Tag: mobile (Page 1 of 3)

Momentum, a Mobile Accelerator in the Valley

Here’s something cool, a mobile accelerator run by people who actually know mobile, namely the good folks from Mobile Monday (disclosure: I am a co-founder of Mobile Monday Manchester). For those who don’t know (and I don’t expect many of the readers of this blog to being that ignorant… 😉 ): Mobile Monday has a global presence in over 140 cities across 50 different countries. As part of Mobile Monday, participants will get greater global exposure with leading brands to help foster business relationships and potentially commercial deals. It works, believe me!

This is a 12-week program (from 23 September – 6 December), run at RocketSpace in Silicon Valley with the aim to help accelerate mobile startups. They will select 8-10 startups from around the globe to participate in each class. If you are not based in the Bay Area, you’d have to cover your own housing and living though (which they say should amount to $2,500/month; also: you need to sort out your own visa should you need one though they’ll help you).

The program is designed for startup founders. It consists of weekly workshops and dinners lead by leaders of “global brands” who will help mentor and work closely with participating companies. You will have the opportunity to pitch their “dedicated” team of VCs and angels. The program will end with a Demo Day attended by industry leaders, VCs, and the press. So it’s pretty much the usual stuff. However, it being run by the MoMo folks, you can probably expect a rather good pick from the mobile world!

Here are the minimum criteria (and you will see from this that you actually have to have something already; this is an accelerator, not an incubator):

  • At least 2 people in the startup (two’s company…);
  • Shipping live product;
  • Angel funding or Participation of a startup program or Experience as a founder in a prior startup;
  • Pre-series A funding.

Each application will be scored on five criteria:

  • Team
  • Product
  • Market viability
  • Traction (clients, users, customers)
  • Fit for mobile industry

All Mobile Monday Accelerator events will be held in the San Francisco bay area. Office space at the RocketSpace Innovation Campus (San Francisco downtown) is provided free to all accelerator class participants. RocketSpace is home to Fortune 500s like, T-Mobile, GM, DoCoMo, Microsoft, ABInBev, LEGO and to 150+ startups including Spotify, Supercell and HasOffers (yup, that is straight from their sales pitch).

The program currently provides 50+ of the best in mobile mentors; Samsung, Sony, Twitter, Facebook, AOL, ESPN, Polariod, PayPal, Intuit, The Weather Channel, Hotel Tonight, Millenial Media and more… (yup, again from their pitch)

Each week, they’ll host a workshop in the San Francisco bay area at our offices or a partner’s office on the usual topics like:

  • Marketing
  • Negotiation
  • Monetization
  • Legal
  • Analytics and Tracking (if you still haven’t got this)
  • UI/UX Best Practices
  • Scaling (under the heading “luxury problems” but immensely important)
  • Selling to the Enterprise
  • M&A How to sell your startup (my guess is they won’t give guarantees though…)
  • Effective Pitching

If you want to get into this (and, hey, it is just about the time when the weather in certain areas get somewhat yucky), you can apply here. Good luck!

Can PacMan teach Maths?

Here’s the podcast of a rather intriguing panel discussion I participated in at the Mobile Fringe Festival earlier this year in Barcelona. Moderated by the indomitable Russell Buckley (the big daddy of mobile marketing), I was joined by Vincent Hoogsteder (Founder & CEO, Distimo) and Alina Vandenberghe (Head of Mobile and Gaming, Pearson) discussing how elements of games and, indeed, mobile technology can aid educational demands – not only for the iPad-clad haute vollee of the first world but also in regions where traditional schooling is a lot more challenging.

I wrote about the topic previously and it is one of the areas I take an increasing amount of interest in. Have a listen, let me know what you think.

I tried to paste a fancy Soundcloud widget but this didn’t work out, so go listen to it here.

Here’s a Challenge: Marry Mobile & Local…

So, what if you could effectively combine mobile and local? As in asking someone if there is a free washing machine in the launderette down the road (before you haul your laundry down there), if Lady Gaga is on stage already (or if it is still that pesky opener), that sort of thing. Sounds cool? Yeah. Have we heard about this before? Hell yeah. Do you know of anyone who has solved this successfully? Erm…

The funny thing is we all know how important it is. We all use mobile local services all the time: the use of maps and navigation (for one thing) have changed tremendously by the introduction of GPS into mobile phones. There is a plethora of services we all use that use it. However, they barely seem to scratch the surface as yet.

