Sramana: Given the market flux that you observed, how did you start AgreeYa Mobility, and what was the premise of creating that company?
Krish Kupathil: There were 18 of us, of whom 13 were in India and four in Korea. I was the only person here in the U.S. We felt that since mobility markets were in a flux that there was an opportunity for a new player like us to find a space. Since we all had backgrounds in the mobility space, we already had contacts at all the major carriers and handset manufacturers.
There was still some doubt in our minds. Each handset vendor had its own proprietary platform. Motorola had PTP, Samsung had SHP, and LG had their own platform. Each of these large handset vendors had their own proprietary operating systems and they launched their phones based on those operating systems. We knew that building application services around each of these handsets would be a lot of work and most of that work would be internalized in those organizations.
With Android and open platforms coming in, the space suddenly changed. For example, a browser in those days would be very specific to the platform. The browser would have to be ported to the Motorola PTP platform or the Samsung platform. A browser took different shapes and the same webpage or game that you would access on different handsets would look completely different.
Then Google came and standardized the Android platform and made a lot of things free. In those days, I still remember a typical bill of materials would cost between 70 cents and a dollar, per phone. Suddenly it was all free.
In 2010 we started our company and we thought we knew what we were going to do. Being a startup, we did not want to take the risk of wasting time, effort and money on a certain technology only to see one of the big boys develop something similar and then throw it out into the open for free. That had happened before. Multimedia frameworks developed by a certain company were surpassed by things Google did.
We decided to stay engaged with mobility and find out the right timing. Once we felt the timing was right, then we would step in. In that process the challenge was finding a way to stay engaged with the market. In our group we had a lot of expertise to know what the mobile space needed. We had excellent programming skills, so we decided to do some programming services. That let us stay in touch with all the customers in all the important regions such as China, Korea, North America, and Europe.
Sramana: Can you give me some examples of the type of engagements you would perform for handset vendors?
Krish Kupathil: Our first engagement was for LG. To this day they still make a device platform called a feature phone. We took an open source browser and ported it to their feature phone so they could have a more powerful browser for that phone. That project was right around a million dollars.