These days, tech startups are often either mobile apps or offline logistics businesses with a website. But every now and then, we get to see a pure play technology solution that is mostly held together by real code. Fonenode falls squarely into that category. The new startup has created a platform that enables web applications to connect with telephony infrastructure.
If you are familiar with a successful Silicon Valley startup called Twilio, you might recognise this. Fonenode is essentially a giant telephony API that makes it possible for developers to make/receive phone calls as well as send/receive SMS.
If it still looks complicated (like it did to me), the platform’s creators have provide a few use common cases:
– Fonenode could be used to authenticate online transactions by calling the customer’s phone number and giving them a verification digit combination.
– A call centre could use a computer to track caller IDs, the time and length of received calls. No external hardware required.
– A web app that sends a notification to parents when it is time to vaccinate their kids might also call their phones with said reminder in the event that said recipient does not have access to email or isn’t literate.
– A polling web app that allows people vote, say for their favourite football club or predict match results. There is in fact such an implementation on Aproko.com.
Or you could just watch this (Twilio) video.
Any of these things would require the average developer to go cap in hand to telcos whom they need to expose and authorise the required APIs necessary to make it work. The problem is telcos generally won’t give the average developer the time of day — as far as transaction value goes, they are often too small to be worth their time.
Companies like Paga that have enterprise grade scale and can get telcos to sit across the table from them still have to endure an interminably long and technical back and forth to secure a successful integration. These things also require significant upfront financial commitments that would prove much for the average developer.
These major pain points are what Fonenode is aiming to address. With Fonenode as the middle-man doing the heavy lifting with the telcos, developers will in the company’s words, be able to “focus on building stuff and not need to have meetings or make huge capital expenditures just because they have an idea they want to test”.
This is not unlike what payments services like Eyowo do when they sit in between Interswitch and online merchants.
Fonenode promises that with as little as $13, developers will be able to painlessly integrate with Nigerian telephone networks.
If they pull it off, they will be the first to do so in Africa’s largest mobile market, with 160 million connected GSM lines. There are no known local platforms that provide a similar service, which means that in the unlikely event that Twilio decided to move in on Nigeria, the competition is equal to zero.
Fonenode was created by two Nigerian startup veterans. Oo Nwoye, better known as OoTheNigerian is a serial startup founder and Nigerian technology ecosystem evangelist who has worked on several commercial and non-profit technology/web projects. His last major undertaking was Gbedu.fm, which according to him is now in cryogenic stasis. Opeyemi Obembe is a developer and part of the team that brought you the multi-award winning Prowork.