MoboQ to the Rescue?

But, alas, help is on hand. There actually IS a service that is doing just that: it WILL tell you about that washing machine, about free parking slots, about almost everything you want to know. And they have, well, 100,000 users so far. So not Twitter but, alas not Color either (they allegedly had 400,000 users before they shut down). But, hey, they didn’t raise 41m bucks for nothing either… And, well, that means that there might just not be someone in just my neighbourhood just now, huh?

It gets better (no, worse) though: Because, if you ask just who that mythical company is, the answer is not the former employee # 21 from Google an unknown Facebook rockstar engineer or, sorry, a Stanford nearly-grad, either? No. The service is called MoboQ and is operated by Sina Weibo, the “small” Chinese provider with some 400m users on this Twitter-esque service.

(And, no I did not pick this up myself. Hal Hodson wrote about it in the New Scientist. Really cool magazine, you should subscribe to it! [and, no, I don’t earn a commission if you do])

Unicorns are Hard to Breed

Sooooooo: 100,000 users out of 400m and the service has been operating for a year now. That’s a conversion rate of, what, 0.025%. Not really a landslide victory then, huh? And that is the challenge of this unicorn of all mobile services: they are really hard to breed (scil. scale).

Why is that, you say? Well, because they are, well, local. That is to say, you need to convince a fair few people in your area to use it. And unless you have a really successful SXSW launch (the stuff of legends, I know), this might not be that easy to do. Mobile & local each work on the combination of total usage plus really smart algorithms. This is why I am blogging about mobile stuff: huge scale there. This is why Yelp, FourSquare, you name it thrive: huge scale there. But the moment you need real-time response, you need an insane amount of usage to be able to make sensible use of algorithms. I would posit not even Facebook can do this (oh, wait, they try: there is this thing called Nearby they do. Heard of it? No, me neither…)

Help at Hand?

The New Scientist offers a couple of soundbites from execs involved in the various programmes and all sound a little stale, to be honest: “people will use it once they become aware of it” said someone from USC. Really? Well, I don’t know.

Now, I agree that this is somewhat of the holy grail of combining two hugely powerful concepts but the big spanner in the wheels is as per the above: tough to algorithmitise (is that a word?) and possibly slowed down by privacy concerns and queries as to the value extraction formulae applied: what is in it for me if I am over-sharing local information about my very own locale; I know my own environment, no need for me to reciprocate then… Because, you see, 95%+ people do not actually race around the world that much other than on vacation. And isn’t the first thing they look for when they finally are on vacation either a drink or bliss uninterupted by digital hyper-connectedness? Just sayin’…

So I continue to wait for that killer combo app/service a little longer then, I guess. Sigh…

Education, Mobile & some more?

Hello stranger. It’s been too long.

However, with no further explanation, let me tell you about an area that tickled more than one of my senses over the past couple of months, and that is education. You see, I am a governor at a rather wonderful school, the Fallibroome Academy, in Macclesfield, so this infatuation is nothing new. And this school, like many others, is looking at employing mobile media to improve on learning conditions and harness education. However, is there not more? Or, rather, is there not more that could be done with the various toolsets we have on our hands to further the education not only for children in affluent first-world neighbourhoods?

Self-organised or taught?

There are some cool solutions that use the scaling power only digital media have. You will have read about a lot of the MOOC‘s that are all the rage these days: Khan Academy, Udacity, Coursera, etc., etc. All these share their fair (?) share of criticism, too, which mainly revolves around a) lack of personal interaction, b) general suspicion if really large things work in this context and c) politics and egos (this is the least interesting).

Now, a) in particular is of course a potentially big one. Then of course, there is the famous story about the African kids that managed to learn from and ultimately hack an Android tablet without ever having been exposed to electronic gadgets, programming or indeed touchscreen interfaces before.

However, I would posit that most would agree that a great teacher is still the best way to lift the minds of children. It is not only about grasping algebra or grammar or learn how to program (I still only write BS# and Legalease) but about providing motivation and outlook and goals. So as impressive as the Ethopian youngsters are, there must be (even) better ways to provide for a rounded education. And, no, I don’t think spoiled English kids with iPads is the be-all-end-all of this.

Mobile is a Tool. A powerful tool but yet only a tool.

