A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week:
What: Cequint, based in Seattle
Who: Scott Weller, 40, president
Mission: Establish a location-based caller-ID system for cellular phones.
Busy signal: Cellular users are particularly fierce about protecting their privacy. And while that sentiment works against having a cellular directory, Cequint sees its service as a compromise. For an extra $2 a month, incoming calls will show precise geographical locations as part of the caller ID. “When you see an area code you don’t know you don’t know who is calling,” Weller said. “Most of the time, the location information we provide will tell you who is trying to reach you.”
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Touch tone: Weller cites ease of use and access as the system’s biggest advantages. New City ID users can try the service for two weeks free. To continue, they need to enter an approval command to add the charge to their regular bill. There are no new technologies to learn.
Call waiting: The service won’t work on any of today’s phones, as the capability resides in the firmware. Cequint needs to sell the idea to providers and provide the blueprint for phone manufacturers to add the capability to their handsets. Weller hopes users will find the service so desirable they will fork over for a new phone and a new service plan.
Financials: The private company has so far raised $5.5 million in venture funding, with another round expected some time this year. Weller expects the company growth to be exponential. Under Cequint’s plans, the company will get an undisclosed percentage of the $2 monthly fee.
Call forwarding: City ID rolled out with Alltel phones last year and has been available on its new phones since then. Weller names Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and Comcast as the top five. “We are preparing for launch with two other carriers with a third just committing to move forward last week,” he said. “We haven’t had anybody tell us ‘no, thank you.’ “
— Charles Bermant