was founded in February 2005 all except one position were filled.
At the first team workshop they decided that there were to be four main areas that would be of extreme importance for their company
- the market;
- financing the company;
- the right technology;
- strategic partners;
- the research and development of further services and products.
The market was ready, but they were not. They started designing the wheel again with features that were not available, features that no-one wanted, features that did not function and in all likelihood probably never would. Instead of approaching the ripe market they were getting themselves tied up in more and more new and innovative products. During this time VoIP was becoming more socially acceptable, as greater numbers of business customers wanted to take advantage of this “new” technology.
It seems that this was the time for effringo to make the next wrong decision. With a lot of enthusiasm they combined their energy into the evaluation of an “asterix” based PBX solution. Unfortunately, they found that that this market was overrun by nearly every provider offering a telephone exchange. After the second workshop they decided to stick with their core business and concentrate on that which they do best. Also, they wanted to optimise switch technology to initially cope with short term future requirements and make a plan to cover mid and long term product development.
Financing the company
Seven months, and several presentations and meetings later, they were able to convince the KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau), that their enterprise was worth investing in.
Almost simultaneously negotiations were going on between effringo and Craig Taverner from Mory limited. Craig Taverner was not only interested in investing but was just as interested in getting to know effringo’s intentions concerning R&D. This was later to be seen as a one in a million piece of luck.
In October 2005 investors were on board, ready to choose the technology provider, and nearly ready.
The right technology
After walking many miles at the CeBit trade fair, a strenuous series of tests and a RFQ phase, they came up with a short list of eventual providers. In pole position was a provider that had a definite price advantage but just did not work out on the chemistry side of things. During the ensuing discussion effringo decided to go with a company from Texas, USA. A meeting in the states was soon planned, and there they were able to convince each other that technology is the right one and that effringo’s business concept for Europe and the Middle East would help both companies. Furthermore the status team showed us that it is not all about technology, people also count in this day and age. That was when the decision was made.
It was clear from the start that with effringo offering a complete telephony service, with high reliability, at a competitive price, there were not a lot of strategic partners to choose from. Deutsche Telekom was not an acceptable solution, as they were considered the enemy. The obvious choice at that time was British Telecom with their numerous POIs, and readiness to listen to small companies.
Where to place the servers and connect to the World Wide Web and transport networks was an easy decision to make. In the carrier room at InterXion in Düsseldorf, nearly all of the renowned telecommunications companies are present and if required it is only 10 minutes from the effringo offices.
Research and development
As mentioned, this position was not initially filled, which was an affect of making a few bad decisions. This was rectified when Craig Taverner, one of the investors, came on board. From this point in time the R&D department was in experienced hands. One of his first decisions was to have a technology workshop with technicians, sales personnel from effringo, and a development team from stratus in the idyllic town of Margaretetorp in Sweden. Aside from the daily business needs, the members were able to nail down the core business as being both national and international wholesale based on the newest version of the entice switch. This meant saying goodbye to end customers and business customers, as the business would now be based on partnerships with other carriers.
By this time the next round of investment was ready. After preparing a multitude of spread sheets and meetings to convince the investors that the new direction would be the right one, the end of 2007 saw effringo with financial backing and around the same time effringo received the newest version of the entice switch.
Today, the strategy that effringo follows shows that they can achieve success in their market place in a recessionary environment whilst at the same time enjoying fair partnerships. Early on, they knew that the market was moving away from “cheap and nasty”. The market requires excellent speech quality, a high degree of reliability and a set of basic standard features such as CLI and FAX, both of which the market is willing to pay for. This was realised at an early stage in the business thanks to networking with national carriers. The company reserve special thanks to one of the pioneers in VoIP, Telefonica Deutschland. Long term knowledge of the market and the capability to listen hard and talk straight also characterise the effringo mentality. Effringo has bilateral contracts and connections with a multitude of renowned international companies for VoIP based telecommunication. The bilateral aspect helps minimise the risk for both partners and of course each party is therefore eager to make sure their partners succeed in the market.
The goals of effringo for the mid future are to strengthen their existing partnerships, especially Telefonica Deutschland for the German market due to their excellent position in that market, to boldly extend present markets concentrating on Africa and South America and they are currently developing an exchange and routing software that will support the interoperability between the carriers.
Last but not least effringo are on the lookout for investors with a long term vision who are willing to accompany them to the stock market when the recession recedes. The quintessence of this story is that the journey goes on; effringo have made mistakes and learned from them, they have the energy and compassion to reach their ambitious goals and are human enough to be fair in a world that not always is.
Effringo’s network is based on a complete VoIP solution from Stratus Telecommunications including the SoftSwitch for call processing with built in Session Border Controller (SBC) for network security. They use the Stratus Telecommunications product known as ENTICE, which was an important choice to ensure competitive operation and support to allow them to grow and provide new capabilities to customers as well as introduce features that helps to manage its business and profitability.
In this way, the ENTICE solution has been a critical component and has assisted the company in becoming one of the leading VoIP providers in Germany.
The exceptional services provided by the ENTICE family also helped ensure smooth operation from the initial deployment through the growth of the effringo network. All network growth steps are achieved without any service disruption which is critical for business.
Stratus Telecom license the SoftSwitch based on simultaneous calls (rather than subscriber numbers or connections). This means the cost of the solution is directly related to their use of the product and therefore to business revenues, meaning it is very competitive.
The company are very satisfied with Stratus Telecommunications and ENTICE for several reason:
- Management: give them complete backing when needed;
- Development: provided them with innovative ideas at various stages;
- Sales: the sales team helped in defining a feasible roadmap of features and products which enables us to plan our future business expansion, supporting different types of customers in Germany as well as international customers.
As far as future growth, ENTICE provide the scalability required to become a major operator in Europe and additionally allows Effringo the potential to provide residential features, business features such as Centrex and enables full integration into legacy networks by supporting signalling systems for traditional fixed and mobile networks.
For further information tel: 49 2182 5708 464;