Home People Why the World’s Largest Mobile Association Wants to Work With Atlanta Startups

Why the World’s Largest Mobile Association Wants to Work With Atlanta Startups

by Holly Beilin

GSMA is the largest trade association representing mobile carriers — they count over 800 mobile carriers as members and host the largest mobile-related event in the world, Mobile World Congress. In other words, the organization works towards helping you be able to answer, no matter where in the world you are, when the inevitable “can you hear me?” question comes from the other end of the line.

Headquartered in London, the company has had their North American office in the Atlanta area for over 10 years. Last year they doubled down on their local presence by launching a new event, Mobile World Congress Americas, which debuted in San Francisco with over 20,000 attendees. This year, Mobile World Congress Americas will be held from September 12-14 in Los Angeles and anticipates 25,000 attendees.

GMSA more than doubled the Atlanta-based team from 2016 to 2017 and are continuing to grow with a new in-town office in the tech-heavy Armour Yards development. The office is headed up by Ana Tavares Lattibeaudiere, who has been with the association for 13 years and formerly created and led the IoT team within GSMA. She was placed at the helm of the North American office two years ago to oversee the growing team, kick off the Mobile World Congress Americas event, and develop relationships with startups that relate to the mobile space.

She gives Hype the breakdown on how the GSMA works with startups, her view on the changing mobile industry and what the next big front for innovation is, and why the global association is committed to helping develop Atlanta into a smart city.

What falls under GSMA’s scope of work?

The GSMA has three big areas of work. One, which is more known, is about enabling new services and products and helping to solve technical problems — so for example, the fact that today when you cross the country border and you can continue to use your phone, it’s because we work with all the carriers worldwide to make sure that services are launched in a similar way. And that goes all the way from voice services, video, IoT, identity services.

We also are a big player in convening the industry. We bring together the telecomms and adjacent industries together in really big events. The biggest one is in Barcelona, Mobile World Congress; that is expected to have about 180,000 people this year. Shanghai is our second biggest event and we’ve recently launched Mobile Congress America last year.

Part of all that convening has a startup focus as well. We have a program we call 4 Years from Now which focuses on startups, showcasing all the advancements that they’re bringing to the table on a global basis.

The third area of work we do is around advocacy and making sure that we work with governments and regulators so that consumers can benefit from services that are cheaper, better, etc.

Regarding the Mobile World Congress America event, what were some of your learnings from the first year? What are you going to be doing again this year? 

Last year we were in San Francisco, very close to the Silicon Valley community. This year we are going into Los Angeles. We want to make sure that we demonstrate how we bridge the different industries — mobile now touches everything from entertainment to smart cities to healthcare. We want to bring up topics like the fourth industrial revolution, the Internet of Things, entertainment, all the big things happening in the industry.

We’re hoping to have an even more successful 4 Years from Now program — last year we had over 140 startups attending Mobile World Congress from countries such as Colombia, South Korea, Spain. We had a competition that featured about 15 finalists. This year we will continue to bring that program here and we’re hoping to continue to build a strong foundation. We believe the United States is a big player in the startup and innovation front in the industry.

Are there any other ways that GSMA works directly with startups?

We engage on a day-to-day basis with a lot of startups. For example, our strategy team runs a Global Innovation Forum that is co-located with our shows. We have three main programs, one of which right now is looking at future networks, all the way from 5G to communications services, the future of messaging, video and so on.

It’s very difficult for startups to know where the door is for the big companies. This is a way to be able to showcase what they do and put it in front of their potential customers, partners, etc.

What are some of the biggest areas within the mobile sphere for startups to innovate in that corporations need help with right now?

I think nowadays, the sky’s the limit in terms of innovation. I think the rules we believe existed in the past, they don’t really exist anymore. From software-defined networks to all the innovation that is happening on the connected devices front, there is space to do a lot of things. The way today you can get in front of the consumer so much faster than what was possible in the past, it’s really broken all the boundaries.

For us, the Internet of Things is definitely the thing of the future. We believe that there will be more and more devices connected, and hopefully they’ll start talking to each other and the data that they will create will become useful for daily life.

Are you growing the Atlanta office?

We’ve grown almost 50 percent in the last two years and we are expecting to continue to grow significantly in Atlanta — number one because of the launch of the show, but also because we as a company find that we want to be closer to our members. We want to have regional teams that support the carriers on the ground. That means that our program teams, our technology teams, will hope to be more involved in the community here to support the path of Atlanta into a smart city. We’re hoping that with time we establish a strong foundation, maybe even offering support and advice to some of the local startups.

When we define GSMA as a company, we decided we wanted to be in cities that are vibrant, that demonstrate all the innovation we want to see in mobile. We believe Atlanta is one of them. We believe that there’s a true commitment from the city, from the institutions around it, and companies that are based here, to work together to try to make Atlanta be that smart city and that innovative city, so we want to be a part of that.

Photos provided by GMSA

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