Q&A with Bababoo co-founder and CEO Buck French
Bababoo offers a wifi and 3G-based mobile calling solution, and they just raised $1.5 million in seed funding from Sierra Ventures. Co-founder and CEO Buck French tells StartUp Beat that the two most important differentiators for Bababoo are ease-of-use in calling and intelligent call routing. The London-based company was founded in February, 2010.
SUB: What is Bababoo? What is the value proposition that you offer to customers?
French: Bababoo is an intelligent calling app that provides effortless savings when placing mobile calls. The app is intelligent because it knows when your phone is connected to the Internet in order to place free and low cost Internet calls. When your phone is not on the Internet, the app ensures the call is placed by routing the call through your carrier network. The savings are “effortless” because all the consumer needs to do is press the Bababoo Blue button and dial, nothing else. Our interface looks the same as the iPhone dialer and you keep your same phone number without porting. You literally just dial and we place the call the lowest cost way possible.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
French: We consider the mobile carrier as our competition. At the end of the day, our smart phones are smart enough to leverage the Internet to provide free and cheap calls, but the carriers lock you into their more expensive network as the only option. We think that your call should be routed the lowest cost way possible. Sometimes that is the Internet, other times it is the carrier. The key though is the user should not have to choose, it should just happen.
SUB: Mobile telephony over 3G/wifi seems to be a hot sector recently. What is it about Bababoo that you think distinguishes it from the competition?
French: Two fundamental things. First, ease of use. You don’t have to change your behavior like other VOIP offerings. You just dial like you always have. The only change for the user is pushing a blue button instead of a green. Second, intelligent call routing. We are the only provider who routes the call through the Internet when available and if 3G/wifi is not available, making sure the call gets placed by seamlessly passing it to the carrier.
SUB: How was the technology behind the application developed (was it done in-house, was it a collaborative effort, etc.)?
French: Yes, it was done in-house by my fellow co-founders Tony Million and Dan Lane. Both very experienced mobile telephony engineers.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took to establishing it?
French: We founded the company in February of 2010. The most critical step we took was properly defining the problem we were setting out to solve. We believe that a user should not have to figure out for themselves how to place a free or low cost call. It should just happen. Given the power of the smartphone, we have proved this is possible.
SUB: What is your target market?
French: Anyone who has a smartphone! Initially we are only available on the iPhone, but we will have Android and Blackberry by the beginning of 2012. The reason we say anyone with a smartphone is we have proven that we clearly save with international calling, but we have also proven that we can significantly lower people’s carrier bills.
SUB: How are you marketing the service?
French: We initially have used PR efforts to get the word out. But our best marketing tool is happy customers. We are focused on making each customer happy with our offering with the hope they will tell their friends.
SUB: You recently raised a $1.5 million seed funding round. Do you have specific plans for the money, or is it intended more for general business purposes?
French: The money is to keep building out our offering and execute our vision of providing “Smart Communications.” The Bababoo Intelligent Calling App is just our first effort in this area. There will be more to come at the end of the year.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?
French: Not in the near future, but we do anticipate raising funding down the road to support our rapid growth.
SUB: What have the biggest challenges been to this point to making Bababoo what you’ve envisioned it being?
French: As always, in any market, there is a lot of noise. It’s tough getting the word out that this is more than just a VOIP offering. That “intelligent calling” has VOIP in the mix, but your carrier needs to be an option as well and all of it has to be delivered to the consumer “hassle-free.”
SUB: Finally, a question I always ask: As an entrepreneur who has weathered the down economy of recent years, what advice do you have for those just starting out as entrepreneurs?
French: Make sure you focus on properly defining the problem you are going after. Think hard about it and don’t be distracted from building a product that is targeted at solving it.
Bababoo – www.bababoo.com