Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Vodafone Mobile Clicks Competition now open to the UK with a prize fund of €150, 000

momolondon-largeVF_STK_RGBVodafone UK and Mobile Monday London today announce Vodafone Mobile Clicks 2009, a competition to inspire start-up businesses and individual developers to create and deliver a new mobile site or service – all creative ideas are welcome.

Mobile Clicks 2009 is run jointly with Vodafone Netherlands. If you wish to enter, please visit www.vodafonemobileclicks.com. The final will be held in Amsterdam in September and will feature three finalists from each country. The first three winners will be awarded a total sum of €150,000.

Last years’ Mobile Clicks’ winners included Nulaz, a location-based social networking service merging Google Maps and Facebook to allow people to see where their friends are, share locations and view local information, Tipspot a new online city guide service and Map the Gap, an idea-sharing application for mobile phones.

The competition consists of three selection rounds, running from April to September 2009. The panel of judges will include mobile internet experts from Vodafone as well as other industry leaders. The winner will be announced in Amsterdam in September this year.

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Vodafone Mobile Clicks 2009 is open to any individual residing in the Netherlands or the UK from the age of 18 years and to Dutch and UK-based start-up companies, businesses, institutions and all other organisations.
  • Participants must be or must have the intention to become a start-up enterprise/business in the field of mobile internet products or services. Start-up means that the enterprise/business cannot be older than three years since its inception.
  • Each participant may submit only one entry.
  • (Previous Dutch) Entries from Vodafone Mobile Clicks 2008 are allowed to participate again in Vodafone Mobile Clicks 2009
Registration for this contest is now open. Registration for the Netherlands will close at April 30th, 2009 and registration for the UK will close on May 14th, 2009.

We’ll have more details about the competition up on the Mobile Monday London website as and when they happen and we’ll have some Vodafone people on hand at our upcoming events too. In the meantime, head over to Vodafone Mobile Clicks 2009 and see how you can get your hands on some of that €150, 000 prize fund to kick start your business and get your service to market. The closing date for UK entries is 14th May 2009 so get your thinking caps on. Good luck!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sarah McVittie – one for Ada Lovelace Day

For those of you who don’t know, Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology.

Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. Something I’m quite vocal about as some of you may have noticed already. Ada Lovelace Day is about changing that invisibility and getting bloggers to tell the world about these unsung heroines of tech.

Recent research by psychologist Penelope Lockwood discovered that women need to see female role models more than men need to see male ones. So this initiative is one chance to do something about that and highlight new role models and make sure that whenever the question “Who are the leading women in tech?” is asked, that we all have a list of candidates on the tips of our tongues.

So with a bevy of lovely ladies to choose from, it was very hard for me to decide, but decide I must. So today I’m choosing Sarah McVittie who co-founded Texperts.

She’s not your typical lady in tech, if there is such a thing. She’s not a developer. She doesn’t talk geek speak. And if she’s into gadgets in a big way, I’ve never noticed it during all the times I’ve spent with her. What she is though is down to earth, passionate, driven with an aim to help real people find the answer to stuff. She’s the founder of Texperts, the dead easy service whereby you can text any question you like to 66000 and get an answer back for a pound from the Texperts engine which is a genius mix of automated answers (built on several years worth and many 100s of 1000s of questions and a system that learns) and real live human beings. The human element being critical to the success of the service. If the answer isn’t to your satisfaction, you’re not charged. Simple as that.

Admittedly, in this tech world of the new new thing, SMS isn’t seen as the sexiest technology in the world to work with and is often dismissed now as the poor relation in this new world order of the mobile internet. And even in 2003 it wasn’t the sexiest technology in the world. But good golly Miss Molly, the algorithms and thinking behind this service are sexy. SMS it may be but don’t be fooled by its simplicity and think it can’t be any good and that it must be ‘a bit last year’. It certainly ain’t ‘a bit last year’ and is very much ‘so right now’. SMS is still very much live and kicking and the Texperts team are making customers happy and making money at it too. Yes, making money. A real live revenue stream not dependent on mobile advertising. How’s that for a turn up for the mobile industry books?!

Now the Texperts service is growing up having been bought by the folks behind the mighty 118118 and with that comes the recent US launch. Exciting times indeed for Sarah and her loyal team of texperts.

As for Sarah herself, she’s an entrepreneur with a vision and tenacity. A generalist who can also specialise when she needs to. Without a technical background, she’s built a technology business focussed on customer need. She has bags of energy, and I *mean* bags of it. She’s generous of spirit and kind of nature. A pleasure to hang out with. Always lots of fun and bursting with ideas and great anecdotes about the kinds of questions they get asked. She’s been through good times and bad times and has held on and kept the faith and it has paid off. And she’s still young enough to enjoy all the success that has and will come her way.

I’ve known her since the very early days of Texperts when it was born as 82Ask and I’ve been a fan since day one of both her and the service. Sarah is an inspiration to all of us, men and women alike and is a great role model for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit. Sarah shows us that you don’t need to know C++ or the square root of the semantic web divided by a Java platform to build and run a technology business. What you do need is a good idea and to get the right people and resources around you to deliver that idea. Oh, and a good dollop of strength of character.

