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BuzMe (1999)

BuzMe was a nationwide (in the US) Internet Call Waiting and Unified Communications service.  Internet Call Waiting was a product category I pioneered while working at BC TEL in 1997, working with Halifax-based InfoInterActive (IIA).  While IIA was focused on offering their technology through the RBOCs, I cast BuzMe as a direct-to-market consumer call signalling service, as a beachhead for offering broader VoIP and Unified Communications services.

The idea was born when I got my parents a free internet account from my friend’s service, CAFE.NET in the mid-1990s.  My father would spend endless hours surfing the web, which made it impossible for me to call their house.  As a solution, I would typically log on to the terminal server to which they were connected, locate their account, and terminate that connection prior to calling the house.  My father never did connect the remarkable coincidence that he’d often get spontaneously booted offline prior to the phone ringing with me on the other end.

For families, the slicker solutions offered by BuzMe and others was cheaper than a broadband connection (even if it was available in their region) and cheaper and more convenient than ordering a second phone line to the household.  For carriers, the proliferation of those second phone lines had been causing substantial infrastructure problems, as the Public-Switched Telephone Network was generally designed for a single line per household.

BuzMe launched at DEMO in February, 2000 and was highly acclaimed and received Internet Telephony Magazine’s “Product of the Year” award for 2000.  The company raised ~$14M from a number of Silicon Valley VCs and Angels.  The BuzMe platform was later used to construct RingCentral, and the service soldiered on until roughly 2007.


Posted on

November 17, 1999