Big Awards SYNC with @151Advisors Partner Steve Brumer on Business Development in the Technology Market

SYNC Interview with 151 Advisors Steve Brumer

Steve Brumer
Steve Brumer

Steve is currently a partner with 151 Advisors and has over 25 years of experience in the wireless/mobile space and has unprecedented knowledge of the industry. During his accomplished career, Steve has been a dynamic entrepreneur with proven expertise in sales, marketing and channel development. His expertise is helping wireless/mobile products and services find the right distribution and channels to ensure commercial success. He is an active presenter/speaker in the wireless industry, having spoken on wireless technology and M2M, products and future trends at CES, CTIA, Wireless IT, CIO Symposium, C3 Expo & AFSM.

Interview Transcript

Russ Fordyce: Good morning everyone. This is Russ Fordyce from the Business Intelligence Group. Today I have Steve Brumer on from 151 Advisors. Steve is an expert in the wireless industry, wireless mobility. Steve, thank you for joining us.

Steve Brumer: Thank you for having me. Good morning.

Russ Fordyce: Good morning. Tell me a little bit about 151 Advisors, and what you guys are specializing in. It's a neat story.

Steve Brumer: We are a almost 10 year old firm. We are focused and specialized in finding and helping companies grow their revenue. I know that sounds like a cliché for a consultant advisor [inaudible 00:00:40], but I'm not sure what else we could do for people but help them. We have hit our stride in a couple of different areas. We work with international companies trying to find a way to enter the North American market. They still believe that our streets are paved with gold, and this is a great place for them to make a lot of money.

It's great to have some great products but there are small companies from Singapore or Lithuania or Latvia or Estonia or Czech Republic, and they're going, "How do I get here? Who's going to sell my product? What am I going to price it at?" We have a research department that does competitive price and market analysis. We've developed sales and marketing strategies. We work with PR firms. We work with various companies that are doing distributions. So we have relationships with all of the distributors, the carriers, the [NDMOs 00:01:33]. We're trying to figure out what is going to be the best strategy for these companies to bring their companies to bring their product to market.

Domestically, our clients have ranged from Motorola Mobility to Verizon, and also down to small medium-size startup companies that have been referred to us by VCs and private equity firms where we are the grownups in this situation. We're helping them expand their business. Also helping companies figure out something that's near and dear to my heart, and probably a lot of people, is how do you make money doing what you're doing? How do you sell your product? How do you sell your service? Who's going to sell it for you? Where are you going to sell it? Is it priced right? What's your marketing strategy? All of those things that seem to be, sometimes, the last thing that people think of. So that's where we focus our attention.

Russ Fordyce: It's funny. I think the application economy, and even in the dot-coms, it was all about bringing applications and new technologies to market without any thought to how to make money. If you look at Twitter, they're barely making money. And I think there's a renewed focus on really coming out with business models that do have a revenue engine. Are you seeing more of a trend of companies at least with some sort of idea on how they're going to make money, or their sales plan?

Steve Brumer: I can look at it in two different ways, Russ. If they don't have an idea then we have an opportunity [inaudible 00:03:01] as a consulting firm, but some of them are actually learning a little bit more of the lessons. They're coming up with great ideas, and they're starting to strategize. The recurring revenue model for applications is very, very hot and it holds up the valuation of company when investors are looking at it. So we really look for that kind of scenario.

Sometimes we still see companies that sit there and go, "I'm [inaudible 00:03:27] bring my application to the carrier, and they're going to put it online and I'm going to make a lot of money. Or I'm going to put it on the [inaudible 00:03:33] and I'm going to be on the first top of the page, and I'm going to make a lot of money. And we all know that, eventually, that dream busts really quick. So we try and then figure out other ways to do it, whether it's through channel partners, whether it's through direct sales, whether it's through marketing in a unique different way in order to go after the vertical market that they happen to be in. Things that like.

Russ Fordyce: It's interesting. It's sounds like a lot of your applications are B to C, or excuse me, B to B. Is that true? Or have you seen a lot more B to B or B to C?

