First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nir Simionovich: We’re doing well, thanks for asking. CoviTime (we decided to name this time as CoviTime as a joke) made a significant impact on our lives. In past years, I would normally spend about 50% of my time abroad, splitting my time between home (in Israel) and our New York office. Since Feb 2020, I’ve been “homebound” – and the change of pace has taught us (as a family) new things. Israeli is currently under second lock-down, which on its own is very challenging, but also enables us to do and learn new things.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Cloudonix.
Nir Simionovich: I’m what you will refer to as an Old-School techno-geek. I’m 46, and I’ve been coding since I was 14 (professionally since I was 16) – in fact, my first ever developer position was with a software accounting firm in Israel. As many Israeli, I went to the army – serving 3 years with the Israeli Army Computer Corp (Mamram). From the army I went to University, studying Computer Science and Education in the Technion (Israeli equivalent of MIT, for those not familiar). Since 2001, I’ve been involved with the Open Source communications community, mainly projects like Asterisk, Kamailio and GnuGK. I’ve always been fascinated with communications in general and VoIP (Voice over IP) in particular.
Cloudonix was founded out of a need that emerged in 2015. As the “mobile first” approach started to grow, we noticed a significant lack of mobile developer tools for VoIP, specifically, a high-quality, battery conscious, network conscious VoIP developer SDK. So, we set out to build one. We started developing the first version, still as a “grunt project” in my old consulting firm, Greenfield Technologies – back in 2014. When the first version was ready for release, mid-2014 – we realized that we created an SDK that was so unique and robust, there was no proper platform to take advantage of it. So, we sat down again and built one.
In 2015, Cloudonix was born under the name GreenfieldTech 2015 – still a product solving a problem and looking for a market. Late 2015 we found our first customer, later on, to be followed by others. Since then, much has changed – and today on a daily basis. But the basic premise still remains, providing the world with the most robust, reliable and highest possible quality solution for in-app and in-web communications/
How does Cloudonix innovate?
Nir Simionovich: How does one innovate? Is innovation a thing? I don’t believe so. Innovation is a process; it’s a way of thought and behavioral regime. I can’t point to a single thing and say: “this is how we disrupt or innovate”, we do so in many ways. We innovate by challenging the boundaries of what VoIP and WebRTC are. We innovate by asking ourselves: “why not?” on a daily basis, looking at things and thinking: “can we do this better?”. Innovators will always innovate, regardless of what they do – it’s who they are. I would say that at the core of our innovation you will find 2 catalysts: our passion and our customers. Our customers challenge us by presenting us with new challenges almost every other week. It takes their challenges, in their business, in their products and put our passion for solving puzzles into it.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Nir Simionovich: The Covid-19 Pandemic meets Cloudonix in a very interesting place – on the one hand, like many other companies we were affected at the beginning, with a significant number of customers reducing services or completely going out of business. However, as time progressed, we realized that our services have much to offer. Ranging from a unique solution for Work-From-Anywhere, aimed at on-premise contact centers and the ability to turn any enterprise communication system to a cloud-one, in as little as 30 minutes – we started to rebuild our offering. In fact, the “downtime” actually enabled us to get back to various “grunt projects” we never had time for – which we will be releasing in a few weeks from now. Ranging from our completely revamped self-care cockpit, a set of video tutorials and developer guides that are due to be published as well and more.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Nir Simionovich: “Difficult Choices” – are there any choices that are not difficult? In today’s rapidly changing world, sometimes choosing a cup of coffee can be challenging. I can say that we needed to make various choices, some more complex than others. What we’ve learned is that as long as we prolong a choice (or a decision), the worse it gets. As entrepreneurs, we are optimistic by nature and tend to live in our own reality distortion field. This can lead to bad choices, or worse, delay in taking the initiative on a hard decision. When we’ve learned is that we need to take our “passion” and our “optimism” aside when making choices. Choices need to be made upon assessing the worst, hoping for the best and asserting the available and results.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and your company in the future?
Nir Simionovich: Stress and Anxiety – let me ask them, one is sitting on my left shoulder and the other on the right. Putting aside the cartoon-like analogy, both are part of my day to day. I’ve come to realize that there are things I can control, things I can’t and things I shouldn’t. Ask anyone, and they will tell you I’m very much a control freak – but I’ve learned to let go. I’ve learned that some things I should not stress about, because they are out of my hands – and keep thinking about them doesn’t progress the company or me anywhere. I’ve learned to put my personal need to be involved in everything aside – and let my co-founders Eric and Oded take point. Cloudonix is very much a lean operation, so as 3 founders, we are involved in everything. I would like to see the company grow and be able to delegate to other people as well. While I am the CEO, I’m still an engineer by training and a geek by nature – so I would like in the future to be able to get back to being hand-on with the technical staff. I don’t negate the possibility that in the future someone else will step into the CEO role – but for this stage of the company, it needs a founder CEO, so that we can execute our vision.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Nir Simionovich: That is a tricky question. Many people tend to mistake Cloudonix for a CPaaS (Communications Platform as a Service) like Twilio and Plivo. Well, to an extent we are – but in fact, we are not. Cloudonix is a carrier agnostic CPaaS, which means that while companies like Twilio, Plivo, Nexmo and the other CPaaS providers enable you to connect your own systems and SIP Trunks as a feature – this is the core of our being. We believe that as we progress, communications will become more and more context-oriented. Context oriented communications means that you will communicate with your service providers via their provided mobile or web applications. They will not ask you for your customer ID or lengthy authorizations, they will not ask what you need – the communications technology will enable them to pre-emptively know it.
This is what Cloudonix is all about – the convergence between customer side data (information stored in a mobile or web application) and voice and video calling. That convergence is at the heart of creating a proper service context, ensuring rapid response to any customer requirement. We’re adding new capabilities and new use-cases for our technologies. Our customers are at the fore-front of consumer services – which means that while other companies keep clinging to traditional phone lines, phone numbers and SMS messages – we are the future of consumer-facing communications. The vendors steer their customers towards the Omni-Channel approach to provide services via Facebook and WhatsApp. Adding additional communications channels does not improve customer service; it only makes it a little bit more accessible. Cloudonix is not yet another communications channel; it is the natural evolution of communications – moving from simple data transfer to contextual engagement.
Your final thoughts?
Nir Simionovich: The world changed more in 9 months than it changed in the past 20 years. I’ve seen markets change and shift. I’ve seen amazing companies going under and unknown companies emerging. It feels very much like the late 1990s when the Internet boom started. The world is starting fresh now. Businesses, technologies, nations and humans – we are all re-inventing ourselves. The next 24-36 months are going to be very interesting – with businesses reshaping themselves, people changing their businesses manners and consumption patterns. I think that we’ll all need to sit down and reflect upon what is important and what is not. Personally speaking, I see this period as a time for growth, both personal and business-wise. I hope to have this conversation with you in 12 months from now and then again at 24 and 36 months – so we can examine how the world progressed.
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