Go2 Media Captures the Mobile Phone

by R.E.Curtice

Built exclusively for use on the mobile phone, go2 provides mobile users a network of customized, localized, easy to use sites. Millions of users each month visit go2 to find what they want, when they want it - from a movie listing or pizza parlor to a pet-friendly hotel or a nearby manicurist. They offer advertisers a quick way to market and are able to reduce costs and risks of development and distribution. Go2 Media is able to access all interfaces across virtually all wireless carriers and devices. There is no development resources required for companies. In searches that demand directions, they are able to bring to the fore their patented Integrated Local Search™ and location management system, including turn-by-turn directions and one touch calling and user's ability to automatically determine and use their location. They also can offer optimized image galleries. Lee Hancock is the founder and the moving force behind go2 Media. Lee impresses you immediately as a vital and brimming force with energy at every turn. We spoke to him at CES in Las Vegas where he filled us in on go2 Media.

Can you give us a bit of background on go2 Media?

We launched in '99 as world's first mobile website dedicated to global search and directions, after getting some top-notch geographers on board and a bunch of patents issued on a simple locater sytem. We were a mobile yellow pages for two or three years; we have now become a full media company. We have 350 different mobile websites; we have go2 movies, go2 shopping, go2 dining and just launched go 2 dogs and go2 pets. From the very beginning we believed in local, free to users - supported by advertisers - and we wanted to work with carriers. We get our distribution today through Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and others. So when you hit the mobile Internet on your Sprint phone and you look at Portals, you'll see go2. If you look under shopping, dining or entertainment or if you want to go to a movie, that's how we get our business.

How heavily are you used?

We have about two million users. We're ranked by Nielsen Mobile in the top twenty of all mobile websites according to traffic. The rest of those in the top twenty is a household name, Google, Yahoo, AOL, those guys. It has been interesting developing this company. At one point we had significant backing and strategic backing from the Amdocs, which is a very big billing and infrastructure company from Israel. Their customers are Sprint, SBC, very, very major companies, and they're very well known in the industry as a major technology company. So we built our business with the help of some very solid technology. We were too close to the Dot Com crash in 2000 and 2001, so we got caught in that. What happened was the business was struggling and I decided to buy it back. I bought the business back, since I had money from being a lawyer for many years and I started a business contacting up office buildings with high speed Internet access. I kept the business alive and crossed that proverbial chasm of mass-market adoption. And we're in a great spot now; the business is profitable.

We believe in menus which our team, of about thirty people, work on. We really like simplicity. Say you want a bookstore near a good restaurant. We'll come in and give you that, saying here it is and nearby is the restaurant. If you want directions it will give you directions. We deliver a lot and in the course of this we have learned what people want, how to simplify it for ease of use. It's free because there are ads placed throughout the screens. We make our money from paid searches, sponsorships - Purina is a big sponsor of our pets area.

What do you think the future looks like for you?

What we have done is pretty good. We had fifteen people and no funding fifteen months ago. Now we have launched an auto-locate feature with AT&T in May of 2002. It was very popular and they were the only ones who had location at the time. For whatever reason they didn't stay with it, and when AT&T merged with Singular they ceased supporting it. Now the last of the Big Three has built-in location.

You obviously have to consider carriers, what is your take on them?

I like working with the Carriers. They have a difficult job in that they have to allow freedom and allow users to move throughout the Internet, but they have to protect their user base. I don't just mean to make money off them, but if my daughter gets on the phone and goes to a site I don't want her to go to, I'm mad a Sprint. On the other hand if I pick up the phone and can't get to a site I want to go to, I'm also mad at Sprint too. I think they're challenged today because the models are difficult. And the competition is fierce! It is also hard to differentiate their products sometimes. There are a lot of alternatives, like WiFi phones, and Skype and everything else. I believe that the carriers for the most part have the best interests of their users at heart.

In conclusion we might not be one of the most used services, but we are the most valuable. We're typically used only a couple of times a month, but we are going to expand that by increasing the content. When they use us the have a need, and we meet that need. About every fourth comment we get - and very rarely do people complain - is people saying they like our service and they say, "Thank you." One I remember was someone was three short on a boutonnières for a wedding and we found a florist shop nearby for them. They said thank you several times.||