Aaron Foss '00, '01 (information technology, MBA) has an impact on more than 16 million people's daily lives.
Foss developed technology that stops robocalls from telemarketers. Since his technology and now company, Nomorobo, won a Federal Trade Commission challenge in 2013, it has blocked more than 109 million automated calls. In February, Time Warner Cable made it easier for its 16 million telephone customers to use the service. In June, Foss made the technology available to mobile phones.
"It is awesome to be in a position where I am creating a business that is solving a real problem," Foss said.
Foss wouldn't be in this position at all, he said, if he hadn't learned from mistakes he made in past start-up ventures. There was the WingDipper, a specially designed cup for dipping Buffalo wings. That product landed Foss on the television show American Inventor in the mid-2000s and taught him the importance of a business pitch.
In his next project, Smart Chemo, a software service for physicians, he learned it is better to end an initiative that isn't working. Although physicians were interested in an automated system to track doctors' orders for patients, hospitals at that time were not, so he couldn't sell the product.
Next came a company called SideTour, which he created in the business bootcamp TechStars with three other entrepreneurs. SideTour is an online marketplace for unique tours and activities in major cities. The New York City startup raised $4 million in venture capital before it was sold to Groupon in 2013.
The experience taught Foss how to execute an idea. "All of a sudden things were starting to fire on all cylinders here," he said.
Those and other smaller ventures brought him to the FTC's Robocall Challenge. First, Foss said, he had to solve the problem. He did that by hacking a little-known service called simultaneous ring.
Simultaneous ring allows incoming calls to be routed through Nomorobo, which compares it to a database compiled from the FTC of robocall numbers. If it's a robocall, Nomorobo blocks it.
Then he had to prepare to pitch his solution. He built a prototype and was ready to explain it when he found out in 2013 that he was a co-winner of the contest. After extensive media coverage and even testifying as an expert witness in a Senate committee hearing on robocalls, Foss launched the business in October of 2013.
Since Time Warner Cable went live with one-click integration of the technology in February 2016, tens of thousands of people have signed up for the service, which Foss runs from his Huntington, Long Island, office.
"There was only one person who could come up with this weird idea of Nomorobo and then have the experience to be able to launch it direct to the consumers," Foss said. "For me, this is my brand of entrepreneurship."
To learn more
Go to nomorobo.com.