Vishal and what he made (Mobclix)
Someone once said that a conversation with a wise man is worth ten years of study. Now it could have been Confucius or just some cheesy kung fu movie I was saddled with over a slow weekend but it kinda stuck. Fortunately, what I do in the place I’m doing it now puts me in reachable distance to a number of people who have had very good successes over the years with the various startups and projects they were doing -certainly within proximity to qualify for a restraining order if I get too sneaky- so last Friday, I had the fortune of meeting Vishal of Mobclix at a Starbucks in Palo Alto (where they *still* haven’t fixed their darn Wifi).
Now Mobclix is basically a mobile ad exchange platform (if I’m not mistaken they’re current the biggest ad exchange platform for the mobile market) that puts developers in touch with advertisers and vice versa. Essentially, on one hand you’ll have mobile application developers who build cool software for smartphones and want to use advertising as a major part of their revenue model. On the other hand you have people who want to advertise but want to advertise on apps that have good market share, an active user base, a targetted segment or niche, etc etc. Smack those 2 hands together and you get pretty good synergy, and Mobclix is the one doing the smacking.
Mobclix started in 2008 by Vishal and a bunch of his friends; some of whom already have taken startups to their exits. Last month, they were acquired by Velti for a fairly huge sum. I’m not sure what the stats are but for an exit to happen so quickly is a tribute to how far they’ve gone and how quickly they’ve managed to achieve that.
In any case, there were lessons learned and certainly nuggets of very valuable insights that applies to what we’re trying to do with Joget (which I won’t write about here). Looking at what they have done over the course of 2 years tho I can say that:
1. There’s a general moan going thru the Valley about how there is very little innovation left and that everyone seems to be regurgitating old ideas into new packages. Personally, I just can’t subscribe to that school of thought. I believe innovation is innovative precisely when it solves fundamental key issues; so if you’re doing that, it really shouldn’t matter what market label you’re being pegged against or how “unsexy” that niche is. Ad exchange has been going on for a long long time but these guys believed that mobile app development was going to explode, that there was going to be a natural need for this and they went for it. Was it new ? Nope. Did it address a pain ? Heck yeah.
2. VC funding isn’t a be all and end all. These guys made it in record time without needing to go thru those channels so there’s valid hope for those without a term sheet.
3. You’ve got to be lucky. Needless to say, that doesn’t negate the hours you put in (or quoting Vishal “You’re not going to get to sleep much”), the sacrifices you’ll have to go thru, the willingness to do whatever it takes to make it work, etc. In the end you do need to be lucky. (BTW I’m putting this one up only because he think its a big deal. Personally, I believe they were just awesome).
So there you go, for those of you crunching apps and are looking at advertising as a means to monetize, check Mobclix out. I don’t work for them, I haven’t been offered stock options but I do think they’re genuinely kewl (and you guys know how much I like the kewl). Also as a parting note, Vishal is without a doubt one of the nicest guys I’ve met in the Valley. In fact he’s so ridiculously nice that he makes some saints look like a bit of an arse.