By Dennis Clemente
“I don’t want to hear about What’s App,” said Jeff Pulver, the Vonage co-founder considered a pioneer in VoIP telephony. Pulver was at the Startup Grind at AOL last February 19 to present his latest venture, Zula. What’s App was acquired by Facebook for $19 bilion this week.
People heeded his plea. Besides, the comparisons have to stop sometime soon. Its site has this to say: Whatsapp focuses on social interaction, while Zula provides a central stream of conversation that gives users access to shared files, shared events, polling and one-touch group calling.
The talk was beyond Zula, it was about Pulver who didn’t mind talking freely and openly about his early years, Vonage and his successful weight loss of some 80 or so pounds. He is now 51.
On how he discovered VoIP (voice-over internet protocol): “I was very lonely growing up,” said Pulver who grew up in Kings Point, New York. “I didn’t have any friends.” The word “lonely” escaped his mouth more than five times, but he didn’t mind talking about the past he remembers fondly.
Not having any strong connection with the people around him, Pulver communicated with people using ham radio when he was very young. He earned his license by the time he turned 12. “I listened, connected, shared and engaged with them. “I never met them, but I knew their personality.”
He recounts how he made his family miserable with his obsession over ham radio, even on vacations. “When we were in Barbados, I was on the radio eight(sic) straight days.” In his teen years, he turned to disc jockeying to be able to get close to the girls.
Pulver was always trying to earn extra money. He created a consulting company at 16, even set up 3 companies along the way. Because he was earning so much money, “college didn’t matter.” But he became a “trained accountant.”
In figuring out VoIP, he knew back then he could make use of two modems–one for dial-up internet; one for telephony. In 1995, he launched Free World Dial-up, the first international voice calling. That lay the groundwork four Min-X which became Vonage in 2001.
“Getting fired saved my life,” he said. Today, Pulver describes himself as a futurist, serial entrepreneur and long-time evangelist for VoIP technologies. He founded the VON Coaltion in 1996 which helped keep VoIP unregulated in America for 9 years and paved the way for Skype and Google Voice.
On how Zula will gain more acceptance, he recounts how in presentations, he see how people can get online faster than him setting up the projector. “Independence from my laptop is everything.”
On how to solve the high cost of phone plans nowadays, he said, “We need more competition.”
On how he lost weight more than 80 pounds, he said it was important for him to avoid wheat and sugar, which he said has given him more energy and made him more productive. Before when people told him to exercise, he would say, “Exercise judgment.”
Now he exercises regularly. He said it’s important for him to point this out to everyone, because he thinks it affects how we can all work more effectively.
Brian Park hosted the talk.