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Jeff Corbin is the co-founder of theIRapp (www.theIRapp.com). He has more than 15 years of investor relations consulting experience including development of financial communications programs for the American Stock Exchange and hundreds of companies listed on the NYSE and NASDAQ.
This year he launched theIRapp, which has rapidly become the leading investor relations app building solution – the only investor relations app builder that allows publicly traded companies to optimize their IR content for iPhone, iPad and Android mobile devices, and with features that engage shareholders and attract potential investors.
MO: How did you come up with the idea for theIRapp?
Jeff: There’s no doubt that apps and mobile devices are changing the way we gather and react to information. Working closely with communications strategies for companies’ Investor Relations program, I could see a clear and obvious void in companies not leveraging this evolving form of communications. It’s easy to tell a company – which is already juggling a host of concerns that come with communicating with investors – that they need an app; the hard part is getting them to want to spend the time thinking about it, involving their IT department or paying a developer what could cost tens of thousands of dollars. So the idea behind theIRapp was to give public companies a solution to build an IR app from the ground up with a simple, cost-efficient tool that lets companies of all sizes to have a presence on all app platforms. The idea was based in the numbers: nearly 116 million Americans will use a smartphone by the end of this year and by 2016, nearly three out of every five consumers will have a smartphone. With corporate performance front and center of everyone’s attention, the idea was rooted in the fact that companies needed to get their information to investors wherever the investor may be.
MO: What were some of the challenges you encountered when developing the app and how did you overcome them?
Jeff: Apps have made tremendous impressions on all aspects of society – from games to maps to media. It’s not too big of a challenge anymore to explain that apps are here and will be for a very long time. And the challenge wasn’t assembling a team of app developers to build a tool that lets companies build their app. The challenge was creating a new category of IR communications and explaining to companies that for the first time there is a resource that lets them get skin in the game. Although we are working with impressive consumer and business brands using theIRapp to make their app, the challenge continues to lie in explaining to companies that IR apps are a necessary part of their communications.
The next challenge involved was using our crystal ball to make an educated prediction: apps are nice today to attract new investors and engage with current investors, however, several technologies one deemed “nice” today are “necessary.” Such as the investor relations website – that’s now a requirement for companies, and we predict that in the not to distant future, publicly traded companies are going to be required, even if that requirement is to follow the pack and have a mobile strategy.
MO: Can you talk about some of the ways that theIRapp takes mobile investor relations to a completely new level? What are some of the features that engage shareholders and attract potential investors?
Jeff: The vast majority of public companies presently only deliver their critical IR information to investors on mobile devices by requiring them to open a browser and go to the companies’ investor section of their corporate website. As anyone who as ever tried to use a website that is not optimized for mobile can attest, this can be an incredibly frustrating and time intensive experience. theIRapp changes this. Now with the single touch of an app button, anyone who is interested in a company can access up-to-the-minute content in a format that is native to their Android or iOS device. An app builds in a host of functions that simply visiting a website cannot deliver, such as push notifications when there is new content. In addition, our app allows for the posting of any corporate document (e.g. presentations, fact sheets, marketing collateral, etc.) or multi-media (for example, audiocast conference calls, corporate videos and commercials) that a company wants to proactively give to investors without them having to ask for it.
Any mobile strategy should be built around having an app that lets companies include alerts, social sharing and investor tracking features. By having an app, a public company now owns a very valuable piece of real estate on an investor’s very personal and oftentimes private mobile device. An investor relations app can deploy push notifications alerting investors when new information is available as well as offering investors the ability to sign up for company information, investor email opt-in, and, of course, sharing via social media channels and email. Investors want their app to deliver automated, real-time stock price information, and automated posting of newswire-released press releases and SEC filings.
MO: What is one mistake that you’ve made that our readers could learn from?
Jeff: We’ve learned a lot of lessons as we introduce theIRapp to companies. Some of those lessons could be considered mistakes, but we chalk them up to experience in a bold new arena. In the beginning, we underestimated the interest Android phone users would have in building a native app for those devices. We launched with an iOS app, but realizing the market demand quickly built one for Android too.
MO: How has social media changed investor relations? How has it transformed the way in which individuals and businesses communicate with each other?
Jeff: Just as websites did 15 years ago, social media and mobile strategies have transformed investor relations. The tools and services have created more engagement between companies and their investors, and of course mobile strategies have allowed companies to reach their shareholders in real-time no matter where they are. Social media changed investor relations from a one-way conversation into robust conversations allowing public companies to add more “color” to their stories.
MO: Now that you’ve gained a great deal of traction and recognition, how do you plan to keep the momentum going?
Jeff: We will continue to refine theIRapp so that it works on more devices. As we are investor relations professionals first and technology specials second, we are soliciting feedback from subscribers and investors so that we ensure that companies communicate the ways investors expect them to. We will continually put out new versions of the app with new functionality. And we will evolve with other technologies, so as more mobile services become available – including advancements in video and location – we will be able to build those services into theIRapp so companies can continue delivering their critical information to investors.
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