I first posted about Mob4Hire last January, after meeting President and Founder, Paul Poutanen, at an Industry Event in Calgary. I became an advisor for the firm ... we stayed in touch; I watched Mob4Hire.com launch, get proof of concept, get paying customers and finally, like all Killer Startups, reach the point where they need to scale. So, Paul and the CFO, Robert Knight, approached me ... one thing led to another and I accepted their offer to join Mob4Hire and become CEO.
I'm already on my third cup of steaming joe today (a triple shot skinny vanilla latte, I might add) ... all wired up on caffeine, and I think to myself, "Self ... this is absolutely the most narcisistic post I've written." And, to prove it, I thought the best way to approach this is to have a Question/Answer session with myself. :)
Q: Congrats on the CEO job at Mob4Hire. The last we heard, you were working with CurveDental.com as CMO. Why the change?
A: Curve has a great opportunity ahead of them; their Saas software for the dental industry is revolutionary and going to cause a lot of disruption to the status quo. For me, accepting the position at Mob4Hire was a personal decision to stretch my career as a CEO as well as carve out a niche in an ever-opportunistic and seemingly recession proof mobile space, which is kinda like the wild west at this point. I still greatly respect the team at Curve, their CEO Matt Dorey, what they're doing, and I'll continue be in touch with them.
Q: What does Mob4Hire do?
A: Mob4Hire is crowd-sourced mobile application testing and market research. Testing for mobile application developers is a real pain. The ugly truth is that applications don't work seamlessly across multiple platforms on multiple handsets (there's about 25 different O/S's and technology platforms and arguably more than 12,000 different handsets). Even worse, software that works perfectly on a phone in New York may fail on the same phone in London. Traditionally, developers had to incur great expense to buy all the handsets on their client's carrier network (there are 800+ networks worldwide), subscribe to the phone service, and, in many cases, have staff travel to test their software in market, especially if it's a GPS location based app. Mob4Hire offers a much more logical, elegant and cost-effective solution. Developers post test plans and market research projects on Mob4hire and people from around the world bid on them; once accepted the tester follows through with test results using their existing in market cell phones. Mob4Hire can deliver testing results for approximately 1/10th the cost and about 1/5th the time.
Q: Why do you think Mob4Hire is a good business?
A: Unlike a lot of tech startups, especially in the crowd-sourcing space, Mob4Hire solves a real and big problem which we can monetize; we take a small fee % on each accepted bid. So, it actually has a sound business foundation. Secondly, the business scales; not only is it a big problem right now, it's going to become an even bigger problem as the marketplace becomes more fragmented. Bigger problem = more opportunity. Further, right now our revenue stream is based on a test bidding model, but we also have some additional services such as market research and focus groups that we'll be rolling out over the next two years that provide extra value to developers that we can monetize.
Q: How is the problem getting bigger?
A: I'm glad you asked that. Applications are the future of the mobile industry. Most of the historic growth that wireless carriers have experienced has been through handset sales and voice. However, markets are become saturated; for example, there's enough handsets sold for 88% of the population in the U.S.. In Singapore, this number is 114% (a lot of people have 2 handsets) ... Finland is 130%. Handset sales have, in fact, declined by 1% from 2007 to 2008. So, the future growth of carriers is going to come from applications and data services. That's why we see a collective $360M in VC funding announced from RIM, Apple, Nokia and Google ... they know what's at stake and are trying to become the platform of choice. It's estimated that the number of application developers will grow from about 100,000 to 400,000 in 2013.
Q: How do you know testers will want to join and do the work?
A: Well, we don't need every single person in the world with a cell phone to join. Just enough to provide enough handsets for enough carriers in enough countries to be a real test bed for developers. The two primary reasons to join: "I get paid to use my cell phone" and "I get to try out new software and technology" have resonated well ... we already have over 1,600 registered handsets for 189 carriers in 75 countries. And, we're in the process of launching a few developer networks, including O2 Litmus in the U.K.
Q: Explain a little more about your O2 Litmus contract
A: O2 is launching their new developer network O2 Litmus, which puts together thousands of developers with thousands of O2 early adopters, all branded as O2, with the backbone architecture using Mob4Hire as the "crowd-sourced micro-payment platform." So, O2 solves a big problem of both quality and quantity of applications, with very little investment, by turning their customers into virtual product managers ... the developers are happier and the users get more software they're willing to pay for. We make money with our service fee on all the testing transactions, so we expect developer networks to be one of our biggest sources of revenue.
Q: What's your first six months look like?
A: Well, first, take care of the customer ... that's the basis of any great business ... making O2 and our developers successful is the primary goal. However, my biggest fear is that we won't be able to scale fast enough to meet the demand and opportunity. First things first, we'll be raising some capital, so if you know anybody looking for a can't miss opportunity, let me know! Secondly, we'll be investing in recruiting testers and putting some better technology around the Q/A process to ensure great testing quality. Lastly, we'll be talking with more developer networks about private labeling Mob4Hire for their own developer relationships.
Q: So, you're looking to raise capital ... isn't it going to be hard to do that in this economy?
A: A good friend said to me last week, "There's never a bad time to invest in good people with good ideas." From our conversations thus far, it seems that many investors have moved to a cash position and therefore may be even more liquid and looking for opportunities. But, it is true that casual investors have tightened up their belts and experienced angels will be sifting over their opportunities even more carefully. We've got proof of concept. Paying customers. And, good contracts in hand. Our business model stacks up favorably against other opportunities, so I welcome that scrutiny. Ultimately, it won't take a lot of investment to make Mob4Hire a homerun since the business will scale so well, and the potential upside is very attractive.
Q: How do people get hold of you?
A: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Thanks .. best of luck.
A: Thank you! As my Daddy once said ... "I'm a great believer in luck, and the harder I work, the more of it I have."
Ok ... that's it for my narcissistic pseudo-Q/A for now. :) Just as Techvibes readers have been following my journey in Calgary over the last year as I looked for a new career, now that I'm immersed in this new direction, you can expect my blog posts to start having more mobile content.