If you were in telecom in the mid-nineties you remember one of the large players in the space was NACT a company playing in the prepaid and international callback markets. Prior to VoIP these markets were the preferred methods of lowering long-distance bills and back then there was more money to be made as international calling rates were much higher than today. This in turn meant the arbitrage opportunity allowed for much greater profit margins than the current Skype-era of telecom we live with today.
If you ever attended a Computer Telephony Expo back in the nineties in Los Angeles or Dallas you remember the company's major presence at the show. But a quick scan of my mind shows that after about 2000 the company went silent. I really didn't hear much from them and forgot they even existed.
So I was intrigued to speak with the company's new President, Arnie Goodstein who explained how the 20-year-old organization went downhill as a result of management issues which caused them to go from a peak of 150 employees and $50M in revenue to a mere 12 when the assets were taken over this past November.
Goodstein explained how the company lacked an understanding of the market in the past and was engineering-driven. This is quite often the kiss of death to companies and although I hadn't met Arnie before, based on the conversation he seems to have a grasp of what to do to be successful. One of the first things he did was to reach out to media to get the positive story out - generally this an important part of the success of any company. Moreover he has a history of launching successful calling card companies and products such as RSLCOM, Primecall.
In addiditon, Goodstein founded telecom switching solutions provider WCGS back in 2001 and has taken the opportunity to merge the resources of this company with NACT. The duo can now provide enhanced levels of service, support and of course greater financial stability. Moreover, the company can now sell the switching engineering solutions of a live carrier as a commercial product. And there is no better way than a live network to test products and feature upgrades. The product-line has expanded and NACT is providing class 4/5 switching products based on the open-source freeSWITCH platform with an integrated custom proprietary billing/routing engine built-in.
Moreover the company will be enhancing its opportunities to sell products by becoming a reseller of products as well. The first is a VoIP testing product from Germany's VOIPFUTURE which Goodstein's company will be selling in the US and Canada.
Although this serial entrepreneur doesn't expect the prepaid market to grow rapidly he does believe we are approaching 10-year refresh cycle. By enhancing the product-line regularly and adding new features, he expects to win back customers who have been alienated these past years due to a lack of product upgrades.
An example of a new feature is the ability to allow an ANI to be associated with a prepaid card so the user can be recognized when they call. This is a great feature for customers who don't want to have to enter a calling card number every time they use their card from the same phone.
Appreciation of rags to riches stories is something most people innately possess. Sometimes though a riches to rags to riches story can be even more incredible - especially as it relates to a company which was such a large part of telecom over a decade ago and whose name and reputation were subsequently tarnished through bankruptcy and further financial problems. If Goodstein can continue turning NACT into a well-known, successful and profitable brand after a decade of obscurity, it may just prove to me and others that there are few bad tech companies - just bad tech managers.