11/30/2011 06:16 pm ET | Updated Jan 30, 2012

High-Tech Startup Focus: Mozes


When a startup raises $20 million in three rounds, you know one thing: they're in a hot vertical market.

Hot markets currently include anything Cloud; Security; Digital Marketing/Media/Advertising and Mobile Marketing. It is in this final sector that Mozes operates.

Dorrian Porter is a former lawyer at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (the biggest Silicon Valley law firm) who was no newcomer to starting companies. HigherMarkets was an educational software company he founded in 2000 and then sold in 2002. Lessons learned? "Getting the business model better all the time, continuous improvement," Porter said.

A Canadian, Porter received both an MBA and law degree from the University of Toronto. He raised his first $5 million tranche in December 2006 and then started Mozes.

As Mozes' founder and CEO, Porter said he had two choices for business models on which to build Mozes, "First, I could've built a company and then gone out looking for investors," he told me, "or, I could've found investors, then built a company."

Porter opted for the latter strategy: finding the investors first, then building the company with them. "My view with Mozes: I'm going to go out and find investors then, build a business," Porter recalled, smiling.

This seems very clever for two reasons; first and foremost, it differentiates the business because it's not out looking for money after making critical decisions. Secondly, the investors can bring crucial wisdom to the startup before it's locked into a business model or key strategy.

With VC patrons such as North Bridge Venture Partners, Norwest Venture Partners and Maveron, Starbucks' 'builder' Howard Schultz's investment firm, Mozes has some heft in its backers.

At Mozes, Porter says, "what we do is unique and innovative; we use the mobile phone as a highly-interactive platform. We're very evangelical in what we do, which is building out mobile engagement programs for customers like Sprint, Coca-Cola, Jim Beam, Virgin Mobile, Ford and others, super-charging their marketing. We look for ways to 'connect at the point of inspiration.'"

Stunningly, a recent Morgan Stanley survey said 91 percent of Americans have their cell phone within reach 24/7. So Mozes' concentration on this omnipresent device seems like a good move, but Mozes wants to get us not when we're sleeping but when we have our phones in hand and are out doing something related to their brand clients

Mozes seeks 'experiential events' such as concerts or big sporting events and turns them into consumer conversations with big brands. "You know," said Porter, "places where we're all together and all with our phones."

Then, through a "call to action," Mozes tries to accomplish two things for their brand client: add more customers and do more for customers than their client already has.

Whether Mozes is producing exclusive music or events for Jim Beam customers; creating "experiential brand programs" for Coke; helping Warner Brothers Records text-message-offer fans a professionally mixed CD of the Linkin Park concert they just heard; or giving Rock The Vote a platform to reach kids, again on their phones; Mozes is firing on all digital marketing cylinders.

This is what Porter refers to as "the blended approach" that was forestalled by the big brands rush to creating mobile applications around 2009. Porter says the apps may have disappointed the brands' need for a strong ROI. The "blended approach" mixes traditional mobile advertising with mobile app creation and interactivity such as American Idol cell phone or text voting. This blend of three, Porter says is a "much more refined and targeted approach to mobile marketing."

"When you think about the mobile phone as a direct communications device, there's this kind of huge, untapped and growing opportunity to use it as a vehicle for a one-to-one connection to the consumer."

"We use the direct-sales, licensing and services model," said Porter, "mobile has always been thought of as a new channel. The question we help our customers answer is, 'How does mobile change my brand's perception in the world.'"

And the way Mozes changes a brand's perception is by engaging their customers with mostly text messages incorporated into a special event or happening. "All brands recognize," Mozes' CEO observed, "that the earlier you catch a customer, the better. And texting still outperforms smart phones."

"The area I think we can win," summarized Porter, "is 'the point of inspiration marketing.'" As if to verify that belief, Mozes recently announced it had crossed over 12 million unique consumer cell phone numbers.