Interview with COO, Phunware – Randall Crowder




“Data is the lifeblood of artificial intelligence.”

1. Tell us a little bit about your role and how you got here?
I am the Chief Operating Officer of Phunware, but I have actually been a part of Phunware’s story from the very beginning. I was running the Central Texas Angel Network, one of the most active angel networks in the country, when Alan Knitowski moved to Austin. As a successful serial entrepreneur, Alan was preparing to enter the next phase of his life as an investor to help mentor the next generation. During our first meeting, I respectfully informed Alan he would likely never become a full-time investor. You see, some people are just destined to start and grow companies; Alan is one of those people. Several weeks later, Alan approached me with the idea for Phunware and I helped him raise the first $1.5M to launch Phunware over ten years ago. I also invested millions of dollars into Phunware’s last private round before going public because I believe in Alan’s vision and Phunware’s ability to realize it. I always knew it would take a very special company for me to give up venture capital and go all-in. Phunware is that special company.

2. Given the massive proliferation of Information and software technology, how do you see the IT market evolving over the next few years?
The proliferation of Information and software technology will finally make digital transformation a reality. All brands know they need to better engage consumers, but the key to engagement is personalization … getting the right content to the right consumer at the right time in the right place. For the past 10 years, we’ve seen platforms go all-in on scale, but does it really matter if Google can return thousands of pages of search results? Consumers want the answer they are looking for on page one and preferably in the first several results. Brands are beginning to understand the importance of leveraging things like machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to better curate big data so it can be actionable data. They are also beginning to understand the importance of authenticity when it comes to engagement. Technology will play a pivotal role in building authenticity by curating and leveraging data responsibly.

3. What do you see as the single most important technology trend or development that’s going to impact us?
Decentralization is possibly one of the most important innovations to impact the global economy since the Medici commercialized double-entry accounting. The proliferation of mobile devices, coupled with the rise of blockchain as well as technologies like graph databases and AI, has laid the foundation for the decentralization. By distributing control, industries can minimize the impact that any one central authority can have an ecosystem. At Phunware (NASDAQ: PHUN), we are working to decentralize data so we can empower consumers.

4. How has the introduction of smartphones helped in optimization and growth of information technology?
A key Phunware (NASDAQ: PHUN) goal over the past 10 years has been to create a Phunware ID for every mobile device that touches a network and so far, we have generated approximately 2.5B Phunware IDs. IHS Markit estimates there to be 6B smartphones by 2020, so we are well on our way1. Smartphones have become a hub for not only entertainment and communication, but also finance as global consumer spending on mobile apps is set to reach $74B by 2020. Given its use across industries, smartphones have become a data collection engine by default. At Phunware (NASDAQ: PHUN), our Knowledge Graph curates disparate datasets and is growing at 5TB every day because our smartphones are always on us and they are an incredible source of data. We are able to curate this data in order to optimize how brands build audiences (i.e. identifying the right consumer) as well as how brands engage their customers on mobile (i.e. delivering the right message at the right time in the right place).

5. Why do you think mobile experience is gaining lot of attention of organizations?
Its omnipresence in our daily lives makes the smartphone the ideal platform for brands to engage consumers. However, it’s critical for brands to leverage mobile leaders like Phunware (NASDAQ: PHUN) to better understand the how and when of engagement on a mobile device because everyone is competing for the same mindshare. We have entered a mobile-first world that is quickly becoming a mobile-only world and brands are struggling to keep up with the adoption rate of new technology.

6. How do you differentiate your platform from other such platforms in the market?
No other platform offers a fully integrated cloud platform for mobile that can deliver all of the features and capabilities that we do. Our closest “competitor” is when a brand tries to integrate numerous “point solutions” that inevitably fail to work well together because they were never developed to work well together. We have built our platform to work seamlessly out-of-the-box and with Phunware (NASDAQ: PHUN), you only have to deal with one vendor relationship and we have a proven track record over the course of 10 years as a leader in mobile technology.

7. What’s the biggest challenge that you in your organizational role need to tackle to make any strategic decisions work?
The biggest challenge I face is educating the market. When Phunware (NASDAQ: PHUN) was founded 10 years ago, executives at large brands were just wrapping their heads around the web when mobile emerged as what would become the most valuable engagement platform on the planet. Fast forward to today and executives understand that mobile has to be a part of their strategy, but now they are wrestling with the idea of digital transformation. Digital transformation in a mobile-first world is the future and Phunware (NASDAQ: PHUN) is a leading provider of the mobile solutions that make it possible, but executives at large brands are struggling with how to integrate new technologies into old strategies. Phunware must continue educating the market about how new technologies such as our Knowledge Graph, location based services and blockchain-enabled solutions can really drive engagement and ultimately increase profitability. Fortunately, we have a proven track record of helping brands make this transition.

8. How do you prepare for an AI-centric World?
We are preparing for an AI-centric World by building the systems required to collect and curate data and that’s why we’ve made such an investment in our Knowledge Graph.

Data is the lifeblood of artificial intelligence.

However, as personalization and 1:1 interactions became critical to authentic engagement, this data needs to be collected from the source to ensure a higher degree of validity. That’s why Phunware (NASDAQ: PHUN) has launched its blockchain-enabled data exchange and mobile loyalty ecosystem which decentralizes data. By empowering consumers to manage their own digital identity, we ensure that we get better data which can drive better assumptions and/or decisions by any AI engine.

