Every great movement needs intelligent and influential leaders at its forefront. The insurgence of VoIP, Unified Communications, and telecommunications has been no different. In fact, the industry as a whole has undergone an astounding evolution, dating back to an initial wave in the mid 90s, blossoming gradually into a seemingly limitless technology one can only marvel at. In less than two decades, VoIP has moved from a fringe method of communication to clear cut choice of connecting for future generations to come. No matter how you slice it, the market wouldn't be what it is today without the tireless work and diligence of remarkable individuals who make it possible. The following are the Top 20 most influential people in VoIP:
Mark Spencer, CTO, Digium – Creator of Asterisk, one of the biggest open source platforms, if not the open source platform of the VoIP market. The founder, chairman and CTO of Digium, Spencer made the shift from CEO to Chairman and CTO in early 2007. The brilliant engineer is the primordial creator of the GTK+-based instant messaging client Gaim (which has since been renamed to Pidgin), the L2TP daemon l2tpd and the Cheops Network User Interface. Digium has been surpassing traditional vendors to become the “world’s most popular open source telephony project”, with a strong and wide community, supporting this moniker fully. This year saw Digium Asterisk finding new integration like SugarCRM to PBX, Open Source Integration with Asterisk 11, training partnerships, and receipt of the Frost & Sullivan Global Growth Leadership Award. This only scrapes the surface of Digium's achievements over the course of the last year, with an extensive list most companies can only dream in their entire tenure.
John T. Chambers – Chairman & CEO, Cisco – John Chamber's influence extends beyond technology – where he excels and inspires through politics, social initiatives, education, and more. As Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer at Cisco, Mr. Chambers has helped to company grow from $70 Million when he joined (in early 1991), to $1.2 billion after assuming the role of CEO, to record revenues of $46 billion in Fiscal Year 2012 – surely no coincidence. The Franklin institute awarded him the 2012 Bower Award for Business Leadership, and he's seen a wealth of other distinctions. To name a few – Time Magazine's”100 Most Influential People,” ranking as one of Barron's' “World's Best CEOs,” “Best Boss in America” by 20/20, and as one of the elite few, in BusinessWeek's “Top 25 Executives Worldwide”. Mr. Chambers is a proven philanthropist and leader, receiving praises and awards from former president Bill Clinton to every major business publication.
David Tucker – VP, Cisco – David Tucker serves as second-in-command of a company that's first in innovation and integration of solutions that shape the way business is done. Appointed as GM for Cisco's SBBU (Cisco's Small Business Business Unit), Tucker has driven the global product portfolio to some incredible heights, bringing fantastic solutions to the small business customer. Tucker's previous experience as VP of the Connected Office Business Organization (COBO) at Linksys has translated well during his time at Cisco. David delivered an enlightening Keynote at this year's ITEXPO in Austin, connecting the dots on trends that are shaping the market.
Andrew Miller, CEO, Polycom – It has been an amazing journey for Polycom over the course of 2013, with Andrew Miller there every step of the way. Ubiquitous has fast transitioned from an adjective once associated with great Kings of yore, to the best of many ways in which to describe anything bearing the Polycom insignia. Andy has appeared in Forbes, rang the opening bell at the NASDAQ, and delivered industry rousing presentations with each new development that the unified communications leader has graced the market with – especially for developments like Polycom RealPresence CloudAXIS, which the world is anticipating anxiously like a kid on Christmas morning. Andrew Miller remains a choice advocate and leader for Polycom, as they close out the year and continue to make the future seem not so far away.
Peter Blackmore – President & CEO, Shoretel – Britain born Peter Blackmore is an active leader for ShoreTel, even participating in their comprehensive blog, contributing most recently with an entry entitled “Brilliantly Simple: Change and Choice” – a detailed road map for the next two years for the technology as a whole. Mr. Blackmore joined ShoreTel in December 2010, and the company has since undergone a huge transformation. This is no surprise given Peter's 30+ years of experience, and the industry got a vicariously intimate impression of this through his interview with Forbes, and at this year's ITExpo, where he delivered one of the best keynotes of the event. ShoreTel continues to grow quickly, from small and medium sized businesses, to the big leagues at the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park – which is fully equipped with ShoreTel solutions. Peter's big moves most recently include the acquisition of hosted VoIP suplier M5, and a likewise progression to the cloud sphere – with an expected growth of 30% that's been an astounding 43% in reality. Peter has orchestrated the allocation of deep engineering talent to develop hybrid architecture in anticipation of the growing demand for mixed premise/cloud solutions.
Ray Dolan – President & CEO, Sonus Networks – Another remarkable leader with more than a quarter century of experience in the telecommunications industry, Ray Dolan stepped onto the scene at Sonus Networks in late 2010 under his current role. Mr. Dolan's resume is incredibly dynamic, with time served as an Officer in the US Marine Corps (with seven years as a tactical jet pilot), along with 8 years at BellAtlanted/NYNEX Mobile, where his drive only propelled him up the corporate ladder. Ray intelligently jumped on the trend of SBC growth, steering Sonus in that direction and finding a great deal of success in the migration from TDM to IP. Presently, the company stands as the best in SIP networking and session border control solutions, much to the credit of Dolan's pontification on profits.
