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Summary:

Sprint executives might be licking their wounds this morning after announcing that the company’s profit fell 52% for the third quarter. But yesterday Sprint’s Vice President for Partner Development and Product Innovation Paul Reddick was more than happy to dole out advice to mobile startups at […]

Sprint executives might be licking their wounds this morning after announcing that the company’s profit fell 52% for the third quarter. But yesterday Sprint’s Vice President for Partner Development and Product Innovation Paul Reddick was more than happy to dole out advice to mobile startups at the IBF Mobile and Wireless Investing Conference in San Jose. Reddick is basically the gate keeper for mobile startups looking to do a deal with Sprint. If you have a mobile application you want on Sprint’s deck, you better start buying this guy drinks.

Sprint is one of the most aggressive U.S. carriers when it comes to data services and new applications. That’s being reflected negatively in the company’s earnings right now, but that also means sometimes Sprint is the first carrier deal a mobile startup can make. Reddick says his team has looked at 4,000 ideas this year, and he’s held this position for around five years — OK, so he’s more than qualified to give advice to a room full of investors and entrepreneurs.

During a lunch time talk, Reddick showed off a long list of services and technologies that Sprint is looking to find more innovation in, like mobile video and location-based services. But he highlighted the mobile UI, which he says has not kept up with the pace of application innovation. (If you’ve got good UI ideas, you know who to pitch.) Reddick also decided to play father figure, and dole out a list of advice to startups and developers on how to work with carriers — check these out before pitching the Sprint team:

1. Know thyself — consider your scope carefully and be specific of what you do that is better than everything out there.

2. Know if you are a mass market or a niche application — mass market is hard to get right, because it has to be popular to such a wide audience. But also if you’re a niche application don’t expect to be placed on the deck.

3. Educate objectively before selling passionately — carriers see a lot of ideas, don’t oversell it.

4. Admit what you’ve accomplished versus trying to sell what is really a work in progress.

5. Be specific about what you want from the carrier. And know what the carrier has deployed in the market — at CTIA he says he had a guy pitching him an application that they had launched three years ago.

6. Provide differentiation.

7. Adapt to new models — he gives the example of Sprint bundling applications with the handset, which he says is a risky move and a big shift for Sprint.

8. Leverage new capabilties — like WiMAX.

9. Avoid asking him why your application can’t be on the Sprint’s deck — he says he hears a sense of entitlement. Go off deck.

10. His team focuses on finding innovation that can fix technology and service bottlenecks. Keep that in mind.

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  1. Katie, nice post with useful info. Our software startup nails 5 or 6 of these but we’re still a niche application so have to be clever to find a way into the Sprint deck…perhaps using a holodeck ;)

  2. Peter Cranstone Thursday, October 26, 2006

    Katie, great post. We’ve got some intersting location based capability for mobile on our web site (www.5o9inc.com) – So how do get to Mr. Reddick? :)

  3. Sounds good. Reality is different. Are they really trying to encourage mobile apps and useage. We tried to register a shortcode so if a Sprint sub asked for an app, we could send Sprint subs SMS message with a WAP link to download the mobile application.

    Answer from Sprint: ‘we don’t want to give content away’.. hence they are rejected our application for a shortcode for off deck download.

    So, doesn’t seem like to us off deck is practical…

  4. Katie – great article. This is what us startup crowd needs more of (esp the mobile arena). Keep feeding us this stuff. ;)

  5. When I had a mobile start-up Sprint was one of the first major carriers to be willing to work with us. It’s nice to see them still taking chances w/ small companies in the space.

    Btw I can’t stress #5 enough – the same holds true when pitching a media company. I cannot tell you how many times people have come in to pitch me products and services my company already has (or had) in the market.

    Kudos to Paul for proffering some sound advice.

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