Paul Poutanen: Here, again, it is a geographical location game. Most of the remote-device-access services cover from one to six countries. It is incredibly difficult to try to replicate what is out there in the world without enormous cost. An SMS service provider has to purchase messages from different brokers in different countries. How many do you buy in each country? What if you buy too few in one and too many in another?
We have taken advantage of the natural ecosystem that exists out there, and we “rent” time on people’s devices. Mob4hire has over 57,000 people in our community in over 150 countries. If we tried to replicate that internally, it would be next to impossible.
Another bonus of using crowdsourced services is the human skill factor. Every device that is used for platform testing is controlled by a human. If something goes wrong, they can troubleshoot and bring their own devices back online. Since these are their own devices, they have a vested interest in the devices’ operating and being available for their own use, not just for platform testing. With other services, the devices are accessed remotely, so if something goes wrong, you have to wait for someone else to troubleshoot for you. Furthermore, since crowdsourced services have a lot of people involved, you can often quickly move to another device owned by another person if the one you were targeting is offline.
Jonathan Kohl: You’ve told me that there are brokers or middlemen who trade SMS messages in a type of commodities market. How does that work?
Paul Poutanen: Above, I described the relationships that providers go through by working with any combination of 1,000 aggregators worldwide. It sounded complex, right? When providers need to use SMS messages, they purchase them from these aggregators based on the number of messages they think they will need. It’s a complex system, and the prices to purchase messages can vary widely, depending on the level of service they promise, location, scarcity, etc. This system is simplified by using middlemen. Some people find price gaps for the same level of service in this market, so they buy up a group of messages from one provider for one price and sell it for a higher price to someone else who is willing to pay that price for the messages.
People have found creative ways to find margins in this exchange, just as they have for trading stocks, futures, or commodities like oil and pork bellies. Since the SMS market is international and complex, I’m not aware of any formal governance around this system. If you are a company depending on SMS in various companies, you may be getting different SMS products when you purchase the same package from a broker next time.
It’s a fascinating space with a lot of money and data involved, and I don’t think anyone knows exactly how it all works! This is just another example of the dynamic nature of this market, where testing can help businesses get more confidence in their SMS services.