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lyppsTonight at Vancouver’s Launch Party event, Lypp‘s Erik Lagerway will be talking about their new service and API.  Earlier today I talked about MaxRoam and its game-changing technique to defeat mobile roaming and long-distance costs.  Both companies are founded by friends of mine, which represents an interesting conflict of interest for yours truly.  🙂

There is some apparent overlap in both offerings, in that they are both essentially smart CallBack services.  But the positioning and nuances of the service offering are in fact quite a bit different.  While on one hand I think MaxRoam represents a more comprehensive solution targeted exclusively at mobile roamers, I think that Lypp is a significantly more frictionless service which you can make use of in myriad ways, not exclusively to avoid long-distance bilking on your mobile phone.

In particular the Lypp API, coupled with the fact that you can easily instantiate calls with multiple parties via SMS and Instant Messaging,  is a game-changer.  The notion of spontaneous conferencing is actually, finally, possible.  And if you coupled Lypp (via its API) with a smart calendar-based scheduling system you’d have yourselves a pretty kick-ass enterprise conferencing solution.

But overall, the Lypp model applies wherever you have a situation where two parties elect to chat via voice while using some other medium.  Viewed from this 30,000 foot precipice, you can see that Lypp has utility in applications as far-flung as online dating, business-to-business calling, and even chat radio shows, call centres, and unified communications.

This means that in some ways Lypp competes with Jangl and Jajah, however it should probably in the end be marketed more as a toolkit like VOXEO.  Come to think of it, all of those companies are run by friends of mine, too.

What I find ironic is that the base concept of CallBack is not new … it’s been around since the early 1980s, when smart telecom entrepreneurs realized it was substantially more expensive to call from, say, Brazil to the USA than it was to call from the USA to Brazil.  These CallBack drones, much like the Prepaid Calling Card industry, were among the first major VoIP platform customers of ours when I was a lowly Product Manager in the Packet Telephony Division at Cisco.

Most of those companies died or were absorbed as their major market differentiator (price) eroded and they were commoditized by Big Telco.

CallBack services are generally easy to replicate on VoIP platforms.  What’s having a disruptive effect now is that with so many open-platform VoIP solutions and generally cheap computational power, it is possible to rapidly develop scalable telecom applications in ways that were formerly only accessible to the likes of Nortel and Cisco.

It’s clear though that among this latest batch of telecom evolutionaries there is some real innovation.  There are, however, lessons to learn:  While the clear temptation of most of these businesses will be to hinge their value
proposition on lower-cost in exchange for slightly lower convenience, this is a losing business.

The challenge is to innovate and let new capabilities and opportunities continue to drive innovation and product design.  This is an area where no Big Telco executive has any real lasting insight.  Elephants are terrible tapdancers.