MobileIron - Revolutionizing Mobile For Work
Can you imagine a world without mobile access to your work email?
Or even worse, do you remember the times when you didn't use a smartphone for your work tasks?
Yes, from today's point of view, it seems unimaginable, and almost silly to only do your tasks from a stationary point. Ajay Mishra and Suresh Batchu saw the sense in the idea long ago, and with MobileIron, they were ready to put it into action.
In fact, it was their long-term goal!
Despite building a company during the biggest financial crisis since The Great Depression, they had a clear vision of their goals and the problems they wanted to solve. This is the story of their success.
The Duo Behind MobileIron
It remains unknown when the initial contact happened between the two of them, but it was around the new Millennium. Ajay and Suresh worked in the IT industry and they were constantly surrounded by the latest IT news and developments.
Ajay was the all-mobile guru, while Suresh was in charge of security. Prior to developing MobileIron, both of them worked for big-industry companies. Suresh worked for Alteon Web Systems, an innovator in internet infrastructure where he was an Engineering Manager. After that, he had worked as an Engineering Portfolio Leader for application switching and security at Nortel Enterprise Data Networks.
Ajay had a richer professional history, with his first work experience being an engineer at Motorola - now it makes sense that he's the all-mobile guru, right? He left Motorola to work as a Product Manager for the Cisco Mobile Office Network (MNET).
But there was one, tiny problem: the two young IT professionals had never met!
Well, that changed around 2000, and they clicked - immediately!
As soon as they met, Suresh and Ajay realized that both of them had the very rare, but very solid grasp of the potential influence of mobile devices in the work environment. Soon, they hatched a plan: they would create software that could incorporate mobile IT with management!
The seed was planted - it was time to get down to business.
The Ultimate Challenge - Innovating During The 2008 Financial Crisis
There's one detail about Ajay and Suresh's story that almost made things impossible - the external factors. Everyone around them characterized their idea as a pipe dream and frankly, it sounded that way too.
In 2007, mobile devices were still a new thing, iPad and Android stores were non-existent, and BlackBerry's market position was unstable. Despite the fact that most companies considered mobile devices to be consumer-oriented products, Suresh and Ajay knew what the users needed - all-time access to work data.
Almost simultaneously, another innovator joined the team - Bob Tinker, leader of the Business Development Team at CISCO. The three of them wanted to understand the user's problems with using mobile devices for work. People wanted to use mobile phones to increase their productivity, stay in touch with their assignments, and keep pace with the latest updates at work.
But if more data was available on more devices, that makes the company's data more vulnerable, right?
This was another problem for the founders.
So, how did they patch this up?
Teaching Customers as a Breakthrough Technique
They had every ingredient to make a killer recipe - Bob's vision, Suresh's technical knowledge, and Ajay's product knowledge, but they were in no rush to get the job done.
That's why they did a survey long before the product development stage, diving into their research for the next six months, and talking to potential customers about their problems. This way, they could map their customer's problems, which is the first step to determining your MVP.
In those six months, they addressed every possible customer issue and the conclusion was as expected, that people needed their service more than anything at the moment. Plus, the founders discovered that people were actually quite open to sharing their thoughts on a potential business idea. Turns out, if you're honest with your questions, they're fairly candid with their answers.
So, the survey helped. A lot.
The team was able to get an even clearer idea of the users' critical problems and were ready to start working on their solution which would soon be named MobileIron!
Those 6 months of user feedback turned out to be a stepping stone towards their first customers. Of all the users they interviewed, around 80 gave them valuable feedback - they wanted to use cell phones for work purposes, but they didn't want to worry about security. Around 40 of them became their Alpha-testers and 15 of them later became Beta-testers. They called this approach 'Teaching Customers' - the same ones who gave the initial feedback were the ones that bought the service a bit later. So, while the founders were trying to get insights on their idea, they unintentionally got their first customers too! What an achievement!
Although they got lucky, these were still challenging times. After completing the survey, they finished developing their MobileIron idea, launching in January, 2008. It took a year to prepare, and the first six months were all about building the company.
Ajay and Suresh quickly developed the final software and set up the offices in Mountain View, California.
Their business journey had taken off to a flying start. How?
Money, of course!
MobileIron became an industry leader with the help of multiple investors. They started using their first half-a-million-dollar seed round for the survey and the basis for their business idea in September, 2007. For the next two years, they received around $20 million in another seed round, as an early-stage investment. Pretty solid for a start-up, right?
From 2009 to 2013, MobileIron skyrocketed on the market. The use of mobile phones grew, and increasing numbers of people started to see the value of having secure, mobile access to their work data. During these years, the company topped the charts on the Deloitte Fast Index, being named the fastest-growing company on their list.
In total, they raised $164 million in funding in 8 rounds. The company's profitability is constantly growing - compared with 2018, the 2019 ARR was 10% higher.
Today, MobileIron is the leader in multi-OS mobile device management (MDM), mobile application management (MAM), and BYOD privacy controls.
MobileIron Development - How Far They've Come?
As a result of the original idea, MobileIron currently holds over 70 patterns. The company has held the first place in the Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) Magic Quadrant for seven consecutive years.
Founders Ajay and Suresh are still part of the leading team at MobileIron. Bob was replaced as the CEO by Simon Biddiscombe, but he's still part of the company's board of directors. The three founders did a lot more than just build a company - they revolutionized the way people used mobile phones. It takes a lot of courage to enter any market during a financial crisis, let alone a developing one, but they truly outperformed themselves! Each one offered unique skills which when combined with their talent and knowledge, helped them develop software that remains valuable to this day!
At the moment, MobileIron has 950 employees. To think that it all began with only three people...
Just goes to show: you can do anything, get anywhere and accomplish all your goals if you simply dedicate yourself to the work of solving humanity's problems.