Small developer benefits from Verizon’s focus

By Peggy Albright Last month Rocket Mobile realized that one of its BREW applications had become the focus of Verizon Wireless’ media blitz promoting the new music recognition and download service, called V CAST Song ID. Rocket Mobile worked with Verizon to develop the application but it had not expected to see the results of its work used in a mass market advertising campaign featuring music by the rock icon, Prince. “It was surprising to us, as a small BREW developer,” saysWayne Yurtin, president and CEO of Rocket Mobile. “For us, having Verizon put so much focus on it has been terrific.” Rocket Mobile had previously partnered with Verizon to offer its song recognition service, a BREW application called SongIDentity, and the new Verizon service is a customized and Verizon-branded adaptation of that. The original application has been one of Rocket Mobile’s most successful products for operators and the company’s collaboration with Verizon for this new service will reinforce Rocket Mobile’s reputation as an innovator in the mobile music industry. But the company also offers other consumer applications, which it powers with its own BREW-based browser technology, and it has built embedded messaging and multimedia messaging BREW technologies, including picture taking and video applications, that have been deployed by several handset manufacturers, most notably Motorola and Samsung. The company believes its embedded technologies differentiate it, more than any of its other products, from other developers. BREW-only shop Rocket Mobile was one of the earliest companies to join the BREW community. In fact Yurtin, who founded the company not long after Qualcomm developed BREW, launched the business specifically to work with the technology. He started Rocket Mobile with two other experts who shared his idea, Shane Conder and Ray Rischpater. The three began working together in mid-2001. Today, in keeping with Yurtin’s original vision, Rocket Mobile is still a BREW-only shop. “We’ve been committed to BREW longer than most developers out there,” Yurtin says. “It was the right bet for us back in the summer of 2001 and continues to prove to be the right decision.” The company did face challenges. Rocket Mobile opened for business about a week before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. “It was not the best timing for starting a new business given all the unrest and uncertainty afterward,” Yurtin says. And Rocket Mobile may have felt the economic impact more than most because it was self-funded. The company got an early break, however, providing professional services to Apple Computer. While the work was not BREW-related, it gave Rocket Mobile revenues to use to begin building BREW applications and BREW-based technologies. Yurtin says he still has the company’s first check from Apple, in the amount of $10,000, on display in his office. Evolving the product Rocket Mobile first partnered with Verizon Wireless for the launch of its BREW Get It Now service in the fall of 2002, and the developer’s business began progressing from there. The company saw its revenues double each year and kept putting its profits back into the company. Today Rocket Mobile has about 50 employees. Its clients include Kodak, Sony BMG, Yahoo, several other blue chip firms, including Qualcomm itself. Rocket Mobile’s first product, RocketMMS, a technology embedded in handsets, was the first BREW-based multimedia messaging client. Rocket Mobile has since evolved that product into the company’s Mobile Communication Platform, which today incorporates MMS, SMS, and EMS technologies and integrates the applications for users via a unified in-box. The company was also first to market with a BREW-based browser, its RocketBrowser technology. At the time, Rocket Mobile needed a browser client for its own applications and BREW didn’t have one, so the company created one. Rocket Mobile still uses the browser as the basis for all of its consumer-based applications. Today it powers the Sony BMG “MusicBox” ringtone/wallpaper application as well as Verizon’s VZW Pix white label wallpaper application. Buongiorno acquisition Rocket Mobile’s place in the mobile content industry changed in September 2006 when the company was acquired by Buongiorno, the Italian mobile entertainment company. While Buongiorno is a global giant in the industry and has offices all over the world, it had no BREW expertise. It paid Rocket Mobile $30 million in cash to acquire its technologies and know-how and business relationships. In the process, it gained relationships with some companies it had not worked with before, such as Verizon, Sprint Nextel, Motorola, Samsung. Yurtin, who has founded and sold several companies in his career, said the acquisition process has been the best he’s ever been through. “I’m looking out my window to our parking lot and there are about 15 new cars sitting out there since the acquisition,” Yurtin said. “That acquisition made quite a few millionaires here at Rocket Mobile. That’s nice to see.”