The problem with mobile products is.. they’re not products!

I read a great article over the weekend with feedback from a VC on the mobile pitches he receives. In the main these are all features, not products – and if they are a product, then there is no fallback. Makes you think.

Essentially, what they’re saying is that most of the time your mobile product is a smaller version of something bigger, and that “something bigger” does not belong to you. This means you don’t really own the user, there’s no loyalty, and therefore no value. For example, if your product is to aggregate social network status then you really don’t have a product – you have a feature of somebody else’s social network. If they add a mobile site to their product, it’s likely better than your aggregated site where users must click (and probably log-in) to the main site to go further than one level deep.

Thinking about my earlier business, mobyjoe – we had a great product for developing mobile services which we tried to pitch to advertising agencies. They loved it – we had plenty of meetings with them and on a number of occasions worked on pitches for brands. The problem was that we always got cut first – and if you analyse this, we weren’t really a distinct “product” – we were just a feature of the main campaign.. and a disposable one at that 😉

So what about the fallback issue? Well, it seems that a good business has a backup plan. If their main idea doesn’t fly, they can reroll their technology or the components of their model, etc. into another product for a different industry or market. This is a monumental advantage when investors look at your plan. With most mobile products though, they are for one industry – er, mobile – and as they are either derivative or just a feature there’s no fallback.. no way to repackage the technology into something else.

Even if we’re not starting a business here, it’s important to remember that if you’re just a feature, you’re always going to lose out to the real deal.


2 responses to this post.

  1. […] think we’ve reached a point where we have to treat mobile products as real products. They have to stand alone. This means that we need to understand the benefit of using the product […]


  2. […] Yes, you could argue that you may not even get to the negotiating table in the first place but I don’t buy it. If your product is good, as in, good enough that users want to spend money and/or attention on it then the carrier likely wants it enough to concede. Product not good enough? Maybe it’s not a product, it’s a feature. […]


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