CXTech Week 11 2022 News and Analysis

The purpose of this CXTech Week 11 2022 newsletter is to highlight, with commentary, some of the news stories in CXTech this week. What is CXTech?  The C stands for Connectivity, Communications, Collaboration, Conversation, Customer; X for Experience because that’s what matters; and Tech because the focus is enablers.

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Covered this week:

  • BCM One Acquires the Assets of Flowroute From Intrado
  • T-Mobile US Experiences
  • Knock’s Wild Ride from $2B to $220M in 12 Months
  • iBASIS Partners With Mavenir to Launch CPaaS and Introduce Global Programmable Communications to Service Providers
  • DT Global Carrier (Wholesale) Briefing March 17th
  • SMARTY uses imimobile’s CPaaS and RCS to generate 100% increase in engagement
  • A renewed focus on the US, taking a share of the biggest pie
  • Clickatell Integrates Chat 2 Pay with Salesforce Commerce Cloud
  • RedEye selects Infobip for multi-channel messaging
  • Crexendo and Mavenir swap UCaaS and CCaaS Offers
  • People, Gossip, and Frivolous Stuff

BCM One Acquires the Assets of Flowroute From Intrado

BCM One, provides NextGen Communications and Managed Services for IT integrators and resellers, has acquired the assets of Flowroute from Intrado. Flowroute created the Flowroute HyperNetwork that fulfills reliable, carrier-grade demands with programmability, automation and scale of cloud computing. My perspective is when a business moved to VoIP and needed SIP trunking that worked, Flowroute solved all the tough SIP interop issues.

This marks BCM One’s third acquisition in the SIP Trunking space, adding to BCM One’s portfolio of automated solutions for channel partners, dealers and end users, and is part of the company’s continued investment in NextGen Communications. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Flowroute provides a cloud-based communications platform that enables communication service providers, value-added resellers, and enterprises to quickly and easily provision and turn up voice and messaging services for cloud-based operators and migrate premise-based communication systems to VoIP. Flowroute’s APIs, tools, and portal with best-of-breed automation and SMS capabilities build on the foundation for communications platform as a service (CPaaS).

Flowroute were also a sponsor of TADHack for many years, e.g. TADHack-mini Orlando 10-11 March 2018 before Enterprise Connect 2018. Check out the photos here.

T-Mobile US Experiences

Whenever I hit a problem in customer service, I often think, perhaps it’s just me. I then go online and see I’m not alone. I wonder if carriers check out all the online feedback their customers leave for them? Then I saw this note from Michael Graves on his three month effort to break up with T-Mobile. He was moving to Mint Mobile.

My family and I moved to Mint over one year ago from TMO, everyone is happy with their Mint Mobile plans, especially myself as I’m paying one third of what we paid TMO. We had no problems with TMO closing the account, unlike Michael. However, TMO did have a Goodbye Gift for us, 3 requests for the return of a 6 year old cellspot router else pay $99.

I did have a problem in 2018 with T-Mobile US, and that problem began with an overseas call center not representing their plans accurately. The overseas call center was common with how Michael’s problem began. People I know in the carrier call center business recommend if you think you’re through to an overseas call center and can wait, hang-up and call back during local office hours. The overseas’ incentives are not the same as the in-country contact centers.

So far, touch wood, the first year with Mint has been a breeze. We all have the phones we want, the plans we want, and no shenanigans so we know we’re getting value for money. We have never used a mobile carrier’s high street store, its a mobile phone plan, it’s all done online. The best customer service for us is when things just work. For my family and I Mint Mobile has nailed their experience, minimalist, it just works. Plus you get to say foxxing a lot 🙂

Knock’s Wild Ride from $2B to $220M in 12 Months

I first met Sean Black, CEO of Knock, at his start-up SalesCrunch (acquired by ClearSlide). I interviewed he and Roger, his VP Engineering. Their business was built on programmable communications.

Sean’s current story with Knock is similar to many others I’ve seen in the past 9 months from the programmable communications industry. I thought I’d share it so people understand the past year has been hell for many M&A transactions. The BCM One transaction was buying assets, the Flowroute business must have been close to shuttered by Intrado.

In March 2021, they hired Goldman Sachs to help take Knock public on the New York Stock Exchange via a SPAC. A few weeks later, Goldman valued Knock at $2B and they entered into an agreement with a reputable, repeat SPAC sponsor represented by Morgan Stanley. I’m unconvinced on SPACs, as we saw with Syniverse in CXTech Week 7 2022. I wonder how the TeleSign SPAC is going?

