As a startup, you never know when the eureka moment is going to hit.
For Vancouver-based QuickMobile Inc., it struck after a fire alarm two years ago at a travel conference in Orlando that delayed the agenda for 90 minutes.
The conference’s organizers used the mobile conference and event application that QuickMobile had created for the iPhone to quickly rearrange the schedule.
Attendees scrambled to find people with iPhones so that they could see the times and locations of the sessions they wanted to check out.
Patrick Payne, QuickMobile’s co-founder and chief executive officer, described that as a “life-changing moment” for the company, which had been around for three years but struggled to find its way.
“The conference’s printed guide was completely useless but the iPhone app was dynamic,” he said. “That is when the light went on for me: This could have a great impact on how people run meetings.”
Launched in 2006, QuickMobile’s original business involved marketing within SMS messages. It seemed like a good idea but the company soon discovered it was a tough, volume-driven business to make money in.
While the company went back to the drawing board, it received some financing from Telefilm Canada to develop mobile applications for three film festivals – the Ottawa International Film Festival, the Whistler Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival.
The project created the roots for the mobile conference and event planning application that later jumped into the spotlight at the PhoCusWright travel conference in Orlando.
From there, QuickMobile received another huge boost when it received a call from Accenture, which was looking to create an iPad application for its global CIO conference, bringing together 175 chief information officers from around the world to Washington, D.C. Each CIO was also given an iPad.
QuickMobile’s application was enthusiastically received, and Mr. Payne said the “phone has been ringing ever since.”
Mr. Payne said QuickMobile’s conference and event application has resonated because it lets organizers reduce costs by not having to create paper-based agendas and packages, while giving attendees dynamic and up-to-date information about schedules, speaker information, agendas and social events.
He said the mobile event and conference marketplace is competitive but QuickMobile has become one of the market leaders by pushing the envelope with new technology and services.
“We were the first ones to implement what we call gamification,” he said.
“It is not enough to get people to just use the application. More meeting planners have to figure out how to attain the objectives of the meeting, so all the people participate and there is higher engagement and a better experience.”
An example of QuickMobile’s gamification work was a conference that wanted to drive attendee engagement by creating a system that rewarded people for taking photos, tweeting about the conference and attending sessions and other events.
QuickMobile created a leaderboard that showed how each person was doing. In the end, more than 1,800 photos were uploaded to the conference’s photo gallery, which was a ten-times increase from the previous conference.
With millions of meetings and conferences happening around the world each year, Mr. Payne said QuickMobile has major growth prospects.
Aside from growing to keep up with demand, he said the biggest challenge is determining how quickly to expand and how growth will be financed.
The two options being considered, he said, are continuing to grow organically or doing a large venture capital financing to jump-start growth. Mr. Payne said a decision will likely be made in the first or second quarter of next year.
“We have now demonstrated a business model that works,” he said.
“We are showing significant revenue and the prospect list just gets better and better. There are millions of meetings every year, and we think there is a big universe of meetings that want mobile event apps, so the prospects certainly look good. It’s mainly about scaling for the opportunity now.”
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.
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