Dot-com veterans start mobile software venture

With more than 100 years of business experience with clients such as Microsoft, Warner Brothers, Apple and Coca-Cola between them, the four partners at Three Point Ventures believe Chattanooga is the right place at the right time for their mobile software company to hit the ground running, according to partner Todd Bickerstaff.

Self-described "serial entrepreneur" Bo Ferger wants to make Chattanooga the center of the company's plan to develop and nurture mobile applications for the enterprise and business world.

"We are really leveraging the strengths of what each one of us brings to the table as a partner to help young businesses get themselves off the ground, and we happen to be very focused on the mobile space," said Mr. Ferger, senior partner at what he describes as a hybrid between an early-stage incubator and a traditional venture capital firm. "We believe that mobile technology is on the beginning of a curve here, it's an opportunity for us, and it's an opportunity for Chattanooga."

Mr. Ferger's partners Todd Bickerstaff, Jeff Cole and Doug Johnson bring to the table over 20 years each of investment, marketing, and engineering experience, respectively.

"We bring some serious, deep expertise, but we also intend to put a decent amount of capitol into an early opportunity, to get them in the place where all of the normal things that a venture capitalist would want to see have been done," Mr. Ferger.

Connecting entrepreneurs with investors is nothing new for Mr. Bickerstaff, who earned his stripes in Silicon Valley during the dot-com boom.

"This is not an intuitive feeling we get. We all have a lot of knowledge about specific people all over the country and frankly the world, and we can really pull a diversity of opportunities," said Mr. Bickerstaff.

Marketing guru Mr. Cole points to the exponential growth of the Apple Application Store as an indication of the mobile software industry's health.

"What's interesting is that the revised statistics for applications downloaded as of this month, the figure is 3 billion. It took 18 months to reach a billion downloads, and six more months to reach 3 billion. That's a hockey stick," said Mr. Cole. "These statistics have revised on an upward scale more than anything I've ever seen."

While the most popular applications are games and utilities, there have been only a few business or enterprise applications, according to Mr. Cole, where he sees opportunity.

"The projection originally was that at 2013, there was gong to be $1.3 to $1.6 billion spent in that space. Yesterday, Juniper research projected that figure should be revised, and that it was going to be $6 billion by 2014," said Mr. Cole.

What fascinates partner and technical architect Mr. Johnson is how quickly developers can get mobile applications out the door compared with typical enterprise applications.

"Typically in the enterprise space, you'll take many months to many years to develop a piece of corporate functionality, but the mobile market is very unique because you can develop small bits, they're not trying to boil the ocean," said Mr. Johnson. "The real opportunity I see is in getting more of those things to mesh together, trying to build those things to work together, to interface to each other and company databases."

Success for the company will lie in identifying promising products, and combining capital assets with the four partners' business experience to push a product to profitability, said Mr. Ferger.

"We have to ask ourselves, does a mobile solution solve a problem for one company, or for thousands of companies?," he asked. "If we're going to put money into these opportunities, we're only doing it because we want it to be successful. We're betting on the idea, and we're betting on ourselves."

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