On this week’s episode of the Full Stack Leader, we are talking to David Erickson at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023.

David is a co-founder of CarrierX, a CPaaS (Communication Platform as a Service) and API provider with its own network that provides powerful tools to build enterprise-ready applications and services with Cloud-Based Voice, Video, and Messaging.

During our conversation, David discusses his journey in the telecom industry, and touches on future trends, highlighting the need for improved security and fraud protection in the public switched telephone network (PSTN). He also talks about the innovations in caller identification for a more intimate and personalized communication experience.

We hope you enjoy the episode. You can find even more Full Stack Leader episodes here.


The first job in telecom

Ryan: Hey, everyone. I’m here at TechCrunch 2023 with David Erickson. He’s the founder of CarrierX. It’s great to have you here, David.

David: Thanks for having me.

Ryan: Tell us real quick a little bit about where you came from and how you got here today.

David: Okay. Yeah, I got into telecom in 2001 for the sheer love of it.

My first foray was a conferencing company that was free called FreeConferenceCall.com. I had a lot of success with that and was able to bring in a lot of programmers as the paradigm shifted from hardware to software and telecom, and I built some really beautiful communication stacks and a global network on the back of the FreeConferenceCall.com success.

And that parent company is CarrierX. It’s a fully software-based carrier, and it’s a global carrier. It’s built with APIs and everything to get, basically, all the telecom needs handled within applications.


Many applications of CarrierX

Ryan: So, anyone working within that telecom conferencing space can use you guys in various ways. What are some of the best ways that a company that’s developing tech around this might be able to tap into you?

David: Well, so, I mean, one of the simple things that’s happening is people are building apps, and they need to send out SMS. We have an API for sending and receiving SMS. That’s a very simple one.

There are a lot of different calls for calling. We’re interesting because, at CarrierX, we have really good direct relationships with carriers like AT&T and Verizon – we’re direct with them and have reciprocating arrangements.

Our goal is to be as direct as we can to the carrier with as easy-to-use APIs as possible to make any app, basically, as direct as possible.


Unique approach to customers

Ryan: Great. That’s amazing. Being here at TechCrunch, have you been here before? Is this your first time? Have you been here many times?

David: I was here a few years ago and took a couple of years off. I’m back, and I think it feels bigger to me. The line was incredible this morning. It was long, wasn’t it?

Ryan: Yeah. What do you think you’re going to see here in terms of your industry and what’s happening with it?

David: Well, I’m pretty excited. I think that a lot of apps are using either SMS or voice calls. And those are things that are pretty simple to integrate and based on price and based on flexibility.

I think we’ll see a lot of companies like that today. We’re pushing the idea that our engineers are super hands-on, and you’re gonna get a little different treatment with us than you would get with a Twilio or some of the other guys who are out there. We love cutting-edge stuff, and we want to do the things that make our customers unique.

So we’re not looking for 500,000 customers. We’re looking for a handful.


Downsides of the public switched telephone network

Ryan: That’s great. Do you see any trends in the SMS or telecom spaces that are arising right now that are going to be pretty impactful in the next couple of years?

David: Well, the things I see happening is, you know, I’m an old-time telecom guy. I love the public switched telephone network (PSTN). I’m looking at it now, and I’m just looking at it in a way that it’s rolling forward, and it’s a bit broken, right? It’s a very old utility. Now we’ve got all these calling apps and AI and everything, and the security and fraud protection on the PSTN is horrible.

So I’d like to do some things to shore that up and make people feel a little safer about having a phone number – be able to identify calls better, things like that.


Know your caller

Ryan: Yeah. Are there any smart ways that you see? There can be a balance between what marketers need to reach out to people and what the average person with a phone or a text system would want.

David: Yeah, you want to be able to allow people to be found, right? But you want them to be found securely, right? You want them to be marketed to by the people they want to be marketed to by, but not all of the unwanted calls and all of that.

I’m actually working on a system right now where what we’ll be able to produce is knowing your caller asking for permissions.

And it actually starts in a contact card form, but it allows for access control, and you can, basically, set up permissions like on social media, right? When I ask you to see your pictures, you say, “Yeah, sure.” Except now I’m asking, “Hey, can I call you? Could I text you? You know, I’ve got a good offer,” and you’re able to view who I am.

Like, “Oh wow, that’s Dave Erickson. The guy knows a little something about telecom. I do want to talk to him”. But I think that’s the issue. People are a little afraid to have a phone number, but they’re necessary. So, we want to try and make it so that people feel much more comfortable publishing their phone numbers.


Striking the communication balance

Ryan: Do you think it’s getting less comfortable for people, given the rise of automation and AI in communication? And do you think that this is gonna be something that there’s gonna be a balance struck?

David: Yeah, I really want to find that balance because I think the thing that’s happening is that the alternative, right?

We’re slowly straying away from intimate phone calls and heading towards social media. I would say we’re there, right? You can read all about, like, what the ills are of social media-type communication, right? You’re only going to see me in my best Dave, right? But in the back end, I’m hurting, and nobody’s reaching out to me.

I really want to bring that intimacy back to phone numbers, right? Where I feel comfortable calling people, people are curated for me, who are either busy, have changed something in their life, or have done something.

But intimacy, right? The phone numbers were such a nice, intimate communication. And I think that the public switch telephone network is a nice open system, but with all the AI and everything, it’s too open, and it needs to be re-front-ended and achieve that balance where you know who’s calling, where you can put the word out of who you want to contact you as far as marketing.


Future of caller identification

Ryan: Do you see there being a system of proof being developed at some point as to who’s real and not real?

David: Yes, I do. Yes. We’re working on that, right? Our new system actually has blue check verification. So it’s not just caller ID. Like when you receive a call, you know that that guy’s presented one of 4,000 different IDs worldwide, and it’s been approved and checked, and that he’s at least that name.

We’ll be working on pictures as time goes on.

Ryan: Amazing. Well, it was great to talk to you today. I hope we get a chance to talk more in the near future. I’m excited to have you here and see what all the new developments at this conference are.

David: Awesome. Wish you luck at the show.

Ryan: All right. Thank you.