BTN's annual answer book for business travel managers.
mobile meetings technology firm QuickMobile this month secured a C$3.2 million
round of financing, its second such round in the past seven months. CEO Patrick
Payne said the funds will support what he described as the company's rapid growth
following the November 2012 release of an enterprise app that allows users to
create custom event apps using a content management system. Payne this month
spoke with BTN's Chris Davis about
his plans for the new funding, the company's strategy and the future of mobile
corporate meetings technology. An edited transcript follows.
What are your intentions for the new funding?
We did our first round of funding with some venture capitalists—BDC IT Group and Vancity—in October 2012. We did about C$3.3 million in equity. The idea there was that we were talking about launching our new multi-event platform. We thought we could launch this with, let's say, under 20 of our large customers, and we were pretty bullish about 2013 for getting the platform out there and really going after it with this new technology. Well, it turned out that by about January we had 10x the demand for what we had even projected, so we were going to blow through that number. We've already blown through that number even before the first quarter ended. We realized this is going to be much bigger than we anticipated. We went back to our investors and said that the demand for this is really unprecedented, and we would like to go after this, which is going to require more resources and more people, and we've got to build up our product and our infrastructure more, and we're going to want to expand more internationally. All these things were directly related simply to demand for the multi-event platform.We've found that these large corporate clients we have do hundreds if not thousands of events every year, and they're trying to figure out ways to incorporate this into their everyday infrastructure and processes, as well as all the requirements they have around security and privacy. 'Brandability' is also a very important component. They're not looking for events that they can put into somebody else's app. They want it to be their own internal app. So we create a master app for them and then we let their people actually create events that are then instantiated inside that master app, and that's what we're seeing this big demand for.
Typically, how does a deal with QuickMobile for a master app work?
We're finding that there's several models. We create the master app, depending on what they want—they may want integration with systems that they already have in-house, certain branding capabilities or functionalities that they may want at the master app level. Then, it's either using a sublicense, in which every time they create an event within the master app there's a sublicense fee, or now some are moving toward much more of a software-as-a-service model. Well, both are SaaS models, but some are looking at large numbers of events, so they are looking at a model in which they just pay a monthly fee and then can use it as much as they want.
Have you seen any trends among your clientele in terms of company size or the industries they serve?
No, we're seeing it across the board in a lot of different verticals, even among some industries that we thought might be later adopters but are actually moving very quickly toward this technology. We have lots of customers in the financial industry and the insurance industry. We have lots of travel and distribution partners. You would expect technology companies and innovation companies like Accenture, Google and Intel to do these types of things, but we're seeing lots of companies from every vertical adopting the technology very quickly.
If the demand for this was greater than you initially forecast, how does that change your strategy, beyond securing the additional funding?
It's primarily around the product and the infrastructure. We have to make sure the product is very robust, scalable and flexible, and that there's a lot of security around it. We do a lot of things like single sign-on, so that uses their authentication to authenticate users, encryption and third-party software verification; all these things are required so companies can perform security audits on us. It's a very important component of it. When you work with companies like Visa and the financial institutions, that is a requirement to be able to work with them. On the platform and infrastructure side, it's about numbers of users and the scalable components that are required on our back end. There also are international components. We're working with some large international companies, and they want things like multi-language. Those are the kinds of things we've built into the product and are being deployed across enterprise clients.
How much does your organization need to change in terms of size and structure to deal with rapid growth?
There are two components. The first is the raw growth that takes place. Less than a year ago, we had under 100 employees, and now we're at 163. Developers, project managers, support people—right across the board, we need people. As far as the structure goes, we need different types of people. Certainly large enterprise clients require white-glove service, so there's a whole new emphasis on the customer-experience component to our offering. So we're building a whole new team of client-success managers and customer service and 24/7 support [employees]. These are all part of our growth strategy.
You are not alone in the mobile meetings tech space. How do you assess the competitive set and how do you see it shaking out going forward?
Frankly, what we've seen is that the majority of competition is in the trade show and association space. That's where it has become very competitive, and there are a lot of new entrants. But when it comes to the enterprise space, we're finding that a lot of competitors are not quite enterprise-grade yet, and so that's why we're really dominating this space right now. I don't want to sound too confident; I'm sure there will be lots more competitors coming up and lots more entering this space, but frankly when we look at things like localization, scalability, security and all these kinds of issues, I would say our competition has quite a way to go to get to that level.
You and a lot of the members of your executive team came at this from technology backgrounds, outside the meetings industry. How does that affect your perspective or your strategy?
We've been in the meetings space now for about five years, and we have several people in our organization who absolutely are intimately involved with the meetings industry. Our chairman, Philip Wolf [former chairman and CEO of PhoCusWright, now owned by BTN parent company Northstar Travel Media] is a luminary in the travel space. He's an expert in that field. Also, our recent hires include Robin Jones, who is our new vice president of marketing and came from The Active Network, which is in the meetings space. Robert Reilly, who will head up our client partner services group, is also from Active Network. We've haven't announced it yet, but in the next month or so you're going to see at least a half-dozen people coming from the events industry. We work with lots of different groups, such as Meeting Professionals International, very closely in the meetings industry. We're a software provider; we are 100 percent focused on mobile and 100 percent focused on the meetings industry.
What is the current demand for meetings, not just technology, and is that demand critical to your strategy?
In the past few years, we've seen an increase in demand for face-to-face meetings. You always hear about how online meetings are going to erode the total amount of the market, but we've seen exactly the opposite. It's really only 10 or 20 percent of meetings that are using these kinds of [mobile] devices now, and we just see the demand going through the roof. With the sustainability initiatives that large corporations have and the adoption of devices, and multiple devices—most people carry around a smartphone and a tablet now—most people don't want to carry around paper. They want it to be digital, they want to be able to connect with people; there's so many more value-adds that a device can bring. It's just becoming a fait accompli that these devices are going to revolutionize the way people meet. That's what I find the most interesting trend: these can really enhance the overall experience at these meetings. Some people say, "Gee, I don't want apps at my meeting because I don't want people paying attention to their smartphones, I want them paying attention to the keynote speaker." My answer to that is, "Just look around the room. What are people doing? They're all on their devices. That's not going to stop, and people are using them more and more. Which would you rather do, engage them with your brand and your content and your app, or have them using something else and being disengaged with the event?" That's the trend we're seeing, and we also see that large corporations are looking for a solution that goes across the entire organization. And once they start using it for more meetings, they start to interact with each other in new and different ways than ever before. In many ways, it becomes the social enterprise through the meeting app.
If you look two years and five years down the road, how do you see this space and your place in it developing?
I see us as the catalyst for a lot of engagement and new ways for people to connect. When people meet face-to-face, that's just the beginning of the conversation. When they interact with each other throughout the year, we want to help them become the platform that allows those people to engage in those year-long conversations and interconnections, networking, sharing and collaboration. This is becoming a tool for large companies not only to communicate with their entire organization but to facilitate and promote connectivity between their employees. We also see integration with lots of tools that are already out there, things like LinkedIn and the social media channels. We want to be the hub for a lot of those things as well.
Qatar Airways has reported significant year-to-date year-over-year growth in contracted corporate...
When Certify announced the opening of its London office recently, CEO Bob Neveu characterized the move...
October 2017 marked the dawn of a new era for AirPlus' U.S. operations. The company, along with...