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Featured Founder: Steve Lazaridis of InLayer, Formerly Phonism

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3 min read · Dec 19

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Embarc Collective

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Steve Lazaridis, Founder and CEO of Phonism, a VoIP provisioning solution that enables businesses to setup and manage all of their VoIP phones on one cloud-based platform.

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Pete who are scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.

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What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

I previously had a 15+ year career in software engineering, working on a variety of networking devices, network protocols and robotics products. We started the company building the software nights & weekends. It all started by scratching our own itch. We were driven by the lack of device management solutions for telephony devices. And the solutions available in the market were not as sophisticated and easy to use as they should be in today’s tech ecosystem.

What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?

We’re solving a few things for the telecom market.

    1. We get rid of on-site technician visits (truck rolls) providing a plug & play experience in device deployments
    1. We allow customers to use any type of telephony device with our solution, which differentiates us from competing solutions in the marketplace.

Our customers love what we do and hearing that from them gets me excited! We are constantly listening to feedback & improving the product. We release new code and features on a weekly basis allows us to quickly iterate and return value to our customers.

Name the biggest challenge you faced as you’ve launched Phonism. How did you overcome it?

As a small startup everything is challenging, and we are constantly learning and iterating on our processes. A few that come to mind are:

  1. Fundraising.
    • In many cases, being a startup outside of silicon valley makes it more challenging to raise capital. With a lot of hard work and luck, we are super excited that the majority of our capital has come from local Florida investors!
  2. Finding talent.
    • Being a solo founder is hard and recruiting the right talent to help the company grow is extremely important, so limiting mistakes there is key.
  3. Sales & customer growth.
    • It’s hard enough selling a product to a market as a small company, but when your founder and lead sales guy are engineers – it’s even more difficult! :-). We now have two key hires to help grow that and they are doing a much better job than I ever could.

Where do you see your company headed next?

The problem we’re solving expands way beyond telephony and we are engaging with manufacturers in the Internet of Things (IoT) market to leverage our solution for managing their devices. This is an exciting opportunity for us because the device markets in IoT, Telecom, and others are growing non-stop every year and we want to be the platform that manages them.

Give us a tactical piece of advice that you’d share with another founder just starting out.

Instead of boring you with hindsight 20/20 stuff which may not apply to all your readers, here’s something that my parents instilled in me and keeps me going throughout my journey.

  • The two Ps:
    • Persistence and Patience and without love you won’t have either. So make sure you love what you are building.
  • And lastly, please ignore the “overnight successes” from the media and keep pushing towards your dream.

Learn more about Phonism on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

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