RESEARCH TRIANGLE … The wireless industry is seeing the same sort of multiple applications now that helped PCs move from the office to the home, says Tony Philipp, senior vice president international for PowerbyHand.
Philipp joined PowerbyHand this spring following its merger with RTP-based Pinpoint in March. Together, the two companies sell mobile content and software to consumers, e-tailers, content providers and mobile operators. It delivers more than 60,000 digital media titles to millions of customers monthly through its content sites, which include PalmGear.com, eReader.com, Smartphone.net, and PocketGear.com.
PowerbyHand is well positioned to benefit from “consolidation going on now in the wireless industry,” says Philipp. “It’s all about critical mass. The PC didn’t take off until people could write, paint, publish, and do just about everything on one,” he points out.
Philipp says the 65-employee company raised additional venture backing when it merged with Pinpoint, the company originally formed by two Durham School of Math and Science High School students to sell a wireless search engine. “We’re on the cusp of break-even revenue,” he says, but adds it is considering taking more venture money.
PinPoint survival morph
Pinpoint itself survived the economic downturn by evolving, Philipp says. “They morphed it into selling carrier grade billing systems to affiliates.”
There is a lot of morphing going on in the wireless industry right now, he notes. “The TREO 600 is one of the most successful ever. They can’t build them fast enough.” The TREO combines a Palm operating system with a phone and large screen.
Philipp says rather than staking its future on a single application, PowerbyHand wants to be the destination site for wireless content. “You never know which application will be on top,” he says. “Who would have thought that putting a camera on a telephone would be the biggest application in the world.”
Philipp’s observations about the Internet and wireless worlds are based on an impressive array of experience.
Also an advisor to Mobileway and a member of the independent directors program of 3i plc, Europe’s largest venture firm, Philipp recently led the global business development initiatives of Vivisimo, a provider of content clustering and Internet search technology. In 1996 Philipp founded Lycos Europe as chief operating officer, generating over $10 Million in revenue in 18 months.
Philipp formed its joint venture with Bertelsmann. Lycos Bertelsmann became the largest Pan European Internet technology company, which led to a $5 Billion IPO.
Prior to joining Lycos,Philipp also established the European Magellan, which was bought by Excite in 1996. He spent six years with AT&T, building the telecommunication company’s European global account management program. Throughout his career he has developed strategic partnerships with numerous industry leading companies including Overture/Yahoo, MSN, Looksmart, eBay, Infospace, AOL, Findwhat, Bertelsmann , Grolier and others.
Then and now
Philipp says one of the reasons e-commerce failed to live up to expectations during the boom years is that “It was over-hyped even though it was the fastest growing medium ever. It didn’t have critical mass.”
Things have changed since then, he says. “Now you have it. Just about everyone is connected now in the U.S. and it co-exists with radio and TV. You’re going to see TV commercials on the Net and visa versa. Before, we didn’t have enough bandwidth for e-commerce. Now people are buying and downloading movies online.”
Philipp says advertising on the Net continues to grow because for the first time, advertisers can track actual results.
A similar situation is at work in the wireless world, he says. “Carriers are rolling out wireless highspeed Internet access so people can do more business over the phone,” he notes.
“This whole wireless Web thing hasn’t even begun to take off yet. PC sales went up when you could write, draw and do almost everything else with one. The same is true in the wireless industry,” he says.
Philipp says he has noticed another change from the heady late 1990s. “Back then a lot of money was thrown at very little experience,” he says. “At the end of the day, a company is about building business discipline, but we didn’t have that then. When I look around now, I don’t see people just rolling around on Aeron chairs. They’re looking at the long term.”