When Mark Jones founded London firm Giant iTab, in 2009, the smartphone revolution was truly underway. Apple’s iPhone 3GS was flying off shelves and RIM’s BlackBerry Storm was trying – vainly – to hold onto Steve Jobs and co’s coattails.
Jones, a veteran of the tech and marketing industries, saw a chance to create engagement via the creation of large-scale smartphones for events. Jones had years of experience managing high-production events, be it with screens, staging, near-field communication or mobile ticketing. He judges the UK’s Digital Experience Awards and has a “love” for mobile communication.
It was a perfect step forward. Today Giant iTab has a significant presence around the world, at trade fairs and store floors. Companies in over a dozen sectors buy or rent its 27-, 42- and 55-inch smartphones, and they have even starred on the BBC’s The One Show and Dragon’s Den (the UK’s version of Shark Tank), two of the country’s highest-rated television programs.
Giant iTab’s devices can run iOS and Android, and include most of the features expected of a cutting-edge handset. But, Jones tells Red Herring, “the technology side was the easy bit. Creating a Giant iTab is so much more than just making everything 20 times bigger, but we had the globally leading expertise and experience to make this happen.”
The real challenge, he adds, was finding a route to market, setting up sales teams, and creating, “in essence, an entire new sector of the industry.”
It has been a steep learning curve. Jones and his staff first imagined their products at events and exhibitions. But very soon interest came from conferences, live event experiences and retail. “After that it merged into gamification at brand activations and experiential events,” he says. “All the time the market has led us, as much as we have led it.”
Giant iTab has faced no licensing issues from smartphone manufacturers – if anything they enjoy the added exposure – and Jones claims that his firm encourages more people to engage with mobile technology. Giant iTab has won a huge number of clients from industries including app dev, education, fashion, government and healthcare. But the biggest growth area is retail, and, adds Jones, Giant iTab has won several key successes in the fintech space.
“More and more retails outlets are going on line and they are encouraging customers that come into their stores to use these internet and mobile based services,” he says. “To do this they need to educate their consumers on apps, and this is where we come in. This is a global trend and one that we’re keeping an eye on, it has the potential to open up an entire new market place for us.”
Keeping up with smartphone technology, and satisfying the ever-evolving needs of consumers, is a big technical challenge. It is also Jones’ biggest pleasure at Giant iTab. “We have to keep up with this speed, as the product’s value is in its ability to replicate consumer experience on a larger scale,” he says.
From there Giant iTab’s biggest challenge is international scale. Retail is a $27 trillion global market alone: connecting the sales dots from New York to New Delhi is something that requires a strong network and sales team (the firm currently ships out of Europe, the US, Middle East, Asia and Australasia).
With that in mind, Jones can concentrate on what he loves best: creating engagement via interaction with his devices. It is, he claims, his passion: “I do have a life outside of Giant iTab, but I love what I do. It’s always changing, always interesting and there is so much cool stuff out there being created by very clever people.
“What’s not to like?”