Bates for Benefon

Jonathan Bate has resigned as head of Siemens UK and VP of Siemens Northern Europe to become CEO at the GSM/GPS specialist Benefon.
Bate brings over 16 years of management experience in mobile phones and consumer electronics. At Siemens UK he was instrumental in increasing profitability by 300% in 24 months and doubling market share to 19%; clearly that wasn’t enough for Siemens to survive as a handset maker, and that business was acquired at little or no cost by BenQ.
Bate himself says he had received a number of approaches in recent months and was specifically headhunted by Benefon.

Said Benefon Chairman Brian Katzen: “Jonathan brings a wealth of international experience and has a proven track record in growing sales whilst improving company profitability. The partnership is perfect and we intend to aggressively expand our market share under Jonathan’s leadership in a highly profitable manner”.

The Finnish company Benefon launched the first ever GSM+GPS mobile device in 1999 and is building a position as a provider of location-based systems and services using those technologies. Current products include the NT2002 ‘personal navigation phone’ (a mobile handset with sat-nav built in) and the Track One NT2.0 ‘personal safety phone’ – a handset with a built-in alarm button that sends its location to a specified number.

The market for handheld sat-nav devices is one of Europe’s fastest growing sectors.

Benefon has recently received a major injection of venture capital and will be spending some of it on a string of new phone-plus-navigation products, the first of  which should be ready in time for Christmas. This is described as “an all-in-one portable personal navigator device … The phone comes ready to use with no external GPS receiver required and GPS power management functionality built in [and] switches from driving to walking mode seamlessly”.

The device will launch initially in the UK and China, with a global rollout scheduled for next year.

The press release concludes: “the Benefon device really distinguishes itself in the marketplace”, which is half the problem sorted. Now it needs a decent marketing campaign and effective distribution, which is exactly Jonathan Bates’ forte.

The company has a UK sales office in Hampshire.

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