Well done Sarah. A most welcome addition to Ada Lovelace Day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

OpenMIC Mobile Innovation Event in Bath on 2 April 09

openmic header

The lovely folks at DCKTN and OpenMIC have reminded me this morning about their upcoming event in Bath - It's a barcamp style unconference for discussion, debate and developing new mobile applications and mobile web services. And the lovely Dan Appelquist is one of the featured speakers, although anyone gets a chance to host or lead a session just by putting their name and idea forward. That's how a barcamp works for those of you who've never done one before.

openMIC Mobile Innovation Camp explores recent platform developments and aims to arm the attendee with the knowledge and skills to execute ideas for mobile apps (Symbian, iPhone, Android) and take them to market. The attendee will also learn how to create mobile web applications that utilise the new openness of the operator. In the afternoon attendees will join teams to develop application ideas into a tactical plan with possible investment to develop it further as an outcome.

Preparing for the event: openMIC attendees are encouraged to come to the event with an idea for a mobile application in mind. Ideas can be commercial or to instigate social or charitable purposes. Before the event attendees should suggest application and service ideas using the openMIC page at http://openmicamp.ning.com/ All ideas suggested are open and owned by the break out group that mobilizes to develop them.

Date: Thursday 2nd April 2009
Time: Welcome 9am, Drinks, Entertainment and Networking throughout the day
Venue: Bath Ventures Innovation Centre, Broad Quay, Bath, BA1 1UD
Cost: FREE

Who should attend: DIY developers, ideas people, operators, innovators -> anyone passionate and interested in open group development of new mobile apps for commercial or social use.

Sponsors: Silicon South West and Bath Ventures

For more info please email P[dot]Turgut[at]bath[dot]ac[dot]uk to register your interest and join the group over at http://openmicamp.ning.com/

Friday, March 13, 2009

Female Social Media Guru UK Awards

Vote for me now (please)!

The award serves to celebrate the wealth of female speakers and practitioners of social media living in UK. In doing so its objective is to challenge the current under-representation of females on event panels by offering a high profile platform for women (something I’ve, ahem, mentioned before here once or twice).

Anyway, I’m thrilled to have been nominated (thanks to David Cushman) and would love to get to the final five so I get a chance to strut my stuff. That said, I’m in excellent company and I’d be very happy to see any of these ladies reach the final five. I’m genuinely interested to hear what they have to say.

If you’ve never seen or heard me speak before and are wondering whether or not I deserve your vote, then check out this blog post and video clip on The Future of Mobile. It’s only 6 minutes but I think is representative of what I can do. There are other videos and podcasts of me lurking around the internet too should you be interested in googling for them!

So, vote for me now – you’ll have to scroll down to the end of the poll almost to get to Helen Keegan but it’ll be worth it ;)

Thanks in advance! 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New stats from Bango

According to a press release I got from Bango today, the USA has knocked the UK off the top slot for mobile web browsing with 29% of the worldwide traffic, according to data released today by Bango. And the good news for content providers is that the growth in traffic is being matched by the growth in users paying for content on the mobile web.

“With 245 million subscribers, it was only a matter of time before the US became the number 1 country in the world for mobile web browsing,” said Anil Malhotra, SVP of Marketing at Bango. “When it comes to payments though, the US is accelerating faster than any other country and now accounts for 57% of payments worldwide.”

The statistics also show that while some countries such as India and Indonesia have a good appetite for browsing on their mobiles, it doesn’t always convert into purchases. In fact, only five countries in the Top 10 browsing chart are also in the Top 10 payments chart – USA, UK, Portugal, South Africa and Spain. All worth noting if you’re in the business of selling mobile content.

No matter how high the browsing rate, it is only converted into a high purchase rate where people have a good disposable income and can pay for content on their phone bills. In regions such as India, South Africa, Indonesia and Egypt the driver for mobile browsing is a lack of fixed-line broadband and PCs for accessing the internet which means that the mobile device is the only way people can get onto the internet. Which begs the question as to how this activity can be monetised. What advertising works in these markets and does the ad-funded model stack up economically?

The press release goes on…

“Many people simply have no idea that they have visitors from mobile devices accessing their PC website - these mobile visitors are simply invisible to them,” continued Malhotra. “Part of the problem is lack of awareness and to help, we have created a short video at www.bango.com/mobiletracking which explains how you can get a good grasp of how much mobile traffic you have.” And to save you the trouble of heading there to see it, you can see it here.

The February Bango statistics identified mobile web browsers from a total of 208 different countries and using 1,811 different handsets. View a sample of the mobile traffic going through the Bango system at http://bango.com/live/ (this is pretty cool actually to see the real live traffic. Admob does something similar.)

Food for thought.

Female tech entrepreneurs – Call for entries


With Astia’s ‘Doing it Right’ initiative.

I’ve just been tipped off that Astia, the Silicon Valley leader in programmes that accelerate the funding and growth of women-led start-ups, has just launched its programme in the UK for high-potential, high-growth, women led startups  across Europe. The programme is called ‘Doing it Right’ and the closing date for entries is 22nd April 2009. So you’ve got just over a month ladies to pull it all together.

