Built In Bellingham: WompMobile Converts Your Website For Smartphones
Madison Miner first entered the online mobile scene as many great startups do; by making life a little more convenient. He and his snow-happy roommates wanted to know the weather conditions at Mt. Baker before deciding to get out of bed, and as a budding internet entrepreneur would do, he kicked his development chops into gear – building a web application that would text the snow report from Mt. Baker to local skiers and snowboarders. Developed in a time before smartphones, the app quickly gained popularity, and Miner soon found himself expanding the service to other mountains, eventually adapting the core program for the larger web.
Under the name Womple, Miner’s original app became an iGoogle gadget, allowing it to take (“scrape”) the core content from any website and optimize it for mobile platforms. Although the gadget was hugely popular, Miner found it difficult to monetize in the first half of the 2000s. The market for mobile websites hadn’t developed yet, and consumers weren’t willing to pay for the standalone app.
The launch of the iPhone in 2007 changed everything for Miner. Suddenly the app market was exploding, and businesses all over the country were looking to go mobile. Miner discovered that companies were finally willing to pay to have their websites optimized for mobile platforms, so in 2010, he took his expertise and the Womple name into business developing mobile websites.
Ups and Downs
Womple was able to capitalize on Bellingham’s emerging identity as a great place for startups: the company was the first be accepted into the Bellingham Innovation Group’s Big Idea Lab. Through the Big Idea Lab, the company was able to connect with angel investors and receive advice from local business experts. The program led Miner to focus purely on mobile website development, and he also chose to patent the software at that time.
But as with any successful startup, the road ahead was not without its bumps. Womple’s early success led to a 2012 article in GeekWire magazine, which brought exposure that had unintended consequences for the company. A UK firm called Wapple, which had recently defeated Apple in a court battle over a trademark dispute, contacted Miner and informed him that he had to change his company’s name. Miner consulted a few lawyers, who told him that the strength of Wapple’s case – combined with their substantial financial resources – virtually guaranteed them victory in court. Choosing not to waste his own time or money, Miner relented and changed the company’s name to Womp Mobile.
A Commitment to Quality
Womp Mobile operates under the philosophy that optimizing a customer’s site for mobile should bring the highest possible return on investment. According to Miner, that mentality is what sets them apart from their competitors. Other mobile conversion companies will often create separate websites for their customers, using the “m.” url structure, and place ads on the new website without consulting the client.
“There’s just a ton of problems with m. sites,” says Miner, when asked about his competition. “Everyone we work with is familiar with them – some of our clients have worked with them – but it’s not really a business solution.”
Miner’s platform is Java-adaptive, allowing it to complete a full conversion of the desktop site to a mobile site. The system allows clients to send their customers separate content specifically tailored to mobile devices, as well as carry over website cookies and provide e-commerce functionality on the mobile site – features that “m.” sites aren’t secure enough to provide. Most of Womp Mobile’s clients have explored their options, and chose Miner’s services because of the extra functionality.
“You don’t want your that first experience of your company to be some low-quality site you’re redirected to which isn’t your real domain,” he explains. Womp’s service, says Miner, is “a little bit more expensive, but a lot higher quality.”
Best In The Business
Womp Mobile’s drive to provide quality services to their clientele has gained the company plenty of support among their customers. In the early days, Miner worked with numerous local businesses, developing mobile sites for the Dirty Dan Harris Steakhouse, Kulshan Brewing, and the Community Food Co-op. As word spread, primarily through word of mouth and online advertising, bigger names came knocking as well. Some of Womp Mobile’s largest clients to date include Jones Soda and the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE).
Perhaps the best rating of Womp Mobile’s quality is their client retention rate, which Miner puts at almost 100 percent. The small portion of clients who don’t choose to keep contracting with the company usually do so because they no longer have the financial resources to maintain the mobile site. That level of customer satisfaction is a testament to the quality of work that Miner’s staff put in.
“I firmly believe it is the best, the smartest way to mobilize the website,” he says about the platform, “there’s no downside.”
An Emphasis On Engagement
When I asked Miner about the perks of being a Womp Mobile employee, he smiled.
“We have a company bike, which everyone shares.”
That statement is indicative of the kind of working environment Womp Mobile employees enjoy. Several workstations use standing desks, and each employee takes a leg on the company Ski-to-Sea team, which is car-free, meaning the team bikes up to Baker for the start of the race. Miner also does his best to make sure the company stays green, and allows employees to make their own hours.
The company is also looking to engage with people outside the local community. Miner, whose background is in software engineering and web development, explains that his largest challenge has always been marketing. He had the skills to create an excellent platform for his business, but lacked the expertise to sell it.
With that issue in mind, Miner has brought on several employees with expertise and training in international business, sales, and marketing. Although the company still relies primarily on referrals and online ads to draw in customers, their market has expanded across the globe.
Most of Womp Mobile’s business these days come from clients based outside of Washington, including international clientele from the U.K., Australia, and Canada.
Looking Toward The Future
2013 saw online sales on mobile devices surpass those on PCs for the first time, and the popularity of mobile devices doesn’t seem to be slowing down. As long as consumers continue to favor their phones and tablets over other devices, the company will continue optimizing websites for those platforms. If consumer sentiment does eventually shift towards other devices, though, such as TVs, Google Glass, or smart watches, Miner plans to be ready.
“There’s a lot of different directions we could go,” he says, “The technology we have is adaptable to a lot of different possible screen sizes.”
In the meantime, Womp Mobile will keep growing. Six out the last ten months have seen record-breaking business for the company, and the market doesn’t appear to be shrinking. As long as companies have a need for quality mobile sites, the company should do well.
If you happen to be a business owner who is looking for help optimizing your website for mobile devices, get in touch with Womp Mobile. You can check out their services, pricing, and testimonials on their website, or give them a call at (360)-329-2653 to learn more.