In the smartphone era, there are opportunities to make our everyday lives smarter in multiple ways, and highly skilled entrepreneurs are hard at work figuring out how to do just that.
A prime example is Randy Adams, a serial entrepreneur and founder of seven venture-backed technology companies, with a track record that includes the invention of the PDF at Adobe; the establishment of the first e-commerce web site (the Internet Shopping Network); and the creation of the first PC desktop publishing app, Personal Publisher.
He also and previously served as Lead Designer at Steve Job’s NeXT computer company, as a director at Yahoo, Inc., and as co-founder of FunnyOrDie.com.
These days, Adams is CEO at Socialdial, which is developing smarter communications services, including its free Android and iOS app, CrowdCall, which is designed to take the pain out of conference calls by leveraging our social graphs.
"Telephone companies are archaic dinosaurs," Adams told me recently over coffee in the Mission District. "The whole concept of dialing someone based on an assigned number is weird. You should be able to communicate with people based on their identity. But the phone communes have billions invested based on the number system."
CrowdCall aims to disrupt the entire experience of dialing a long-distance call-in number, entering a PIN, and hope the call quality is good enough to understand what is going on.
With CrowdCall, the meeting hosts simply download the app to schedule or set up a call. Participants don’t even need to have the app installed. They get a text alert along with an inbound call from the host that seamlessly connects all parties.
There are no long distance or line charges for up to 20 calls a day with 20 people each in any one of 40 countries around the world. (Very low charges, compared with the standard rates charged by the carriers, are incurred in other countries not yet part of their system.)
Because the calls are made through the regular cellular carriers, as opposed to VOIP-based services like Skype, the audio quality is far higher.
"In essence, we're the only outbound, PIN-less service in the conference call space," says Adams.
As of next week (August 14th), the company will also take its web-based service public, which is more specifically tailored to the professional market.
Since launching its smartphone apps in March, CrowdCall has experienced very sharp viral growth by word-of-mouth marketing to the point it's now hosting a million calls a month, or more than 35,000 a day.
Adams says the current tech boom is unlike any previous one in the magnitude of the impacts entrepreneurs are able to on people's lives.
"There's more innovation happening now than ever before. Mobile devices, raw computing power, and open source development are the forces driving it.
"I have a desk downtown at RocketSpace and there are 100 people just there working on things you never thought of before. I'd say there is 100 times the innovation of the boom in the 90s.
"This is a truly amazing time."
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