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Lookout Blazes Trail to Carrier Success

Sarah Thomas

3:10 PM -- SAN DIEGO -- Uplinq -- If you're a developer that wants to strike a deal with the wireless operators, heading to their innovation centers might not be the best route.

Lookout Co-Founder and CEO John Hering simply built a mobile app that consumers loved and then the wireless operators flocked to him.

OK, it might not have been that simple, but it did happen pretty quickly. Hering started working on the mobile security app in 2003, but didn't launch the product until 2009. Since then, it's become one of the fastest growing Android mobile apps, right up there with Angry Birds and Skype. (See Combating the Mobile Crime Wave.)

Lookout is also pre-loaded on hundreds of millions of devices from Verizon Wireless , Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), T-Mobile US Inc. , Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) and Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS). (See Sprint Offers Mobile Security Protection App.)

"A few years ago no one wanted to talk to us," Hering said in his Uplinq keynote address Thursday. "Now operators are coming to us."

Hering didn't go to any of these operators' innovation centers nor did he stay couped up in his garage working. The key to his success was, first, talking to consumers and solving a simple problem with their needs in mind; then, thinking hard about design; and, only then, thinking about the technology to enable it.

"Technology is incredibly important, but at the end of the day to most users, technology is magic," he said. "It's our job to abstract that, put it under the hood and do creative things to make it work for them."

Innovation centers may be a route that ends up working for a lot of developers, but I thought Hering's message was a good one that reflects the mindset of a lot of successful software companies (and perhaps represents one that wireless operators still struggle with): it's all about the end user. Technology, networks and business deals are secondary. (See AT&T Defends Carrier Incubators.)

And, if you build an app with that approach, both consumers and wireless operators may follow anyway.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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