Mike Scheele has started and raised capital four telecommunications companies in the past decade including RateXchange, New Global Telecom and IP Deliver. Most recently he started TalkFree Telecom and he is the co-founder and president of the company. I decided to interview him to get his perspective on why he started a new VoIP company and how he plans on competing in this high-growth and highly competitive market
Tell me about the companies you started in the past. Give us a history of your past in telecom.
I have been in telephony since 1985. I started at Sprint and actually worked on the original anti-trust case with ATT. I spent 6 years at Sprint and left in 1991 to consult at Coopers and Lybrand. Since 1995 I have been doing my own thing. The first company, New Global Telecom I started in 1996, which went on to become a large international wholesaler of services topping out at 150M in annual revenues. I sold my shares back to the company in 1999 and left. While at NGT, I started a company called Ratexchange. At the time we were gunning for the same space that Arbinet eventually succeed in securing. The founding partners sold that company to a public company called NAMI (Net America Incorporated). We got our money out, then the stock when way up and finally crashed. In 2002 I started two other firms, IP Deliver, now called Infiniroute. Infiniroute is a play on adapting legacy TDM networks to emerging IP networks. I sold my shared back in 2004. At the same time, I founded Telecom Asset Management Group (TAM) which is a broker for distressed telephony assets.
You started a new company named TalkFree Telecom, why?
TalkFree Telecom is my favorite of the bunch. The time is right for retail Voice over IP services. Everyone is focusing on the US and Western markets, while TalkFree Telecom focuses on the not so sexy 3rd world markets. Overseas in these markets, people are forced by PTT’s to pay $1-2 per minute for service, while our service costs 3 cents per minute. The pent up demand is overwhelming.
What area of VoIP will you focus on?
Again, we like to build distribution in markets that are overlooked.
How do you differentiate yourself from p2p and other players?
We have built the best “intermediary” engine. That means, we offer the best combination of business proposition, functionality, and rates to Agents and Resellers. Our software is intuitive to use and our customers tell us that we have the best value proposition. I have learned over the years that agents and resellers want control of the product as much as possible. Our software lets them take control their own product.
What do you see as the future of the VoIP market?
I am just looking overseas right now but I think the future is phone/phone overseas. What I mean is this: Devices, ATA’s, SIP phones, USB phones are all transitory, and eventually the market will be dominated by phone to phone traffic.
How can my readers explore your company’s offerings?
First step is to download the TalkFree dialer from www.talkfree.com. Once installed, the dialer prompts users to purchase or recharge an account that will then activate a PIN number. Take the PIN number and make calls! Readers who download now will be pinged when our software upgrade is released mid-Feb. TalkFree Telecom currently offers the lowest rates to 200 countries as compared to our major competitors.
There are so many new companies in the VoIP space and the question is how will they all differentiate themselves. Certainly the world is a huge place and differentiation by region makes infinite sense. I like the rechargeable PIN idea as well. It is amazing to me to see how many different niches are being developed in VoIP service delivery and I am happy that not everyone is gunning for the exact Vonage business model.