So, let’s take a step back. First: tools. Mobile is the obvious solution: its penetration is by far highest. Infrastructure is easier to build even in rural and remote locations than fixed-line connectivity. It is cheaper. Now, let us not forget though that mobile technology is – per se – a mere carrier: it can transport meaning from A to B, from one person to one (or many) other person(s). A regular textbook remains a regular textbook, it is “only” transported via a different means.

Did I say only? When I wrote my first big thesis at university (“the suspensive elements of article 90 para. 2 of the EC Treaty”), I needed some sources that were only available at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. (I went to law school in Germany). It would take two weeks for a librarian in Washington to tell me if a) they really had the book and b) if and when I could borrow it and then another 3-6 weeks for it to arrive. I managed to short-circuit the system as I was subscribed to a listserv of law librarians and they reduced step 1 to one day and – probably because it was all so new and exciting – step 2 to 5 days. My professor was flabbergasted. Now imagine I would have been studying in, say, Arusha (that’s in Tanzania). Much harder you would think. Today? Hah, you log onto the Interwebs and you’re off to the races. But this access is not necessarily there in, say, Lera Town (that’s a village in Ethopia, very deserving of your support; if you feel like it, go here), you’re buggered. No Interwebs there. Not easily accessible anyway. Enter mobile…

Access + Meaning = Power

So, it is a big deal. But it still is only the first step: providing access to a (potential) wealth of information. You still need to get this information transformed into knowledge, and that is the process of learning. We all learn better from other people: kids from their older siblings, apprentices from their masters, junior programmers from senior programmers – in short from teachers. And, yes, I know: Zuckerberg dropped out, Thiel tries to talk kids out of it, etc. But the Zuckerbergs and other prodigies are not the norm we need to model educational systems for, so let’s leave this aside.

So, step 2 is then motivation and nurturing. How do we best motivate and nurture children – ideally irrespective from wealth, class and geography? If we can find universal mechanisms that promote motivation and learning, it will be easier to bridge the gaps between well-schooled Europe and more marginally accessible systems in, say, rural Africa but also in emerging economies with much younger populations (and thereofore higher student numbers, i.e. larger classes, lower teacher/student ratios, etc.) such as, say, Indonesia or the Philippines.

Now here, alas, we leave the realms of tools and hardware and enter the world of concepts and ideas. And there are, of course, plenty. Most circle around motivation across a large number of kids (and how can you unify these: every child is different, isn’t it?). The challenge then is that scale requires some sort of unification. Customize too much, and you lose scale. So, from that lofty 50,000′ spot, I will not look at very customized solutions but I am intrigued by universal concepts that might help here.

Enter Games…

Games thrive on a number of basic fundamentals, most of which center around concepts of competition and collaboration. These concepts seem indeed to be very universal: games are being played all over the world and most people are able to understand the rules of a game fairly quickly – even if they didn’t grow up with it (cricket is an exception; I will never understand that one). This is because those two fundamentals are pretty much everywhere. Now then, use these mechanics (of which there are plenty) and harness education. Infuse self-motivation into learning and you expand the reach tremendously. Couple it with the right tools (cf. supra under mobile) and you are onto true scale.

These are only some lose thoughts that sprint around my brain. All other things permitting, I will attempt to explore this more over the next couple of months. Until then, bear with me…

MoMo Manchester @ the BBC

If you are in the North-West of England and have nothing to do or, rather, nothing really, really important to do, you may want to drop in for our latest Mobile Monday Manchester edition, which takes place tonight starting at 6pm at the BBC in the brand-spanking new MediaCityUK.

The topic of the night will be “Second Screen” and we will have people from all corners of that: speakers from the Beep itself, companies providing infrastructure and service as well as creative agencies that deliver on these screens.

More info here. To join us, please sign up here (there is only standing room left though…).

Technology & Transparency: Still need Ethics

Here’s a Confucius quote (which I unearthed via my good friend Jonathan MacDonald):

When you see a man of worth, think of how you may emulate him. When you see one who is unworthy, examine yourself.

And then there was the next chapter in the phone-hacking scandal (cf. here if it really did escape your attention): a newspaper (allegedly) breaking the privacy of an individual – this time amplified by the shocking fact that that individual had actually been murdered at the time of the (hacking) crime. The news brought about harsh reactions, not only from amongst the people but also from venerable bloggers and journalists. There’s even a Facebook Group asking people to boycott the publication.

