Interview With Coyote Jackson, Director of Product Management, PubNub

January 15, 2019

MobileAppDaily had a word with Coyote Jackson, Director of Product Management, PubNub. We spoke to him about his journey in the global Data Stream Network and real-time infrastructure-as-a-service company. Learn more about him.

Full Interview

1. How’s your experience till date as the 'Head of Product' at PubNub?

I’ve been head of product at PubNub for about two and a half years now. I’d have to say that this has been one of the best experiences of my career to date. The first week I joined PubNub, at the end of the week on Friday evening I was heading home on the train and found myself feeling sad. I asked myself why, and was surprised and shocked to discover that it was because tomorrow was Saturday and I wouldn’t be going into the office!

The first week had been that supportive, interesting, and generally exciting that I truly was disappointed that I wasn’t going back there on Saturday also. Now, I’m not going to say that I’ve felt that way every Friday, hah, but it was a really good indicator of the environment we have here, and I knew I had joined something special.

2. How PubNub is tackling connectivity problem for developers?

PubNub does three things immensely well - it solves the connectivity problem, it solves the delivery of messages globally, and it provides developers the ability to control and execute compute on messages, which are the three things that you need to do to build real-time experiences to audiences at scale anywhere in the world.

Specifically, on the connectivity problem, this is a key part of our value to developers. One of the decisions we made was to provide SDKs for every platform that developers are on. That, of course, includes mobile and web but also all the server languages as well as IoT and embedded devices. So, no matter where your use case takes you, you can use the same PubNub APIs, whether your app is running on iOS, Android, web, Go, Python, Ruby, a door lock on a connected consumer’s home, a coffee maker or any other platform.

Our value as a product is to enable developers to focus on building the value in their app, and we take care of all the infrastructure and connectivity needed to give them the real-time-ness, consumed through a very simple but very well-designed API. Under the hood, the SDKs work with our global network to maintain a cost-effective, always-on two-way connection (if that’s appropriate for your use case), by leveraging the most widely supported Internet protocols put together with many years of smarts on how to keep this connection always available to deliver messages both from a device to other devices, or from servers down to devices to control them or send information.

If you’re into highspeed and mobile networks, as I have been for my entire career in one form or another, it’s a great place to work, as we have some amazing conversations here, deep into how to operate a globally scaled, distributed network that maintains connections to 9% of the entire world’s IP addresses, hot and ready for any class of developer to deliver messages with a single line of code. As a technologist, this warms my heart and is a very rich place to work.

3. How IoT is adding on to the apps you are crafting?

Our customers are some of the biggest names in consumer IoT - Logitech, August Locks, INSTEON for example. You’ll find PubNub embedded in all sorts of IoT devices - baby monitors, door locks, remote controls, light bulb controllers, mosquito control devices. It’s a really exciting space and PubNub provides developers in this space who are focused on building great consumer device experiences and may not be experts in how to connect them all together, with an easy path to building interactive, connected experiences in a very secure fashion.

4. Going by the PubNub growth, where do you see it after one year?

I’m really excited about this next year coming up. The market is really starting to coalesce around these connected real-time experiences, the consumer demand is clearly already here - look at the buzz around real-time experiences in the exercise market with Peloton for example, and you begin to see where this will go, as industry after industry is being disrupted by real-time connected experiences.

We have an exciting roadmap of features planned, focused on solving the problems that developers face building this type of experience. We’re taking all the experience we have based on the fact that we’ve already been doing this for many years and building it into easy to use frameworks for developers to quickly build out connected apps and addressing the needs of large-scale mission-critical apps.

5. Tell us something about your initial paying customers or revenue expectations over the years.

We have seen our customer base shift over the years, as the market has grown. We see the market going through the classic Geoffrey Moore Crossing the Chasm from early adopters to mainstream. PubNub has always been and will remain an incredibly useful tool for developers building hobby projects or early-stage startups.

We’ve always seen, for example, that developers at hackathons end up using PubNub for almost every project entered at the hackathon, just because of how easy it makes sending messages. And we are committed to providing a very generous free service with access to all our features to help support the developer community in building really interesting projects.

