Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! I’m Nico, and I’m the Founder and CEO of telbee. I launched my first product, Vox - an online voice recording and messaging platform for businesses - to make it easy for businesses to talk with their customers and audience, as people.
In creating and launching Vox, my goal is to put the human touch back into customer communications - while keeping things uncomplicated and effortless on both sides of the conversation.
By coupling the convenience of instant messaging with the personal touch of a phone call, I hope that Vox will help make the internet feel more human.
So how does Vox work?
When you sign up for Vox (for free!), you can create and customize your own Vox recording button and add it to your website. You can then either embed your Vox button into your page, have it pop up when your visitors click on a tab, or set it up on a hosted landing page that you can link to from anywhere!
Visitors can then record voice notes for you (called ‘voxes’) which arrive in your inbox that your whole team can use and share. You can reply to these voxes directly in your voice - adding text, images, and links if you’d like - or assign the vox to someone else. We also give you the option to manually or automatically transcribe your voxes so that you can read as well as listen!
Here are a few screenshots to give you a better idea of how Vox works:
Our team at telbee launched Vox a couple of weeks ago, on July 16th, and have been overwhelmed and humbled by the positive response we’ve received so far. Not only have we voted #1 Product of the Day - which I fully recognize is a huge honor for any new tech startup - but we’ve also seen well over a hundred people signing up to our platform in the days that have followed!
The success of our launch (and of the last couple of weeks) has cemented what I’ve always believed - that businesses want to listen to their customers just as much as customers want to be heard.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Before telbee, I had founded a couple of other businesses - I’ve always been an entrepreneur by nature.
At the time that I came up with the idea of telbee, I was working in the insurance space, but taking some time out to reflect deeply on what my goals for the next five years were.
When I first came up with the idea of launching a business around voice tech, it was based on a simple realization: While modern automation does help make things quicker and easier for businesses, we seem to have lost a lot of the personal side of business-to-customer relationships.
I found that I was becoming increasingly frustrated by the state of customer communications on the internet. There was so much talk out there about the importance of ‘listening to the customer’ - but I could see very few businesses doing that.
It seemed to me that with chatbot technology and automated messaging on the rise, too many businesses were beginning to prioritize speed and automation above all things - forgetting that real, human relationships have always been built through meaningful conversations between people.
I knew there had to be a better way for people and businesses to communicate online. And around May 2019, as I was walking through a park to a meeting, it dawned on me. What if I could create a product that would empower organizations to use their most valuable communication tool - voice - to listen to, engage with, and understand their customers?
All around me, I saw people speaking into their phones, communicating with their friends and families through WhatsApp Voice Messages. Why? The answer was simple - it was easier, it was faster, it was more natural and it communicated more. So what if people and businesses could communicate with the same ease online?
Other experiences I was having got me even more excited about the potential of voice messaging for business. In particular, after one fantastic encounter with a Google support agent, I started to see how some of the greatest businesses were already incorporating asynchronous voice communication into their customer communication processes (with great success, I might add!).
I believe the best tech startup concepts are the ones that are founded on the simple premise of actively making a difference in people’s lives. If I could help one customer deliver their message to business quickly and easily (and not hunt for phone numbers, battle with chatbots or wait for live chat agents), and if I could find a way for a business to get closer to a customer by delivering personal service, I knew I’d be on the right track. And that’s why I founded telbee.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I’m sure you’ve heard Lean Startup’s golden rule of launching a new business: Start with a minimum viable product.
In general, this is fantastic advice. But for us at telbee, it was a little more complicated than that. We were asking our early adopters to put our technology in front of their customers - rather than simply using it behind the scenes. This meant that Vox needed to be robust, from day one.
As you can imagine, creating a product that businesses could be proud to introduce their customers to was no small task - and I had to prepare to make some very tricky decisions along the way.
One particular challenge in the initial stages of telbee was choosing where to place our focus as a business. For example - would we start by developing an asynchronous or synchronous platform? This was a hard one as we saw shedloads of potential in both!
After a lot of conversations with developers and potential customers, we decided that an asynchronous product like Vox was more innovative, interesting and would ultimately see a lot more uptake from businesses. So, we made the difficult decision to focus only on Vox initially - and to leave our other, synchronous concept on the backburner for a couple of years.
As a result, we were able to focus our time on developing, refining and testing a product we’re truly proud of - and which both businesses and customers have given us incredible feedback on so far:
The initial development process took my business partner Bernie and me around six months - and we also had a lot of advice and assistance from a team of talented developers, whose hard work and dedication did help us bring our vision to life.
Describe the process of launching the business.
After a successful closed beta, which saw nearly a hundred early adopters sign up for an account with Vox, we launched our product on the 16th of July - just a couple of weeks ago.
Our main outlet for our launch day was Product Hunt, as we essentially wanted to spread the word about our product among real tech enthusiasts and makers - and gun for a top spot as one of their top products of the day!
My team and I spent a lot of time creating a product listing for Vox which summarised our vision well - and communicated the benefits of voice recording and messaging for business.
This included having an official promo video created, which you can watch here:
I also recorded a demo using the Vox platform myself:
And, of course, we spent a lot of time making sure our website reflected what Vox was about for our new visitors:
During our launch day, my business partner Bernie and I spent the entire day responding to comments and questions from tech enthusiasts and makers on Product Hunt, while our Marketing team was hard at work sharing the news with as many other tech lovers and brands on the internet as possible!
Our approach to Product Hunt paid off as we were thrilled to be awarded #1 Product of the Day for 16th July. It’s not only something we’re proud of as a business, but also a real encouragement to know that the rest of the world is as excited about making the internet more human as we are!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since launch, we’ve been overwhelmed by the number of early adopters who have signed up to the platform already.
