A startup based in Stockholm Sweden, called Truecaller, says they are the global phone directory linking you to anyone in the world. If you get a call from a number you don’t know you should be able to tap into Truecaller and find out who is actually calling you. In addition to traditional reverse directory information, Truecaller also says they have millions of prepaid phone users in their directory as well.
By coupling existing directory information and crowdsourcing their user-bases contact lists (opt-in) they create a hybrid of publicly available data and crowdsourced information to put together the TrueCaller directory.
Truecaller is a great way to prevent spam from sales calls and others that users don’t want to talk to.
The founders of Truecaller originally started the idea as a side project. They were tired of missing calls from people who were important but necessarily in their contact list already. As they tell us in the interview below, they released the original, rough version of the app and saw over 10,000 downloads immediately. That’s when they realized they should push forward and turn Truecaller into a real startup.
This is the third startup for founding duo Alan Mamedi and Nami Zarringhalam who met while studying at the Royal Institute of Technology.
We got a chance to interview Mamedi, check out the interview below:
What is Truecaller?
Truecaller is a global phone directory app making it easy to get in touch with anyone in the world, even people with pre-paid phones. So, no matter who you look for, locally or globally, Truecaller will find the contact for you.
We have a large database based on collaborations with local directories where available and on top of that our users share their contacts which us which gives us a much higher coverage than other services. For instance there’s over 600 million mobile subscriptions in India and 99% of them are pre-paid phones. With help from our user we can cover many of them.
Truecaller also lets our big community of users mark phone numbers from sales people as spam calls. The spam filter is extremely appreciated since it saves you from annoying phone calls.
In layman’s terms, how does it work? (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)
Hey Grandma, by entering the phone number that grandpa received a missed call from into the Truecaller app you can easily find out who called him and even see if it is a spam or sales call before returning the call.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Founder duo Alan Mamedi and Nami Zarringhalam were both B.Sc. students of the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden, where we got to know each other. Truecaller is our third venture together and the first one to go global. Previously Alan has been working with design of scalable backend solutions. Nami was previously consulting, working with automation of workflows while also pursuing his M.sc.
Where are you based?
The office is located in the heart of Stockholm, Sweden, but we are a global startup if you will. Currently we have nine nationalities represented working with us and English is our working language since the whole world is our market place.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
You can summarise by saying that it is growing. With the growth comes a somewhat strained situation where startups are segregated in small oasis’s of startup blocks and it’s also hard to get a hold of developers. But because we are all growing the opportunities to connect are fantastic. Sweden is quickly moving from being the country of Ericsson and Volvo to the founding country of Spotify, Klarna and Truecaller.
How did you come up with the idea for Truecaller?
We missed calls from friends, family and co-workers from other countries and we wanted to be able to see who called before returning the missed call. We wrote the application and published it on an online forum and quite soon thereafter something amazing happened, in the first week we had over 10 000 downloads. That’s when we decided that we wanted to work on the idea and create a real product from it.
There were some similar products already out there, but none where mobile and/or global which we were from day one.
What problem does Truecaller solve?
Truecaller makes it easy to find contact information to the person or company you want to get in touch with, anywhere in the world, by creating a global phone directory app.
What’s your secret sauce?
Truecaller is the world’s most complete phone directory even in countries where no other public directories are available and that is thanks to our big community of users and our international team of superstars at the office.
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
We received our first funding quite early on at the end of 2009 which was in the middle of the European financial crises, so we are very proud about that. Recently we also received our first larger round of funding by Open Ocean Capital to further boost our international expansion.
What is your goto market strategy?
Since we are global and mobile from start we of course have the benefits of app stores and all of those channels. We also made sure to incorporate virality into the core of Truecaller which has proven to be very successful in order to turn our users into ambassadors.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
There has been several moments to overcome in our journey but if I would choose one that would be to learn how to scale the business, not only technically to support millions of users but also in terms of recruiting and delegating. If you haven’t done these thing before you will learn quite quickly that you have a lot to learn. Luckily for us we’ve had the support of our board and our chairman who are all experienced entrepreneurs and who understand the challenges and have shared their past experiences so that we could be better prepared.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
Our chairman Stefan Lennhammer is also our mentor and in many ways a role model both in terms of his entrepreneurship and leadership style, but also because he is self-made and was able to maintain a growing business and a growing family.
Alan Mamedi (Co-founder & CEO):
I don’t have a certain business role model but what keeps me motivated is the belief that I can do anything and my role model for that is my mom who raised me by her self and my three siblings when she was only 25.
Nami Zarringhalam (Co-founder & COO):
I guess my role model growing up has always been my older brother, but except him and our chairman there are of several business role models that have inspired me like Jay-Z, Sheryl Sandberg and Jeffrey Bezos.
What’s next for Truecaller?
In the coming months Truecaller will update its portfolio with new features and some new services. One is our API which we will launch shortly. You can sign up for it today on our website.