Sramana: What level of growth were you able to sustain? We know 2001 was an unusually bad time. When did growth start to happen?
Chris Koopmans: We saw a lot of growth in 2001 because we had had none the year prior. It was bad for markets, but it was an up year for us. Those first several years were growing years for us. Some years we had 20% growth and other years we had 50%. Our growth followed our customers. We found that 2009 was bad for our customers, so it was slowed for us. Overall our growth was steady up and to the right.
Sramana: What were you selling as you went along? You were selling to a specific market in the early part of the 2000s. The rich mobile Internet came about in the second half of the decade. How did your product roadmap change?
Chris Koopmans: At the beginning a lot of our customers wanted to enable their clients to use the mobile Internet. It was not uncommon to go to a website like CNN or Yahoo and find that it would take up to four minutes to download on a mobile device. It does not take a genius to recognize that was not successful. We found that in 2005, people really started committing to make the experience better for mobile users.
Around 2006 and 2007, between the advent of 3.5G networks and the introduction of the iPhone, we saw an uptick in traffic. On the laptop side of that equation it was purely bandwidth that enabled people to use the mobile Internet. On the smartphone side there were a lot of people using mobile Internet on their handset but they were still using WAP. When the iPhone and Android phones came out, we found handsets that were challenging the amount of data a network could provide.
In the latter half of the decade we saw carriers start looking for fair usage caps. They were looking for ways to get people to use the Internet, but at the same time they were looking for ways to reduce the amount of data that goes over the Internet. The big question today is how to create tiered levels of service instead of trying to throw everyone in the same bucket. Carriers want to tailor the user experience.
Sramana: You are telling the story of a company that had a certain vision in its founding days, but the actual vision you started with was a market that took a long time to develop. How do you manage a product roadmap given those circumstances? The market was not ready for your real product for a long time.
Nicholas Stavrakos: It is important to look at what was happening during those times. At the time there was a lot of activity in the industry in smartphones. We had our engineers partnering with engineers from Microsoft and some Korean companies to get our code running on their browsers. All of the key vendors who were trying to make a smartphone were talking to us. There were many smartphones during that time. There are many times the industry felt it had found the true smartphone of the future, only to see adoption dissipate. It was not until the iPhone had been out a while and matured in 2009 that we were able to look back and say that everything we did prior was actually not the product we had envisioned.
During that time, we always believed that the mobile Internet would be a big thing. We also knew that it had not happened yet. We always felt that it was the next product on the horizon. There were many ups and downs with Microsoft, Symbian and others. Our product roadmap took turns with each of those ups and downs. We acquired two companies over that period. In the early days, enterprises were buying cards, and they wanted their Outlook to work over the wireless laptop cards. We acquired a company that did Outlook optimization so that we could sell [our product to] enterprises.
There was a point at which we felt the biggest hurdle to adoption was the size of the screen on a smartphone. You could simply not see the webpage you were loading. We partnered a product to re-render webpages and slice them up so you could see them on a mobile device. We also bought a billing company because we felt that billing was too expensive when done by the byte. We got into the space of doing smart billing by the click. In 2009 we were able to look back and see that all the branches on the tree we had explored were not necessarily [there]. We were able to come back and double down on our original premise. That occurred at the same time that Apple and Google operating systems were getting mainstream adoption.