We’re working to attract even more new customers by investing in paid advertising (particularly on Facebook and Google, with plans to break into LinkedIn over the next couple of weeks too). We’re focussing heavily on link building as part of our overarching SEO strategy, as well as creating engaging, optimized content for our blog, refining our email marketing processes, and maintaining an active and engaging social presence.
Our PR efforts have also brought in a lot of traffic in the days following our launch, and we have a fantastic sales team who are currently working hard to put our product in front of the enterprises who will benefit from it most.
In terms of retaining our current customers and keeping them engaged, one technique we stand by is educating customers about the platform and allowing them to have their say in how it develops moving forward. As well as sending out several automated educational emails to talk our new users through how to use the platform, we’re also in the process of creating a monthly updates newsletter and have just set up a ‘Feature Requests’ page for our customers, where our early adopters have already started submitting some great suggestions for how we can improve.
Of course, at telbee, our entire business is built on our belief in creating personal connections between businesses and customers. That’s why we make a point of reaching out to all our new customers - by vox! - to check if they have any questions or need any help using our platform.
This process of reaching out to people personally has been well received by our new sign-ups and is something I would recommend any small business to do wherever possible to retain more loyal customers.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
It’s still early days for us at telbee, but we’re extremely excited by the reception we’ve been met with by our early adopters so far!
With Vox, we’ve tried to create a product that is affordable for everyone - with a free option for small businesses, blogs, podcasts, and eCommerce stores - but which larger enterprises can also use at a higher monthly or yearly price.
So, while many of our current users are small businesses just like us who are enjoying our Free plan, we’re also beginning to see a lot of interest from large businesses who are interested in signing up for our premium Team package.
We’re also focussing a lot on increasing our brand exposure at the moment, primarily by maintaining an active presence on social media (with our follower counts growing at an average rate of 20% per week), expanding our network of connections in the voice tech world and featuring on other people’s blogs, websites, podcasts, and radio shows. Just last week, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Dublin City FM about all things entrepreneurship and Vox - you can listen to the full interview here!
While our focus at the moment is largely on UK and US markets, we have plans to expand to new audiences and regions in Africa and Europe very soon.
Further down the line, we also hope to use our voice technology to bring out new product ranges - such as, for example, asynchronous voice messaging platform to complement Vox, our asynchronous messaging product. Stay tuned for that!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One of the stand-out learnings from the past year has without a doubt been the importance of adapting quickly and always keeping the bigger picture in mind.
Just one example of having to change our plans in a relatively short space of time came just a couple of months before our launch when the COVID-19 crisis and UK lockdown began.
In response to the pandemic, we started a campaign called ‘Bless Our Heroes’ to help bring people together, lift spirits, and raise money for the National Emergencies Trust.
The website we created - BlessOurHeroes.org - allowed people to record and share messages of thanks for the NHS and all the other heroes in their lives, as well as to donate money to the NHS.
This campaign was a fantastic opportunity to gather feedback from real people and start testing one of our future use cases for Vox. At the same time, we were able to raise hundreds of pounds for a fantastic cause - and show our genuine support and appreciation for the healthcare workers who are still doing so much for us out there on the front line.
After receiving a huge amount of both positive and constructive feedback from the campaign, Bless Our Heroes effectively became our first beta. This campaign allowed us to continue refining and enhancing our product and was one of our company’s proudest examples to date of reacting quickly to being thrown a curveball. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We champion HubSpot when it comes to managing our lists of new prospects and customers, creating and automating emails and workflows for all stages of the customer lifecycle, and creating optimized landing pages.
Our Marketing department is also huge fans of Hootsuite for scheduling and automating our social posts, and they also spend a lot of time in SEMRush, which is a fantastic tool for building backlinks, refining your keyword research and managing your brand’s SEO.
Our favorite design tool is Canva, as it’s easy to use and has a huge range of templates and photos to help you generate truly beautiful images for your brand.
We’d also really recommend Hotjar for all your heat mapping needs. We’re in the process of optimizing our website for conversions and it’s been a really helpful tool to allow us to see where exactly our customers are being drawn to on-site.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The Lean Startup is a great place to start for anyone interested in the strategy behind launching a successful startup business. Zero to One is also a great read for anyone looking to find singular ways to create new things.
As the Founder of a voice-first business, I’m also very much into podcasts! In particular, I find Fintech Insider a great source of inspiration and a fantastic way to keep up with news in the industry.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
You can read my full article of advice for new entrepreneurs here on the telbee blog.
To condense my advice from that blog post, I’d recommend all entrepreneurs who are just starting to start with an initial idea. The idea doesn’t need to be fully formed - just a thought about how something can be improved, or how things could be different. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll find your best ideas come from addressing a personal dissatisfaction or frustration - something that you’ve noticed is missing in your day-to-day life.
Keep this idea in the forefront of your mind, sleep on it a few nights and don’t let any perception of the arduous road ahead dissuade you from giving your idea the space it needs to flourish. Ideas need time before they can ignite into something more.
The second major piece of advice I’d give new startup businesses is to make sure you do your research very thoroughly from the start, and another important tip I’d give any new entrepreneur is to start building the right team right from the beginning.
Having founded a couple of businesses on my own before, I already recognized and understood the importance of having a team - however small - right from the get-go. I hired my incredible and hard-working business partner, Bernie, just three months after coming up with the initial idea for telbee!
Ultimately, I believe that building a strong and successful team is about finding the right kind of synergies and complementarities with the people you work with every day. At telbee, we’re building a team that has different - but complementary - strengths, listen to each others’ opinions and are united by a common goal.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are not currently looking to hire for any new positions, but we’re a small team with big plans to grow over the next year! Watch this space!
Where can we go to learn more?
Find us here:
And feel free to send us a vox any time to say hello at telbee.io/contact!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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