Mark Roberts, Senior Editor at Traders News Source Interviews Randall Crowder, COO Phunware Inc.
Randall Crowder, COO Phunware Inc.
Randall is passionate about new venture creation and the innovative spirit that fuels entrepreneurs and advances in technology. As an active investor and entrepreneur, he understands what it takes to successfully launch and grow a new business. He regularly publishes articles and speaks on entrepreneurship, venture capital, healthcare and the rise of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.
Over the past decade, Randall has led over 40 angel investments and deployed over $60M across 14 companies as a venture capitalist. Randall is a co-founder and Managing Partner at TEXO Ventures where he focused on tech-enabled health services and he is the sole founder and Managing Partner at Novē Ventures where he focuses on investing in existing companies looking to leverage blockchain technology. Prior to TEXO, he led the Central Texas Angel Network (CTAN) to becoming one of the most active angel networks in the country. Randall also founded and launched Texas Venture Labs (TVL) at UT in order to give the next generation of investors unique experiential learning opportunities outside of the classroom.
Before getting involved in venture and entrepreneurship, Randall was a Captain in the United States Army and is both Airborne and Ranger qualified. He served over six years active duty and deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom where he was awarded two Bronze Stars for his actions during combat operations.
Randall holds a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from the McCombs School of Business. He is also a Kauffman Fellow and member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC).
Thank you giving us your time to answer some questions. Before we begin, I want to congratulate you on the fantastic revenue growth numbers your company has recently reported.
Can you give us a brief overview of your company’s business model and the MaaS platform?
Phunware has spent more than a decade helping large brands establish mobile ecosystems that are designed to better engage unique audiences by ensuring every interaction is contextual (i.e. MaaS). By leveraging blockchain technology, Phunware has the opportunity to deliver solutions that can not only authenticate and compensate who is being engaged (i.e. PhunCoin), but also incentivize engagement (i.e. PhunToken) by giving consumers better control over their data and their relationship with brands (i.e. CDP). In order to fully realize this potential, Phunware is commercializing a truly decentralized data economy that requires both a persistent mobile-first connection to consumers (i.e. PhunWallet) and the infrastructure required to support an oracle network (i.e. Lyte by Phunware) capable of managing consent and delivering first-party data without the need for an intermediary.
What is your perspective on the crypto/blockchain market now and in the near term?
Crypto is a house of cards built on ego, fraud, confusion and immense promise. Just like the dot-com boom when wantrepreneurs either cashed out or flamed out, market corrections like what’s going on today are important because what emerges from them are companies like Google, Amazon and Phunware who are accountable to their shareholders and will usher in lasting change to realize crypto’s true potential. Right now, we’re seeing the early days of innovation where a lot of people are trying different things that are largely defined by smoke and mirrors, but as the dust settles on disappointments like Terra, the market will look for credibility and substance to cross the chasm towards mainstream adoption. The future of crypto rests with real companies solving real problems in the real world. In fact, I believe crypto’s best chance of seeing mainstream adoption beyond Bitcoin and Ethereum is via centralized companies commercializing decentralized ecosystems that have real world utility.
What is the greatest challenge the digital asset industry is facing?
We hold decentralization up as an ideal, but ideals often fail because the reality of executing them brings forth something else entirely. The digital asset industry has too many “projects” and not enough “companies” acting with a sense of urgency in an organized manner. Unfortunately, a lot of people have made a lot of quick money and I think that has created misaligned incentives. In addition, a lot of the digital assets being developed today have limited real world functionality. That’s why we think PhunToken and PhunCoin can help overcome these challenges.
With PhunToken, brands will be able to deploy a white-labeled loyalty and rewards ecosystem that leverages blockchain in order to engage with consumers and reward them for profitable behavior. Consumers are able to opt-in and engage with brands while maintaining full control over their digital identity and data. Consumers receive PhunToken in return for profitable behavior such as completing surveys, watching videos or checking into specific locations to participate in marketing campaigns. Brands can customize user interfaces to rebrand PhunToken within their existing mobile applications to avoid changing consumer behavior and maintain brand awareness. Brands also receive direct, real-time access to deterministic and intent-based data for their target consumers and can reward the right consumers for their engagement. Branded marketplaces will give consumers the ability to spend PhunToken on valuable goods, services and experiences. Consumers will be encouraged to hold PhunToken as brands unlock more valuable tiers of rewards for consumers with an auditable record of engaging in profitable behavior. As we deploy more functionality, this engagement will generate more and more data that will also be valuable and we intend to not only turn that data over to consumers, but also ensure they are compensated properly for it with PhunCoin. Along with PhunWallet and the capabilities we can leverage with Lyte, we hope to commercialize the world’s first truly decentralized data economy.
