Friday, May 25, 2007
Jared Reitzin is CEO of mobileStorm (www.mobilestorm.com), a Los Angeles-based provider of email marketing and other services. We first spoke to Jared three years ago, and thought it would be interesting to hear how the company’s business has evolved and changed. Ben Kuo spoke with Jared.
BK: For those readers who aren’t familiar with your service, what does it offer?
JR: We’ve built the first, true multi-channel digital market platform, so that a business can build a database and communicate with them, via email, FAX, direct mail, wireless text, and soon RSS. We are also getting into solution type, agency services, where we work with clients on building the database, and helping them determine how to build the database, communicate with them, and figure out which channel will be the most profitable. We look at your current marketing initiatives, where you want to be, put together an assessment, and put you into the right product. We also offer additional services, such as creative services. It’s a means to an end of sending the message. Everything we’ve done so far is in the marketing space, and we’ve built lots of features for businesses. We manage the database, communications, and reports so you can see how your campaigns are doing. Our latest initiative, coming after the Virginia Tech shootings, was thinking that text messaging might be useful here, to maybe save lives and get the message out faster. We came out with a new student alert technology, which we are selling as a wireless alerting platform for schools. It’s not just for schools, but also for government agencies and cities.
BK: Who are your customers?
JR: Our primary customers now are Qantas Airways, Carl’s Junior, MGM Grand, Squaw Valley, and Amp’d Mobile.
BK: These customers are using your marketing products?
JR: Yes, they’re all using our marketing projects. Our new platform is just for schools and government agencies, and will be tailored for larger enterprises for not just emergency but other alerts.
BK: How big is the company now?
JR: mobileStorm is at 23 employees, and we’re totally self funded. We raised a little bit of friends and family and have persevered since we started in October 1999.
BK: Can you talk about your experience growing the company without funding?
JR: One of my strengths as CEO is finding really good people and convincing them to work here. They have the dream of becoming very successful, and we could see selling ourselves to a larger agency or a competitor who wants to become multi-modal. We find the right people, and get them in here. People who are working here know we’re not venture funded, so they must be frugal with what we have. Our COO has been here over three years, our CTO has been here for five years, and we all started working for peanuts. It hasn’t been easy without funding. To be honest, there were times where we really got far behind, but our vendors and people who work with us understand that we always made our payments. We persevered in really hard times. Finally, in February of 2005, with the launch of version 2 of Stun, we had the first product that you could come to the site with a credit card and buy, which was completely turn key. We really started to see a turnaround, where we didn’t necessarily have to be on a phone to make the sale. Lots of it has been very organic.
BK: Did making the product available online and consumer friendly really make that big of a difference?
JR: Oh yeah, a good percentage of our monthly business is people coming to the web site and signing up. We have thousands of dollars in one transaction just randomly coming from companies coming to the site, and seeing our services. They see the brands we are working with, the time we’ve been in business. We’ve had an incredible amount of growth. I think it’s just our branding and positioning in the market. Customers see us, and that we’ve been around for a long time, have good customers, we look and feel secure, and we’ve been able to grow considerably on our own.
BK: How do you get attention here in what seems to be a pretty crowded space?
JR: Our traditional competitors – the Contact Contacts and Vertical Responses of the world, all have turn key platforms. The way we are separating ourselves, is when you are ready to go to the next level–you need extra services–we also have agency type service for small and medium sized businesses, and not ruin your pocketbook. We still compete as you can sign up and use our site, but we also have more hands on help for companies, help them to assess their situation, their bounce back ratio, abuse complaints, and come up with a strategy to build your database and communicate with it.
BK: It sounds like the model is really more than just technology, but also services?
JR: Exactly. Our core competency is understanding messages and how to deliver them. We use StrongMail as our back end for email, and two SMS providers, Motricity and SinglePoint, plus FAX broadcasters. These companies have built out millions in infrastructure, and we’re not in the business to build a MTA. We’ve partnered, and add value by providing great platforms, and built an ASP that sits on these core messaging instruments. We’re focused on marketing now, and are now looking to other areas to provide messages, such as getting the word out in an emergency type situation.
BK: Thanks for the update!