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50 Leading Companies of the Year 2017

New Freedom of Movement: Snom

thesiliconreview-gernot-sagl-ceo-snom-17We want to position ourselves, together with our partners, as the first choice for the switch from analog to all-IP in as many projects as possible: Gernot Sagl, CEO Snom Technology GmbH

Despite the death of the desk phone being prophesized by many, it has stubbornly refused to go away quietly and has even begun to flourish in the new digital world. However, to ensure its survival, the desk phone has had to undergo a number of transformations to reach its current form.

Remarkable progress in telecommunications technology has had and will continue to have, an enormous impact on telecommunications manufacturing and service industries. In particular, digital technology that integrates transmission, switching, processing, and retrieval of information provides opportunities to merge various service modes into an integrated whole. This digitalization, merging the communications and computation functions, has been made possible by dramatic advances in device and material technology, including integrated circuits and optical fibers. As the role of digital processing increases, systems and services become more intelligent and labor-saving on the one hand, and more software-intensive on the other.

In view of the above mentioned, we are excited to present Snom Technology GmbH – a company which designs and manufactures professional and enterprise Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephones, based on the IETF standard Session Initiation Protocol (SIP).

The firm provides desk telephones and handsets, conference telephone products, headsets for telephones, wireless headset adapters, and public address systems. It serves manufacturing, wholesale and distribution, retail, professional services, legal practice, transportation and delivery, education, government, real estate, and operator solutions. The company markets and sells its products through distributors and authorized resellers worldwide. Snom Technology was founded in 1996 and is based in Berlin, Germany.

Interview Excerpt: Christian Stredicke, Founder, Gernot Sagl, CEO & C.H. Tong, President

When did you know you wanted to establish a company instead of working in one, Mr. Stredicke?

I first got the idea from a professor of law who during a lecture told us that if you are serious about being an MBA “go and incorporate a company”. Well, maybe he was just joking but I took it seriously and did it. The law had just changed to make it easier to set up a tech company and I was so quick that the lawyers hardly had time to look at the application. There was no real idea behind the whole thing, just a hi-tech company. I thought it would be good to have and when we really did have a concept, we would be ready to go straight away. In fact, I would recommend this to anyone; if you have the company already set up then you don’t have to wait around to get started once you have an idea.

When did you decide to go for SIP/Voice-over-IP, Mr. Stredicke?

It was around 1999 when I heard a speech by Henry Sinnreich. He was a visionary of the time and actually later became a board member at Snom. We were looking at things like MP3 players and saw opportunities for voice-over-IP. I remember picking up on a conversation between two engineers at a large telecommunications corporation who were basically saying “VoIP will never happen, it just won’t work.” When I overheard this, the decision was easy. I knew that this would mean that VoIP would be a huge success if the big companies are in a state of denial. SIP was invented by Henning Schulzrinne just round the corner from us here in Berlin. At the time everyone was working with H.323, but it was not cool. The SIP protocol came along and within two days of playing around with it we had figured out how to set up a phone call already. It was easy! And we loved it! Everything about it felt so much better. We eventually dropped H.323 and the rest is history.

The telecommunications world in 1997 was a very different place – what made you choose VoIP, Mr. Stredicke?

We thought about it. But the decision was taken along different lines. We were thinking, should we be doing something with the peripherals? I had an affinity for hardware. People thought this was not very smart because software was booming. But the software at the time was being given away for free. Every software provider was trying to get as many people as possible using their product but hardware you always had to pay for. So we went for the old-school business model where customers just pay for a product. It was extremely painful in the beginning.

We designed a prototype and we took it to a major manufacturer. They were interested and really took a good look at what we were doing. We told them we would just need four weeks to put the software on the board but there is a big difference between running the software on a PC and then trying to put it on a board. We got it wrong. We were naïve, and they wrote us off as dreamers. We wanted them to fund us but that didn’t happen. How long would we need to get the software on the board? About ten years would be more like it. But we had to succeed. We had no other choice!

20 years of Snom: How do you and your team feel about this anniversary, Mr. Sagl?

It’s quite impressive when you think about what we have achieved so far. A year ago, things didn’t look quite as rosy as they do now. In the last few months, we have seen a huge improvement in performance. Everyone at Snom can feel it and it motivates us and gives us the energy to achieve even more. This is why we are really looking forward to celebrating our 20th anniversary with our partners and the whole Snom team.

How do you see IP telephony for Snom and your partners developing in the future, Mr. Sagl?

We have compiled a team to address all segments of the IP phone marketplace, from small- and medium-sized businesses to enterprise-level corporations and ITSPs. We want to position ourselves, together with our parent company VTech, as the first choice for the switch from analog to all-IP in as many projects as possible. For sure, the digital transformation will remain a core issue for Snom for the next 20 years. A key factor will be time-to-market: we will be challenged to ensure that our new products and solutions are available and on the market very quickly.

What to expect from VTech and Snom post-merger, Mr. Tong?

VoIP is the future of business communication and the industry is now transitioning to a cloud-based Unified Communications environment. As a pioneer in this field, Snom is constantly developing new and advanced IP technology solutions to meet the needs of businesses worldwide. The main synergies of the acquisition will be in hardware and software development, expanded channels to market in VoIP telephony, and improvement in operational efficiency.

While we will continue to sell the VTech and Snom brands as two separate products lines, we are still one unified company.

The Brains behind the Picture

Christian Stredicke, Founder: Dr. Christian Stredicke co-founded Snom Technology and served as its Chief Executive Officer until November 2011. He has many years of experience in the areas of software development and hardware design. He worked at Institute for Technical IT as an Assistant Lecturer and at Arthur D. Little business consultancy. Dr. Stredicke is the author of numerous publications concerning VoIP technology. He studied IT and Business at the Technical University of Berlin. Currently, he serves as an Executive Director of Snom Technology.

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Gernot Sagl, CEO: Gernot Sagl serves as chief executive officer at Snom Technology Gernot Sagl studied Business Administration at the University of Graz and has held different positions in finance, controlling, logistics and purchasing in several fields of industry. After more than seven years in leadership roles in the Berlin-based Beta Systems Software AG, Gernot Sagl joined Snom Technology as CEO in July 2016.

TONG Chi Hoi, President of VTech Telecommunications Limited: C.H. Tong is responsible for overseeing the Branded business and ODM worldwide. Mr. TONG joined the VTech Group in 2006. He has over 20 years of experience in the electronics and manufacturing industry. Mr. TONG holds a First Class Honors Bachelor degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the University of London. He is a member of The Institution of Engineering and Technology.

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"For dealers, Snom has training available online to help front line sales teams take advantage of the critical end point solutions even as they sell a variety of solutions."