Venezuelan Expat VoIP Startup and a Canadian ISP with a Vision Merge

Suzanne Bowen : Monetizing IP Communications
Suzanne Bowen
32 yrs in telecom, teaching, blog & grant writing, biz development, marketing, & PR. Favorite moments in life involve time w/ family & friends, networking, IP communications industry verticals & horizontals, running, traveling, foreign languages
| 1. "Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition..." Barack Obama ..... 2. "One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain." By Thomas Sowell

Venezuelan Expat VoIP Startup and a Canadian ISP with a Vision Merge

After recording this interview, Suzanne Bowen had an idea that Max and Jonathan should consider adding another service where they assist Canadian companies to merge with USA companies, especially where each fills service and resource gaps of each other. Download the audio podcast to your mp3 player, netbook, Droid, iPhone or whatever you use and listen too! It's on iTunes too.

Suzanne Bowen: Today we have with us the President of AstraQom Jonathan Sowah and also Max Glucksmann who is the new Chief Technical Officer. Welcome to both of you. Happy to have you with us.

Jonathan Sowah: Thank you very much. Hello!

Suzanne Bowen: Astraqom is such a cool sounding name. Would tell us about the startup of AstraQom and the basic events that have led to this point?

Jonathan Sowah: The name AstraQom reflects the fact that we are based in Quebec. There's a little French influence. Astra exudes a feeling of universal. The "Q" in our name stands for our Quebec origin. The "Qom" shows the company is focused on communications.

We started a little over a year ago. My family and I immigrated here from England and saw the huge potential in the telecom sector. AstraQom was first set up with the idea of providing a customized dialup Internet service. Then we added DSL.

At that point,  Max and I started working together but from separate companies, to develop some PBX solutions. One thing led to another to where we stand now.

In Canada we are providing DSL services to four provinces (Ontario, Quebec, B.C., and Alberta) and also to 37 states in the USA. Some of our business for voice is also in Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Suzanne Bowen: I like the idea of the "Q." I'm looking at your website and see you provide several different types of services and have grown fast in the last year.

Would you share some about the good but also tough times? Maybe an anecdote?

Jonathan Sowah: Chuckles... no matter what we have had to keep our focus straight. People are used to the Big Boys. By the time I was born, Bell was already there. What happens after a while when you are new but good, then the customers begin to realize you know what you are doing. They will worry that you are a "fly by night" sort of business.

Those who own the market want to bully you. In the beginning we got a message from one of the big players that I should take my money elsewhere.
This was our biggest challenge.

Suzanne Bowen: Because you are smaller and more lithe, you are a position to meet the specific needs of your clients and to provide better, more focused customer service than the bigger guys. So maybe no wonder they tell the little guys, "Oh, go away."

(Interviewer and interviewees share some laughter.)

Suzanne Bowen:
Would you share with us some information about your plans for the future?

Jonathan Sowah: Sure, in fact, Max, do you want to take this one?

Max Glucksmann: Regarding the subject of reaching the customers... we handle each customer as individual basis and unique needs. PBX, IVRs, specific applications... we want them to be completely satisified. We have a point of advantage there.

Suzanne Bowen: Would you share more about your plans and services available?

Max Glucksmann: We are developing PBX services like conference rooms, ring groups, traditional phone service. We have a complete management system online where the users can take advantage, much better than a traditional phone company. We've recently added a new market.

We can't share much about it yet, but it will be an integration of some special services we ave not shared before with wireless operators and voice over IP platforms.  We won't be connecting over traditional SIP dialers, WiFi, or 3G connections. We'll be directly connected to with the wireless operator dialplan. We're looking at unified communications.

Jonathan Sowah: Do you also want to quickly mention the Conference Room System we are planning to use the DIDX platform for local access numbers? 

Max Glucksmann: We will have new features because of using DIDX phone numbers. We can have different people from different countries call in. This will be a local phone call for each person calling in. We'll be able to record the conferences, store the recordings online through our GUIs which are using right now for this podcast.

Suzanne Bowen: Wow, the quality that I am hearing is very good. Recently AstraQom participated in CommunicAsia in Singapore, a conference that our DIDXchange and Techistan were a media partner and press agent for.  What plans do you have for other ways to meet face to face with your current and potential clients, partners and vendors? I know you will be at ITEXPO West in L.A.
 

Jonathan Sowah: We plan to return to CommunicAsia next year. It is important for us to let people know what we are doing.  We like the way DIDX does this. You guys have good taste in selecting the right events to share with your membership. We plan to participate in as many as you have partnered with as possible.

Suzanne Bowen: I appreciate the compliments. We do work hard at DIDX to ...
Jonathan Sowah: That's very true.

Suzanne Bowen: Share conferences that we think will be really good for our DIDX members and the IP communications industry in general. I also appreciate your mentioning that you use DIDX DIDs for this conference and your conferencing solutions.   We look forward to having you work with us at conferences and know that is as important to meet face to face as it is in voice, video, IM and email. It builds more of a trust.

Suzanne Bowen: How can potential vendors, resellers, and customers contact you? But first, is there anything else you would like to share?

Jonathan Sowah: Let's talk about how Comtel-Networks and AstraQom ended up merging.

Suzanne Bowen: I think is a pretty exciting story.

Jonathan Sowah: I got to know Max while discussing collaboration in the "phone sector." He's a good man, smart, hard-working, very focused guy. As time progressed, it became easier for us to find more and more common ground. The vision became virtually the same. So, one day I popped the question. He accepted it. For small startups like ours, the idea of going alone is very tempting, but when you find another company that shares a vision and finds opportunity to work together, and you see a win-win relationship...

That's what we have. We have created a situation where AstraQom is in Canada and the USA. For us it was the best decision.

Max, do you want to comment on this?

Max Glucksmann: First, I want to thank you for the good words. AstraQom and Comtel-Networks is a good thing because like my company Comtel-Networks was more specialized in the phone sector and Jonathan brought his extensive background in other complimentary services like VPS systems, dialup connections, and DSL. We complemented each other well. Since we've been working together, everything is flowing more smoothly. I am grateful that we achieved the merger.

Suzanne Bowen: I think it is a superb combination. Some people have heard me say, "Don't try to beat your competition that you admire. Buy them." I am sort of joking but not really.

I see something else here. Something else you guys bring together is fluent spoken, written, and comprehension of French, Spanish, and English. That is a huge advantage you now have.

How about your website address and what are the best ways for listeners to contact you?

Jonathan Sowah: Let's start with www.astraqom.com, www.comtel-pbx.com, www.comtel-networks.com. Contact us on phone in Canada at 1-819-306-0701, especially if you prefer to speak in English or French or our USA phone at 1-954-324-2626 if you prefer to speak in English and/or Spanish.

Suzanne Bowen: Really appreciate your taking the time to share about AstraQom, its history, interesting story of the good and tough times, your plans, the services, conferences we can find you at, and the exciting news about Comtel and AstraQom merging, a dream that many IP communications startups and entrepreneurs dream of.

Contact AstraQom at http://www.astraqom.com! Thank you to Jonathan and Max.



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