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Out in the Ecosystem: Andrew Yu of Modo Labs

Posted by Chad O'Connor  August 23, 2012 11:00 AM

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Recently Out in the Ecosystem talked to Andrew Yu, CEO of Modo Labs. Andrew is a seasoned entrepreneur and software, mobile, and Web executive. I caught up with him around his rapidly scaling Cambridge based-startup Modo Labs, a technology platform provider facilitating rapid deployment and cross-device functionality in enterprises, health care and EdTech.

Ted Chan: Modo Labs is a unique Boston story in that evolved out of a combination of the innovation and education ecosystems here. Can you talk about that?

Andrew Yu: The founding team members of Modo Labs came out of MIT where we led the effort at MIT from 2007 to mobilize the campus with a generous support from the Institute and its community. MIT is one of the most innovative organizations in the world and their willingness to fund a large mobile initiative before the mobile app industry was fully formed along with their willingness to open source the technology is a real testament to the culture of innovation and education in this area.

The Boston area also provided us with early customers that include Harvard, Mass General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Fidelity Investments, Bain Capital, etc. The willingness of our early customers to work with innovative technologies has been a huge plus for launching Modo Labs.

TC: Tell us about the evolution of Modo Labs as a company and where you are at today? What challenges are you trying to solve for you clients?

AY: Since our launch in 2010, Modo Labs now has hundreds of organizations in over 25 countries using our open source technology. We also have major universities, hospitals, and corporations as our customers. We have transformed from a purely university focused mobile framework provider to a mobile platform provider that works with universities, hospitals, enterprises as our customers. Also, the growth of our open source community and the adoption rate of our platform, Kurogo, has been fantastic with over 1300% growth in the past 12 months.

What’s really cool about our platform is the ability for customers to create their own mobile capital using Kurogo as a base. Many organizations are still getting their arms around mobile and we want to provide them with out of the box B2E and B2C portal apps that meet their needs today but also support their long term ownership of mobile by making our solutions easy to customize and build on. We feel like this comprehensive vision is what sets us apart and solves real challenges in the short and long term for customers.

TC: Did being in Boston help you with funding?

AY: Ironically, we received our previous funding from Silicon Valley and Washington, DC area VC firms. Even though we were far away, both VCs like the fact that our Boston base provided us with access to great talent as well as initial customers. In many ways, we were able to inject “Silicon Valley DNA” by working with our VCs.

We are in active discussions with Boston area VCs now for the next round of funding and would prefer to add a local VC to our investor list. In general, being able to reach out directly to the VC firms located in Cambridge, Boston, and other Boston Metro locations is a big help. This area still has some of the best VCs in the country and it’s easy for us to connect with them over coffee or a beer.

TC: Did being in Boston help you attract talent?

AY: The market for good mobile developers and designers is tight everywhere. Thankfully, because or our proximity to the numerous schools in the area, we have been able to connect with and recruit top talent for internships and full time positions. Most of our team members are graduates of top schools in the Boston area.

TC: Do you do business globally? What is your global business development strategy?

AY: Currently, we have Kurogo users in Canada, Switzerland, U.K., Chile, Mexico, Japan, India, UAE, China, South Korea, and many other countries. We are also establishing partnerships with firms in multiple countries to extend the use of Kurogo internationally. Modo is very much a global mobile firm and we are excited to see the international adoption of Kurogo grow.

TC: What ecosystem events do you participate in in Boston? E.g. Mobile Monday, MITX, etc.

AY: We frequently participate in the MassTLC Mobile and SaaS based events, MassInno, Mobile Mondays, MIT CIO Symposium, MIT ILP (Industrial Liaison Program), and other local mobile events.

TC: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs in this space? Or generally?

AY: Don’t give up and think things through! As a serial entrepreneur (my previous startups were also based in Boston area), I have gone through both good and bad times over the course of 17 years. As long as you are in the right place (hopefully at the right time) with right ideas, persistence will ultimately pay off. As my VC mentor reminds me from time to time, it also pays to “think things through”.

Other Out in the Ecosystem Interviews:
July 20: Jack Morris, Saint Anselm
May 18: Bill Allard, Athletes’ Performance
March 12: Bennett Fisher, Retroficiency

Ted Chan is Founder and CEO of Upward Moblity, Practice Quiz, and Noyo, three companies in the mobile education market, and a management consultant in telecom, media, and technology at Boston-based CSMG. Twitter: @upwardmobility

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