International entrepreneur and Mobile Mentor founder Denis O’Shea breaks down the importance of creating partnerships in getting noticed | UnNoticed Entrepreneur — public relations for business owners.
Denis O’Shea , the founder of Mobile Mentor , has set up businesses across multiple continents. Originally from New Zealand, he joined me from Nashville, Tennessee in the new episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur and talked about how he has done that.
The Beginnings of Mobile Mentor
Around 2003, he realised one problem that companies like Nokia were facing: They were producing smartphones but people were not using them for what they were intended. Most users were only sending text messages and making phone calls; they weren’t doing all the amazing things that we can do now with these devices.
He decided to leave Nokia and set up a company that would enable people to set up their smartphones properly and use them for their original intent — such as emailing, getting calendars synced, putting music on them, transferring contacts, and empowering people to become productive mobile workers.
Back in those days, it was really difficult to do all these and introduce such advanced features into the market. Nonetheless, from having the idea of doing one-to-one mentoring to help people set up smartphones, he managed to build his business quickly and gained a million customers.
But how did he do that?
Denis recounted going to Nokia and having an awkward yet interesting conversation, which he initiated by telling: “Look, I’ve had 15 great years working with you. I’d like to leave and set up a company, and I’d like you to give me some money to do so.” He was advised to go to the headquarters in Finland and talk to some of the seniors in the company. He did just that, and those seniors reluctantly agreed to what he asked — they let him go and gave him money to set his company up and prove the point that he was trying to make.
He negotiated with both companies by saying that he’d do a pilot with 10,000 people and share all the data with them. Basically, it was about him doing the research and hard work — and them getting the data and the answers, and having the liberty to do what they want to do next.
He did the pilot and brought the data to Nokia and Vodafone, which got the companies’ attention. And that was how he got the largest cellular phone manufacturer and cellular operator in the world to support him.
How Partnerships Helped Expand Mobile Mentor
To build Mobile Mentor’s first million customers, he expanded into Brazil, China, and Australia, which were all sizable markets. His strategy in doing that was rather simple, and he called it “Follow the Kiwi” as a homage to how he set up the company in New Zealand.
They did the same in China and Australia — they found New Zealanders who can take them to the top table and introduce their business idea. And the partnering carriers that they had in these markets helped them promote their service to more customers.
To get those partners to help his business, it was a matter of making them look good and putting them on a pedestal.
They also did the same in Brazil and China, leaning on their partners’ marketing engines to take their service out and make it an exclusive offer. Their partners also benefitted from having a unique position in the market.
Though they’re not offering that service anymore — because now, people can set up their smartphones easily — it gave the company credibility. Through it, they were able to partner with the biggest carrier in each of their markets. And they could attract investors and hire about 250 people because they had the muscle and the gravitas of such big industry players working with them and leveraging their service.
Getting The Brand to What It Is Today
Today, mobile workers aren’t just using a Blackberry device; they have iPhones, tablets, and laptops. Mobile Mentor as a business had to evolve and it became a managed service provider now based in America.
Currently, they specialise in helping organisations to have a mobile workforce. Whether those people are working at home or travelling a lot, they need to be secure on all the devices that they use. Mobile Mentor’s job is to make sure that they are not getting hacked, breached, or attacked by ransomware — and they remain productive on every device they use for work.
They decided to go with this service as they ventured into the American market. And for a small company in New Zealand that was never heard of in the US, it’s a scary, big, and daunting task.
To get his company noticed by the HCA, he networked extensively and joined every organisation he possibly could, including the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation , Nashville Health Care Council , Nashville Technology Council , The Disruption Lab , and the Nashville Entrepreneur Centre. He went to every breakfast briefing, lunch and cocktail function, and seminar to get to know who’s who in the zoo and how the city works.
Eventually, he was able to win a deal with the HCA. And that gave him the credibility of being a business person in the community. Though he spent two years networking to get that first deal, it made it easier for him to get the next ones.
On Creating a New Industry Category
Denis has also started defining a new category, which he calls the “Endpoint Ecosystem.” And he considers it a big and risky entrepreneurial move.
He and his team observed that the whole category of security and cybersecurity is a bit jaded. When people receive emails about it, it’s very easy for them to simply delete them. When you hear briefings about security, you’d notice that the attendees’ eyes are glazing over and their ears are shut out because it’s a rather tiring topic.
Denis thought that he needed to freshen up the conversation if he wanted to get attention and cut through all these noises in this marketplace. The challenge also was that most of the players have huge budgets and they don’t.
To get noticed, they decided to come up with a new language and create the Endpoint Ecosystem category. But what exactly is it?
Today, if you look at anyone’s home office, you can see desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. There’s a lot of software running on those devices and people have to sign in everywhere. This cluster of technologies is what they call the Endpoint Ecosystem. If that ecosystem works well, then companies would have secure and productive employees.
However, in that endpoint space, a lot of risky activities are taking place. People click on links, type passwords, and open attachments which may or may not have viruses. They saw the need to understand that space better and know what’s really going on in a day in the life of remote or hybrid workers.
The attribution then comes back to them. They’re getting noticed in a new way because they have something unique and original from the research that they’ve done.
Knowing how Gen Z people view things is important to employers who are trying to hire more teachers, nurses, drivers, and all sorts of job positions. They can now predict the future by studying data from Gen Z, who are poised to power the workforce in the years to come. The more they understand them now, the more they can prepare for the future.
Through CGK and Mobile Mentor’s partnership, these people now have access to a phenomenal set of insights not just into Gen Z, but Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers as well.
On Getting Awards
Their company is a Microsoft Technology Partner, allowing them to work closely with the organisation. For them, it’s a fantastic opportunity because Microsoft is the kind of company that truly leans on its partners.
In 2021, they applied for the said award and unexpectedly won it. From that, they got a significant amount of public relations (PR) exposure and attention, which brought them to the table of many amazing clients and put them on the stage quite literally. Recently, David had the chance to talk in prime time at a conference that Microsoft paid for.
Awards don’t necessarily have to be industry awards. Even partner awards from big, tier-one multinational companies can be really powerful and profoundly impactful for a business.
What Makes a Great Partnership?
Throughout the years, David has shown a talent for creating partnerships to get noticed and build channels. For him, what makes a partnership great is being able to understand your partners and the outcomes that they’re looking for. It’s about making the partnership a way to enable them to achieve their goals.
In all their partnerships, Mobile Mentor has never made it about them . Rather, it’s always been about their partners — helping them achieve or build something and move the needle for them.
Contributing to the success of these partnerships is the team of people working with David (some have even come out of big organisations like Microsoft). Intuitively, these people understand what their partners are looking to achieve. They have deep empathy for their partners’ businesses and goals. And this helped Mobile Mentor talk their language, work with them, and almost work for them.
Their partners consider them as an entity that is strongly aligned in terms of both business and culture. For instance, Microsoft is big on doing good things for humanity and for the planet. In that regard, they share similar perspectives. And being aligned well culturally, not just in business, makes a big difference.
To find out more about Denis, visit his LinkedIn page . You can also know more about Mobile Mentor and how they help organisations with their security and productivity needs on www.mobile-mentor.com . To read more about their aforementioned research, visit www.endpointecosystem.com .
This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.
Originally published at https://theunnoticed.cc on August 8, 2022.