Steve Brumer: Actually, our focus has been on the B to B, B to E, arrangement. We're very heavily focused in the enterprise side, but the consumer side, obviously, is a blend now. So when you're look at M to M or IOT, well, it was all B to B, right? I'm managing machines that are in business enterprise environment but now it's, "Now I got to have help. I've got all these other products." So a lot of what we are doing is expanding into the consumer side. We do have certain clients that have widgets or products or services that are going into the consumer side.

Russ Fordyce: That was a lot acronyms. This industry is full of them, so B to C, 'business to consumer.' I know 'machine to machine' is M to M, so you're talking about talking machine to machine. What is IOT?

Steve Brumer: Gosh, I wish I knew. Isn't that a million dollar question, because it changes for everybody, right? So the 'internet of things' means ...

Russ Fordyce: Ah!

Steve Brumer: ...specific things for the Cisco's of the world that are advertising that they're the internet of everything, then the 'internet of things.' I saw a great definition yesterday. IBC came out with a report yesterday that they're looking at, over the next couple of years, that the IOT M to M world is going to be worth some crazy number: 7 billion dollars or 7 billion units or it's just a crazy number. But they defined IOT the way I would define it, which is you have a thing, we can expand on the thing, communicates over the internet.

That's where I believe we still need to focus, right? If it is a thing, if it's a watch, if it's a [inaudible 00:06:01], if it's a [inaudible 00:06:04] monitoring machine. If it's something that communicates wirelessly over the internet, and can be managed and controlled, it is an IOT related thing. Machine to machine, in my opinion, is more of the [inaudible 00:06:16]. I'm managing that meter. I'm managing that [asset 00:06:20], I'm managing that Coke machine. I'm managing something like that, from a machine to a machine that [inaudible 00:06:27] differentiation is between where the IOT world is and the M to M world.

Russ Fordyce: We did a great interview last year with a company that was trying more machine to machine for beer kegs. It was pretty interesting, so check that out on the site. You've got all these 'internet of things,' what are some of the interesting applications that you're seeing across your desk, if you can without breaking any confidentially clauses?

Steve Brumer: If I can help sell them, then I'm not breaking any, right? There's a couple of things that are ... Obviously, mHelp is huge. I think that, primarily, is a market that is so untapped and has amazing potential. As our world continues to grow older, and you look at my mom, at 80 years old, alone, living in Florida, where else? and they need to be able to monitor her, whether it is from a remote camera or a remote heart monitoring. She's got diabetes so I want to make sure her sugar level ... Anything that I can do remotely to control it which would ultimately reduce the cost. The mHelp things for you and I, if it's monitoring for running or health related stuff, that's a pretty cool thing, and it's, obviously, getting better, right? But again, what is that size of the market? I don't know. Russ, are you wearing your Fitbit right now?

Russ Fordyce: We had a Fitbit in this house, and it immediately got lost.

Steve Brumer: Exactly.

Russ Fordyce: The things that don't tend to get lost are iPhones, and I know Apple's made big inroads this week into that market and trying to get into that market with their API, so I imagine that's about to explode.

Steve Brumer: Exactly. I think the tracking scenarios: The tracking of your kids, the tracking of your luggage and your golf bags. Those are some traditional M to M related things, but now they're blending. So now they're blending onto your phone. They're blending on to devices. Again, overall expansion of that IOT world. And you look at the things that are being crowd funded that are in that space. It's just huge, and you have to look at that as a pretty good barometer of where the business is headed, because if the average person is willing to invest, whatever, to get a widget in the IOT base, I would [inaudible 00:09:12] to them, as a funding source, pretty interesting. I mean, there are some pretty cool things.

Russ Fordyce: Will the IOT, 'internet of things' devices, or the machine to machine devices take over the larger applications of RFID, the radio frequency IDs. These 'internet of things' are not yet disposable. They're relatively expensive, but is there high-end applications of RFID you see the 'internet of things' devices taking over from that market?

