Just got off the phone with Joel Schwartz, who is busy getting ready to launch a voice-based social networking tool called Parlor.fm at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York City.
Some of you may remember Joel from iDate in Miami a few years ago when he was at Teltech, which debuted it’s LoveDetect service. I absolutely loved that service but Teltech seems to have ended up focusing on spoofing caller ID and other telcom apps.
Parlor is a unique, voice-based social network featuring an array of interconnected mini-apps to suit a variety of business and social purposes. Parlor is integrating the quality and intimacy of voice communication with the high-speed connectivity of the digital world.
One reason I am partial to the idea of voice-based social networking is because I wrote a business plan outlining a VOIP-based social network based on Skype almost six years ago.
With nothing to test at Parlor yet, all we can do is debate whether or not people want to talk more on the phone, or less, and in what context. Much of what Parlor will do is already done by millions of people via Skype. So the question becomes, what can Parlor do better than Skype? Perhaps there is a value-added feature, or unintended consequence that will drive Parlor’s adoption rates.
Do 20-somethings want to talk on the phone to strangers? How about the over 50 crowd? Singles do this on late-night chat lines. Business people don’t want to be on the phone, it kills productivity in many cases. How would a business leverage voice? I see you on LinkedIn, I arrange to directly contact you or get a warm introduction, we email back and forth for a round and then move to a phone conversation. Would I do this on Parlor instead of or in addition to LinkedIn?
I haven’t had a fax machine or a landline for almost a decade and I almost exclusively use Skype or Facetime on iPhone. The idea of calling a phone number to chat with people in this day and age feels positively antiquated. Voice and video profiles, now there’s something. Perhaps there are enough people on the planet who would love to talk to each other and bring a bit of the Myspace discovery functionality to the networking-with-friends world of Facebook.
Maybe there are millions of people who want to talk about model trains or politics. I don’t know. What I do know is that Facebook will roll out some sort of voice feature in the near future, but that doesn’t mean that Parlor can’t find its footing in a specific age range, demographic, interest group or even dating.
I have worked with a number of VOIP and voice-based startups over the years. Most have had wins in business sectors and flailed in the consumer space. Something tells me that Parlor needs a video component to really catch the eye of consumers.
Dating sites, would you use something like Parlor to bring members closer together on your site?
Full Parlor.fm press release.