The Man Behind The Buying Spree

They spent most of February buying up almost anything that moved in the mobile space. Now they face the task of making it all work. Mobile Marketing Magazine caught up with NeoMedia  COO Martin Copus to find out more about the company, those acquisitions, and its future plans.

Martin_neomedia_headshotMM: Firstly, for those readers who are not familiar with the company, where has NeoMedia come from?

MC: The company was founded in 1995, and floated on NASDAQ in 96. Were based in Fort Myers in Florida, and we were set up to create the technology that has become the PaperClick platform, which enables consumers to link to mobile internet content on their phone by clicking on SmartCodes or entering keywords on their phone. We also established a very strong Intellectual Property (IP) position by looking way out into the future and envisioning a world where the real world could be connected to the digital world. So we have some Early Art patents dating back as far as 1996, which provide some extremely strong ground on which our product portfolio stands, involving direct-to-Internet connectivity from real-world identifiers, such as barcodes, keywords and even voice.

MM: Via mobile devices, presumably?

MC: Yes, this is what was so visionary about it. Our Chairman, Chas Fritz, envisioned a world where that was possible on a mobile device, without knowing how it would develop in a real-world, marketplace environment. So when Internet connectivity through mobile phones came along, and then the camera phone and the ability to click on a barcode and be transported to the mobile Internet. It was at that point that the availability of technology caught up with our patent position.

MM: But youve remained relatively unknown until now

MC: We suffered during the dotcom crash. We delisted from NASDAQ and
relisted on the OTC in the US, which is the equivalent of the AIM
market in the UK. We recovered two years ago and started on a growth
and acquisition strategy, primarily focused on the PaperClick
technology and its IP, and additionally in other areas of strategic
I was running 12snap in the UK for two years and during
that time, I signed an affiliation with NeoMedia in 2004. Then 12 months
ago, I transferred from 12snap into NeoMedia, and shortly after that, I
started discussions with the CEO, Chuck Jensen and Chairman, Chas
Fritz, around  an acquisition strategy for the mobile marketing space,
in order to secure best-in-breed talent, and technologies, that
would give us a full end-to-end offering in mobile marketing solutions.
It would incorporate PaperClick, but it would also provide the full
spread of technologies that any marketer or enterprise organisation
would be able to take advantage of if it wanted to use mobile marketing
or mobile connectivity.

MM: So youve decided youre going to buy, how do you decide who to buy?

MC: By looking at  best-of-breed companies who could synergise with
each other and where there would be very little overlap in terms of
their offering or their customer base. So far, we have identified five
companies, four of whom we have closed with, the fifth of which,
HipCricket, is in due diligence. There are also two other companies I
should mention. One is Ipoint-media, an Israeli company that delivers
3G calling, where we own 10%, and Mobedia, based in Milan. We have
signed an affiliation agreement with them that could lead to something
specific later on. 

MM: So if you take any one of those companies, 12snap for example,
how does their pitch change now that they are part of NeoMedia?

MC: Well funnily enough, I was at a conference recently in
Amsterdam, and both 12snap and Sponge were speaking, and the way that
Alex Meisl, the CEO of Sponge, presented it, was to say: Here is what
we have to offer. We now have not only strong financial backing, but
also an additional raft of mobile solutions available to our clients
through other companies within our group, a group that totals 175
talented individuals who are expert in the mobile marketing field.

MM: So will the companies retain their individual identities and brands?

MC: Absolutely. The new group companies have established brands and
company names that have a lot of leverage and visibility in the
marketplace, so we feel it would be unwise to roll that together under
one group brand name.   

MM: And how do you go about making them feel part of the NeoMedia family, if thats not too cheesy a concept?

MC: Its not cheesy at all! Family is exactly what we did last week.
We invited all the senior management of all the newly-acquired
companies, together with their wives, to Fort Meyers, for the new
companies to give two days of presentations to the management and board
of directors of NeoMedia, to formally rubberstamp their plans for 2006.
At the same time, the wives and partners of the management teams were
able to get a feel for what the new company was like. We are a US
public company, but we are not big corporate America. The thing we
focus on a lot is the touchy-feely side of the business, making sure
than everyone feels part of things. 

MM: So what are the major challenges for you now?

MC: We need to synergise and integrate the companies into the group.
They will each be semi-autonomous, but we need to ensure we maximise
the synergies and cross-fertilisation between the companies in the
group. Other than that, everyone has their own business plan to
deliver, so we are trying to set realistic targets,  because we want
them to deliver on the plan, not spend the whole year chasing their

MM: And is the shopping spree over for the moment?

MC: We are still on the lookout. If the right sort of company comes
along that could synergise with the new group, in terms of geography,
or additional mobile marketing technologies or applications that we
dont yet have in the group, we would certainly look at it. Theres
nothing to announce at the moment, but it depends what comes along and
what catches our eye.

MM: And I take it that its safe to assume you are confident about mobile as a channel going forward?

MC: We would not have spent many millions of dollars or have
PaperClick as the core technology of our company if we werent! I came
into the mobile space three years ago, and what I find extraordinary is
that if you pick up a newspaper, business and consumer press, there is
an article of some nature about the mobile industry almost every day.
I cant think of any industry in the world right now that has that kind
of visibility and public interest, and I dont see the foot coming off
the pedal in terms of the way the mobile industry is moving. Its a
very exciting and dynamic space to be in. The only problem is keeping
up with it all.

Which, of course, is where Mobile Marketing Magazine comes in.

Martin Copus was interviewed by Mobile Marketing Magazine editor, David Murphy

More Neomedia stories:

12snap Snapped Up. Read

Two More for NeoMedia. Read 

Sponge Soaked Up. Read