Interview with Jaan Tallinn about the future of business communications

Jaan Tallinn, one of the co-founders of Skype and an investor in Fleep among other firms, talks about the future of business communication.

Skype was launched 12 years ago. What do you think has changed within the communication industry during those years and what are the areas that haven’t been disrupted yet?

I think the main change, as everybody has noticed, is the introduction of smartphones and the raise in the importance of data communications.

12 years ago, when we created Skype, computers were firmly plugged to the wall, therefore you didn’t have to worry about things like battery. Also, as a side effect of having a lot of the communications happen on mobile, there is an expectation now that your content is kept in the cloud so you can access it from different devices. This is also something new.

Now, things that haven’t changed yet… I would say mobile service providers still have a lot of power. For example, I remember when I did my first trip abroad with my iPhone, that trip actually cost me more than the iPhone in data charges alone. So I think there’s still a fair amount of space left to disrupt things there.

Today we are surrounded by multiple channels and services for communication – what do you think, will they merge one day into one universal solution or we will continue to use multiple tools for different types of communication?

I think that while there is probably always going to be one or two dominant communication platforms, there will never be a single communication platform. The reason for that is that the underlying technological environment keeps on changing, therefore creating new opportunities for new solutions and new tools to join the game.

How do you think businesses can improve their internal and external communication, how much can technology help and how many cultural and behavioural changes are needed?

For internal business communications the one simple change that everybody can do is to just switch away from email and start to use new modern platforms. However, for external communications there actually aren’t that many solutions out there because email has still remained the lowest common denominator that people fall back to when they don’t know what the other end is using. I think Fleep can actually make a difference because it is designed to be compatible with email.

If it’s not too personal of a question, how do you manage your own communication, which tools are you using and how do you organise your communication between them?

Right now I use three or four different communication tools. I use Fleep for a lot of my communications, I use Skype for video calls. I also use Gmail for official email, and for less official emails I use Fleep. And then finally I use my mobile phone for voice calls and for occasional text messages.

As an early investor in Fleep, can you share a little bit with us why you invested and why do you believe in the future of Fleep?

There are several reasons why I invested in Fleep. For example, I believe in the vision of the company and I believe the lowest common denominator for external communication, which is email, although there has been bunch of innovation there in form of Gmail for example, I think there’s still a lot of room left there to improve the experience that people have.

Second, I really like Fleep’s team! Fleep has some of the best engineers as founders. And the third reason is that within Skype the IM/chat part was always sort my baby and I spent a lot of time thinking about it and directing the features and ideology that went into Skype IM. So when Henn Ruukel (co-founder and CEO of Fleep) came to me with the idea to start Fleep I immediately jumped on this because I saw it as an opportunity to continue my input into this asynchronous communication world.

What do you think about Fleep’s role in disrupting the business communication market?

I think Fleep’s main opportunity is to improve the external-facing communications of businesses and people because there are a lot of great tools for internal team communications, but for external communications, people and businesses still fall back to email.

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