By the end of July 2021, it was clear the SPAC market was not going to rebound so they pivoted to raising a private $150M round of financing. Then in September the Delta variant started raging and fears of another shutdown and inflation sent the stock market into a tailspin. And then in December Omicron. In January the US military was brought in to support some hospitals here in the US. Then we had Tech stocks tanking and reality hit Facebook’s business, and then Russia invaded the Ukraine, and then lockdowns began in China….

So a year to the day, March 15, Knock announced $220M of new funding, including a first close on $70M in equity and $150M in new debt used to power their payments platform that helps Knock’s customers finance their homes. This is an amazing achievement and testament to Knock’s solution to the pain of buying and selling homes.

The other point Sean raises is nimbleness. “It’s Always Day One” to denote how critical it is for companies to maintain their nimbleness, entrepreneurial spirit, passion, and, most importantly, obsessive customer focus. Sean proves despite such a terrible year for raising cash, it can be done! Just keep the focus on the customer, not all the noise and shenanigans that go on through M&A.

iBASIS Partners With Mavenir to Launch CPaaS and Introduce Global Programmable Communications to Service Providers

Mavenir bought Telestax last year, which gives it a CPaaS enabler, CXTech Week 34 2021, not a CPaaS business. Given Ericsson bought Vonage, DT invested in Signalwire, and BICS bought a CPaaS. Telcos are getting interested again in CPaaS.

The iBASIS CPaaS will likely be delivered as a service to telcos. The critical aspect is not the technology, the CPaaS, that’s quite mature, rather its all about the go-to-market. I usually point to Ideamart as an example of success at this point, I working on a whitepaper to review what they’ve done over the years.

DT Global Carrier (Wholesale) Briefing March 17th

I listened into this briefing as its an example of renewed carrier interest in CPaaS, especially given their investment in Signalwire. DT Wholesale is an aggregator across the DT group, and across all telcos. It’s good to see they understand the importance of being a one-stop-shop if they want to have a role beyond traditional wholesale PSTN services.

The Wholesale group covers: Voice and Mobile Services (international voice, IPX, IoT, WiFi roaming), Interconnect and Peering (peering, DDoS, CDN), Access and Transport (SDWAN and 200/400 Gbit/s fibre for private networks), Commercial Roaming (all those carrier agreements), and Inflight (inflight internet and calling).

Also it was nice to see the focus on programmable communications as the category, see diagram below. Sorry for the picture quality. The proof of concept of their API gateway with BMW, Valeo, and Josh Hurler (Garage owner) and was interesting. Essentially an underground 5G network positioned as a “slice” of their public network. So BMW cars can be parked autonomously in the park car. A fun technology demo, though I’m not sure of the economics and practicality of the use case.

Their programmable communication plan is to create an ecosystem of DT and partner APIs available to all DT’s customers and for internal development (eat your own dog food), including the usual CPaaS list of capabilities, and network capabilities (location, QoS, and Network Slicing), see below.

There’s the usual focus on standardizing APIs through CAMARA, reported in CXTech Week 9 2022, the lessons from OneAPI appear not to be learned. As mentioned above in the iBASIS note, the go to market is going to be critical, as the technology is mature. One point they stress is the importance developers will play to get in and innovate with their ecosystem.

Let’s hope they significantly undercut Twilio on the programmable communications APIs pricing, making it extremely easy to use, and focus on the broad range of potential programmable communications consumers and channels, e.g. integrators, IT departments, managed service providers, value add resellers, and existing enterprise customers.

SMARTY uses imimobile’s CPaaS and RCS to generate 100% increase in engagement

SMARTY, a UK SIM-only mobile network, has deployed imiconnect and imicampaign to support its growing subscriber base and drive a more seamless customer experience across its marketing journeys and digital channels.

In chatting with the SMARTY folks, the automation of a customer’s journey has been key. For example, asking at the right time, i.e. early and when everything has gone well in moving the customer onto their platform. As evidenced by SMARTY’s 70% 5-star rating.

The RCS piece is more about convenience in gathering reviews from Android phones. The difference in response rates between using a link to complete a review and using RCS is small but significant. Convenience matters, it’s the small things.

