Separating Winners from the Losers

View from the Founder

When QuickMobile started developing mobile event app technology in 2008, it was a very different technology landscape. We developed modular components such as the event schedule, speaker lists, venue maps, attendee lists and numerous other modules for iOS, Blackberry and the Windows Phone platform, which consisted of both Windows 7 and Windows Mobile. The first HTC Android mobile didn’t even exist until later that year and it took a few years for the Android platform to really gain wide consumer acceptance. In July 2010 QuickMobile was the first company to launch an event app on all 5 mobile platforms including the then new tablet format iPad. In 2011, QuickMobile launched its first version of our web-based content management and app development platform named QuickStart. Yes, it was very different and much more complicated to develop mobile apps in the early days! We couldn’t learn lessons and copy the innovations of competitors (they simply didn’t exist back then). We relied on our intuition, originality, customers’ feedback and anticipation of the technological innovation around us. It was heady times to say the least – but some aspects of innovation never change.

By 2013 QuickMobile was at a crossroads. The company was the fastest growing technology company in Canada, market demand was expanding rapidly, competitors were coming out of the woodwork, our client server technology platform was being tested to the limits and mobile development technology was changing precipitously and proliferating exponentially.

We had a monumental decision to make:
1. Slowdown our client acquisition strategy and our aggressive expansion plans and focus on enhancing the platform to make it enterprise grade or
2. Continue to relentlessly obtain new enterprise clients while simultaneously innovating and maintaining the original platform infrastructure.

We pursued option 2 and acquired lots of new enterprise customers – more than 100+ Fortune 200 companies – and we remain the market leader in reliability, security, customer satisfaction, innovation, and service.

Then, in 2014/2015, we invested heavily to upgrade our platform to enterprise grade. We undertook a major technology overhaul including a transition to a dynamic, scalable cloud infrastructure; a complete upgrade to our security capabilities; we launched a powerful, real-time analytics engine; we performed a comprehensive upgrade to the software and the user interface for both our platform and mobile solution; and, we made thousands of minor tweaks, fixes and improvements to our mobile event applications. However, the key innovation during this period was the move to empower end-users to “configure” their own solution and self-manage the entire event experience. Although this was a difficult process for us, it was without a doubt the best thing we could have done to secure our long-term viability in the enterprise segment.

In 2016 the mobile landscape is scarcely recognizable. Only two mobile platforms have survived (iOS and Android) and the proliferation of mobile technology is pervasive to say the least. With advanced development tools, content format convergence and widespread integration using APIs etc. it has never been easier to develop powerful mobile applications and solutions. Indeed there are more than a hundred mobile companies in the event technology sector alone. In 2013 Vista Equity Partners acquired Lanyon. Earlier this year they acquired Cvent for almost $1.7B and earlier this month they acquired Marketo, a cloud-based marketing automation software for almost $1.8B. This strategy is a classic example of technology consolidation within an industry sector and is a strong indicator that the nascent event technology sector is maturing.

When this natural evolution takes place many changes occur within the market. Investors line up with the leading players in the space. Pricing models coalesce and standardized business models are adopted. Many smaller competitors drop out of the market as price points drop and complex functional necessities converge – especially if the company cannot scale to the market demand or demonstrate a competitive or innovative advantage. It often makes for strange bedfellows, as former competitors now need to align forces to compete with well-funded market goliaths.

However, it is not a fait de complete that the well-funded market leaders that join forces will emerge as the dominant force. As well, with all the chaos, turmoil and positioning within the marketplace several factors separate the winners from the losers. In many cases the inability to anticipate market forces, foresee technological changes and adapt to the ever-changing customers’ needs can be the death nail –no matter how much funding or marketing clout a company may possess.

Typically, there are two approaches to market segment consolidation from a product technology perspective. Firstly, the incumbent players survey the market for customer requirements and fill-in product gaps by acquiring companies that offer the best solution and functional capabilities. Technology compatibility and integration can be deciding factors in this approach. Sometimes acquiring a company for its brand name, customers or market share is a motivating dynamic in the consolidation exercise. While the consolidation transformation is underway the second approach is technology disruption, which can be a huge contributor to the ultimate outcome within the marketplace. Smaller more innovative players thrive in this environment. This activity is usually characterized by innovation and collaboration by eliminating or replacing traditional functionality with new approaches and collapsing application requirements into a unified subset. This type of disruption can radically change an industry in a relatively short period of time.

Collaboration or groupware software and integration has become perhaps the most important new development in the mobile enterprise. Event attendees, exhibitors, speakers, organizers, employees and management alike expect 24/7 access to communication channels that are easy to use and integrated with messaging platforms, content and social media platforms. Security is not only pre-requisites for collaboration in an enterprise-grade solution; it is mandatory, non-negotiable and remains a tremendous differentiator for QuickMobile.

In 2016, the key factors for success in the event tech industry are first and foremost security and reliability followed by customer service and support, integration and collaboration, scalability and of course innovation. These enterprise customer requirements haven’t really changed that much since the early days of mobile event app technology and remain the biggest differentiator between companies that think and act strategically and are in the market for the long haul as opposed to others that are simply attempting to exploit short term opportunities. I continue to be pleasantly surprised and gratified that the company I co-founded 10 years ago is still innovating, still expanding and still leading this dynamic market.