David Scult, CEO, Fonality – It’s always great when things go according to plan – a sentiment a traditional villain or Fonality might share in. I’ll say that the latter and the former are mutually exclusive, and I’m simply trying to make a point. That case in point: Back in January, Fonality appointed David Scult as CEO to help lead them in a new strategic direction. The former GM of Microsoft Office 365 has done this and more in his short stint with the business VoIP giant. The angle of Fonality has been distinctly different ever since Mr. Scult joined, with his knowledge extending well beyond marketing, with a strong background (over 30 years) in computer software development. David has pushed Fonality away from simply providing cheaper alternatives of dial tone, to bringing what has fast become an industry favorite, in Fonality HUD – the powerful platform for the impending glory that is nearing completion in the Fonality Five. David's firm vision has skyrocketed Fonality to the “explosive growth” he foreshadowed, and he remains a force in their growing sales and channel operations.
Vlad Shmunis, CEO, RingCentral – Founder and CEO of the top name in the VoIP industry that is RingCentral. In a similar light as the last individual of note, Vlad has an extensive history in the telecommunications industry, dating back about 25 years, with more counting his impressive resume under the ‘education’ section. Prior to his most recent gig, he manned the helm for Ring Zero Systems, Inc., and has also held engineering development and technical management positions at Hewlett-Packard, Convergent Technologies. As leader of RingCentral, Vlad has made some lasting changes, especially in their workforce, encouraging growth and inspiring the company to push for the next level.
Bryan Martin – 8×8, Inc., CEO – Bryan Martin has been instrumental in putting 8×8, Inc. on the map. The chairman and CEO of the burgeoning business VoIP provider brings a lot to the table, including two decades of service within the company under different roles. Bryan's past duties are a mix of corporate and engineering impacts, including Chief Operating Officer, Chief Technical Officer and Senior Vice President, Engineering Operations. He has been a member of 8×8's Board of Directors since 2001 and has served as Chief Executive Officer since 2002. Not content with merely leading, Bryan is an active catalyst in 8×8's invention and patent securing (with two recent ones bearing his name as the official inventor). The telecommunications figurehead personally holds a total of 35 U.S. patents in the fields of semiconductors, computer architecture, video processing algorithms, videophones and communications. This year saw 8×8 move into a beautiful new headquarters in San Jose, reporting marked growth quarter over previous quarter, year over year, along with other big awards. Mr. Martin took time out his schedule to even silence the biggest of skeptics, grappling with the energetic (and at times, incorrigible) Jim Kramer of Mad Money, along with an appearance on Bloomberg, displaying his expertise as a seasoned leader and inventor.
Wain Kellum – CEO, Vocalocity – Wain joined Vocalocity as CEO in 2012 from Omnilink Systems, where he served in the same position since 2007. Kellum's experience spans over 25 years, enriched with positive impact on names like Microsoft, Ernst & Young, Hewlett Packard, and many more. The bringing of A+ solutions to the small business market has been a running theme over the course of the past few years, and due to Kellum's diligence, Vocalocity has been a glowing name on the marquee for extending solutions to this sector. Kellum and Atlanta-based Vocalocity have been an active presence in the Georgia area, giving back to the community wherever possible: Mr. Kellum serves on the board of directors of NETtime Solutions and is the Chair Emeritus of TechBridge, an Atlanta-based nonprofit. Kellum also serves as an advisor to the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) which helps Georgia entrepreneurs launch and build successful technology companies. Kellum is a largely recognized leader, receiving the “Spirit of Endeavor” Award for Outstanding Leadership, and being named on of the “25 Most Influential People in the Southeast” by TechJournal South.
Dan Hoffman, ShoreTel Sky President – Not long ago, Dan Hoffman participated in the keynote address for the ShoreTel Champion Partner Conference 2012, covering the rapidly growing market for cloud-based UC. Acquiring M5 back in February 2012, which is the strong foundation of ShoreTel's cloud strategy, Hoffman and the ShoreTel Sky team continue to push forward, paving paths not yet traveled in their comprehensive roadmap, encouraging traditional partners to make the shift into the cloud. No easy task indeed, though Mr. Hoffman seems certainly up for the challenge, projecting that in 3-4 years, half the market will be hosted, with customers increasingly demanding the cloud. Hoffman went above and beyond, compared to ShoreTel's competitors, providing detailed updates during outages amidst Hurricane Sandy. Dan represents the professionalism and positive work ethic ShoreTel's new division thoroughly exudes, and the type of leader needed to bring ShoreTel's relatively new foray to the forefront.
Huw Rees – VP Business Development (8×8) – Huw Rees is an interesting guy, with a telecoms career dating over 25 years. As a keynote speaker at the ITExpo, he urged the crowd amidst the backdrop of a Star Wars slide, to refrain from “the dark side of premise based solutions”. As Vice President of Business Development, Rees has been instrumental in securing and since benefiting from 8×8's move into a subcontractor to Level 3 Communications. Rees has met with the General Services Administration, and made sure 8×8 has been widely accepted and competitively priced. Rees continues to boost the business unit and propel 8×8 in the public sector.