Which aspect of your company makes you passionate?
Our people first and foremost. Everyone likes to talk about great companies, but companies only achieve greatness because of the people who will greatness into being. The Phunware “Phamily” has been working together for a very long time. We are accountable not only to our shareholders, but also to each other and that’s what gets me up in the morning. I love working with the people I have the honor of working with and what they are building thrills me. We live in a very connected world, but we live disconnected from it. We are working to bridge that gap by developing the Internet of Experiences that will finally tech-enable real world experiences. We live in a mobile first world that is quickly becoming mobile only so our platform is uniquely suited to leverage all of the data in the virtual world to inform real world experiences. We are reimagining how brands engage consumers by turning mobile devices into mobile concierges that will spring into action based on who you are, what’s around you and what’s most important to you so every interaction is contextual and personalized.
What were your company’s biggest accomplishments in the last year?
I believe we are at an inflection point in Phunware’s history. We have not had the easiest time since going public to include not raising any capital upon listing, managing through the dilution of the warrants SPAC investors received before our merger and dealing with the pandemic. However, over the last year we saw 50% revenue growth into Q3 and over 150% growth into Q4 to close out 2021. We kept that momentum going this year achieving over 310% growth year-over-year in Q1 with $34 million on our balance sheet. I am also thrilled that despite the pandemic, we have deployed marquee examples of our platform across industries like healthcare for Virginia Hospital Center, workplace for Norfolk Southern and hospitality for Atlantis in The Bahamas. Last, but certainly not least, we became the first US-publicly traded company to launch digital assets like PhunToken and PhunCoin as we seek to give the market an example of what it looks like to deploy a blockchain-enabled ecosystem in a compliant-manner that has real world utility.
What do you find is the best way of communicating within your company?
Communication is not something we have a problem with. In fact, going into the pandemic we established a regular cadence of briefing the entire company on various business units on a regular cadence. Each week, the entire company gets to hear about what specific business units are working on but in parallel, we also have leader-led town halls and innovation sessions to explore a wide variety of topics.
What do you think is the biggest strength of PHUN right now? What does your company do well?
We have already established that our people are our biggest strength, so let’s just focus on what Phunware does well. It should come as no surprise that not all mobile software vendors are created equal. Our enterprise cloud platform was developed for scale and it has been deployed at the highest level of industry by some of the world’s most recognizable brands. Unlike custom development firms, enterprises that work with Phunware can license our mobile software the same way they might license a CRM or ERP. This allows our customers to not only standardize on our platform, but integrate any number of other 3rd party vendors. We don’t deploy mobile applications to replace them all, but rather to rule them all. For example, Norfolk Southern licensed our Smart Workplace Solution for their new headquarters in Atlanta, but we have integrated over 25 other vendors to support capabilities like room booking, access control, lighting, temperature and parking just to name a few.
However, one of our key competitive advantages is our patented Location Based Services (LBS) software and beacon management solution because you can’t properly engage what you can’t accurately locate. Our location software delivers proximity, sub one-second real-time blue dot indoor positioning, navigation and wayfinding functionality across any campus or facility while simplifying and streamlining the underlying beacon deployment and management for both the facility staff and administrators alike. Our location software is not only ADA compliant, addressing the needs of anyone who is visually impaired, hearing impaired or wheelchair bound, but also transitions seamlessly between indoor and outdoor environments. In fact, we can even help venues handle real-time emergency response scenarios on mobile by contacting and dynamically routing people to safety, while simultaneously guiding first responders to an identified threat or emergency.
Would you describe your vision of growth for your company both in the near term and long term?
We live in a world where everything you buy seems to be Amazon-enabled, but we envision a world where everything you experience is Phunware-enabled. We have the technology to turn every space into a smart space so the world can finally experience the kind of digital transformation that is on display in movies like Minority Report and Back to the Future.
We plan to grow both organically and inorganically through accretive acquisitions that are profitable. With regards to our organic growth, we expect to leverage strategic partnerships as well as indirect channels with a focus on hardware vendors, system integrators, software providers and carriers. We offer out-of-the-box optimizations by industry that have already been white-labeled by companies like HID and Cox Communications as well as the ability to integrate our capabilities into 3rd party applications like we did for Carrier (NYSE: CARR) when they licensed our location software for use inside of their BlueDiamond mobile application.
Thank you for your time Randall.
The Traders News Team
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