Free of charge? Spikko hopes so.”Free is the future,” says Rubi Kizner the chief marketing manager from Spikko. But don’t take his word for it. Kizner says the recent article by Wired’s editor Chris Anderson on the importance of “free,” couldn’t have come at a better time.
Spikko, which has operated in stealth mode for the last four years, is the latest Israeli telecom startup to poke its head out of the garage. Within the next year, says Kizner, people in the United States and Europe will be able to make free phone calls to both cellular phones and landlines.
Competing with established companies such as Skype and Jajah, Spikko was founded because its developers believe people everywhere are entitled to free phone calls – like other inalienable rights such as clean drinking water and fresh air.
Currently 50,000 subscribers – mostly based in Israel – have access to Spikko’s Beta site and are calling for free around the world.
The service uses VoIP, an Internet technology pioneered by the Israeli company VocalTec in the mid 1990s. Joining is by invitation only and after that, users can access the free calls via a downloaded software application on the computer.
Each user gets a unique Spikko phone number from their country of origin. This will come in handy when Spikko moves from the computer to your PDA or cellphone.
Upon joining, each user is given a bank of free minutes. Once depleted, minutes can be restored either by having someone call you on your unique Spikko number, or when you invite other people to join the Spikko community.
Reticent to talk about the business model, Kizner hints that the company may claim its stake through major online community portals. One of the company’s founders and board members is, after all, Alon Carmel, founder of the phenomenally successful Jewish dating site, JDate. Real Estate tycoon Igal Ahouvi has also invested $1 million.
“Our intention is to reach the world as soon as possible,” says Kizner. “We already feel that the technology is mature enough.”
Based in Tel Aviv, Spikko has four patents-pending on its IP. “This is a key point for us,” says Kizner. Not obliged to pay royalties to any third party, Kizner believes that in the short term, Spikko will appeal to the uncommon mobile phone user – the people who are already comfortable using applications like Skype and Jajah.
But beware, telecom companies everywhere. “We are going to reinvent the telecommunications world,” says Kizner. “Completely free. There are no marketing gimmicks.”