Google Glass. Mobile Apps. Is there anything Engage Mobile can’t do? Krista Klaus speaks with the man leading a company aiming to be the next big thing.
CIOReview.com recently named Kansas City’s Engage Mobile one of the “20 Most Promising Enterprise Mobility Companies” in the country. Among the tech company’s big projects right now is a gaming app for football fans as well as beta testing and development for Google Glass. Matthew Barksdale appeared on Power Lunch to chat about the company’s successes.
Krista Klaus: What do you think has led to all this attention for Engage Mobile?
Matthew Barksdale: Most companies, when you go to them, will basically build a product for you. We can do that, but our approach is radically different because we are all about business results. We are business people. My partner, Darrin Clawson, started all the mobile efforts at Cerner 13 years ago. We’ve been involved with mobile four to six years before the iPhone.
Our approach is all about helping our clients succeed, and because we take that unique approach, we don’t just build apps. We are seeing a lot of traction here in Kansas City and across the country.
KK: Engage Mobile is in the process of developing a football app.
MB: It’s a huge deal for Engage Mobile. Our partner is actually a Kansas City native who now lives in California—Chris Austin. It is Words With Friends meets football. Essentially, it’s an asynchronous game. I call my offensive play. You call a defensive play. We run an odds table. And it’s not just a couple guys coming up with this—we have advisors at both the high school and college level on every play. So it is probably the most realistic in terms of a strategic football gaming app that’s going to be available.
KK: So you can go back to the game on your own time just like Words With Friends?
MB: Yes, it’s an asynchronous game to where you can have one or 20 games going at the same time. It’s based upon the odds of that specific play. You can check out the website playvsfootball.com. The app will be coming out sometime between the second and third week of the NFL season, so it’s very exciting.
KK: Where can you get the app?
MB: It will be available on the IOS platform and Android. We are heavily testing right now.
KK: What about your involvement with Google Glass?
MB: Google Glass is very interesting. We started working with Google (this summer) both in terms of testing the Glass, but also developing apps. The product—we got ours a few months ago—will not be available to consumers until next year. So, when it comes out, they want to be sure the software is available. We’ve been working with leaders in education, leaders in construction and leaders in health care to determine not just Google Glass, but this whole issue of wearable computing—the iWatch, the Samsung watch, Google Glass—just how that is going to transform the industry and how companies can use it to drive business.
KK: Some have said they don’t envision themselves wearing Google Glass on a daily basis. How do you see Google Glass being used?
MB: I think the way to look at it is it’s really the bag cell phone of cell phones. It’s an early, first-generation prototype for all practical purposes. So, imagine how far cell phones have come from that initial bag phone to the current-day iPhone and Android. I think we’ll see that kind of development around wearable technology. It’s going to get smaller, faster, better. It’s all about having access to information when you want it, how you want it, and Google Glass is just another way to access info.
KK: How has the experience been?
MB: The technology is really interesting and quite fantastic. It is literally like you have an HD monitor up above your right eye that you can look up and access at anytime. It is fantastic quality. It’s a little wonky; it’s very odd looking, so there’s no question that it’s not ready for prime time. We are looking at several apps. We think it will be fantastic for everything from medicine to golf, so there are a lot of different applications for it.
KK: I know surgeries have actually been performed using Google Glass.
MB: It’s perfect for any type of application to where you use your hands and you need to have access to information, but you don’t have a hand available. So, construction, medicine—all those types of things where you need to access information, but you can’t do it with your hands.
KK: Let’s talk about Kansas City and its presence as an emerging tech hub. Do you believe the city can live up to all the expectations?
MB: We definitely have the seeds, and the momentum is going now. It’s an issue of execution. So ideas are great, but now it’s an issue for these entrepreneurs to really buckle down and make things happen. It’s great to meet and talk about it, but what really matters—and what’s really going to separate Kansas City from the rest of the country—is if these great ideas turn into great companies. I think we are having an impact across the country with Engage Mobile, and we need other companies in Kansas City to have that national impact. We have a great beginning, but we need to execute now.
KK: The consensus I am hearing is that Kansas City has a lot of potential in the business-to-business mobile app development market. However, at Engage Mobile, you seem to be focusing on the business-to-consumer market.
MB: It’s both. Probably 60 to 70 percent of what we do is B2C. Our backgrounds are really with businesses and helping businesses succeed, so our core is B2B, but there is definitely potential with the rapid adoption of mobile technology. There’s tremendous opportunity in the B2C space, which is why we are seeing things like playvsfootball.com come to life because there’s amazing things you can do.
KK: How was Engage Mobile founded?
MB: Engage Mobile’s been around for three years. It was founded by Darrin Clawson, who is really a pioneer in the space. He was developing well before the iPhone and the Android, back in the Palm Pilot days. He has been living in this future state of mobile since the beginning. We have less than 10 people in KC now, but we have contractors all around the world. We are different in that if you develop IOS iPhone apps, everything you look at is an iPhone app. But what we do is we step back and look at what our clients are trying to achieve, what they’re trying to solve and what is the best technology to do that with. We are not about building mobile apps. We are about helping clients achieve success, and we just happen to do that with mobile.
KK: Tell me about Engage Mobile’s recent growth.
MB: We have had triple-digit growth the past couple years. We will do that again this year and definitely anticipate that for next year. We are getting fantastic traction both in Kansas City and across the country. Because of our unique approach, we really see tremendous success for our company in the near future.
KK: What trends are you watching?
MB: It’s two-fold. One is there was tremendous hype about mobile a few years ago. That’s what everyone was talking about. We see that once the hype dies down, that’s when real business is done. We are well beyond, “Hey, let’s build an app. Let’s do something.” We are about, “We want to solve a business problem,” so that is what we are focused on: solving real-world problems. We are on the forefront of wearable technology, so there’s no question wearable computing is coming and it’s going to be here to stay.
KMBZ “Kansas City Power Lunch” is a series on 1660 AM hosted by Krista Klaus. Her show runs every weekday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with commentary provided by today’s regional business leaders.