NetTalk.com is a low-cost telephone service provider that faces much larger competitors with better known names. Rivals magicJack and Vonage are among the most dominant companies using a technology called VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, the same know-how that allows netTalk.com to supply phone service for just pennies a day.
But little netTalk.com, based in Miami Gardens, is gaining traction. Wal-Mart stores and other retail outlets are collecting about $30 each for selling the company’s VoIP devices, which provide telephone service that is renewable annually for about the same amount. If the public’s adoption of VoIP phone service accelerates, netTalk.com could become a success story with even a small share of the emerging market.
Just hanging on to customers is challenging in the absence of innovation, though. No one in the dynamic telecom industry can put product development on hold. So netTalk.com is developing a suite of Internet services — television programming and home security monitoring, among others — to deliver more than just low-cost phone service.
“We’re not a one-product company,” said Anastasios Kyriakides, the founder, chairman and president of netTalk.com. “A product can come and go. A product can become obsolete. We want to make sure we stay in the same field but have innovative products to grow this company.”
Kyriakides is co-inventor of the company’s main product, a device called the DUO, which is sold with cables and an electric adapter to access the netTalk.com network. Customers use the cables to link the DUO to a landline telephone and to either a computer or a router with a high-speed Internet connection.
He may face long odds, but then again, Kyriakides has plenty of business management experience. A native of Greece who moved to Florida in 1962, he attended Miami-Dade College and graduated Florida International University, then started his career as a community banker while working part-time as a tinkering inventor.
“I am an invention type of person,” Kyriakides said in an interview inside his windowless, white-walled executive office. “I always like to see, if it can work this way, why can’t it work that way?” That type of thought process led him and a technician to modify mathematical calculators and create what he calls the world’s first electronic language translator, sold under the brand name Lexicon. "The first prototype was as big as a suitcase," he said. Kyriakides started another company in 1983 called Mylex, which developed an optical scanner-reader device. Mylex went public in 1984 at $1 per investment unit, including one share of stock and a warrant to buy stock, and IBM acquired the company for $12 per share in 1999.
Not all of his businesses have worked out that well. Kyriakides started Regency Cruise Lines in 1984 and took the company public in 1985. His daring investment in the cruise line began with his $900,000 purchase of Regency’s first ship, a scrapped vessel that was docked in his native Greece before he renovated it and returned it to service. The first time he saw the ship, Kyriakides recalled, “it was three decks underwater.” The company sank, too, after about a decade of operation. Regency ceased its cruise operations and filed bankruptcy in 1995.