INTERVIEW: Francois Mazoudier, CEO of GoHello, tells about its expansion plans and explains his vision for the future of business phone systems – which doesn’t include hardware PBXs.

Francois Mazoudier likes to keep things simple and the CEO of GoHello seems to be winning plenty of people over to his way of thinking.

GoHello offers – and has patented – an ALLmobile, virtual phone system that works on every mobile network in the country where it’s deployed, doesn’t require equipment and is not dependent on mobile operators.

Over the next few months the London-based company will be announcing its expansion into new markets.

Mazoudier said these include "two large Asian countries" where fixed line quality is often poor and business calls are already largely made on mobiles – making the GoHello application particularly well suited.

Francois Mazoudier, CEO GoHello

Already Europe’s leading ALLmobile, operator-independent phone system for business, GoHello is also in the process of building a network centre in the US – a market seen as having huge potential.

"We are opening in a number of countries, including some big developments in Asia," he said.

"Instead of just being a mad Scandanavian company with a mad idea, we will enter the mainstream."

The rationale behind GoHello’s virtual phone system is pretty straightforward: Why buy expensive telecom equipment when you can have a feature-packed virtual system that is quick and easy to install and uses employees’ mobiles phones?

So no fixed lines, no desktop phones – all that’s required is a broadband connection and the mobile network.

It’s understandable that companies might be wary of getting rid of all their fixed lines.

Mazoudier said the pattern was for GoHello to be trialled for a month in one department – usually sales – before being rolled out to the rest of the business.

He said once companies saw how the system worked, that tended to be the route they took.

"There is no reason why you would want to have the cost and long-term contract of a fixed line if you can have all the services on your mobile," he said.

"We have nothing to install on a GSM phone – no software, no setting up. You can even take an old GSM phone and it works."

Mobile Becomes Sole Phone

Having said that, Mazoudier recommends companies buy employees a cheap Nokia phone, especially since the market is currently full of bargain deals.

"Employees are told: ‘That’s your deskphone, but you can use it as a mobile’," he said.

Although now headquartered in the UK, GoHello was founded in Denmark in 2001 and originally worked with mobile operators.

It received widespread recognition for its efforts to build the first mobile PBX.

Commercially, however, Mazoudier, who joined GoHello later, said it was a disaster and they realised the company needed to do something else.

At the time, he was looking for an opportunity to build a software telecom company as an alternative to the conventional route of having to buy phone system hardware and enter into contractual agreements.

"I went to mobile operators around the world and asked them if they had any plans for a PBX system in the sky," he said.

"They looked at me as if I was mad – and I knew I had a great deal on my hands."

Mazoudier said the system’s first trials were carried out in 2006 in Denmark and succesfully proved the software worked as well for small companies as it did for large employers with hundreds of handsets and multiple sites.

Then in 2007, additional funding of €7 million allowed GoHello to go international.

A factor which has undoubtedly aided GoHello has been the fact that mobiles – and particularly smartphones – are increasingly being used in enterprises – rather than fixed phones.

Rapidly Changing US Market

The US had not been included in GoHello’s original plans, according to Mazoudier, largely because the mobile culture was not as strong as in other parts of the world.
But since the launch and success of the iPhone that has all changed.

"The US is the land of IP telephony," he said. "And since the receiving party pays there, dialling a mobile is not as expensive as in the rest of the world.

"Then the iPhone came in. In the past 18 months, people have begun to realise the value of working on their mobile phones – way beyond my wildest dreams."

Mazoudier said he was now getting phone calls from large US companies – some with 10,000+ employes – asking when GoHello was being introduced in the US.

Among those calls was one from Apple, which he said was particularly interested since employees have all been given iPhones.

"They have a huge IP telephony installation that has just stopped being used," he said.

"The US is out-pacing any other country in the world. Households are dropping fixed and cable in favor of mobiles, to the extent that within the next five years it’s estimated that 50 per cent of people will not have a fixed line."

As a result, the US now presents a major opportunity for GoHello and Mazoudier said they realise they should have been there sooner: "We are now trying to catch up. We are now putting up a huge network operation centre."

Crisis Accentuates Value

Mazoudier said the current economic crisis had highlighted GoHappy’s value to companies.

One advantage was that the system didn’t require the large capital investment that was usually the case when companies had to buy conventional telephone hardware.

He said the fact that many companies were now centralising offices or re-locating to smaller premises also showed the advantages of not having to uninstall and re-install telecom hardware.

"Every time you change office it’s a trigger point for us," he said. "With GoHello, you just have to take your mobiles with you.

"That has created a lot of leads for us. It shows that if we can sell in a recession, then it must be an interesting service to have."

Mazoudier said other new services were also being prepared to make life easier for mobile users.

He said these included call transfering and call recording.

These services are free to try and users will be able to activate and deactivate as they please.

The company recently launched MyGoHello, a PC-based widget that handles all incoming calls, group calls, call forwarding calls, and so on.

While users will still only have one phone – their mobile – they can use their PC to:

  • Handle incoming calls (accept / reject / forward to others / send to voicemail etc)
  • Handle incoming Group calls (if you’re a member of that group – pick up call, reject, forward to others etc)
  • Click To Dial. Select any number on the PC screen (any application / window, not just the browser), click and dial that number.
  • Click to Text. Select any number on the PC screen, click – send a text to that number. Select a group of users and broadcast a text message to everyone in a single click. Text are sent using the GoHello SMS centre

Mazoudier knows there will be those who disagree with him.

But he has no doubt that PBX hardware will become obsolete as enterprises move to virtual phone systems.

"There is no reason to have a PBX in the office – it should be on the network," he said.

We’d like to hear your views on mobile virtual phone systems.

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