9. What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
Delegation. At Phunware (NASDAQ: PHUN), we hire only the most talented and driven people. Entrepreneurs have the tendency to try to do everything themselves, but this is counter-productive when you’re trying to build a company that is built to last. To truly be productive, you must set a clear strategy and then give your team the flexibility to employ the tactics they deem appropriate. Unproductive people try to do too much themselves and people who try to do too much themselves are just admitting they didn’t hire the right people in the first place.

10. How do you prepare for a cognitive world as a leader?
Preparing for a cognitive world is something Phunware (NASDAQ: PHUN) has excelled at. We invested heavily in native mobile apps when less than 5% of internet content was consumed on mobile. We invested heavily in location based services before IoT was a buzzword because we understand the importance of locating a mobile device in time and space. As a cognitive world transitions from the Hollywood movie screen to our daily lives, it’s important to not lose sight of the user journey as we search for the next great tech innovation. As a leader in a cognitive world, I am thinking about how technology will serve us, not the other way around. I routinely bring our smartest minds together to explore futurism, transhumanism and AI so we can evolve our platform to meet the growing demands of consumers in a mobile-first world. Over the past 10 years, the availability of data has grown exponentially but over the next 10 years, we must figure out how to harness this data to serve mankind. This has already begun with smartphones, but we are already seeing an expansion onto other platforms like wearables and smart speakers. Anything and everything we could possibly want to know is quickly becoming available for us, but in a cognitive world, this vital resource must seamlessly interact with us during the course of our daily lives. That’s why our Knowledge Graph is so powerful. It’s a dynamic data engine that is evolving with every data point it collects and we’re using this data to inform real-world interactions.

11. What is the core software technology capability of your firm that you bring to people? Where does your product fit in vis-a-vis the customer life cycle?
Phunware (NASDAQ: PHUN) has spent the last ten years and well over $100M building a fully-integrated cloud platform for mobile to address the entire customer life cycle by intimately understanding the mobile application lifecycle. We have technology that can help a brand drive engagement from awareness to interest to desire to action to loyalty to advocacy and even help leverage advocacy to go full circle and drive renewed awareness. This is our best competitive advantage: we are not a point solution. We are an end-to-end solution because point solutions in mobile will fail when you need them the most.

12. Are there any new features or upcoming upgrades that you’re excited about and would like to give us a sneak peek into?
Our most exciting and recent upgrade to our fully-integrated cloud platform mobile is the introduction of our blockchain-enabled data exchange and mobile loyalty ecosystem which are supported by a dual token structure. We recently launched PhunCoin as a security token to harness the power and value of data, while Phun is an innovative new utility token that allows brands to unlock the features and capabilities of our platform in order to drive profitable behavior. International consumers can buy Phun today by going to

13. What is your take on the massive explosion of IT across so many categories? Do you see competition, opportunities to partner and/or integrate?
The massive explosion of IT across so many categories is a bit of a Catch-22. It’s great to see the proliferation of IT, but not all IT companies and products are created equal. We see a lot of businesses popping up that claim to be able to deliver mobile solutions such as application development or location based services, but when you dig a little deeper you realize they don’t have the technology or the experience to deliver at scale. On multiple occasions, we have had to “fix” the work of “competitors” who made promises they couldn’t deliver on just to win business. It’s imperative that brands not just focus on cost, but rather focus on vendors that have a track record of success. To that end, we are excited to partner with other credible industry players such as carriers, system integrators and hardware/software vendors who often look to Phunware (NASDAQ: PHUN) to provide the use cases for their own offerings. Whether it’s the Phunware-enabled Shopper Experience, the Phunware-enabled Patient Experience or the Phunware-enabled Guest Experience, we have likely deployed a solution that has enhanced the user journey both online and in the real world.

14. Could you share for our readers, an infographic or description depicting your technology stack?
A summary of our technology along with the features and capabilities our platform enables can be found by going to:

15. Can you share a screenshot of the homepage of your smartphone? It would be interesting to see some of the apps you personally use on a daily basis to get things done and stay on top of your day?

Randall is currently the Chief Operating Officer of Phunware, a technology company in Austin, TX developing mobile and data solutions for major brands and launching a unique cryptocurrency called PhunCoin. Prior to Phunware, Randall led over 40 angel investments and deployed over $60M across 14 companies as a venture capitalist. Randall is a co-founder and Managing Partner at TEXO Ventures where he focused on tech-enabled health services and he is the sole founder and Managing Partner at Novē Ventures where he focuses on companies leveraging blockchain technology.
Randall also founded and launched Texas Venture Labs (TVL) at UT in order to give the next generation of investors unique experiential learning opportunities outside of the classroom. Before getting involved in venture and entrepreneurship, Randall was a Captain in the United States Army and is both Airborne and Ranger qualified. He served over six years’ active duty and deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom where he was awarded two Bronze Stars for his actions during combat operations.

Phunware Inc. is the pioneer of Multiscreen-as-a-Service (MaaS), a fully integrated enterprise cloud platform for mobile that provides companies the products, solutions, data and services necessary to engage, manage, and monetize their mobile application portfolios and audiences globally at scale. Phunware helps the world’s most respected brands create category-defining mobile experiences, with more than one billion active devices touching its platform each month.

Link to "Phunware"

Previous ArticleNext Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *