An interview with MobileDay CEO Howard Diamond
MobileDay, the company that provides one-tap mobile dialing into any conference bridge, international call, or online meeting, has raised over $6 million in a Series A round of funding.
The round was led by the Foundry Group with participation from Innoventure Partners and Drummond Road Capital, joining existing investors SoftBank, Google Ventures, Bullet Time Ventures, and SoftTech.
Enterprise mobility and BYOD are growing explosively, as companies are undergoing a massive migration from fixed line to mobile business communications. MobileDay offers a solution that works with company’s existing infrastructure and service providers to control telecommunication and mobile expenses with MobileDay Advantage, automatically routing employee calls via the least expensive dial-in based on location.
Brad Feld, Managing Director of the Foundry Group says, “MobileDay uses one-touch dialing on smartphones to change the dynamic of making calls on the go, both from a convenience and cost standpoint. Gone are the days of dialing 32 digits to join a conference call. While end-users will love this, companies will love MobileDay’s ability to route calls over the lowest cost network, dramatically lowering costs especially for international calling.”
Howard Diamond, CEO of MobileDay, sat down with me to talk about his background, the financing, the future of MobileDay, and what it takes to raise capital.
What is your background in the startup world.
I’ve been involved with startups since 1991. I was part of the team at Course Technology where we grew the company to $75M in revenue and sold it to a big conglomerate. I’ve done a blend of big companies and small companies. I went from Course Technology to a company where we grew the revenue to $1.2B organically and then $2.7B after we went through a merger. I enjoy startups because I have a passion for turning business ideas into real businesses. There are tons of brilliant ideas out there, but there actually aren’t that many great companies. The idea of turning a great technology idea into a great technology business is my passion.
What are some of the key ingredients for turning a great idea into a great company?
Having a great product with the technology to back it up is, of course, one of the most important factors. However, there are a lot of companies that have a great product but don’t excel at sales, marketing, distribution and pricing models. To be successful you have to develop marketing and pricing models that are as elegant, distinctive and differentiated as your technology and your product. Not a lot of people get that.
What have you brought to MobileDay to make it a great company?
Anyone that has heard me speak before has likely heard me say, “I’m a hammer and I see the world as a nail.” I’m able to intensely focus on determining and solving critical problems with crisp execution.
When I came to the company 11 months ago, we were able to swiftly developed a long-term vision for where we want to take MobileDay. We developed the business model around that vision, and we’re carrying out that model with precision. We all continuously work to ensure that we have top talent on our team to carry out the plan efficiently.
What has changed in the eleven months you’ve been with MobileDay?
Well, we’re continuously developing our product, but there have really been three major changes to the technology in the last eleven months.
The first important change was to make the product global. Twelve months ago, we were in three countries. Now we’re in sixteen countries supported on both iOS and Android, and we plan to expand our footprint even further.
A second big technology change is the app’s ability to detect the least cost international calling route, a feature available to MobileDay Advantage customers [Read more about MobileDay Advantage]. The app is able to determine the user’s location, and based on that data in conjunction with their company’s dialing rules, MobileDay dynamically determines the call route that will be the most cost effective, thereby saving companies a lot of money. We call this feature Dynamic Dialing.
The third major change is the integration with the phone’s contact list. Advantage users can now make any call from inside the MobileDay app. This expands the Dynamic Dialing capability of MobileDay Advantage to be applied to any direct call. Whether the call is made from a calendar or the contact list, the call rules put in place by the company are used automatically.
Another big change, though not specifically a technology change, came about due to our focus on the enterprise — the addition of the administrative console. This gives us the ability to provide the companies that are working with MobileDay a way to manage their users and call rules to see what impact MobileDay has.
All of these are major changes that have occurred in the last 11 months.
You said the administrative console includes the ability to see the impact of MobileDay. Will you explain that?
MobileDay’s enterprise version is called MobileDay Advantage. The Advantage offering provides three key benefits: Dynamic Dialing, Enhanced Data Privacy and a 24/7 Dedicated Success Team. Dynamic Dialing detects the caller’s location and routes their calls using the lowest cost dialing path. Enhanced Data Privacy ensures that no calendar, contact, or location data ever leave the user’s device, so it’s completely secure. The 24/7 Dedicated Success Team is available day or night to address any questions or issues that users may encounter.
