6 Factors for Technology Disruptions and the Survival Mantra for Mobile Startups

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Technology and business disruptions in the mobile world are taking place truly at Internet speed! Time to-market products has decreased considerably, leading to smart innovations in areas such as mobile advertisements, location based data analytics, social networking and mobile commerce.

The new world order is to be nimble and agile in producing solutions that are amenable and provide value to the users. Though “multi-touch” was

invented way back in 1991 by Pierre Wellner as explained in his classic paper on “Digital Desk”, Apple showed the way as to how to package multi-touch on mobile phones and be commercially successful with the launch of iPhone in 2007.Second, the applications need to be unique to make an impression in the highly competitive market place. The digital advertising platform providers such as Rubicon Project and Google run sophisticated algorithms for conducting millions of online auctions every minute for the placement of advertisements on your mobile screen. The core strength of these firms is their continuous innovation on matching users’ eye balls with target ads, thereby monetizing the ad space.

Third, more and more data is being generated every second, thanks to social networking and other related phenomenon. Platforms and applications that can mine these data and use them intelligently for targeting their features and services are the ones that can successfully create an impact. Amazon and Netflix thrive on their recommendations engine that manipulates the users’ voting to stay above the rest. Any “thumbs up” in the digital space can potentially lead to “information cascade” with the crowd voting for you and your application, much the same way as happened in the case of famous online hits such as “Kolaveri” and “Gangnam Style”.

Fourth, the mobile start-ups need to be on top of the technology disruptions and monitor the landscape constantly as they can potentially tilt the incumbent platforms one way or the other. Proprietary platforms (e.g. Apple, Nokia, Microsoft) are being challenged by Open Source platforms such as Google's Android. The platforms themselves are being threatened by peer-to-peer applications such as Web Real Time Communication Web (RTC) and Bit Torrent. Being vigil and adept to these changes is a must.

Fifth, the digital space is very flat today as sitting in India one can develop applications for the world and post them for consumption in any of the digital marketplaces. However, the market is very competitive and hence one of the firm’s strategies could be to tap the “long tail”. Are there any niche applications/content/services that you can develop that stands apart from the rest, but have enough “critical mass” of adopters to be successful? Can the local Indian market give the firm that lead and help it attain the critical mass for success?

The sixth factor is Intellectual Property (IP) of the innovation. An overwhelming majority of the 700 software entrepreneurs who participated in the famous 2008 University of California Berkeley Patent Survey Report ranked patenting and IP as the dead last among the seven strategies for attaining competitive advantage. It was pointed out that the new age software firms regard “first-mover advantage” as the single most important strategy for attaining competitive advantage. The more open platforms and the increased cost of obtaining and enforcing patents especially in mobile space, are barriers to software patenting and IP protection.

All the above require that the firms be agile, niche and be business savvy to survive in the competitive world of mobile digital space.

(The article is authored by Dr. V. Sridhar, Research Fellow, Sasken Communication Technologies. Views are personal.)

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