How to position your tech brand as an industry influencer

Attracting customers is the main goal of every business. In order to do so, you need to position your brand correctly. Learn how to position your tech brand as an industry influencer.

Flavilla is joined by James Robinson, co-founder and currently VP for Research & Innovation at Opensignal.


Briefly, tell us how your journey took where you are right now

I met Sam, Sina and Brendan — the founding team of Opensignal — long before forming the company. We met at the university where we were all taking Physics courses. Not only did we become friends, but we would sometimes collaborate on solving the problems we had been set for classes. Any business needs to be able to weather storms. Our friendship and the health of our working relationship has been crucial in that respect.
It took us over a decade to build Opensignal to where it is now. When we first became interested in apps we had little programming experience between us. I didn’t even own a smartphone when I began learning how to code. I started out with the iOS simulator and Android emulator. The awe of unboxing the Nexus One is still on my mind.
Looking back, it amazes me to see how Opensignal has grown to become a global company of highly talented people. It plays a key role within the telecommunications industry. The journey so far is one of the thousands of steps, most small, some sideways, and a fair few backwards. The conviction that we were working on something worthwhile kept pushing us.

What was your ‘aha’ moment which led you to create your business?

Over the first few months of 2010, we toyed with perhaps a hundred business ideas and even built a dozen or so apps. One evening we decided to read through the Android SDK APIs. This might seem a pretty dry form of literature, but it proved a great source of inspiration in our case. What became clear to us then was that Android provided a powerful set of methods for understanding the network connection — not just the network name and generation (back then just 2G and 3G, LTE was only available in Sweden), but detailed information on the different cells the device can see.

This set us thinking about how we could use crowdsourcing to understand the experience on mobile networks. Connectivity is what makes smartphones smart, and we saw that crowdsourcing could provide the best window on this.


Why is your business relevant to the issues you have identified?

Prior to Opensignal there was scant information for consumers on the quality of mobile experience. The information that was reported was generally provided by the mobile network operators themselves and came in the form of coverage maps. Each network operator would have their own methodology for calculating coverage, their own website, their own graphics. This was not ideal for consumers.It was this set of consumer problems we focussed on initially, but we came to see clearly that an information gap problem also existed for the mobile operators themselves. Many competing sources of truth exist within network operators — there are mathematical models based on cellular deployments, there are field tests and drive tests. Crowdsourcing offered something different, a picture of what was in fact experienced by the people who really matter, the users of the networks.

Understanding user experience — be it of speed, mobile gaming, video — has become the core of what we do and it’s been great to see how the mobile network industry has bought into this perspective.

What has been your biggest lesson learnt from growing your business?

Building a company from start-up through to scale-up is actually like working at several different businesses. You need to be constantly learning both technical and soft skills.
One thing I would highlight to any founder or early-stage employee is the following: when your business is young it thrives with you constantly getting into the nitty-gritty, as it grows you need to consider how it is that your role should evolve. Often founders won’t be the best coders, salespeople or even the best strategists so think carefully about how you can best provide value.
Tell me about your customer acquisition systems?
We publicly report mobile network experience directly to consumers through our apps and, with deeper insights, in reports created by our fantastic analyst team, these have become a trusted source for the press — mainstream, telecoms-focussed and financial. This is a huge driver for our business.

What do you wish more people knew?

I think the diversity of ways of thinking and the different knowledge each person carries is one of humanity’s strengths. So instead of praising a particular book or fact, I’d like to celebrate all things I will never know — the unknown knowns.

Thinking about your legacy, how do you want to be remembered?

I’d like Opensignal to be remembered as a great place to work and a source of truth.



About the speaker

James is a co-founder and currently VP for Research & Innovation at Opensignal.
Previously, he led the team responsible for the development and adoption of Opensignal’s mobile apps. 32 million consumers worldwide (and counting) downloaded those apps.



About Opensignal

Opensignal measures the user experience of mobile networks, developing ways of determining the quality of experience for specific services – like gaming, video or voice calling in apps. Opensignal analytics and insights power the evolution of mobile networks to improve mobile connectivity for all.



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