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Perspectives

Meet QuickMobile, this year’s Fast 50™ winner

Creating a culture of innovation

The no. 1 ranked company on the 2013 Fast 50 is QuickMobile, a mobile event apps developer based in Vancouver. Read our interview.

By: Robert Nardi

A veteran entrepreneur and pioneer in emerging communications technologies, Patrick Payne helped transform an idea into a company that — with a growth rate of 10,444% — took top spot in the 2013 Technology Fast 50. Established in 2006, QuickMobile seized the opportunity to provide a more engaging event experience for conference, tradeshow and event-goers just as the use of mobile devices was catching on. In this interview, the company’s co-founder and CEO talks about innovation, growth and operating in the high-speed world of high-tech.

What are the most important factors for driving innovation?

Creating a culture where innovation is accepted and encouraged, which includes forming groups of people that are dynamic and can work together. People will ultimately drive innovation. Having good idea flow so lots of different people can contribute and making sure lots of different interactions can occur. Access to different ideas externally is also critical so that different groups – customers, suppliers – influence what you’re doing. Otherwise you get stuck inside an echo chamber. In mobile, we see all different kinds of mobile apps and say ‘Hey, that’s interesting, we think we could do something with that in the context of event apps.

How do you make that culture stick and thrive?

Respect people and make them accountable for the overall objectives. We try to create great experiences using our technology. So that starts with the way we market and the way we talk. Salespeople need to be able to sell a product that we can actually deliver. And then, you need to have the team that is inspired and is going to really deliver or deploy that solution, followed by a solid support team, which is the final piece. 

From Day One, we really tried to be a global solution and a global company, not Canada first and then expand.

What role does customer feedback play in innovation/growth?

It’s vital. You see a lot of companies that have a technology and are looking for a place to commercialize it and a customer to sell it to. It really should be the opposite. You should first ask, ‘What is the problem, what does the client need and how do you provide a solution?’ At the same time, in some ways the customer also requires some leadership in order to show them why this is a better solution than the traditional way of doing things.

How do you do that?

Understand and frame the customer problem and listen to the customer to understand exactly what the problem is and then look at how the technology can deliver a solution for that particular issue. But you also have to be careful. Customers are really immersed in their business and the advantage that you have is bringing a novel approach to the problem and bringing a fresh perspective.

How does geography impact your business?

From Day One, we really tried to be a global solution and a global company, not Canada first and then expand. About 90% of our customers are in the U.S. and abroad. We found that the U.S. and Europe bought into our solution early and, frankly, Canada followed. 

Is there something that you know now that you wish you’d known when you started the company?

The number-one thing we didn’t expect was to have so many Fortune 500 companies working with us so quickly. Had we known that, we would have been investing a lot more in the infrastructure and scalability of our solution. We have made up for this in the past few years and continue to work to improve our solution, but think where we could be now if we had worked on it right from the beginning!

So the transferable lesson is that scalability is an important consideration from the start?

Scalability is something that you constantly have to work on. It has to do with reliability, stability and availability; those are the things that we probably should have invested more in two years ago.

What is the one priority you focus on above everything else (e.g. product quality, customer service, R&D, etc.) and why is it so?

If I had to select one, I would say quality. Because quality is something that really differentiates you from the rest and is probably the thing that can bring the most value when you’re talking to customers.

What’s the most challenging part of operating in the tech sphere?

For us, the pace of change in the mobile world. It moves so fast. Even two years ago, imagine people saying that Blackberry and Nokia were not going to be major players and now it’s two years later, and there have been incredible changes with Android, IOS, apps and tablets. The industry just moves very quickly.

What should start-ups know about entering new markets?

Know your customers and listen to them. Also really understand what your differentiators are and what your value proposition is. It’s got to be very compelling to customers to actually create long-term relationships with them. You have to really understand what they’re trying to do, where they’re going and where they intend to be in the future, and then your solution has to really fit that model as well. Also trust your instincts – don’t be afraid and listen to your gut feelings.

What can companies gain from a program like Fast 50?

More than anything, it’s awareness and recognition. Deloitte has a lot of reach into the marketplace. There are a lot of investors and tech companies, and the industry in general really looks to Deloitte and the Fast 50 program as kind of a benchmark and as kind of a hallmark for companies that are really doing important and significant things. Several large venture capital firms from the Valley called us directly just based on our ranking on the Fast 50 list. That exposure and awareness in the industry about what you’re doing and where you’re going is invaluable and establishes credibility. 

Robert Nardi is Deloitte Canada’s TMT leader. He has over fifteen years of experience in the technology, media and telecommunications industry.

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