Mark Hyland: So, that’s how we got going. Essentially, the first mobile video, as you remember, was very rough. There were a Nokia device and Sony Ericsson device that could play downloadable video clips. So, QuickPlay did some deals with content providers to get some music videos, to get news clips and so on, and started looking around at what else was out there to license. We had early deals with two of the wireless carriers in Canada, Telus and Rogers, which are still customers and partners. We had the beginnings of a business. Early on, there were just a few thousand downloads a month. People would spend a couple of bucks to look at a video clip, and they would have it on their devices and could watch it again and again and again. But it was very early days.
Interestingly, there was revenue right from the beginning. We were not a company that built and built from behind closed doors.
Sramana Mitra: You said you had to build the early pitch deck and go sell. So, you were responsible for bringing in the early customers and revenue. What was in that pitch deck, and how did you navigate where to sell, how to sell, and how to validate your assumptions?
MH: Our management team and our CEO in particular were big believers in getting customers early as opposed to building a product behind closed doors in that visionary mode and then launching the product. It’s an entirely valid approach, as we know, but for us, it was keeping tabs on the customers. The pitch deck was fundamentally about education. First of all, it was about education about the mobile market. In those days, 2004 and 2005, mobile data was quite new. It’s hard to believe now, but there were 1x networks. There was a little bit of … edge, I think, was just coming.
SM: BlackBerry was a killer app.
MH: BlackBerry, people were carrying around the blue BlackBerrys, and Canadians were proud to have this company in our midst. You could browse on a couple of the early phones. What we had to paint was a picture of the current state of mobile. We looked at who had what devices. What was the penetration over all of the phones? Where were the networks? What was happening around the world? What was happening in North America, Europe? Europe was seen as very far ahead just because they’d standardized on global system for mobile (GSM), and Asia … there was a sense of dynamism there because of the volumes of handsets that were being sold.
The other big thing was mobile data. At the time, I built a graph that showed the increase in mobile data, and more than 90% of mobile data was text; it was SMS messaging. But there was a little sliver of browsing and “other,” which was the slice we occupied. Essentially, we said mobile is big; mobile data is even bigger. It’s really just starting now. People are going to be using the Internet from these devices. There are probably going to be all kinds of devices we’ve never even imagined.
There were three foundational principles to QuickPlay. One was, people like to watch. When there are moving pictures and sound, people are drawn to that experience. If the storytelling’s there or the drama’s compelling at a live event or sports event or what have you, people watch. The second was that mobile is going to be big and screens are going to be on you and with you and around you in a way that they weren’t 10 years ago.
SM: And this is the pitch that you were giving to the wireless carriers?
MH: Wireless carriers but also media companies because we also did business early on with MTV Networks. We did an application for VH1. We did an application for ESPN.