Jan Zands is the founder of Los Angeles-based phonesheet.com (www.phonesheet.com), a startup which is developing web-based software for tracking phone messages and action items. We ran into Jan and thought it would be interesting to talk to him about the story behind the firm and its software.
What is Phonesheet.com?
Jan Zands: It's a web based phone message manager. Essentially, business have assistance--secretaries, receptionists--who answer the phone. Traditionally, they hand-write those messages and those message slips become clutter, become lost, and they stay in your office when you're not there. So what Phonesheet.com does is takes that antiquated system and modernizes it, using a Web 2.0 system where the assistant can log into the account. So, instead of writing down a message, they can put it into this really, easy-to-use system. Obviously, you then have no lost phone numbers, no clutter, and it's accessible anywhere.
The best asset is it shows you your message all in one place. It's a really simple color coded system. It shows you all your incoming phone calls on top, and outgoing phone calls on the bottom. And then all your to do calls.
Where'd the idea come from?
Jan Zands: I come from the entertainment industry, where I've built software for production companies, where producers are making 30 calls a day, and receiving 30 calls a day, and they needed a system where they could keep track of call volume. In Hollywood, a lot of people don't return calls. It's really important to have a system where I can say--these are all the left messages for, and I need to follow up on them.
A lot of people talk about how content management systems and CRMs offer a little bit too much functionality. Our is very simple, it's sole purpose is to get you off the paper onto a digital application. It's $15 a month, so it's essentially the cost of what you're paying for the paper, those message pads.
How did you decide this would be a great business to start?
Jan Zands: I knew this was a great business because I was already selling these to entertainment executives. I was the in house software designer/developer for Artist Management Group, which was Michael Ovitz's company. They used my phone sheet, and I have sold phone sheets '95 to Universal Studios, AMG, and various production companies. Hollywood knows the phone sheet, and they love it, and know it as a local app--lots of people built it out of Filemaker. So I took the concept, and made it a web-based app. Since the entertainment industry knows about it, we're going to the rest of the world. Since we've launched, real estate executives are using us, high school principals--principals it makes lots of sense, because they're talking to parents and need to track if Johnny has been in trouble before, what did I tell the parents last time I spoke. What's really nice is you can click on a person's name, and it archives all your call information. The same thing for real estate executives--they can immediately click on a name and see all the data and information on what did I suggest, what did we talk about. So the main point is to get things off paper, and out of your head, because most people can't remember all this information. So now it's in a really, really easy to use web application. So, The reason I thought this was a great business was one, it's already been proven, and two, there are so many different types of businesses that use the phone, and there aren't any solutions out there that handle this specific need.
Is this available yet?
It's been available for about two months, but we haven't really done our first public launch.
Do you see certain kinds of company that will find this useful, or anybody?
The current user base is anybody. We're really going after someone who has somebody to answer the phone, and to take a message.
Finally, how are you funded?
We're privately funded. It's friends and family.