Starting your own business in mobile – the view from an entrepreneur

Digital veteran Phil Cooper provides news and insight on what's happening in the London start-up scene. An internet entrepreneur, Cooper has built and sold two digital businesses – the last to Fox/News Corp for an undisclosed eight-figure (US dollar) sum – and has just founded the native advertising business neoncandi.com

One area where start-ups are fostering innovation is mobile. So what does it take to start-up successfully in the mobile industry today? I spoke to John Scorah, co-founder of specialist mobile advertising business Mobsta, founded in 2010, to find out more.

John Scorah

John, tell me about when you entered the mobile advertising market, and why?

I first moved into mobile in about 2004 when I’d partnered with the Bluepod Media guys looking at location-based targeting using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi server technology. I’d been in the outdoor industry for many years and we took that experience to apply a commercial model that followed the out of home kind with private landlords to help monetise their estate. Our contracts were with shopping centres and cinemas. From there I co-founded Mobsta in 2010.

What is your favorite app?

My favourite 'save time’ and most-used app is Amazon. The one-click purchase function is just awesome and this is backed up by exemplary customer service. My favourite ‘kill time’ app currently is TV CatchUp.

Who do you feel is best innovating in the sector? And how?

We’ve been really impressed by a couple of re-targeting specialists recently. Device 9 uses propriety technology for device recognition. It tracks cross platform, including mobile where cookies are not available, enabling consumers to be identified through multiple devices. It addresses a lot of the frequency and cover issues that exist in the sector so will really assist driving spend growth in the sector. Another is Statiq, which we are particularly interested in for its journey tracking capabilities and providing profiles of consumers through their journey patterns. These are two to watch for sure.

Does programmatic advertising now lead the mobile sector or is there still a place for network approach? How does Mobsta approach the marketplace?

Not yet, there’s still some way to go but things are certainly gathering a pace which is noticeable. We launched our own Private Market Place (PMP) earlier this year and we are seeing marked increases in activity from the major agency trading desks as each month goes by.

There still remains a place for networks and open buy premium display inventory for advertisers and agencies that see beyond the banner. As more budgets move into the sector, we’ll see better creativity in mobile and with that comes a requirement for more flexibility. We have recruited a team in addition to the existing sales force to focus purely on the programmatic side and liaise with the trading desks. It’s a different skill set and it’s been quite a challenge to find the right people with the right experience.”

How is mobile video growing currently and is mobile a good distribution channel for mobile video advertising?

The figures speak for themselves with video demonstrating the greatest growth in the sector. 4G and even better handsets can only aid this and we can expect the rate of growth to increase even more into 2015. At Mobsta we are developing specialist mobile video products.

Finally, what advice do you have for others looking to set up in the sector?

If you’ve got a great idea and have garnered favourable opinion from as many close and respected acquaintances as you can then grab it by the horns and go for it.

Think about funding options, as there are lots to consider and with attractive solutions (including SEIS government incentives). A couple of friends have used KickStarter and CrowdCube successfully and that’s helped them at crucial stages.

There’s never been a better time for entrepreneurs in this sector it just requires some guts, patience and very understanding family.

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