How to generate revenue in mobile: A Panel with Jeff Bacon, Phil Giroux, Dave MacFarlane and Rob Woodbridge

I had the privilege of being the moderator of a great panel of mobile experts at a recent smarTALKS event held by OCRI at the Mercury Lounge in Ottawa’s Byward Market.

The theme of the panel was focused on real-world ways to generate revenue in mobile and featured three of Ottawa’s most knowledgeable mobile experts: Jeff Bacon of Magmic, Phil Giroux and Dave MacFarlane of RIM. Each of us on the panel have been involved in the mobile space for the past 10 years with a great mix of consumer and enterprise focus.

One of the first observations was around the fact that mobile offers an unprecedented opportunity for entrepreneurs to build businesses and companies to generate additional sources of revenue and/or expand the awareness of their brand to new customers. All the panelists agreed that the emphasis has to be on understanding the market need for a particular mobile product and satisfying that need – business basics are not lost in this nascent industry. So, stop building the “me too” applications and start innovating.

Appcelerator VP Marketing, Scott Schwarzhoff talks business models in mobile

The second unanimous observation was that if entrepreneurs are going to build a consumer-focused business in this space, they need to build a multi-product development strategy. This is a key observation because companies can tend to make a career out of one product focused on giving version one 100% functionality.. The reality is that a product at 80% functionality with room to grow is good enough to get out the door and start generating revenue. Once out the door, an educated decision can be made as to the future feature development of the product.

The third observation dovetails on the second: You need to put the dollars in where it makes the most revenue sense. If your first product was launched and is not generating any revenue, does it make sense to continue putting money into the development of the product, invest in marketing or build a new product. If you are at this point, ask yourself a very simple question: “If I put this dollar in what are my expected returns”

Observation number four is really the one we spent an enormous amount of time on – the issue of cross-platform mobile application development. This is a massive piece of the puzzle in terms of both expense and timing and the general consensus was that there was a time and place to move an application from one platform to another but there has to be a driving force behind the reasons. Most of us agreed that there are some industry-specific applications that require cross-platform support out of the box (IT tools or ERP/CRM applications for example) while most consumer-facing applications such as games will be dictated by the demand from your customers.

RhoMobile CEO, Adam Blum, talks mobile web

The surprise (or confirmation, depending on what side of the fence you sit on) of the night was when I asked the more that 120 people in attendance the platforms that they were building on and whether there was a focus on consumer or enterprise applications. An overwhelming number were focusing on the enterprise and Android as a platform with iPhone a close second. Canada’s darling, Research in Motion, was a distant third.

Of course, as with anything in this industry, this information can and will become irrelevant and outdated overnight…

About the author

Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to get things rolling.

/* ]]> */