There’s not much left for John Sculley, Jeff Pulver or Craig McCaw to prove as businessmen or entrepreneurs. Each has made his own mark on the tech world. But that doesn’t mean their start-up days are behind them. The trio, along with Michael Price, are lauching a B2B communications start-up Monday morning out of San Mateo.
Called Tello, the company is the brainchild of Pulver, the guy behind the VON conferences. Its aim is to enable instant communication between businesses that work closely together – manufacturers and their suppliers, commercial banks and customers, tech companies and business partners, etc.
The company operates a web service that allows people at one company to instantly detect the communications presence of people at other companies. Once people are invited into your network – and their communications devices or applications are registered with the service – you can see if they are using their landline phones, cell phones or are available via IM. Once connected, Tello users can share applications and collaborate in real-time.
“I can pick up the phone and see if you’re on the phone,” said Doug Renert, president and CEO, who was most recently with Oracle Corporation as VP of applications development. “It’s a Skype-like service, but between two businesses. We can basically show which device they are on and switch you to that device. Are they mobile? Are they at their desk?”
Currently, the system can work with PBX phone systems, Blackberries and any IM client. Tello can technically work with other IP-based services, such as VoIP phones, but Renert said that setting those can be sometimes be tricky for individuals. The goal is to have the service bundled with those types of providers so users don’t have to worry about setting it up themselves.
The service is aimed at businesses where speed and productivity are critical, where you can’t wait for your supplier or research and development partner to answer an email or phone message.
The service uses a downloadable Windows-only desktop client that looks an instant messaging client.
The service is launching with a free basic version, intended as the proof-of-concept that gets people addicted to the service. Businesses will want the enterprise version, priced at $30 per user per year.
Tello took $5.5 million from a group of investors that includes Eagle River, Evercore Partners, Rho Ventures and Intel Capital.
Sculley, et al aren’t handling the day-to-day running of the business. They’ll sit on the board.