Vision is often the quality that sets the entrepreneur apart – and vision is something Ray Jackson has.
A computer programmer who started out his career in the rarified air of CERN, Jackson rather presciently figured it was possible to give even small businesses access to full-featured PBX systems by turning them into software.
The Eureka moment was back in 2006 and the enduring result is 2Talk.
But before all that, Jackson started out as a computer programmer, completing a degree in computer science at Manchester University before crossing the Channel to Switzerland. “I worked with CERN in its web services division alongside pioneers of the internet industry,” he remembers.
Fatefully, he married a Kiwi which set in motion the move to New Zealand’s fair shores, something he has evident satisfaction in accomplishing. “This is just a great country, from doing business to the weather to the people. And it’s beautiful,” he agrees.
Starting at Clear, which soon became Telstraclear, and then moving to Callplus (owners of Slingshot), Jackson was focused as a specialist developing web, email, telephony and other internet service provider solutions.
“A key part of that was implementing VoIP services using first Cisco Callmanager, then Broadsoft and developing a VoIP backbone for the company,” he relates.
Back in 2006, the technologies to enable advanced internet telephony solutions were (by today’s standards, particularly) colossally expensive.
But, with a background in open source software, Jackson believed it could be made available to any company, not just those with deep pockets.
“I’d always been a fan of open source software from my time at CERN, where a lot of very talented people were working on the stuff which is today central to how the internet works.
"I thought it would be possible to use open source technologies to take big business PBX and give it to anyone from a small home office upwards.”
He started developing in late 2006 and launched 2Talk by 2007. “It was kind of like building a jigsaw puzzle. With the experience I’d had in big PBX systems, I knew which features people used, so could focus on delivering the stuff that mattered most, first.”
Jackson says the channel is absolutely fundamental in reaching the market once a saleable product is ready – especially when those customers are in the ‘hard to reach’ SME and SOHO markets.
“Resellers are a key part of our business; we have somewhere between 250 and 300 of them, some of which were traditional PBX resellers, who are reaching the market, demonstrating the benefits of software-based cloud solutions and covering the ground all over the country.”
It’s a fascinating industry– especially where telecoms and software meet - and that’s what keeps Jackson at it.
“If you look at the big traditional telcos, they haven’t changed a lot of what they’re doing for 20, 30 years. They still do basic copper POTS [Plain Old Telephone Service] lines. That keeps me interested as there is huge opportunity for change.”
So huge that 2Talk has a ‘telco in the cloud’ solution lined up for imminent launch. “This is a complete solution which allows our resellers to operate as their own telco – they can find as many customers as they want and service them with everything they need, right down to the billing and provisioning systems” he reveals.
Tantalising – after all, telco operators aren’t necessarily network specialists, but instead need to be sharp on finding and retaining customers.
Outside of the office, Jackson has three children, aged 13, 6 and 4. “They keep me busy! We love the beach, I’ve got a Stand Up Paddleboard… I used to do a lot of snowboarding and wakeboarding, and I’ve also got a small sailboat with which I’m teaching the kids to sail.
"Work-life balance is important, and that’s something we look for right across the company. It shouldn’t be just work, work, work.”