View from the FishBowl: Old dog learns new trick
About the Author: William Fisher, a partner at Treetop Ventures in Omaha, is a regular guest contributor to Silicon Prairie News. In his series, View from the FishBowl, Fisher calls on his experience as a business executive and technology investor to lend his advice to entrepreneurs in the Silicon Prairie.
Fisher has served as a director for several prominent public companies and private firms, and he currently serves on the boards of Prism Technologies, Lodo Software and FTNI. To read his full bio, including a listing of companies he has been or is involved with, visit treetopventures.com.
Contact Fisher at email@example.com.
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There is hope … even for an old dog like me. My kids (and even my grandkids) are loaded with iPods, iPhones, iPads and everything else technologically advanced that starts with a vowel. My oldest grandson, Jackson, (7 years old) laughs at me when he tries to figure out why I can't manage to help him get Super Mario to a higher level. It's not that I am technology challenged; it is just that I am a little slow to change. Eventual … but slow.
That’s why when I hear about new mobile payment schemes or new technology like tweets or mobile marketing, it basically falls on my deaf ears until it gets a little more mainstream. For me, using my mobile phone for anything more than to call people (or get calls) is a stretch. I can text; however, if you get a text from me, treat it like a very rare piece of art. There aren't many of them.
So, you can imagine my surprise when a local technology executive named Craig Page reached out to me and asked if I could help his team at MeNetwork figure out how to take their startup mobile marketing company to the next level. I guess I would have been more surprised if someone from Mayo called to ask my input on how to approach brain surgery, but not much more surprised. (Disclosure: Treetop is an angel investor in MeNetwork and also on the board; however, MeNetwork isn't soliciting investments locally but is talking to VCs on accelerating their rollout.)
It seems that Craig and his partners (Spike Stevens and Mike Corbisiero) have developed a platform that is unique because it offers a quick and affordable way for any merchant to add mobile to a marketing tool kit. The merchant is completely in charge, and the offers, deals and information created can be made instantly available to over 99 percent of the 280 million mobile phones in the U.S. They were referred to me by a former business acquaintance who had worked with Craig at First Data; they wondered if I would be willing to help them analyze their options as it relates to rolling out the product beyond their beta cities.
My team and I have spent quite a bit of time lately helping Craig and his team analyze their options. It was an interesting process whereby their knowledge – how to cut code for Droid and IOS, how to utilize SMS short codes, how to enable merchants to create offers quickly and cost-effectively – was a match with my team’s sweet spot – how to create strong distribution agreements, how to price your offering, how to build your long-term capital needs model, how to set up the company for a capital raise, how to put together an investor presentation in order to raise capital with VCs, etc.
And here is the best part: I am capable of using my mobile phone now for something besides making a rare phone call. I can text. Now, for most of you who are reading this and can text a math problem to your friend with one hand, this isn’t a big deal. But for me … huge. And, after seeing their Apple app on Craig’s iPad, I actually think I am going to get my wife an iPad. After all, she is in charge of shopping in our household (including dining) and an early adopter (grandkids help her more than they help me). Sadly, I am not in management at home. But I text …