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Monitise: The story of a UK mid-market champion

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A seat at the table

Lukies” vision for Monitise is to be a small but crucial player in a huge global market rather than a giant in its own right. In business everyone looks for this silver bullet. They say: “I want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. But for every Facebook there are thousands of successful companies that grow in a linear fashion rather than with this big spike,” he says. I much prefer being Visa’s mobile partner, getting a small share on the 2.63tn transactions it performs every year, to trying to build this business organically from the ground up.

This approach seems to be working well: the company, which has also set up offices in Cardiff, California and Hong Kong, is set to turn over ?70m in 2012-13. Lukies, 39, says the firm has doubled its income every year since 2009. The fact that the business remains loss-making a move into profitability is forecast for the first quarter of 2014 is not a huge source of concern.

“I thought [Amazon’s founder] Jeff Bezos summed it up well in the early 2000s when people were saying to him: “You?re losing a billion dollars a year; you’re never going to make any profit. His response was: “I?m very happy to be misunderstood. I know what I?m doing. I?m building a big infrastructure, I?m getting more and more products into my platform and one day I?m going to have such a cemented relationship with consumers that I?m going to get huge leverage. We re a very similar company in that respect,” Lukies says. We have stuck to our global vision. We ve said that we ll become the partner of all the great players in our space and we ll have an important seat at the table as this industry expands.

A key factor behind the success of Monitise’s partnerships and joint ventures has been the company’s down-to-earth approach to them, according to Lukies. A lot of it is about humility. We re very aware of what we re good at and what we re not. If you get joint ventures between two very big organisations, it’s all about ego: they start by saying the deal is going to be a wonderful partnership, of course, but then their middle management groups get in a room and start arguing about whose brand is better,” he says. If you were to speak to any of our partners, on the other hand, they would say that we bring the passion and the intellectual property, but also that we re respectful of the fact that they are the experts in their local markets.

When it comes to dealing with much larger companies, Lukies says that he tries to identify and do business with individuals whom he calls intrepreneurs?. He explains: “These are the people in big companies who refuse to let the organisational structure constrain their thinking. They make things happen and drive decisions rather than letting the inertia of a large company grind them into the floor. Once I have identified these individuals, the idea is to make them feel heroic as though mobile money is their idea, not ours and that we just happen to be the people who can make it happen.

The likes of Visa, for example, rarely talk about Monitise, Lukies says. Instead, they talk about their own mobile money strategy. If someone asks them: ?Who helps you with that?” they say: ?We have got this great partner called Monitise.  

In this respect, he says, the firm is similar to the successful chip designer ARM Holdings. Few people know ARM, but it drives 99.9 per cent of phones in the world. That’s very similar to our strategy.

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