Michael Tessler – CEO, Broadsoft – As head honcho of Broadsoft, Michael Tessler is the quintessential example of entepreneurship, with well over two decades of business strategy and experience in bringing advanced carrier-grade communication systems to VoIP providers.The Canadian has been at the forefront of the movement for interoperability across devices, bringing together voice, video, instant messaging and presence to end-users. Michael was an apt speaker during the ITExpo hosted StartUp Camp: Comms Edition, discussing peaks and valleys over the course of his career, ranging from accepting bankruptcy to rising from the ashes like a Phoenix to make billions – a true testament to the potential fruits of any labor, even if they yield an initial harvest that might seem bittersweet.
Dave Gilbert – CEO, Simple Signal – Simple Signal jumped onto the scene in 2004, the dawn of the “movement” towards VoIP and Unified Communications. Naturally, Dave and Simple Signal have experienced dramatic changes, and have endured nonetheless – thrived might be a better choice of word in this circumstance. Most recently, Simple Signal have pushed for enhancing multi-hosted video solutions. Gilbert has become known in the industry as the “Big Cheese”, and is an active blogger, thought leader and frequent speaker at cloud-based Unified Communications industry events.
Ari Rabban, CEO, Phone.com – The world of success Ari Rabban has had, especially as of late, is turning quickly, but the incredibly versed leader of Phone.com doesn't appear to have any trouble keeping up. Incredibly active in the community, New Jersey's Phone.com has been providing VoIP and cloud-based phone service for residences and SMBs since 2006. Several months ago, the New Jersey Technology Council appointed Ari as a member of its Board of Directors – a role that sometimes involves advocating in the nation's capital. Ari possesses unparalleled spirit for the industry, and is frequently cited as a “VoIP market expert”. Once practicing corporate law in Tel Aviv, Rabban has since devoted his efforts to being a leader in telecommunications, fast becoming a seasoned and highly respected member of the VoIP community.
Gary Testa – Global Vice President, Polycom – Joining Polycom in the beginning of 2011 as Global Cloud and Service Provider Solutions team, Gary is a more than appropriate fit for the rapidly progressing company. Gary boasts an extensive track record of success, with over 25 years in sales and marketing at big names like IBM. Polycom's cloud strategy has become more apparent over the course of 2012, tightly meshing the pieces of the puzzle that make Polycom's cloud solutions ubiquitous and highly marketable to all enterprises.
Lukas Gorny – Co-Founder & President, Nextiva – Lukas' activity at Nextiva transcends only that of the typical President, as he manages everything from product development and number portability, to customer call center operations and corporate services. Nextiva have garnered awards from communications leader, Polycom, as well as for great offerings that the VoIP community has grown to love and depend on. Things are moving rapidly for the young President and his likewise company – expect big things from Nextiva in 2013.
Yaniv Masjedi – Vice President, Nextiva – Aside from sporting a suit better than James Bond ever could hope to, Yaniv Masjedi serves as Vice President of Customer success. Nextiva's commitment to Amazing Service is essentially what has brought them to the top, with a development team that makes sure they remain there. This summer, TMC named Nextiva the 2011 Communications Solutions Product of the Year, and it goes without saying that Yaniv and crew have had an active hand in that distinction, with Nextiva working overnight to “continuously enhance” their products.
Dan Sullivan & Lore Frost – Frost & Sullivan – Frost & Sullivan are best considered to be hidden heroes of influential prowess. Founded in 1961, in the heart of NYC, Dan L. Sullivan and Lore A. Frost set out to build a company for researching new technologies. The company has since adjusted their scope to focus on customer-dependent market research and analysis, growth strategy consulting, and corporate training services. True to their original foray, Frost & Sullivan have put a detailed exclamation point on the growing VoIP industry, handing out awards for excellence, and flexing comprehensive market expertise in their overtly painstaking, timelessly gratifying research process. It's hard to imagine the VoIP industry without this firm, as they keep the torch brightly lit and lead the way towards the most promising of paths.
Kerry Ritz – EVP Business Devlopment, EVRYTHNG (formerly CEO of Vonage Ltd) – Once the Chief Executive Office of Vonage Ltd (the UK subsidiary of Vonage Holdings Corp.), Kerry Ritz has since moved onto other ventures in communications – namely as CEO of Palringo. Palringo brings a unique way of socializing (or socialising), and has been just the ticket in adding another string to his bow. Kerry is a pioneer in the industry, and a communications vigilante – bringing location-based messaging services to the mobile world. In a short word, Kerry has understood the importance of presence on-the-go, and continues to impact the industry with over 15 years of commercial, marketing, sales and strategy in telecoms.
Hopefully you're not feeling overwhelmed after reading through that list, as the level of distinction and ingenuity has the capacity to make even he most accomplished of individuals feel as if they're grossly underachieving. Across the board, many of these individuals might find common ground in having unmatched fervor and passion for their craft, excelling further than words might be able to capture in this article alone. Good thing there's tomorrow, for the VoIP world never stops, and neither do the industry leaders covered.