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Messaging made easier

AFTER four years of extensive research and development local communications start-up Ergotel has hit the crest of commercialisation and is in the process of securing further funding to expand its markets across Australia and overseas.

Rick Ferdinands started Ergotel in 1999 with the idea of streamlining inbound phone calls to businesses and the result is a software product that acts as a virtual receptionist by converging popular messaging technology.

Inbound phone calls are retrieved in a similar way to voice mail systems on a mobile phone. That is inbound callers listen to a voice mail message that asks them to leave their details.

The Ergotel system uses speech technology that takes the recorded message and sends it to the intended person as an email and/or SMS that can be either read or played back.

There are different levels of the system with more advanced offerings incorporating a menu option that allows calls to be directed to different mobile numbers or email addresses.

Mr Ferdinands said the software significantly reduced phone costs, labour costs, and the user required no additional hardware.

“It takes 25 cents to take messages this way but a mobile phone divert may cost $1 and to retrieve the message it costs 50 cents,” he said.

“Our system is 25 cents while the divert system costs up to $1.50 and with our system there is a permanent record of the call.”

Mr Ferdinands said that while emails were used by many businesses, inbound telephone calls were on the increase.

“Calls to business are rising significantly, I have figures that show that calls to business increased by 25 per cent in 2001,” he said.

“Businesses are still doing what they do but they can’t field all the calls so they put on more staff or it goes to voice mail and those messages may not get responded to for hours and they could be sales orders.”

Mr Ferdinands said the company was now actively marketing its products on the east coast of Australia and was looking at exporting the product to Asia and New Zealand. He also said stock exchange listing was a long-term possibility.

“An IPO is an option but it’s not one that is concrete at this stage. We are raising some more seed capital. That is sufficient for us to run the business,” Mr Ferdinands said. 

“We want to build up our capacity in Western Australia and then build major centres in Australia but keeping the infrastructure here. We will then expand into international markets.”

Mr Ferdinands said the path to commercialisation had been a tough one and early investment from Entrepreneurs in Residence and securing a COMET grant from Clase Ventures had been crucial to the company’s current commercial footing.

“The COMET grant helped with defining our commercialisation and were we wanted to go,” he said.

Ergotel was awarded a commendation award for its menu builder product at the recent WA Information Technology and Telecommunications Awards this year.

Mr Ferdinands said he hoped there would be more recognition this year at the WA Family Business Awards.

Spherion, a client of Ergotel, has nominated the company for the 2003 WA Family Business Awards.

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