But over the past couple of years, in particular, we’ve seen the revenue really shift into mainstream businesses with solid business models, as for example, the online chat experience has shifted from a nice-to-have that some companies were experimenting with, to a key part of almost every company interacting with their customers.

6. What is PubNub's biggest challenge at the moment?

I’d say that one of the basic challenges is around describing what it is that we do. Our service, our network, our APIs are so powerful for building pretty much any type of application, and we have been leading this space for several years now, that when I meet any particular developer it can be challenging to describe what we do until I know what type of app that developer is building.

I liken it to electricity - it’s hard to describe what electricity is, but when you understand it, when you “get” it, you can’t live without it! That’s the experience we see over and again with our developers - they end up using PubNub for use case after use case in their apps, not just the one they started with. But it’s a good problem to have, and we’re constantly innovating with ways to show developers how they can really level up the type of experiences they can build with just a few simple lines of code with PubNub.

7. Being in the real-time services field, what do you think about its impact on future technologies?

There is no doubt in my mind that this is one of the biggest disruption waves going on right now. My career in technology has always been at the forefront of building out technologies that enable developers to build disruptive experiences.

20 years ago, I was part of defining the mobile internet and flew all over the world getting that working on mobile carriers in all sorts of countries. I then was part of the tech that rolled out the ability to connect families of devices together that is now taken for granted, your iPhone and laptop working together for example. And now this wave of real-time and connected experiences is going to be embedded in almost every type of software experience you can think of, across consumer, industrial, enterprise.

Personally, I am a very mission-driven product leader - I need to believe strongly in the mission of the company, as that informs every decision we make in the product. Our mission here at PubNub is to improve the human experience by connecting our world, and that to me is a very exciting future.

8. As the leader in real-time Data Stream Network (DSN), what else you wish to add on to the same to keep your competitors at bay?

Honestly, we don’t think that much about competitors, and certainly, I don’t focus the product on keeping them at bay. We see this market growing around the types of experiences that can be built, and we have and continue to be the leaders in creating that.

We are focused on creating what developers need to build amazing real-time experiences in their apps, for their customers, wherever they are. And we’re focused on transforming the human experience with technology, delivering real-time experiences that change the way we live.

We were the first to enable developers to execute serverless code in the network on real-time data streams with PubNub Functions for example. We have a very deep roadmap laid out expanding on this theme with some big stuff coming.

9. Talking about mobile technology; what needs to be done at the moment to revolutionize it?

I believe we’re in the midst of doing it. Real-time customer experiences are revolutionizing mobile experiences, and not just in the type of experiences that can be built, but in transforming the nature of the experience from a solitary one to a community one. Previously if you were watching a video for example, or reading a web page, it was an entirely solitary experience. Even if there were thousands of other people around the world watching or reading that same thing, you would never know it.

Now you have companies like Hotstar building live interactive experiences where many people can all interact with each other - we just helped them host the world’s largest online event ever, for example, using PubNub, where people could vote on what was about to happen during these massive cricket matches.

The peloton is another great example of this, where they have taken what used to be a solitary experience of someone on their exercise equipment at home and transformed into a vibrant community having shared real-time experiences. In my own personal life I see this very much too, I have changed the way I interact on Facebook completely - now I use it to connect with groups of people, we watch live streams together, interact, and I am building real relationships this way too, I’m flying out in a few weeks to Austin, Texas to meet up with about 500 people that I met through live real-time experiences for example! So, I think technology will shift to enable this more and more.

10. How apps are transforming the mobile industry and other domains?

I think it’s clear how mobile apps have already transformed the nature of many industries, and there are still many to come. There are huge cultural shifts that are happening that mobile will be a big part of enabling, the obvious one being self-driving vehicles, that will be unfolding in our society and industry for decades to come. It’s so fascinating to be part of this, it gets me up every day wide-eyed and curious and passionate about improving our human experience.

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She is a writer and content marketer at MobileAppDaily. Her knack around the mobile apps is merely splendid. Her experience in the tech industry has assisted her in churning out the best and more importantly, unbiased mobile app reviews.

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