Interview with Alan Mamedi (Truecaller)
Truecaller is building the world’s biggest collaborative phone book.
I interviewed Alan Mamedi, Truecaller founder to find out more. This is the hundred and sixty third in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Alan!
How would you describe Truecaller in under 50 words?
Truecaller is a global phone directory that covers landline, mobile and even pre-paid phone numbers – and it fits in your pocket!
What inspired you to create Truecaller?
In 2009, we wished it were easier to look up phone numbers for the missed calls we received from relatives living abroad and from customers calling us at our previous job. We could not find a fast and easy solution to identify the unknown caller, so we started to work on Truecaller as a small hobby project, which is now being used by more than 12 million people worldwide.
Who do you see as your target audience?
Anyone who wants to get in touch with any person in his or her hometown or anywhere in the world, and especially in countries where there aren’t straightforward ways to find contact information.
Which site or app do you check first when you wake up?
Truecaller of course! My number two is Twitter to find out what people are saying about us.
What technologies have you used to build Truecaller?
When we started Truecaller we wanted to go global from day one. Meaning we wanted to be available on all connected mobile phones and build it natively. Today Truecaller is available on iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Symbian S60, Nokia feature phones and Windows Phone.
Have you experienced any threat from competitors? If so, who is your biggest competitor?
There are no real competitors on the market who are trying to solve this type of challenge and building a global phone directory. There are big players on the market who are doing parts of this like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn but they make it either hard to query or the information is not available. We like to say that we are doing something the traditional directories should have done a decade ago.
It seems that the business has grown very quickly, currently Truecaller is available in 229 countries and territories worldwide, have you experienced any diseconomies of scale in the business’ rapid growth?
Truecaller works in 229 countries and territories. We secured new funding during the fall of 2012 and we’ve managed to build a very active and experienced board whose range of expertise continues to be a very good sounding-board for us. This is very important when scaling fast is a must. At times it has been difficult to recruit, since super hero talent is hard to find and we only settle for the very best. Currently we’re a team of 19 persons with 13 different nationalities. Having a multinational company has a lot of advantages when your users are from further afield than Sweden.
Do you experience difficulties with businesses wanting to be ex-directory?
The directory business has been around us for many years but not much has changed. That is probably why many directories are closing down. We truly believe that the industry is ripe for disruption and we have proven that with our new Global Name Search.
Do you intend to develop the existing product or introduce new products in order to remain competitive in the future?
We just announced Global Name Search, which is the first of its kind. The search results are based on your social graph to create relevant search results. We also put the user in charge of their own information, so it’s up to them to decide who can contact them through Truecaller and what information their personal profile contains. But to answer your question, yes, we intend to improve the existing product. Although we just launched our biggest update yet, we are already working on some other amazing features.
Do you have any innovative features in the pipeline?
Of course! But nothing I can give away at this moment.
What do you wish you’d have known 5 years ago that you know now? Where do you see Truecaller in 5 years time?
Good question and probably a lot. There are many things I wish I would have known earlier about starting a company, how to raise capital, building your own company culture, setting up a scalable ownership structure and so on. We had the fortune to meet really amazing angel investors who has taught us a lot and are still teaching us, and for that I’m very thankful. During the past three years I’ve unfortunately seen too many startups failing because of internal conflicts.
Jumping back to Truecaller and I will keep this short because I truly believe in having short and concrete goals. That makes the path look so much shorter and easier achieve. In five years’ time Truecaller will be every Internet connected person’s top of mind service when it comes to worldwide people search.
Has Truecaller got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
It has and the feeling when achieving different milestones is indescribable. Going to “work” every day and doing something you really love with passionate people is like magic. When you know that your team is not working their hours just for the salary check, then you know you have built something unique and rare.
With 12 million users, you’ve been very successful so far, how do you intend to increase this number even further?
12 million users is only the beginning. As I mentioned earlier, we aim to be the top choice when it comes to ‘people search‘. The single most important factor to our amazing growth and success has been because of our loyal community and fan base. It’s extremely important to keep them active and encourage them spread the word about Truecaller. The word of mouth marketing is the most powerful way of marketing, especially when it is genuine.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Seeing how our users perceive our latest feature, the Name Search. So far the response has been extremely positive!
Can you convince the reader to start using Truecaller in under 50 words?
Do you ever experience an unknown number calling you and you wished you knew who it was? Truecaller has an extensive database of public, mobile, and even prepaid numbers. The app also has a built in spam filter, unwanted call protection, and a new name feature to look up anyone in the world!
Finished reading? Check out Truecaller!