Wednesday, April 26, 2006

April round-up

Things have been busy this month and my postings have dwindled, so my last April post is designed as more of a radar round-up.

There has been a lot of recent activity in the mobile payments space following announcements re: PayPal Mobile, Obopay funding, and PayWi. Another new start-up on the radar is Luup who currently provides services in the UK, Germany and Norway. You can send and receive money online and via SMS, provided the recipient is also using the service. MoniLINK (UK only) also announced that HSBC and FirstDirect would be the first partners to support their mobile banking service (provided via application download) which is scheduled to launch in the UK later this year.

If you liked the idea of Hotxt, but weren’t prepared to stump up the 1 pound per week then take a look at Tex2 – providing a similar service for free. The application downloads, installs and works well but the website side of things needs some refinement. SMS is ripe for some disruption – it accounts for a significant proportion of operator revenue and is the killer mobile app for most users. The younger user segment will be prepared to accept some service misgivings provided that they can reduce their bills and with something like txt2, they can. Mobile-IM has yet to ramp up so there is likely to be a window of opportunity in this product space, but marketing dollars will ultimately dictate who gets the critical mass.

Stanford University is hosting Startup School this Saturday. Topics covered include what makes a good startup idea and where to get them; what to look for in a co-founder; how to get angel and VC funding; how to incorporate a company and what agreements founders should have among themselves; when and how to apply for patents; what can go wrong in a startup; what acquirers look for; and how the acquisition process works. The speaker list is very impressive.

Cool Hunting profiles the Orange shop in Notting Hill, London, UK. It’s an experimental new retail format incorporating chill sales staff who know their product and awarded on customer feedback not sales. “Customers are encouraged to come back often—in the shop you can grab a coffee while your mobile is charged and cleaned or you can learn how to load music and read email on your particular device”. Neat.

My Fon wi-fi router has arrived, but has yet to be configured due to it not behaving as the instructions suggested it would. The weekend should crack that though, so if you're in Düsseldorf and need internet access... will update next week

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Cudlz - mobile dating startup

Alan Brandburne (founder of Phlog) and Max Niederhofer (co-founder of 20six) teamed up at the end of last year to found IncrediblInc. First of the applications to bolt out their stable is Cudlz - a mobile+online dating service currently restricted to UK residents (so unfortunately I cant post any test screenshots or post much comment). You can build a tag cloud of your likes and dislikes, job, profile etc and seek out and smooch up to those that match.
The gadget wielding duo claim that "the integration of your phone as your personal networked media production and consumption device into a social software web platform is complete. cudlz' messaging is perfectly sync'ed between PC and mobile,messages are distributed as WAP-Pushes, users are billed directly through their phone, photo uploads from the mobile are placed immediately on a user's profile... and of course, there are lots and lots of tags to simplify finding that significant other".
Only just in Beta, but one to watch...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

the Skype of SMS? - Hotxt

Hotxt has been launched in the UK to provide UK mobile users with a cheaper alternative to SMS text. Simply download a java app and you can hotxt to other hotxt users as much as you like for 1 Ukpounds per month.
The propositon is clear and the cost benefit to heavy texters is obvious. It seems positoined at the mass-market younger user but may face a few adoption barriers in that it requires your group of friends to all have a java compatible phone, and the user has to pay for the service. A service like this needs to create a critical mass to overcome the adoption and maturity curves, and I dont think that charging 4 UKP/month from the outset is perhaps the best way of doing this. IMHO - the chances of getting a circle of friends all with a compatible phone and a willingness to to pay the fee is pretty slim - it would have been better to launch for free and monetise it through a weekly paid ad or the like. I would also worry about battery life with something like this - presumably the client has to regularly poll for new messages which drains a lot of power. But hey - good luck to them! I'll be watching its ranking to see its popularity amongst the early adopters...

WirelessWorld Forum has discussion on this here

21/04 - see also tex2