In 1999 I was an obscure Product Manager working in the Packet Telephony Division at Cisco Systems. After digging through the SIP specification I realized that, if implemented as I’d hoped it would be, SIP would be a tremendous catalyst for expansion within the world of communications. More specifically, I wrote an internal white paper for Cisco about how small, nimble, venture-backed companies were best-positioned to capitalize on open protocols and the commodification of telecom to really change the range of services offered to the consumer, and thus create enormous wealth and demand for VoIP networking products.
I wanted Cisco to invest in developing relationships with these companies and to encourage them to deploy their solutions using Cisco equipment so that they in turn would create demand for mountains of Cisco product.
I was mostly ignored. So I quit in the fall of 1999, joined a team already converging to build a service called BuzMe, and set to launching the first product in 2000. Through a few twists and chicanes, BuzMe became RingCentral thanks to steadfast support and leadership from Vlad Shmunis, an early investor in BuzMe. After architecting RingCentral’s product through to the end of 2001 with two guys named Vlad, I grew weary of Silicon Valley, and returned to Canada to tend to my igloo and pursue new dreams.
This morning I awoke to the news that Cisco finally got the message, investing in RingCentral’s Series C Financing. So I’m feeling a bit smug today.
*** UPDATE NOV 2, 2017: What’s the lesson? Technology can fundamentally change industries (duh..) by disrupting their economics. VoIP is an excellent case study in how. I was fortunate to be located within the fulcrum of such a change as VoIP extended and ultimately has usurped telephony — it did this largely based on reduced cost and ability to scale more flexibly. As a creator I was fortunate to have good partners, in particular Vlad Shmunis, and ultimately we all benefited from the right place / right time hypothesis. RingCentral is now worth more than $3.3B and trades on the NYSE.