Dialpad CEO and founder Craig Walker has been working in telecom since 1999. Since then, Walker has spent much of his time trying to re-imagine business communications. After unsuccessful attempts working with Yahoo and Google, he embarked on his own to solve the age-old office network challenges of cost and complexity once and for all.
His solution: to replace 190 million desk phones with cloud infrastructure and a software-based platform that frees all employees to be “anywhere workers.” Benzinga spoke with Walker to learn more about the genesis of this new approach to workplace communications.
What’s behind this evolution in enterprise communications?
Craig Walker: We believe work has changed and as a result people should be able to work anywhere on any device.
The way people do their jobs has changed. They’re working remotely, working away from their desk. Even when they’re in the office they want to use their mobile phones. We wanted to build a system for all of this.
In 1984, everything was on the desk. Today all you need is a laptop, a mobile phone and a network. Everything else can be software.
Does this new way of working represent a substantial market?
We’re looking at a market estimated at about $40 billion – and that’s just in PBX replacement alone. [editor's note: PBX is the phone system that business traditionally use]. There’s another $10 billion in call centers. That’s $50 billion overall.
What we really like is that the largest opportunity is in big business. That segment is growing the fastest, is the least penetrated, and is the largest. There are about 190 million desk phones in the U.S. We think they can all be replaced with software.
What was your growth strategy with Dialpad?
We have a two-stage strategy. We started out with conferencing first. We wanted to make conference calling easy, using no pin when you dial in, making it so you could see who was on the call, who just joined, who was talking and so forth.
We wanted to offer screen and document sharing and a lot of smart integration to show users more information about the person who was talking.
We went after the entire enterprise – replacing the communication infrastructure. Now we have the largest telephone network of any provider, with nine data centers around the world. That allows us to provide ridiculously good quality from anywhere and enough capacity to never have a maintenance window, never have to take the system offline, and always be able to push updates.
That was step one - conferencing. Step two was to leverage that into Dialpad.
OK, so what is Dialpad?
We said, “If we could build a business communications system from scratch what would it look like?” We realized that nobody would say, “It would look like a Cisco or Avaya PBX.”
Instead, we thought it would be software based and have four elements – voice and video, internal and external messaging, meetings for collaboration, and the ability to integrate with the company’s cloud solutions. That’s Dialpad. That is where we think the world is going.
Dialpad CEO Craig WalkerWhat are some practical benefits of Dialpad?
There are “anywhere workers” in virtually any industry today. In financial services, for example, the ability to be available to receive calls and texts anytime without having to give out your personal number is a huge thing.
You want your clients and contacts to have a relationship with you through your business number, which Dialpad allows, and not through your personal cell phone or another phone.
Suppose you worked for Morgan Stanley and then later moved over to Merrill Lynch. It would be bad if the same number was used. Work is evolving from “that place you go” to “that thing you do."
How does Dialpad pricing compare with traditional business communication systems?
A traditional business phone system has all sorts of pricing components. There’s a hardware component and annual maintenance on the PBX. Tens of thousands of dollars to put it in, then 20% per year after that.
That’s just for starters. Then you have an expensive $500 to $600 Cisco IP phone on your desk. To make it work you have to go get a service provider where you pay a monthly charge for connectivity plus per minute or per usage charge on the phone number. On top of all that you have an IT team whose job it is to make everything work.
With the Dialpad model all of that stuff goes away. All of it. All you need is a network and a laptop. These are things you have anyway. Everything else just flows from the cloud.
Dialpad provides unlimited usage per user per month. It’s a subscription-based model with no downtime, no upgrade windows, nothing.
How does Dialpad address security?
If you’re using a desk phone, the system is as secure as your phone network. If it’s a laptop or our mobile client, that uses the Web RTC standard, which is encrypted by default.
All of the account information, such as call history and voicemail, is loaded into Google’s Cloud Platform (GCP). Tony Scott, the federal government’s CIO, says you should move to the cloud as soon as possible because it is more secure than your internal IT department.
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