Phil Yerkes is CEO and co-founder of Movaya (www.movaya.com), a Seattle-based firm developing a service that allows companies to sell mobile content from their web sites. The firm launched its services this week, so Northwest Innovation spoke with Yerkes hear more about the company's approach and plans.
Northwest Innovation: Describe your service to us, and what it offers?
Phil Yerkes: Movaya is a software company based in Seattle that is focused on the intersection of web services and mobile content, or what we like to call digital content for mobile devices. We are an enabling platform to enable anyone with a web site to distribute digital content for mobile devices.
Northwest Innovation: What's the story behind the company, and how did you end up starting it?
Phil Yerkes: I met my co-founder, John Calian, at an executive management program at the University of Washington. The program started in 2003, and we finished in 2004. We got the entrepreneural bug, and began kicking around different business ideas. At the time, I was working at RealNetworks, and he was at eNom. At Real, I was managing relationships with a number of the large, North American carriers--specifically, Cingular and Sprint--and saw what was happening in the mobile content space. Initially, we were going to have our own direct-to-consumer portal to sell mobile content. John thought that was a good idea, and we brought in a developer and started building that site. Over the next couple of years, we sort of decided that we're not great at selling to consumers--and what we are good at is providing an enabling platform. We changed our business model--we hadn't gotten too far with the direct-to-consumer-portal, and thought--what if we build a single platform for other companies to sell from their merchant sites? That was the key to the success at eNom. You might not known eNom, but they're one of the largest domain name registrars, and instead of selling direct to consumers, they allow others to use their tools to offer domain registration. We're following a similar path, in a different market. In addition, at Real I was seeing that there was a bottleneck in the distribution of mobile content, and while carriers are doing a good job of getting content out there, a lot of content isn't going to make it into the carriers. We figured that consumers are very interested in content, and there are other ways to distribute that content. That was the genesis of Movaya. I left Real about a year ago, in February of 2006, and over the last year we now have a couple of clients using our software, but are focused on building our platform, which was released earlier this week.
Northwest Innovation: Do you have any issues with the carriers about your services and being offdeck vs. ondeck?
Phil Yerkes: All of the purchases made through our platform are billed through the carriers. That's one thing we've been working on for the past six months. Carrier billing integration is done, and everyone in the ecosystem wins. The carriers get money for getting access to the bill, we make money to glue everyone together, the publisher wins by getting additional distribution, and merchants get new revenue streams.
Northwest Innovation: Can you talk about your funding, are you bootstrapped or have you received some funding?
Phil Yerkes: We do have some angel investors, primarily from the Seattle area. It's mostly friends and family, and some angels, and we're now looking for an official Series A round.
Northwest Innovation: What kind of publishers would use your service?
Phil Yerkes: We have two kinds of partners. One is the publishers, where we act as distributors for their content. We actually have relationships with over a 100 content providers. Some of these are game publishers, others aggregators, some just independent artists. Second we view our customers as those who would use our platform to sell content, which could be their own content or that which we provide in our catalog.
Northwest Innovation: When you say content, what type of content do you mean?
Phil Yerkes: Anything that is digital content. Right now, that means ring tones, wallpapers, and mobile games. In the future, this could be video, full track downloads and other applications that you use on a mobile device.
Northwest Innovation: What kinds of publishers would use Movaya?
Phil Yerkes: It's more geared towards bigger publishers, and our emphasis is currently on the mobile gaming space. The types of clients who we think will be interested in our product are selling games for other platforms, such as console games, or downloadable PC games, since a lot of those companies are looking to extend into the mobile gaming space. This is a way for them to do that. If people want to sell ring tones or videos, we can enable that too, but initially the focus is on the mobile gaming space.
Northwest Innovation: What's next for the firm?
Phil Yerkes: The key for the business is getting as many merchants using our software as possible. Most merchants aren't going to be building it themselves. It's far too complicated, with carrier integration, different handsets, and delivery. For us, the next big step is getting merchants using our software. We've released version 1 of our plug-and-play product, which makes it extremely easy to sell mobile content from an existing storefront. There's work to do to improve that system, and we are also adding additional carrier support domestically and internationally. Also, getting as many content publishers to publish their games into our platform is critical, as well. We believe a network effect will kick in as we get more merchants on our platform, which will make it more interesting to publishers--it's almost like we're creating a marketplace for the upload and sale of mobile content.
Northwest Innovation: Thanks for the interview, and good luck!