As president of Aerodeon, Mr. Jones, 42, invented voting for TV reality shows using text messaging, SMS (short messaging service). He was one of the first to recognize SMS' potential for marketers. That inspired him to set up Aerodeon with Chris and Kieran Bourke back in February 2000. The company has turned a profit every year.
"I'm instinctively always interested in the next big thing," Mr. Jones says. "But we have to watch ourselves not to get too far ahead, because the opportunity has to be focused on yesterday's technology, not tomorrow's."
started in oil
His interest in new technology began during four years drilling for oil using satellite imagery. A later job, as VP-strategy at U.K. cell phone giant Cellnet, provided "a fantastic opportunity to look into the future and examine the [industry's] impact on people's lives. I concluded mobile technology would have a dramatic effect on everybody, but it would take longer than everyone thought."
Phone marketers were already thinking ahead to picture and video phones, but SMS was a more realistic medium. It was already accessible to 40 million U.K. users, popular with the key teenage audience and spreading to a wider demographic.
"Our business idea was that any brand or organization that wanted to talk to young people ought to start considering SMS as the preferred way to communicate," Mr. Jones says. Aerodeon quickly pulled in blue-chip clients such as Procter & Gamble Co. and Nestle to do SMS campaigns. The company helped AT&T Corp. use SMS in the U.S. tied to Fox's "American Idol 2" and set up a New York office in 2003.