Public Relations for Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Wireless Industries
Welcome to PR Vibes™, created by Calysto Communications to provide you with key insights into the publications and events in the telecommunications industry. Today, we’re featuring an interview with Mark Lowenstein, managing director of Mobile Ecosystem, a consulting and advisory services firm focused on next-generation wireless/mobile communications products and services. He works with senior management teams across the mobile value chain on market, product and industry strategy.
To help you better understand Mobile Ecosystem’s focus, we asked Mark to share some of his insight on the firm and on the future of wireless communications in general. Enjoy!
To sign up for the Lens on Wireless – Lowenstein’s free monthly newsletter, please click here.
PR Vibes Interview Q&A
Tell us a little bit about yourself – where you came from, your experience in telecom and other industries.
I have been in wireless for more than 15 years. I founded and led the wireless practices at The Yankee Group for 10 years. Then, I joined Informio during the height of the Internet dotcom era as VP, Industry Strategy. Informio was an exciting start-up focused on the convergence of wireless, the Internet and new developments of voice-based technologies. After I left Informio. I started Mobile Ecosystem. About four years later, Verizon Wireless approached me with an exciting offer to be their VP of Market Planning and Strategy. About a year ago, I moved back to Boston and re-launched Mobile Ecosystem.
What was your motivation for starting Mobile Ecosystem?
I loved the work I was doing at Yankee Group, but I wanted to work with a smaller number of clients with whom I could interact on a much more engaged and personal basis. This is difficult to do if you are managing a large team and running a syndicated research business. Mobile Ecosystem provided me an opportunity to work as a trusted advisor to executive teams at companies in the wireless space, focus in on specific areas of interest, and build a personal brand based on senior thought leadership.
What is the mission of your firm?
To be a trusted advisor to senior teams across the mobile value chain, a recognized and credible source of thought leadership, and a positive influence on the evolution of the wireless “ecosystem.”
What are your main responsibilities? What do you spend most of your time doing?
I spend about a third of my time on traditional strategy consulting projects, helping companies assess product and market opportunities. Another third of my revenue comes from a series of retained advisory relationships. The last third comes from the “commentary” domain, through my Lens on Wireless newsletter, a monthly opinion column for Fierce Wireless, and speeches at both public and private corporate events.
What is your vision going forward? Where do you want to take the firm?
I’m very pleased with the direction of the firm, and don’t anticipate a lot of changes. I continue to work at the forefront of the industry, with many exciting companies and great people. I would like to increase the breadth of content we cover, especially in the digital media space, as that is an important part of the future of the wireless industry. Anything I can do to continue to be a trusted advisor and incisive commentator is the mission of the firm. And anyone in my line of work is always thinking about how to broaden and deepen their audience.
Who are your key customers? Are you trying to target certain groups more than others?
My customers are pretty widespread across the international mobile value chain. I work closely with the “usual suspects” – operators, device OEMs, infrastructure companies. I do quite a bit of work in the financial community, especially VCs. My customer base has broadened more recently to include more companies in the content and applications area, as well as a good number of companies who aren’t “traditional” players in wireless, who need to understand the industry’s structure, dynamics, technology, and business models, advertising agencies, for example.
Many other small firms or “independents” are focused on particular part of the industry – devices, infrastructure, and so on. As someone who has a combination of consulting, executive, and operational experience, I can speak fairly broadly across the value chain, communicate how it all fits together, and understand the business issues. It’s easy to say, for example, that operators should do X or Y, but I understand the complexities of developing the business case, where it fits in the prioritization process, and the implementation issues involved.
What are some of the key technologies you cover?
I don’t cover technologies so much as the evolution of products, services and markets. I am particularly interested in the rapid evolution and diversification of business models. It’s also important to understand how wireless fits into the broader consumer electronics and digital entertainment framework. How do we gain share of mind, wallet and time with all the competing options? How does wireless voice affect the future of the landline business? How does wireless data fit within the overall broadband and Internet landscape? It’s fascinating to me how some of the most “important” companies in wireless are Apple, Google, and Facebook – not the traditional mobile players. And of course, we need to consider what impact the economic downturn will have on the industry.
What “value-added services” do you offer?
I have my own free newsletter, Lens on Wireless, which reaches more than 10,000 subscribers a month, and I write a monthly column for Fierce Wireless. I also have a product called mobileDashboard, which is a nicely packaged presentation on the state and direction of the mobile industry, which I deliver to management teams across the mobile landscape.
Mobile Bootcamp is an expanded version of the Dashboard. It is a “One-Day Wireless University” training/executive education tool to rapidly immerse teams and make them current and fluent in the wireless business. I talk about the wireless industry’s structure and value chain, key players, the fundamental technologies, business models, market metrics, and what the network and device roadmap looks like.
I also like to run private meetings with small groups of executives representing the breadth of the value chain. For five years, I have been running The Wireless Braintrust – a group of the 20 senior-most executives in New England. We meet once a quarter on an NDA basis and share, very openly, views on the opportunities and challenges in the industry.
What do you see as the most impacting technology/trend for the next 12 months?
There is a huge push on improving the user experience. You see that every day with the rapid evolution in the design of devices and software. A whole new class of device is emerging, which I think will be very important. How will that line up vis a vis the portable computing space? How wireless fits into the broader Web 2.0 framework – social networking and so on – will also be important. I also think we are going to come to a point of realizing that we have not 100% thought through how 4G networks are going to monetized. So far, it’s been “build it and they will come” in wireless, but this phenomenon might not last forever.
The other thing is the evolution of business models. The wireless industry needs to think about how we effectively compete with limited resources for consumers’ limited time and entertainment/communications dollar. Finally, we are also just scratching the surface of mobile advertising. We’re still not seeing major commitment by the brands on mobile ad spend. I am thinking a lot about what the “tipping point” is here, and how this market will be different than the online advertising.
What is your biggest challenge?
There is fair bit of clutter out there with people’s opinions and comments. Anybody can start a blog and say something provocative and attract an audience. There is a low barrier to entry to be in this business, so you have to rise above the clutter and continue to provide that level of leadership and insight and continue to maintain your reputation and credibility. At the end of the day, this “chatter” creates an opportunity for me. Because there is an unbelievable amount of information out there from so many directions and places, companies and executives need a reliable, trusted, and intelligent voice to help them distill what is happening and provide actionable insight.
What is the one interesting thing you think most people don’t know about Mobile Ecosystem?
Why I chose the name of the firm. I chose it because there are so many pieces involved to making the mobile industry successful. A whole ecosystem of companies and technologies is involved in what it takes to make all this stuff work every day. Handset guys, software, an operator, billing, payment processing, content development. So many different hands touch what we use every day, that the notion of a mobile ecosystem grabbed me.
If you weren’t in telecom, what would you be doing?
It would certainly have to be a profession where I have the opportunity think, write, and speak. But I also love running a business and managing teams. So I guess that can translate to a number of different professions.
What was the last book you read?
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded by Simon Winchester. It is about the greatest recorded volcanic eruption in history in 1883. It’s important not only because of its several-year effect on the world’s climate, but it was the first “natural disaster” in the modern communications era. There’s also a whole section about the career risks some scientists took in the 1920s, advocating theories about plate tectonics that were not validated for more than 50 years, which is of course insightful for someone in my line of work.
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