How a little company could thrive in a big boys’ world

Bigger isn’t always better – at least that’s how DAVE Wireless sees it. 

At the Toronto Board of Trade breakfast on Feb 2, Dave Dobbin gave an insightful and humorous presentation on what to expect from the new carrier when it launches in the spring of 2010 under the consumer name, Mobilicity.  

Dobbin admits that as a small player, the company has received its fair share of speculation around how it will succeed in a market surrounded by the National incumbents, and where some have questioned whether the Canadian market is even large enough to support another carrier. In response, Dobbin made a compelling case on Tuesday that outlined how the company plans to position itself for success.

Much of the reasoning Dobbin referred to can be generalized and extended beyond the Canadian wireless sector to any small company that finds itself competing with their own “big boys”. In a single word, the secret to success appears to be “differentiation” and finding a niche where size alone becomes less important. So how does Mobilicity plan succeed in a big boys world? It plans to do the following: 

1. Look for untapped opportunities: Instead of targeting all Canadians, Mobilicity plans to target specific groups of customers – one of those being today’s non-cell phone user. According to IDC, about 30 per cent of the Canadian population does not own a mobile phone today, representing an opportunity to increase overall market penetration. Money is being left on the table – it’s a matter of putting the right offer together to bank on it.  

2. Address unmet needs: Mobilicity feels it can transform the customer service experience to deliver exceptional customer service, which it sees as an unmet need today. With a simple business model – selling mobile phone service – the company claims it’s customer service will be streamlined and free of multiple departments like cable, TV, and landline, where customer requests and concerns could get lost in what one attendee at the event put as the “black hole of death”. 

3. Leverage the expertise of others: Dobbin admitted that the company will not try to do everything itself, and will outsource expertise anywhere it can, notably with Amdocs for state of-the-art billing. Small companies must recognize their strengths as well as their weaknesses, and find partners that can fill in those weaknesses to deliver a strong competitive solution. 

4. Keep it scalable by staying focused: How can a little carrier afford to build a national network? Simple – they don’t. Dobbin recognized the company could not profitably build out networks between city corridors, and so, it will focus on large city centers including Toronto, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary. In his presentation to a sold out room full of business and technical individuals, Dobbin admitted that the company’s services are probably not well suited to most people in the audience – instead, the service is designed for those who work, live, and play in a single city centre. As a business user who needs roaming capabilities in multiple cities and countries, this is not the service for them, according to Dobbin. The benefit of this laser-like focus means that Mobilicity can tailor and target its marketing dollars on these customers and in these locations. The lesson is simple – as a startup, you probably can’t afford to be all things to all people, so don’t even try.     

Startups and smaller companies across Canada would have been inspired had they heard Dobbin’s speech on Tuesday. Clearly, being small does not have to be a disadvantage, as long as you know how to differentiate yourself. A focused strategy that delivers value can be a powerful way to introduce change, and succeed among the big boys.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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