Murray Simser, President and CEO of Toronto-based Mobile Integrated Systems (Symbol: MIBI), talks with the Opportunist’s managing editor Leslie Stone about his company’s new direction and expansion into mobile applications across multiple business platforms.
Murray Simser has founded tech startups in enterprise software, dot-com, mobile applications and game spaces. He has also directed the sales and commercialization efforts of many of Microsoft Corp.’s technologies and was a key executive with several Silicon Valley startups.
As the new CEO and president of Mobile Integrated Systems, he will lead the company on its mission to develop and deploy robust, secure, and custom-tailored mobile products and transaction solutions to a variety of industry sectors including lotteries, gaming, transportation, telecommunications and finance, among others.
Opportunist: Tell us how you got into your line of work.
Murray: I had the occasion to work for a series of tech companies as a young man. About five years in, during the late-1990s, I became a dot-commer. This led me to software as a service in the CRM space [Customer Relationship Management] and set in motion what eventually amounted to a career based in mobile Internet technology.
Opportunist: Which wireless carriers did you work for and what was your role there?
Murray: Clearnet (now Telus Mobility) in Canada and Sprint PCS (now Sprint), as a vendor, in the United States.
Opportunist: So, your mobile career started at the carriers. How did it evolve?
Murray: I guess you could say I cut my teeth in all areas of the wireless industry: carrier, network service provider, software provider. Shortly after I left the dot-com I founded, eAssist Global Solutions, I met a fine fellow named Steve Wood. Steve was one of the original founders (Employee No. 6) of Microsoft. He eventually became my most respected and influential career guide. In 2001, he got me to come out to Seattle and join his mobile software company. This was before the smartphone came about and before mobile data technologies had matured—we were literally writing the book. Wood hired me as vice president of business development for Wireless Services Corporation. I helped raise multimillion-dollar rounds of capital and developed channel and partner relationships.
All of those experiences combined created a skill set that I believe compelled Mobile Integrated Systems to recruit me.
Opportunist: What is Mobile Integrated Systems’ concept and business model?
Murray: We originated as a company called Mobilotto, which was set up to mobilize the play of lottery games for government licensed lotteries. The successes of that entity made us realize that we could provide technology on a mobile platform to just about every commercial industry out there. So, I would say that Mobilotto was more of the prototype of what we do, which is specifically a company that mobilizes whole industries. Mobilotto is now our wholly-owned subsidiary.
We discovered that our business model was far-reaching and, therefore, applicable to other industries. As a consequence of that observation and understanding, we actually ended up restructuring the company to increase reach, revenue potential and align costs to the plan. All told, the company is now positioned to target and support the new sectors we are moving into.
Opportunist: Tell us more.
Murray: Lottery space is just one facet of what we do. The financial sector is another. As an example, there are a variety of different areas in finance that require mobilization. Specifically, we are taking non-mobile environments and mobilizing and commercializing them. We can choose the industries we want to go into and we mobilize the technology and either sell it back or commercialize it ourselves.
Opportunist: What are your other current—and planned—subsidiaries?
Murray: We have another product called Market Sentiment Navigator. For all intents and purposes, it uses the same underlying infrastructure as our other products. Most certainly you have seen stock trading-type applications you can download to a smartphone. We have created a mobile stock monitoring solution that notifies users about when they should sell, buy or hold. It’s based on an algorithm that allows for market sentiment-based information to be applied to personal stock positions. We believe that our sentiment based app and data feed provides customers with information that will improve their stock trading performance.
We have not created the subsidiary yet. It’s just a product line until the partnership is launched, but we inked a deal with Quantitative Alpha Trading [QAT] a couple of weeks ago and are on track to announcing. We are creating a series of products on the back end of that partnership; Market Sentiment Navigator is the first. Their sentiment-based tools can be built into an architecture that’s mobile and allows trading activities to be taken to the streets. We will offer and sell that for a fee directly to the consumer.
Opportunist: Will it be available for download?
Murray: Yes, it will be downloadable and relatively inexpensive on major platforms. So, consumers with an Android, an iPhone or Blackberry will have access to it. In fact, we have released a beta for the Android. If you search for market sentiment and Android you will find a link to it. We haven’t started marketing it yet though.
Opportunist: What are Mobile Integrated Systems’ competitive advantages?
Murray: I think that, first and foremost, we have to look at it from two levels. No. 1 is the corporation itself and No. 2 is the individual products that we offer. From a corporate perspective, we have the ability to raise sufficient capital to be able to build all the things we are talking about, as well as hiring engineers and buying and acquiring technology. The most important advantage required in this race to mobility is the ability to raise capital. We are fast and agile, with a strong board and executive team and a diverse shareholder group. Within the context of that, we have the ability to access capital. We are, therefore, able to accelerate our plan through our merger and acquisition strategy, allowing us to go out and acquire technologies. We are well positioned as a public vehicle. Second, with respect to the products themselves, our mobile lottery space is certainly one of our advantages. At this point, we have a product that lets customers walk in, sign a contract and be fully operational within 60 days.
In regards to Market Sentiment Navigator, we believe that the exclusive partnership that we have enables us to offer a unique set of tools unavailable anywhere else. That asset, together with an attractive price point, should make customers feel like why wouldn’t we want it?
Opportunist: Who are your competitors?
Murray: Well, that depends on the industry. With respect to the Market Sentiment Navigator, we have to look at it from the standpoint of securities tracking and mobile applications. Almost every major financial player offers what I’ll call a sort of branding tool to track positions. Any number of different players have them. Some allow you to use more advanced tools, but from the standpoint of a sentiment-based securities tracking and recommendation application, we don’t have many competitors. Our biggest hurdle will be convincing those who are already using specific tools to move away from them and try ours.
Opportunist: Which business accomplishment are you most proud of?
Murray: I think the most important part of my career is when I switched from a corporate environment to a real entrepreneurial environment. That happened when I became a dot-commer in the United States. I had lived in Toronto and a few of my friends and I founded a software company. We went out and started peddling that idea and raised a considerable amount of money to fund the company. This was a major career inflection point and something I am a very proud of.
Opportunist: How much did you raise?
Murray: About $88 million. As a young man of 25 or 26 it was an almost overwhelming experience. Nevertheless, it cemented my desire to found and run corporations. So, most of my career was sort of my own creation.
Opportunist: What would you like the company to achieve by the end of 2012?
Murray: I would like to see the company fully fund its programs for the next couple of years. I’d like to see our product lines fully fleshed out so we have active businesses generating revenue on our plan. I would like to see our stock price reflect that revenue performance and the value of the products, meaning businesses, we bring to the table.
Opportunist: What do you predict will be your primary focus for the next five years?
Murray: At the end of the day, this company has one objective: sales. This company must generate sales. We must broaden our portfolio of products and make it diverse enough that we don’t have any potential single point of failure. We must build out a variety of products in five to 10 different industries and offer multiple products through them. Additional products will be offered and we will create a diverse revenue plan, adding lines for new products every six to 12 months over the next five years. This should bring us to a very mature, broad set of products that we can manage within single organization and generate sufficient capital to cover expenses and generate an appropriate return to our shareholders.
Leslie Stone is an award-winning writer/editor with more than two decades of experience covering business, finance and lifestyle issues for newspapers, magazines and online publications. Originally from Virginia, she currently resides in the Orlando area.