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Drumbi: rethinking the dialer

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Published on Aug 30, 2011

The computing power of smart phones today is robust, and entrepreneurs have created thousands of applications that leverage the capabilities of these machines. Surprisingly, however, one of the primary functions of a smart phone—initiating and receiving actual phone calls—has received relatively little attention. A company called Drumbi is filling this void.

"Your frustration when your phone rings is that if you're lucky you know who's calling you," explains Shervin Talieh, Co-founder and CEO of Drumbi. "What you don't know is why they're calling, what they want to talk about, if it's urgent or where they are...[Additionally,] the zero through nine convention for a dial pad has many limitations for the end user. The first is that it's static—it's just staring at you. It doesn't tell you, for example, what the other person wants to talk about when your phone is about to ring. The dialer also requires you to do a bunch of data entry, which is prone to having errors and prone to other forms of downstream issues as well. Lastly, the issue with the dialer is, unlike everything else that's on your smart phone, it's not smart. It's not integrated with your social graph...When you're having a phone call with someone, there's absolutely no way of connecting that to Facebook, or Twitter, or Google+ or anything else."

When initiating a conversation using Drumbi, you are able indicate the purpose of the call via a short, Twitter-like description, set a level of urgency to the call and disclose your location. The recipient of a call receives a message with this information, and he or she can either accept the call or respond back that they are unable to talk at this time. Drumbi is not only for calls amongst friends, however, as it also aims to remove much of the unpleasantness associated with calls to businesses.

"As painful as it is to call people, because we hate leaving voice mail and we hate retrieving voice mail...calling a company is orders of magnitude more painful," says Talieh. "You have relationships with between 30 and 50 different companies—from your homeowners association to the dry cleaner to the place you get your car maintained, airlines, banks, hotels, etc. You're not going to download an app for the 30 to 50 businesses you deal with—it's untenable...They all behave differently, they have different forms of authentication, etc. What we do is we find the businesses that you are most connected to, and when they become a part of Drumbi, they appear, too, as part of your icons."

Instead of enduring the annoying process of navigating through a phone menu, entering in your account information and being placed on hold, when you initiate a Drumbi to the business, your message shows up in their call tree, and they call you. They already know who you are and have your authentication information, eliminating the need for you to provide it.

"What we wanted to do is rethink the dialer," says Talieh, "and the way to do that is to basically build an application...that does to the dialer what Instagram did to the camera. I love Instagram, and I seldom go back to the native camera, because I just find that Instragram brings a beautiful social layer on top of that. We've taken that metaphor...and we brought that to something that people do every day on an average of 5 to 10 times a day, which is talking on the phone."

More info:

Drumbi web site: http://www.drumbi.com/
Drumbi blog: http://blog.drumbi.com/
Drumbi profile on CrunchBase: http://www.crunchbase.com/company/drumbi
Drumbi profile on Twitter: http://twitter.com/getdrumbi

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