Saul Laufer’s Voxxi, a start-up allowing mobile phone users to maintain simultaneously several different numbers on their phone, began as a happy accident. While taking his 600-level computer science course at UW Madison, Saul conceived the idea as a way to prank-call his friends.
However, as the semester progressed, Voxxi proved to have practical application beyond its gimmicky roots. When Saul presented his idea to his professors, “[t]hey essentially told me, ‘If you don’t want to be a career software engineer, you can pursue this.’” Saul believed his project could be big. However, he wasn’t confident in his ability to create a successful company. While he had already started a guitar pedal effects company, Saul still saw himself as, “start-up illiterate.” “I didn’t really know how to read a financial statement and was mildly concerned about that,” he recalled.
When Saul received D2P’s email about their upcoming Igniter program, he saw an opportunity to acquire the resources and the knowledge he needed to push Voxxi forward. “I thought I’d apply and never get it,” he said. To his surprise, D2P responded with interest, ultimately admitting him and his project into its first Igniter Cohort in Fall 2014.
Viewing the Igniter Program as a “crash course” in business, Saul realized that starting a business required hard work, finesse, and detailed knowledge. “D2P prepared me to succinctly answer investor questions like, ‘What’s the marketplace look like?’ and, ‘What’s your competitive set look like?’ Answers to these questions were not as abstract as I thought them to be. They’re more of an exact science.” When asked for the first time what his target market and business model were, he remembers being called out for trying to pass off a “BS answer.” Saul explained how D2P forced him to tailor his business strategies to meet the demands of his target customers. Thanks to the Igniter Program, Saul is confident about his target segment and about how his business model will allow him to grow and to scale Voxxi into a sustainable company.
Voxxi has since moved beyond D2P, received an initial seed investment, completed the gBeta program, and is currently in a limited Beta release. Saul is concentrating on developing a brand that differentiates Voxxi from its competition. “I’ve spent a lot of time looking at our feature set, and I earnestly believe that we’re better than our competitors. We’re working on brand cultivation to ensure that, when we launch in the app store, we stand out.” In hindsight, Saul noted, “Thankfully, D2P didn’t attempt to categorize us. There were no blanket statements, and they certainly weren’t interested in shoving us out the door.” For an idea that started with a prank call, Voxxi has come a long way.