A renewed focus on the US, taking a share of the biggest pie

I’m seeing quite a few aggregators (Infobip) and business messaging (Messagebird) providers building out their North American teams with the objectives of grabbing a bigger piece of the large North American programmable communications pie, close to three quarters of the total pie.

For example, Helene Donahue has joined Infobip as general manager of North America. Though I thought she’d come in from the Peerless Acquisition (CXTech Week 44 2021), which bought CallOne at roughly the same time the Infobip/Peerless acquisition was announced. Likely Peerless is still separate, so a lateral move into Infobip.

Clickatell Integrates Chat 2 Pay with Salesforce Commerce Cloud

We covered Clickatell’s raise in CXTech Week 8 2022. Part of the funding is aimed at building out the US market. Clickatell’s integration means Commerce Cloud customers can offer payment options by allowing contact center agents to trigger payment requests via a payment link in chat messages. Features include:

  • Pre-built Chat 2 Pay cartridge for Salesforce Order Management
  • Payment link sent via SMS or WhatsApp channels through integration of Clickatell’s Chat 2 Pay extension
  • Fully hosted, responsive checkout page that collects data directly from customers and processes their payments
  • Orchestration APIs that securely pass information such as MSISDN, transaction details, receipt, etc.
  • Integration to Cybersource’s payment processing platform (compatible with Secure Acceptance and Unified Commerce)
  • Support of both the 3D Secure 1.0 and 2.0 protocols
  • Agent dashboard that displays status of the payment (e.g., link sent, payment success or error, etc.)
  • Analytics delivered via integration of Clickatell’s Chat 2 Pay extension
  • Tier 2 operational tools: end-point monitoring and alerts dashboard
  • General cartridge management and configuration
  • Comprehensive user guide and tutorial videos to enable easier setup

Some segments of the US market are chat-centric, rather than SMS. For those segments it will be interesting to see if Clickatell’s differentiation gives them an edge in expanding their US presence.

RedEye selects Infobip for multi-channel messaging

I’m seeing more marketing automation platforms do strategic deals to lock out aggregator competition to avoid the race to the bottom in price and quality for messaging. Again RCS messaging is mentioned in this deal. While it’s still not a significant volume / revenue source.

I am seeing more use cases being mentioned by enterprises using RCS and IP messaging for customer communications. Generally its slight convenience benefits for improved experience, this is not yet an enabler of significantly new experiences that would finally drive volumes. It’s still in the ‘nice to have’ category.

Crexendo and Mavenir swap UCaaS and CCaaS Offers

Mavenir will integrate Crexendo’s Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS) with the Mavenir Connect brand and Crexendo will integrate Mavenir’s Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) and omni-channel customer engagement, chatbots and automations.

Mavenir Connect will leverage Crexendo’s technology to deliver a proven UCaaS solution for customers who are looking for industry leading, mobile-friendly, cloud-based unified communications capabilities that are cost effective, easy to deploy and consume, improve employee productivity and increase customer engagement. Crexendo, with Mavenir’s CCaaS offerings, will expand its contact center portfolio with omni-channel capabilities including text, chat and e-mail that are in high demand in the mid-size and enterprise level markets.

We’ve seen quite a few such deals over the passed 2 years. I’ve been working on a project looking at the integration approaches, and the impact it has on workflow flexibility, programmability, costs, channel and customer impacts. It’s a surprisingly complex problem space, even the underlying open source projects of the UCaaS and CCaaS platforms, e.g. FreeSWITCH and Asterisk, can impact architecture.

Some integrations are little more than branding exercises of 2 separate platforms, teams, and roadmaps; others are an API integration layer that can present a unified experiences in creating workflows though there are some interesting service interaction problems; and then there’s the approach of consolidating into on a common platform / architecture to deliver savings and control. But it all needs to report into a common CTO as the architecture of the programmable communications platform is critical.

People, Gossip, and Frivolous Stuff

Vagish Kalra is now for Associate Director at S&P Global. I’ve known Vagish through his time at ACL Wireless (now Sinch) and Tech Mahindra.

Congratulations to Pierre Becerril, CEO Transparent Intelligence. Which was acquired by OTA Insight, a cloud-based hospitality business intelligence provider. Pierre was one of our winners at the first TADHack in 2014. Winning the Ubuntu prize for an app that’s evolved from speech to text, to subtitling the spoken word, to a hyper voice application.

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