A Startup Among Giants at Mobile World Congress 2015

Another year, another Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. Since 2009, this event has risen to become the world’s largest annual gathering of mobile and related industry C-Level executives. If anything is happening in mobile, it can be found at MWC.

When we in the startup ecosystem think ‘mobile,’ we often think of Apple, Android, Uber, SnapChat, WhatsApp, or Foursquare. But as anyone attending MWC—or anyone working in the mobile space for that matter—will attest, the mobile industry is just so much bigger than that. It’s huge. And we digital/internet/app startups are indeed standing on the shoulders of giants.

Apart from the usual suspects—Microsoft, Sony, Samsung, Intel, Vodafone—new giants, such as Huawei, were making a splash at MWC; car companies like Ford were showing off innovative connected car concepts; and enterprise-focused AirWatch (by VMWare) hosted its own satellite conference within its massive exhibition area.

A Startup Among Giants at Mobile World Congress 2015

MWC is where all the established and rising ‘big’ names want to put on a good show and leave their mark on the mobile industry. Surprisingly (or maybe not?), Apple was not present.

Besides the giants, other lesser-known yet crucial-to-the-industry companies from all over the world were present, including cell-tower testing equipment manufacturers, consultants, and specialist software vendors. Just another example of how much more there is to the mobile industry than first meets the eye.

And of course, there are startups, too. Though they are just the tip of the iceberg. Personally, I don’t think MWC is the right place for small startups to exhibit. First of all, there’s the cost. Secondly, it is nearly impossible to garner any real attention. People attend MWC to hear what the big guys are doing next, and there’s just no way to compete for attention share given the resources these giants have at their disposal.

A Startup Among Giants at Mobile World Congress 2015

But as an attendee, there is probably no better way to directly access, listen to, or meet all of the relevant industry players.

The mass of decision makers and accessibility to companies is almost overwhelming. For me, as co-founder and CEO of a startup in the mobile space, MWC was a highly concentrated opportunity to get to know what the major players in our industry are up to, as well as what customers, analysts, and product managers are collectively thinking about the future.

I’ve certainly drawn my conclusions as to where the puck in mobile will move next, and so can you. See you at MWC next year?

Anthony Hsiao is co-founder and CEO of Productive Mobile, an enterprise mobility startup creating technology for enterprises to rapidly bring their IT systems to mobile at scale.