Steve Brumer: You got to throw RFID in with the same thing as iBeam and the Beacon things that are coming out of Qualcomm, too. So, are we looking at close proximity, and what is those all about? I'm member of the Location Based Marketing Association, and we're very interested in what happens inside the store. What is an RFID tag can do to combine with what you have on your hand-held and look at the marketing and look at the [targeting 00:10:13]. I think that is another ... What I would consider another communication mode, operationally, functionally, what it does for us, and how we use it, is still part of the whole process but [inaudible 00:10:29] communication mode. just like a wi-fi connection or triangulation inside a store would be able to provide you with ads and marketing promotions [inaudible 00:10:41].

RFID, yes, the cost has gone down dramatically. If you look at the amount of companies that are now looking at doing more things with it ... Internationally it's a different model. Here we really haven't ... It's like NFC. NFC on a worldwide basis is really taking on, but we still in the US are ... We don't even know what to do with it.

Russ Fordyce: It's interesting. I touched on NFC tag at a mall. It was ...

Steve Brumer: [inaudible 00:11:14].

Russ Fordyce: I was probably the only one ever.

Steve Brumer: Exactly. You were the only one who knew what it was, probably. And that's really sad because remember ... I don't know how long you've been doing this, but the original NFC trial was here in Atlanta, where I live, at the arena and at the dome, and it worked out great then, and where are we?

Russ Fordyce: Yeah.

Steve Brumer: It's not well accepted. It hasn't really gone through it. Like you said, you don't even know you're touching a NFC something. You don't know when you go to a trade show that you got a NFC chip inside your badge, because the average person doesn't know. But I still think that that's a wonderful technology.

Russ Fordyce: So why do you think that is? There are several examples like that, where the US is, actually, a laggard in many areas. I mean, SMS and texting was definitely ... We were a laggard in that market. NFC, we're definitely a laggard in that market. Mobile payments we were definitely a laggard. Why do you think that is?

Steve Brumer: Mobile payments is a great example. We're going to be lagging behind that for awhile as long as we continue to have the credit cards with the mag stripe instead of the chip set in it, we're going to continue to lag in it.

Russ Fordyce: Now, that's changing next year, right? We're going to pin and chip next year, or 2015?

Steve Brumer: Quote, unquote, Russ. We will see. We'll see. We always have great plans in technologies and it never works out. I think that the biggest issue that we have is education. We are creatures of habit in the US, and Canada, and we always lag behind because the [inaudible 00:12:56] do the 'Show me," right? Show me it works. Show me it's cost effective. Show me I'm not going to screw up, and it's not going to work, that kind of stuff. I think that's what's going to happen. It's going to take some time for us. We're always going to lag behind, because we're skeptical about the technology and how to use it. We're very simple people when it comes to technology.

Russ Fordyce: I don't like hearing that because that means we slower adoption of the stuff I want now.

Steve Brumer: Well, the great thing about being in the business that we are, Russ, is that you and I can use it, and we're okay. We tell ten people, and they tell 10 people that it actually works, and it gets out. But an article in the New York Times, and an article in the Wall Street Journal. Mossberg writes an article about NFC or something like that. That doesn't mean it changes the world, or the selling of the products on a consistent basis here in the US.

There when we look at [inaudible 00:13:56] mobile wallet, it started with the banking institutions saying, "Here, you'll never going to have a mag stripe again. This is what you're going to use," and the adoption rate was huge. Right now, I don't know, but Bank of American and Wells Fargo ain't given me anything but a mag stripe on my ATM card or my credit card. So, until all that changes that's going to continue to be an issue. If you look at Isis, there's this whole big publicity about Isis and the mobile wallet, and where is it today?

Russ Fordyce: It's like the VHS/Betamax wars. We got Google with NFC and Apple with iBeacons and Isis and all these other competing standards, and I think they're all taking a fraction of a fraction of a percentage of the market, and the market's tiny.

Steve Brumer: Right. And that fragmented [inaudible 00:14:46] of the market hurt adoption, right?

Russ Fordyce: Absolutely.

