Earn while you sleep

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As Keith Curran unveils the “revolutionary” WorkMobile to the dealer channel, Michael Garwood talks exclusively to him about the product that captures form data on a mobile

When former Yes Telecom CEO Keith Curran was asked to speak at a venture capital event last year, he was asked to describe his ideal business. His response was simple: to offer something every business in the world needs and can save money using, and would make him money while he slept.

Curran admits his comments created an unflattering response from the audience he was addressing.

But on returning to his seat, Dr Moneeb Awan, the managing director of data capture company eSay, leant over to say his company was developing a product that did just that.

The product he was talking about became WorkMobile – an application designed to eliminate paperwork from a business by capturing information on a mobile phone instead.

Curran, who had been out of the mobile spotlight since 2006, following his sale of Yes Telecom to Vodafone for about £22 million, revealed his plans in January. He said WorkMobile would appeal to every business, big or small, and cost up to £40,000 less than a rival product to set up.

How? eSay has developed the product to remove pricey set-up fees, by creating an application it says is so simple, anyone who can use a mouse can create their own forms.

This is something WorkMobile business programmes director Colin Yates described as the company’s “biggest obstacle” for SMEs looking to mobilise their office.

Size no object
“Traditionally, companies had to pay thousands of pounds to have built and get themselves up and running for a service like this,” says Yates. “And for an SME that’s a non-starter, so that’s really where the concept came from.

“We realised there was a gap in the market, because there were many companies talking to us and liked what we did, but simply couldn’t aff ord it. Now we have one-man-bands setting up with no costs, and using it.”

Curran says: “The world has come together in terms of looking at IT and mobile, and customers are happy to take money out of their own wallet and spend it on something, if it will save them and their business money.”

Each form can be fully customised and includes options such as drop-down menus, photographs and signature capture. All forms can then be accessed via a registered mobile phone that has downloaded the free WorkMobile application. WorkMobile works on platforms including iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and Symbian.

Once a form is completed, it can be sent back to the office and filed accordingly. It is only when the form is sent that the user incurs their first charge.

Each form sent uses one credit, or two credits if it includes a photo. A single credit costs a maximum of 18p or a minimum of 9p each, depending on the tariff taken by the customer.

A busy six months
A few weeks after our January meeting WorkMobile was showcased at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Curran received significant interest from operators and distributors across the globe looking to use the service internally, but also to white label it for their own customers.

Curran and the eSay team have subsequently attended meetings and been asked to speak at events in countries including South Africa and within South Asia, as well as the UK and within Europe.

In January Curran said more than 500 businesses across the world were actively using the service, having found the site online. The figure has now “significantly” increased, but he declines to give exact numbers.

Customers have found WorkMobile through basic Google searches for data capture or mobile forms and it is currently the top-listed company.

As a result, Curran claims new customers are signing-up every day, with the majority never actually making any verbal contact with eSay as a result of its simplicity to set up and use. Curran claims despite impressive customer numbers, WorkMobile has not yet begun approaching companies for the service.

“Every day new customers have signed up,” says Curran. “I looked at it the other day and saw companies in New Zealand, Brazil and Australia were using it. It’s a global product. We had always hoped people all around the world would sign up to use WorkMobile and we have had an extraordinary take-up. More than we could have imagined.

“They have not all been one-manbands – some have been very decent-sized businesses.”

The WorkMobile team has been surprised by the early popularity of the service, in terms of the size of businesses looking to use it.

Its original expectations have been exceeded and it is already having to rewrite its credit tariffs, which off er a maximum of 25,000. Curran says credit orders from two customers have totalled more than 1.5 million in recent months.

“We are already having to re-write the tariff model,” says Curran. “You can see by the fact we had a maximum 25,000 credit bundle to show what we expected. But one customer has asked for a million and another has asked for half a million. But the flexibility of the model allows anyone to use it. The window cleaner who fills out one form a day can take the 25 tariff and the biggest in the world can buy a million if they like.”

Full article in Mobile News issue 493 (July 4, 2011).

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