The company he is now associated with is called Ooma. They claim to be reinventing the telephony business from th ground up, and are especially proud of their lack of telco talent on their management team.
The business is classic VoIP, in that they will allow users to make Internet calls using their existing land-line phones. As our friends over at TechCrunch have noted, Ooma’s unique spin on this growing category is a peer-to-peer architecture which so substantially reduces Ooma’s overhead, they are able to offer their service for free. Yes – all calls are free.
The part that makes me vaguely uncomfortable is the notion that all calls made with the system are routed through the phone lines of other Ooma users. This means that theoretically your calls could be intercepted by an enterprising hacker. While the risk is low – after all internet over cable uses a similar model – I prefer knowing that my calls are taking a more direct route.
That said, Ooma seems to be the first VoIP company to realize that internet-enabled telephony is capable of so much more than just placing and receiving calls at discount rates. Future plans include offering the same customizable ring-tones on your home phone that you’re used to seeing on cell phones.
And then there’s the Ashton Kutcher aspect. How does this guy fit in with an otherwise all-tech and senior business management team? One word: promotion. Be on the lookout for a series of ‘viral’ videos promoting the Ooma product, under Kutcher’s direct supervision. If Ooma takes off, Kutcher’s business-savvy may well eclipse his acting efforts in terms of financial reward. We’ll have to wait and see.
Update: Apparently Ashton doesn’t need this gig, or any other for that matter.