For Patrick Payne, inspiration struck when someone pulled the fire alarm in the middle of a travel marketing conference. In the time that it took to get everyone out of the hall and back in again, the whole conference schedule had to be rearranged. Suddenly, the printed programs were useless, and there was a scramble for iPhones (then in their early years) with which to check the new itinerary.
"That's when the light went on in my head," says Mr. Payne. "This could have a big impact on the way that people run meetings and events."
Today, Mr. Payne is the CEO of QuickMobile, a Vancouver firm of 116 employees that's made good on that insight. Its apps help some of the world's largest corporations facilitate in-house conventions and events and move beyond logistics by replacing printed schedules and speakers' lists with document management and social networking. Its clients include the likes of Google Inc., Intel Corp., Coca-Cola Co., McDonald's Corp., Microsoft Corp.and Visa Inc.
"In 2010, we did over 300 apps, and last year we did well over 1,000," says Mr. Payne. Now, presented with clients who run not dozens, but hundreds or thousands of events a year, QuickMobile is reinventing its platform to match.
QuickMobile started off as a purveyor of text-message marketing in 2006, and moved into custom app development after the iPhone arrived in 2007.
Once Mr. Payne hit on the idea of moving into the event sphere, things fell into place. QuickMobile grew its business by producing custom applications for big, one-off corporate events, the kind of internal conventions that could host up to 15,000 or 20,000 attendees. But custom app-making is labour-intensive, and some clients host many smaller meetings, all subtly different. Abbott, a Québec-based health-care company for instance, hosts 800 training events a year, says Mr. Payne.
So, to grow with demand, QuickMobile has relaunched its core offering as a content management system that companies can use to design their own events. Instead of downloading a new custom app for each event, corporate attendees download one corporate-branded app, which authenticates them and shows them whichever events they're set to attend. QuickMobile typically charges an annual licensing fee, plus professional services. The firm recently raised $3.3-million led by the BDC-IT Venture Fund.
The single-app approach has also allows QuickMobile to add a social-networking layer to its service, so attendees can seek out attendees with similar interests at an event, forge connections within the company and use that same app to stay in touch once the event has ended. Corporate social networking is a booming space, but Mr. Payne says that the event environment offers a unique opportunity.
"When people go to events, they're actively in social mode They're trying to meet people and connect with people," he says. "It's kind of a grassroots connection tool for these companies to start to connect their employees together."