With Flowroute headquarters making an exciting move to a new space in the historic Seattle Tower, I thought it would be a good time to look back on the hard work and innovation that has led us to where we are today.
It all began while I was working as a telecom consultant and found vulnerabilities in the existing open source telecommunication software being used. With help from my friends and fellow UC Irvine graduates Jordan Levy and Sean Hsieh, we developed an idea to create custom firmware for IP phones that used end-to-end encryption for the voice. With no investment money, we slept on friends couches and worked tirelessly to create the prototype for Flowroute.
The goal of Flowroute was to make getting a phone number as easy as setting up a Gmail account. We knew it was possible, it had just never been done before. While most entrepreneurs avoid heavily regulated spaces, we registered with the FCC and got the licensing necessary to become a certificated carrier. Our fearlessness was one of our greatest assets in this case and allowed us to innovate in a way that would give developers direct access to the telephone network and its resources – to innovate more quickly.
The next summer we were able to roll out a beta to a handful of influential users who could help guide the evolution of the product. For example, we realized the ability to have phone numbers and inbound telephone services as a component of our product was important to meet the needs of our customers. However, the cost of implementing this capability was going to be thousands of dollars a month, which put us in a difficult position since we had no capital and had already invested all of our personal resources. At this point, we knew that the next month would dictate the success of our product and company.
We decided to try a guerrilla marketing effort through a YouTube video. We had no idea that our video would take off and receive over 300,000 views. The success of the video helped us to raise Flowroute’s visibility and reach a new audience who were interested in experimenting with our product. From this point, myself, Jordan and Sean each committed taking shifts so that we could provide round the clock support to our customers. Since we were the ones listening to all customer feedback and solving every problem that arose, we had the opportunity to hone the features of our product to the needs we saw in the market.
Our focus began to shift towards growing the company by expanding the core leadership team and bringing on individuals who were excited about what we were doing in telecom. We were very fortunate to hire people whose goals aligned with our own and who could help add operational thoughtfulness to our growth. During this period of growth, we thought about taking on investment capital as it seemed like the natural next step. However, we were committed to only raising money if it was the right partner and we felt it was needed to accomplish our vision. We had quite a few interested investors but decided we could stay more focused on our customers’ needs as well as achieve the growth we were looking for on our own. As a purpose-driven organization with a bold vision for our future and the customers we serve, we look forward to raising investment capital from the right partner at the right time.
In 2015, Flowroute has seen a 30% growth in active users and a customer retention rate of 96%. Our commitment to providing unparalleled customer support continues to be a defining element of our business. However, today instead of myself, Jordan and Sean taking round the clock shifts, we have a team of highly trained support engineers. Our revenue grew 35% in 2015, and we increased our headcount by more than 50%. We look forward to our move to the historic Seattle Tower, our continued growth as a company and exciting innovations in telecom.
Interested in Flowroute by the numbers? Check out our 2015 Year In Review infographic.