DM: So Jim, give us the low-down on Antenna if you would. The company has been on the acquisition trail in recent years.
JS: Indeed. Our first acquisition, Dexterra, was the closest to a bang-on competitor when we bought them in June 2009. They had a strong presence outside the US, primarily in Europe, and that acquisition gave us the opportunity to grow our customer base and build out our channel and our partner program geographically and become a global organisation.
DM: And what was your core business at that time?
JS: At that time, our core business was employee-facing apps in high-tech manufacturing, life sciences and telecommunications. But soon after that, we started to see the effects of companies looking beyond employees towards customer-facing apps. This was really heating up in the Financial Services, Retail and CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) sectors, with the advent of the iPhone and the apps phenomenon, so in April 2010, we bought Vaultus, out of Boston. They were doing tremendous work with large financial services companies such as ING Direct and Merrill Lynch, so that extended our technology and our footprint in terms of mobilising businesses, as a way for them to attract customers through apps.
Then the most recent acquisition, just over a year ago in January 2011, was Volantis Systems out of the UK, and this was an opportunity for us to expand and double-down our commitment to the b2c market. Volantis’s technology extended us not just into smartphones, but also into the long tail of feature phones and their support for the mobile web and mobile websites.
People thought that was the primary impetus behind the acquisition, in fact, but the most strategic element was their dynamic device database. This holds details of 10,500 devices, and it’s growing at the rate of 200-300 devices per month. It allows us to optimise any mobile content for any device out there today, from low-end feature phones to smartphones to Tablets and anything else with an IP address. This is especially important as we look beyond pure apps towards mobilising true multichannel content. The device database is our own with patented server-side technology for rendering and optimisation. By leveraging this, mobile apps and sites are future-proofed against the ever-growing tide of mobile devices, operating systems and browsers. To explain, there are around 1,000 attributes for each device in the database, but only one third of those are physical attributes. The other two thirds address bugs and defects in the browsers. It is hugely important to make sure you are optimised, not just for the physical characteristics of the phone, but also for the more challenging problem of the browser defects, and that’s what our technology does.
The second part of the Volantis deal was around their storefront technology, which is currently being used by around 30 carriers around the world as their enabling content management system. So when people come to the carrier’s site looking for ringtones, downloads, wallpapers, the technology behind that, curating the content and powering the storefront, is from Volantis, now Antenna.
DM: So with these three acquisitions complete, and the companies you bought integrated within Antenna, how do your revenues break down now between employee-facing apps, consumer-facing apps, and anything else?
JS: Well like a lot of companies, we don’t like to give out that kind of revenue split, but I can tell you that a small majority of our business is employee-facing apps, but also, that a similarly small majority of the new business we are winning is b2c-oriented. B2e (business to employee) is still incredibly healthy through, and it can be the pull-through for b2c activity. One large box retailer we work with started out with a b2e app for field service technicians servicing refrigeration systems in their stores, and then moved to develop a shopping app.
DM: So at Mobile World Congress recently, you were making a lot of noise about AMP Chroma, your mobile cloud platform, tell us about that.
JS: This is our new end-to-end mobile publishing solution, though in fact, all the elements within AMPchroma have been in the market for a number of years. The reason we have ‘AMP’ as part of the name is that we want people to realise that it is powered by our AMP (Antenna Mobility Platform), which is managing the reliability, security, templates, the device database etc. With AMPchroma, we have taken the grittiness and complexity of mobility and addressed that within the platform. Chroma is the SaaS presentation layer that pulls through the value of the platform. We are constantly iterating it, and it is being exposed through Chroma as a cloud-based solution, where you use the AMPchroma suite as a web-based console, and don’t worry about what’s under the covers. Just worry about the design, build, run, analytics – it’s an end-to-end lifecycle management system for mobility.
Getting that first app to market is critically important, but brands want to know how they control this thing, because it needs multiple people touching it. AMPchroma manages the lifecycle, and gives the ability for multiple people to engage with it.
The current big thing in the app development world is MEAPs (Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms), and there are lots of different solutions that fall into that, whether it’s around mobile device management, mobile application management or development toolkits, and we believe companies now realise that they can’t keep buying point solutions here, there and everywhere, paying for software, hardware, and the resource cost to support all these solutions.
Let’s say you are a retail business, and you have variety of stores, and you want to build a customer-facing app. So you start out with a non-technical, marketing person, he comes into AMPchroma, and he finds there are a variety of different templates, based on best practices from companies in the retail space, so he starts with those and then he can drag and drop in new controls to speed the development process. Once the marketing guy has framed out the app, he can hand it over to more of a sophisticated developer in the APPchroma studio environment, who can make real tweaks and customize the app. It might be around integrating the content, with web services, or back-end data in the enterprise, anything from Oracle SAP to anything in the web services arena.
But the real power is in the different ways there are to publish it, so you can publish it as a mobile site to a URL that renders on almost 11,000 devices, or package it to a native app and publish it to an app store, or buy a storefront from Antenna, and have a managed storefront for employees or customers and push it into that storefront. Or push it into a managed container.
DM: So this idea of the app creation starting out in the hands of a non-tecchie person, is that a core USP of AMPchroma?
JS: Well certainly in our research, we find that the number one criteria for vendor selection and purchasing is speed to market and cost. Getting to market quickly is of critical importance, but after deployment, the big frustration, is the amount of integration needed to get into the back end system. We feel we address these issues with a solution that gets apps to market quickly and also enables you to engage more sophisticated mobile developers and systems architects to help you move at speed, but avoid doing things irresponsibly. So currently, the majority of our deployments involve more sophisticated developers working in our studio environment, but there is pent-up demand from non-technical users.
DM: How do you charge for it?
JS: You buy a licence to AMPchroma and pay for it by end point, so for the mobile web, it’s by web visits or page views, and it’s tiered for b2e and b2c. So a big b2e deployment is tens of thousands, so we would start at 100 users, then 1,000, then 10,000, with all support and hosting included. For a b2c deployment, it could be hundreds of millions so it would be tiered 10,000, 100,000, 1m, 10m etc. We try to keep the pricing simple.
DM: And final question, when did the solution launch?
JS: 21 February, just a few weeks ago, so it’s a bit early to be announcing any deployments, but we are getting a lot of traction from customers; the reaction has been extremely positive.