By GREGORY ZELLER //
It’s a major milestone for robocall terminator Nomorobo, which sometime this week will be downloaded by its one-millionth user.
Developer Aaron Foss’ call blocker – scourge of telemarketers, archenemy of autodialers – has overcome challenges both technical and political on its meteoric rise to mightiest robocall annihilator in all the land: to date, upwards of 221 million robocalls stopped in their virtual tracks.
Now, standing at roughly 990,000 users as of midday Monday and signing up between 1,000 and 3,000 new ones per day, Foss’ creation is poised to cross a rarified e-commerce threshold.
And those soon-to-be 1 million users are on landlines only – not counted in that grandiose total are the 40,000-or-so Nomorobo mobile users who’ve downloaded the robocall blocker on their iOS phones (an Android version, beta testing now, is scheduled to release this summer).
Those 40,000-plus mobile users have all hopped on board since November, when Foss – after several delays – finally flipped the switch on his iOS app. Efforts to release a mobile version sooner were thwarted by various technical glitches, though Foss and his engineers were ultimately able to work them through.
“There were bugs,” the techpreneur noted. “And we wanted to include some user-suggested improvements. People wanted to make sure they were able to report numbers that shouldn’t be blocked and needed to get through, like calls that help in the community.”
Every new iOS version came “with its own set of bugs,” Foss added, and that same pattern is repeating now as he and his engineers at Port Jefferson-based parent company Telephone Science Corp. design and test their Android version.
“We knew there would be bugs (in the Android version),” he noted. “So we’re focusing on those now.”
Even with the Android version slightly delayed – upon the November 2016 release of the iOS version, Foss predicted an Android counterpart “by the end of the year” – the mobile call-blocker is killing it. In fact, “the trajectory has been the same” with Nomorobo mobile as it was with the record-setting landline version, according to the innovator.
“We’re still available to only half of the mobile market, and we’ve been able to reach 40,000 downloads already,” he said. “It’s really unbelievable.”
Downloads of both the landline and iOS blockers tend to increase when Nomorobo gets some press, which has been universally positive. That’s precisely what happened earlier this month, Foss said: Nomorobo was featured in a USA Today article and then two days later in an “NBC Nightly News” report, and within hours App Store downloads spiked to the point where Nomorobo temporarily cracked the top 10 of all App Store utility-app downloads (it subsequently settled into a top-25 slot).
It was an impressive achievement for the little call blocker that could, according to its creator, one of Hofstra University’s six original entrepreneurs-in-residence and a part-time entrepreneurship instructor at Molloy College.
“This little company on Long Island is really making a big impact,” Foss said.
The success has required the Telephone Science Corp. founder to up his tech game. One lesson of robocall-blocking has been that the size of a robocall blacklist – the database of numbers the call-blocker won’t let through – is actually less important than the frequency with which it’s updated, and to that end, Nomorobo mobile users’ devices must frequently ping the mothership, so to speak, to stay current.
Nomorobo’s list is updated hourly, and with more and more users buzzing in every day, Foss’ firm has quickly been forced to upgrade from two medium-sized servers to 10 large ones. It’s all cloud-based, Foss noted, so it’s not terribly difficult to keep up with the Joneses, though it’s “been a bit of a challenge.”
The boss has also gone on a modest hiring spree: His startup now employs eight full-timers, including fresh blood in both the development and customer-service departments.
While the glowing reviews and rapid proliferation have surprised him, nothing has touched Foss more than watching vast numbers of customers discover for themselves that yes, indeed, Nomorobo actually does what it portends to do.
“If you look at the tweets and the emails that come in, people are actually shocked that it works,” he said. “They think, ‘Oh, it’s a free trial, let me try it out,’ and then it actually blocks unwanted robocalls and they’re blown away.
“All those landline customers already knew it worked – it’s been proven,” Foss added. “But when mobile users and strangers try it and see that it works, that’s super-rewarding for me.”
Although he “really didn’t expect this level of growth this quickly,” the entrepreneur is now hungry for more and is actually anticipating additional growth – not only from the modest spike a new Innovate LI article will produce, but with the leaps and bounds that should accompany the Android release later this year.
“It’s been really to cool to see the growth of the company,” Foss said. “And we’re going to keep on growing.
“The more people who know about the product, the more who will know about it.”