Phonism helps service providers automate many of the monotonous tasks associated with supporting and deploying VoIP to businesses.
Location: Tampa, FL
Product / Service Offering: Cloud Solution for VoIP provisioning and Management
Co-founder Interviewed: Steve Lazaridis
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.
I come from an entrepreneurial family. My parents have owned multiple restaurants in their life, so it was something that we were always exposed to, even as kids. It instilled a curiosity for problem solving that has stayed with me through becoming an engineer until now. This is my motivation, a passion for problem solving and product building.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
We started building Phonism during nights and weekends in 2010, but we really launched in 2015. It all started when my brother, Niko Lazaridis, was deploying VoIP within the company for which he worked. He identified the challenges associated with deploying and managing VoIP. We partnered to build software to solve this.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
Our goal is to help service providers automate many of the monotonous tasks associated with supporting and deploying VoIP to businesses. The current methods are outdated and service providers spend far too much time on non-value generating tasks.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
Our solution is built to support all brands of phones, which there are dozens, and all VoIP PBX’s, to make it easy for service providers. Not only are most solutions brand restrictive, but many are just a module inside the VoIP PBX, which ends up getting neglected in features and functionality.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was taking the leap from working nights and weekends to a full-time project.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
- Tampa Bay WaVE Accelerator
- Business Coach
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
We raised capital locally through connections we made in our network at Tampa Bay WaVE. We prepared a pitch deck and, fortunately, only participated in a few local pitches before engaging in talks with one investor who ultimately ended up organizing a syndicate and helping us raise our seed round.
What would I do differently? I would have raised way earlier when we had an MVP.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
How to manage personal stress.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
Where to start…
- When to raise more money?
- How much money to raise?
- Where to raise from?
- When to hire more?
- Who to hire?
- How much more to hire?
The list goes on…
As an entrepreneur, we face dozens of challenges and roadblocks every day. It just comes down to how we react to them.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
Put yourself in uncomfortable situations.
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