Steve Brumer: I think that's going to continue to be a trend until there's a ... I don't know if it's the FDIC that turns around and says, "No more mag stripes." Then everybody has to adopt. We also have a slow government when it comes to technology changes. Now I'm not sure if Tom Wheeler or the FCC makes a difference. [inaudible 00:15:13] I'm not sure if it's his background in CTIA in understanding what we have, but I think it's going to take visionaries like Tom and the other people to be able to make changes to happen faster than ... Like the rest of the world is doing.

Russ Fordyce: Now all of these 'internet of things' and all of these new devices that are coming into the market, and mobile payments is definitely putting pressure on the networks. Obviously, we got Mr. Wheeler's embroiled and embattled with net neutrality right now. More and more of this is going into the cloud. What are you seeing in terms of cloud adoption and applications coming into the cloud?

Steve Brumer: Obviously, it is the simplest and most effective way for you to go to market. So when you're looking at an investment in a company that have to have the cloud to transmit the data or store the data or access the date, the cloud gives you so much more flexibility at a cost you can afford. Not having to spend that infrastructure cost yourself is amazing. It's very simple to get started. Again, we believe in trust. So we trust that the data is secure, and that we know that it's there, and nobody else can see it, and it's protected.

That's another pet peeve, Russ. We might have to have another interview just on the security and the trust factor that we have in America on technology and the data that goes through, as it relates to the cloud. Think about how the data gets to the cloud from your device, and you think about all the hops it gets to the cloud, is the cloud the most secure piece of that whole process? Did you just shake your head "No," Russ? You did. So if you turn around and look at the cloud, it's like the last warehouse of the data in the whole process that goes on, but that part is growing exponentially. If pricing is good, you think it's safe and it's easy to use, and I think that's where it's going to continue to grow.

Russ Fordyce: What impact did the Snowden scandal have on your business? You've got all these guys looking at US markets, and all of a sudden, you've got all this [inaudible 00:17:48] wiretapping. What were those companies saying to you?

Steve Brumer: They still think that we're more trustworthy than their own countries, for example, most of the time. They at least feel that there are Snowdens of the world in the US market at this point, [inaudible 00:18:04] what the hell's going on. Versus, in some of their countries where the executive branch, you don't know what they're doing. I don't think it affected them, I think they actually believe that we're more trustworthy than even their own networks that they have. I don't think that affected it at all. I think it's the Target example, and some of the things that happened with the credit card fraud that adversely affected us more than what the NSA is doing to us as big brother.

Russ Fordyce: You mentioned to me earlier before we started that you're there in Atlanta, and a hop, skip and away is a house in Florida for you. How often do you get down there?

Steve Brumer: Not enough. My wife and I and the kids went down. My daughter graduated from high school last weekend, so we went down there. Actually, we love Florida. The beach ... For us in technology, how far away can I possibly go, besides an island with not a cell site in [gear 00:19:14].

Russ Fordyce: It's fun. We say that, and then we get there, and then we're cursing at the carriers.

Steve Brumer: Wi-fi [inaudible 00:19:22] everywhere. Forget it. What are we going to do?

Russ Fordyce: What else do you like to do in your spare time?

Steve Brumer: I'm a still a 58 year old baseball-playing nut in an over 40 league. That's very important for me to continue to be healthy, as I continue to get older in this technology and this world.

Russ Fordyce: That's good. I'm not trying to scare you but somebody's walking around behind you. You might get clubbed in the back of the head or something.

Steve Brumer: I know. It's hard to get rid of some of these people. They come in and out of the office.

Russ Fordyce: I know how you feel. Steve, I appreciate all the time you spent with us today. Great insights on the evolution of the cloud and the 'internet of things' coming in to the business market. I really appreciate your time.

Steve Brumer: Russ, thank so much for having me this morning. It's great.

Russ Fordyce: I encourage everyone, go check out Steve Brumer at 151advisors.com. He's a partner over there. They're doing some interesting things helping international companies go to market in the US. Steve, thanks again for your time.

Steve Brumer: Great. Have a great day.