Finger Lickin’ Good: Neul’s M2M Franchising Plan

Billions of burgers, baguettes and donuts are sold globally by franchise. But if M2M startup Neul is successful, managing billions of connected things can become a franchisable opportunity.

Already, Neul is winning attention because of its technology. The company – which describes itself as a mobile wireless data provider – proposes to build infrastructure dedicated to M2M communication using unlicensed ‘white space‘ spectrum. And its low-power, low-bandwidth base stations could come in at £1,000 (US$1,600) apiece.

Disruptive, yet familiar

That technical proposition alone is disruptive, but so is Neul’s go to market. Franchising typically involves the licensing of a brand, products and associated intellectual property. Franchisees make a lump sum investment to buy a franchise, then pay recurring fees for line items including equipment and back-office services.

Neul is thinking along these lines, said Neul CTO William Webb, when I caught up with him at Mobile Monday London this week. Telecom operators (largely of the fixed variety) are interested, but also water utilities which need to track water consumption and leaks.

Words are failing us

One or two differences exist between Subway’s sandwich-making model (33,000 franchises and counting) and Neul’s. But it’s easier to call it franchising, than to shoehorn Neul into the telecom industry’s existing – and increasingly insipid – nomenclature.

Consider available options: A technology vendor? A wholesaler? An M2M MVNE?

These are yawnsome descriptions that downplay bold concepts. That’s a growing problem as the notional divide between telecom and other industries continues to blur. Let’s hope that poverty in language doesn’t impair thinking. Or turn away potential investors who just don’t get it.