SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Dave Michels
Dave Michels is a Principal Analyst at TalkingPointz. His unique perspective on unified communications comes from a career involving telecommunications...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Dave Michels | January 27, 2015 |

 
   

Thinking of Phones

Thinking of Phones Steve Kokinos, CEO of UCaaS innovator Thinking Phone Networks, gives us the lowdown on where the company is today and where it's headed.

Steve Kokinos, CEO of UCaaS innovator Thinking Phone Networks, gives us the lowdown on where the company is today and where it's headed.

When Steve Kokinos, CEO of Thinking Phone Networks, founded the unified communications as a service (UCaaS) provider in 2006, he did so with the vision of using communications to automate processes and uncover buried intelligence. At the time he observed: "Communications systems are the only applications that truly have 100% penetration across the entire enterprise." Lots has changed in the ensuing 9 years, so I caught up with Kokinos recently for an update on his vision and a status report on the company.

ThinkingPhones runs on an internally developed platform, delivering voice, video, mobility, presence/IM, messaging, collaboration, contact center, and communications analytics applications as cloud services. It is doing well, reporting revenue growth of more than 100% each year since 2012 and having recently raised $56.7 million in new funding to help ensure the trend continues. (This brings total funding at the Cambridge, Mass., company to approximately $89 million.)

Kokinos tells me that with this new investment ThinkingPhones will likely be able to double its current headcount, which sits around 250 today, by the end of the year. Additionally, the company intends to increase its investments in product development and international expansion, he says.

The UCaaS sector is crowded, but unlike the majority of the providers, ThinkingPhones is focused mostly on enterprise customers rather than small and medium-sized businesses (SMB). It primarily sells its services through an indirect channel.

portable
Steve Kokinos, ThinkingPhones

What follows is an excerpt from our conversation. Read on for Kokinos' thoughts on the importance of the cloud, shifting enterprise communications requirements, the mobility mandate, and more.

No Jitter: You started ThinkingPhones ahead of the cloud's rise. Assuming you think ThinkingPhones is still ahead of the pack, tell me how.

Kokinos: The central theme we see in modern enterprise communications is the move toward mobile-centricity. End users want the same experience with work apps that they enjoy in their personal lives. Taking inspiration from that and delivering on messaging both internally and externally, having a great immersive experience with apps like Salesforce and Google Apps, and using analytics to help drive enterprise visibility in new directions are all critically important.

At the same time, enterprises require parity with legacy systems. While legacy hardware and software may not serve end-user desires, they do represent years, if not decades, of embedded business processes that dictate how companies interact with their customers and partners. Getting that right is critical, and we're the only ones in the cloud who can do that while still delivering a fresh, modern experience.

No Jitter: Many telecom firms are moving away from "Tel" in their names. Explain to me the name ThinkingPhones and which part of the name you consider more important.

Kokinos: Making enterprise communications more intelligent and intuitive, and helping businesses increase their agility is at the absolute core of what we do. Modern enterprise communications should enable new ways of interacting and addressing problems through thoughtful actions -- hence the "Thinking" portion of our moniker.

And while the "Phones" part of our name proves that we never lose sight of the fact that voice communications is central to our mission, we want to make it clear that what we do isn't about traditional telephony. The fact that people have a true emotional connection to their smartphones and tablets necessitates a new way of thinking about how companies and customers connect. The future of business communications is completely mobile and dynamic based on the context and location of each interaction. Drawing on that trend is a real positive from our viewpoint.

No Jitter: The majority of UCaaS providers target the SMB market. ThinkingPhones has always been more focused on larger accounts. What is the average size customer for ThinkingPhones, and is that average growing or shrinking?

Kokinos: From the beginning, we felt there was a lack of emphasis on larger enterprises in the UCaaS market. When you dig into why, it has a lot to do with the complexity and breadth of requirements. We built our platform from the ground up to handle a wide range of traditional voice requirements (complex IVRs, contact center functionality, parking, paging, administrative controls) while at the same time delivering a modern, mobile-focused experience that brings communications into today's cloud ecosystem.

We've been seeing customer sizes trending upwards pretty quickly -- the average today is about 1,000 users but we're seeing growing demand with larger enterprises consisting of tens of thousands of users.

Continue to the next page for more from Kokinos





COMMENTS



August 16, 2017

Contact centers have long been at the leading edge of innovation in communications technology, given their promise of measurable ROI and the continual need to optimize customer interactions and sta

July 12, 2017

Enterprises have been migrating Unified Communications & Collaboration applications to datacenters - private clouds - for the past few years. With this move comes the opportunity to leverage da

May 31, 2017

In the days of old, people in suits used to meet at a boardroom table to update each other on their work. Including a remote colleague meant setting a conference phone on the table for in-person pa

August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.