First Freeserve brought the free-access model to Internet service providers, and now Yac.com is looking to do the same for the all-in-one messaging service. The startup, like better-established competitors such as Jfax.com, offers to simplify your life -- in this case you get a single phone number that will redirect to wherever you are at the moment, whether it's at home, at the office, on your mobile or at an e-mail in-box.
The biggest innovation: you won't pay a penny for the service, unlike the £10 or so a month you might pay other companies. Instead, like Freeserve, Yac.com takes a share of the fees people pay to reach you on the number, charging at mobile-phone rates. The service is also able to redirect to international numbers, unlike some others.
The number, called a YAC ("You're Always Connected"), also connects to a messaging and fax service delivered by email, with all services managed via a Web interface or, as of last week, over a WAP phone.
techTrader spoke to Mike Feerick, CEO of Yac.com about the increasing flexibility that we are witnessing on the communications front.
Describe your business model and your decision to side-step the roaming charges incurred on mobile phones.
Years ago I was a customer of Jfax, and so when Freeserve offered "free" email, I saw the model for free unified messaging. I realised that if you were to do it with a standard mobile phone tariff, you could have personal numbering. Traditionally it has cost £10 to £12 a month in order to have a personal number, and has taken up to thirty minutes for calls to be redirected.
The technology and pricing of telecommunications has changed such that I knew I could offer the service for free. International redirection charges had plummeted -- it is now possible to call the United States for two pence per minute wholesale price. As a registered telecom company monitored by Oftel, we are entitled to wholesale rates, and from the revenue that we get back, we can afford to redirect calls to the Internet or abroad without charging the user.
Explain your pricing structure.
The calls cost 32 pence per minute at peak rate, and twenty pence a minute off peak. The prices will be getting cheaper, but we have initially started with the rates that BT offer for a quick start.
Why did you choose the Internet as your platform?
I chose the Internet for the same reasons as for wanting to promote personal numbering, those being cost and convenience.
The traditional procedure for redirecting a personal number entailed going through a series of audio prompts which was a hassle. For a businessman who is constantly tied to his desk, it is a lot easier to have the interface on the Internet. We also announced last week that we are WAP-enabled, which in the long term will be seen as a significant change, as it is introducing more control to your communications.
How secure is the service?
It's as secure as we can make it. Each user has a PIN number to dial in before checking their messages, and the engineers who set up the service are now working as security analysts for Compaq!
Who is your largest competitor? Are you looking to challenge the BT brand?
Going forward, mobile phone companies are going to be our largest competitors. We however are managing the inbound telecommunications industry-- as a Net-based telecom company, we are very much out on our own and leading ourselves. We would like to think of ourselves as moving away from competing with BT.
What are your flotation plans?
We have one more round of funding to go before this can happen, but we hope to IPO before the end of the year.
Startup Spotlight is a weekly feature on ZDNet UK News and ZDNet techTrader, featuring the bright sparks of the UK's high-tech startup industry. For more of the faces behind the news see the Startup Spotlight archive.
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