Advantage customers are able to control their account with an administrative console. They’ll be able to see the number of calls managed and the number of calls routed using Dynamic Dialing. Depending on how much information our customers share about the cost differences between routing methods, we can calculate a close approximation of the savings they’ll see reflected in their telecom bills. The admin console will be able to show any assumptions made in the calculation, and of course the result — both recent and historical savings. Our goal is always that as more and more users adopt MobileDay within an organization, the higher the ROI our customers will see.
Tell us about the financing.
MobileDay just closed our Series A round of funding. We don’t release exact numbers, but it was over $6M which is extremely exciting for us. The round was led by the Foundry Group in Boulder and we had a number of other participants. SoftBank Ventures, who I’ve been working with for a long time invested a significant amount. SoftTech and Bullet Time Ventures reinvested so we’re proud of that. We also had some new outside investors participate including Innoventure Partners and Drummond Road Capital. Our goal with this funding round is to expand our operations. We’re at a point in the company where we have a fantastic product in place that fits a distinct market need, and we’re ramping up our sales and marketing efforts to make the MobileDay a staple app for the enterprise.
When you were talking to potential investors, what were they most excited about?
When talking with potential investors, they immediately got excited about how simply MobileDay solves a huge problem. Our technology takes away the pain of dialing into conference calls for the user, and it dramatically reduces the cost of going mobile for the company. It’s easy for companies to implement, and it spreads virally throughout organizations so they don’t have to work hard to get employees to adopt the app. Also, very few companies have cracked a business that is mobile, enterprise focused, and a SaaS model. This makes MobileDay very alluring to the enterprise and exciting for investors.
Our investors invested in us because of the business model on the one hand, and because they believe in the management team. We have a small group of people but it’s an exceptional group of people. We have a really great engineering team. As I said, they’ve evolved the product in wondrous ways over the last 11 months, and the goal now is to build out the areas we haven’t focused on: sales, marketing, and distribution.
What are some lessons you’ve learned going through this round?
People want to invest in companies that have technology that excites them, where they believe the people at the company can actually deliver on the promise that the technology offers, and where the combination of the market potential and the anticipated ability to execute is exciting enough for them to make a commitment to write a check. I’m always amazed and delighted when anybody is willing to support us in that very concrete way.
What are some of the biggest challenges you foresee for the future?
It’s an execution play now. The technology platform is solid and there is clearly an interest in the market for what we’re bringing to the table. Now the question is, can we execute the way we need to in order to deliver on that promise. That’s always the exciting thing and the challenging thing – bringing in the right people to execute on sales and marketing in order to deliver on the promise of the technology. That’s the phase we’re at now with MobileDay.
What protects MobileDay from competition?
I don’t think anything ever really protects any company from competition and most companies have a lot of competition. Right now there isn’t a lot of competition out there in terms of people doing specifically what we do, but I don’t anticipate that that’s going to continue to be the case. We do all the kinds of things to protect ourselves, in fact we were just awarded our first patent. You do a lot of things from an intellectual property perspective, but in reality the only thing that ever protects any company from competition is executing better than they do and that’s what we plan to do.
Data privacy is one of our features that sets us apart from potential competitors, and that we’ve executed on elegantly. Some competitors take an approach to dialing where they pull a lot of data off of the phone. We’ve taken the opposite approach – we have worked extremely hard to ensure that we can provide our app without removing contact information, calendar information or location data from the device – it stays local and totally private. This sets us apart from competitors.
Another key differentiator is that MobileDay works with any conference call on any conference service right out of the box, unlike our competitors. Whether our customers are using GoToMeeting, WebEx, Microsoft Lync, or any other provider, we can join them to their call, no additional setup required. Our approach to the market is differentiated because of the ease of implementation of MobileDay Advantage at an enterprise level. We are most often up and running and saving companies money within 24 hours. This is a pretty extraordinary implementation time relative to other enterprise software.
Do you have any tips or tricks for CEOs embarking on their fundraising journey?
No, there aren’t any tips or tricks. Fundraising is hard work. It’s like managing people, you’re always surprised by some of the challenges that come about as part of the process. There are no shortcuts.
As you approach your anniversary with the company, what are you most proud of?
I’m incredibly proud that we’ve taken MobileDay from a clean conference calling app to a game changer in the world of enterprise mobility. I’m proud that it retains the utmost simplicity, but solves this problem of exploding international calling costs that companies are staggering under the weight of. We’re taking this funding round to detonate into the market, and we’re going to do so quickly, so stay tuned!