The outcry bemoaned the failing of technology (hackable) almost as much as the futile attempts to cover the tracks of the wrongdoer.

So what’s new? Nothing!

Technology Facilitates Transparency

I have long been making the case that technology facilitates transparency, and that that is a good thing. I maintain that.

You may have heard the story of the elimination of different pricing for fish around Lake Victoria when the fishermen finally got their hands onto mobile phones, so they could call the merchants at other ports rather than relying on whatever the merchant in their home port told them the price was. Transparency facilitated by technology: win. The above is a fairly straight forward case of the reduction of transaction cost (here: the cost of information) leading to the eradication of previously existing inefficiencies.

There are countless anecdotes (and scientific studies) supporting this notion and providing powerful proof for its validity (which, again, is so simple: reduce the cost of information and you shall harvest).

And then comes someone who uses technology to pervert elementary rights of individuals. And all goes over board. Or does it?

Murdoch is irrelevant

I posit that the latest (as all of the previous) NOTW phone-hacking scandal is not actually turning the above into one big question; it is a mere distortion that has not actually anything to do with the merits: invading someone’s privacy is wrong (NB: whether it’s legal or not is another question). With or without technology. The principle of what constitutes an invasion is usually (there may be exceptions for public figures) dictated from the perspective of the “victim”. Or, in the words of any good anti-harassment memo: If you feel harassed, you are being harassed. If you feel your privacy is invaded, it is invaded.

However, the act as well as the debate following it highlight one crucial piece that is often overlooked. And it has nothing to do with neither the technology nor the morality of those using technology to breach laws, rights, feelings. It has to do with orientation.

Transparency Reduces Friction; It Does Replace Neither Judgment Nor Ethics!

Be it Wikileaks, Murdoch’s papers’ conduct or super-injunctions (and their factual lift by the freedom of speech in the Commons), transparency facilitated by technology (as the main tool to reduce cost of balanced information to meaningful levels for each [connected] individual) is merely a tool, albeit a very, very powerful one. It aids the exposure of partisan interests and hence helps eradicate inefficiencies (partisan interests almost always add cost). And it works: apparently advertisers review their ads in Murdoch papers (cf. here).

BUT it does not replace good judgment or makes a call on the ethics of an action or inaction. This is why I called it an issue of orientation. People are – perhaps more than ever – required to judge and apply ethical standards to the information they receive.

This means that every single on of us is required to query, ask, debate; no easy answers anymore. This makes the world a better but also an inherently more complicated place. And it makes it even more prone to manipulation (arguably the reason why some try it on…) since the imbalance of access to information (i.e. the anti-thema to transparency) provides a lever to uproot that newly won freedom. If, however, every single one of us applies the beliefs and convictions we know to be true (and, yes, your truth may be different to mine), and keep the lines open, I firmly believe that discourse will guide us to a result that is “right”. But you have to have the guts and courage to apply your own thoughts, query those arguments and render judgment – for as long as you are not presented with a better case.

Technology is the Great Equaliser

Access to information is the biggest asset in an information economy. Technology aids this. And mobile is the single biggest medium in the history of mankind to facilitate this. I can provide you with tons of examples (but I reckon it is probably undisputed).

Technology also enables every single one of us to use it in order to get to sound judgment, to debate, ponder and ultimately assess of what we deem ethical. It puts all of us into the drivers seat of opinion-forming, which is something that has never been there before. There had always been powerful intermediaries (the media in its various forms through the centuries; market criers, preachers, scribes, authors, newspaper editors, radio and TV producers all had the cost of dissemination of information on their side: it was inconceivable that anyone from outside these circles could invade and publicly query. Now we can. But: we also have to! If we choose to stay silent, we should not bemoan that others form and disseminate the opinions we believe to be wrong.

Confucius is still right. Technology does not allow you to be an immoral, unethical knobhead. And, no, no one said it was easy!


Social Gaming Summit (Slides)

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of delivering a talk at the Social Gaming Summit in London (which was fun even though it was at Chelsea FC…). Given that the audience was fairly clued up on all things social, I was focusing a little more on the mobile side of things – highlighting market sizes, roll-out speeds and platform risks (and opportunities!).

Here’s the deck, I hope you enjoy it:

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