Since 2003, Astia’s US programme has had over a 60% fundraising success, raised more than $495M for presenting companies and had 11 exits including two IPOs. With high expectations to match this success in Europe, there has never been a better time to be a woman entrepreneur and tap into Astia’s community of over 450 experts, serial entrepreneurs and CEOs in the Valley and UK. And this certainly sounds very good to me – especially in these tough credit crunch times.

Geared around finding funding, Astia’s innovative programmes ensure companies gain access to capital, achieve and sustain high-growth, and build highly successful global businesses. Sharon Vosmek, CEO of Astia, commented: “The Astia programme has managed to make a true difference to women in innovative businesses in the US. We are all about results and measure our success by the success of the companies in our programme. The UK programme is launching at a challenging but exciting time for high-growth businesses and we see a real opportunity to make a difference.”

The London programme is open for applications at www.astia.org for women (at C level) in innovative technology, seeking financing. 

Key dates:
22 April: Application deadline
11-14 May: Doing it Right London programme 
15 May: London company screening day 
18 June: London investor forum

Anyone wanting to apply should visit www.astia.org

I wonder if Sharon Vosmek will be profiled as part of the Finding Ada initiative on 24th March…? I’m still deciding who I’m going to cover.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday linkage

It is Tuesday right? And it is March already (how did that happen)? So it must be time for some links.

This is an interesting post from the Admob blog about iphone advertisers best practice. I would say that quite a few of those tips and hints are relevant for anyone doing stuff in mobile advertising. It’s not exactly rocket science (but then mobile advertising isn’t) but it’s good to be reminded of the simple stuff every now and then. And this is a great checklist.

Bango is also running an interesting experiment in running a mobile website, Mobislim. They have a real mobile website set up and are sharing all the analytics, results, learnings and more with their audience in a blog format. If you are a mobile webmaster looking to commercialise your offering, this is well worth keeping an eye on.

If stats are your thing then have a look at MSearchGroove’s post covering stats around mobile web traffic, mobile search and advertising. Peggy Anne Salz has some interesting insight and links to share.

There was a little flurry of excitement about Process Away recently and their iphone App. Agreed, it looks really good and looks like a great solution to be able to take payments at your live event without a huge investment in hardware, software, wifi and the rest. That I don’t doubt. But who are they and why would I trust them with my money? And even looking at the FAQs, that doesn’t reassure me much. Seeing as folks making business decisions about technology are very often  not technologists, the technology jargon about security is meaningless. Some explanation of who you are, some reassurance that customer’s money is safe, some reassurance of how the service is underwritten and this could be a real goer. Or am I being a curmudgeon here?

I’ve been asked to be a judge for 2009’s Mobile Messaging Awards which is very exciting. Get those entries in! I’m also judging this year’s Webby Awards… still very North American in its focus which is a shame as I firmly believe there is mobile talent beyond those shores. I guess there’s always next year to enter…

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

10 things you didn’t know you could do via text

I want ur text card 

Now there’s a challenge. I use SMS for all sorts of things but in my mobile world, folks tend to get carried away with the new stuff and forget good ol’ fashioned reliable text messaging. And I firmly believe there is still plenty mileage in text messaging.

So when I received an email from another Helen who blogs at Mobile Maven alerting me to a post she’d just written about 1o things you didn’t know you could do via text, it got me thinking. Clearly there’s an American bent to her list and there’s a few things missing on it including these:

My favourite use of SMS in marketing terms is for customer service. Telling people via SMS that their parcel will be delivered on x date, asking customers for feedback and simply saying thank you goes a lot further than endless push messages telling me to do something I probably don’t want to do. Customer retention is cheaper than customer acquisition.

On a daily basis, one of the SMS services I use most is Spinvox who do voicemail to text message – incredibly handy – it converts all my voicemail messages to a SMS which I can then reply to the caller via SMS if I wish. I can even dial in to listen to the message if someone has mumbled so much that it wasn’t translatable. It also works as a voice memo service and links in with various social networks. And even better news today, is that Spinvox is now working with Skype.

You can text in to disable your phone if it’s been stolen… this is still a work in progress for me and I have yet to complete my investigation into these services but will report back shortly on my findings.

And although not strictly a SMS service, you can back up all your SMS (and contacts and whatever else) from your phone, over the air, using Synkia. I met these guys in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress and I’ve been looking out for a SMS-back-up service forever and couldn’t understand why one didn’t exist. After all, O2’s bluebook does this. And Treasuremytext goes some way to doing this too, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. But I have to say, Synkia is *exactly* what I was looking for.

I know there are plenty other examples but instead of me going on about them, perhaps you can tell me what your favourites are instead and share them with everyone here?

Mobile, social change for good, two challenges

I’ve just been alerted that NetSquared currently has not one, but two mobile-based technology Challenges open for submissions from around the world.  They are:

* UC Berkeley Human Rights Center Mobile Challenge
The Human Rights Center is sponsoring a challenge to encourage innovations for applying mobile technologies for human rights investigations and advocacy. Through a NetSquared Community vote, 10 finalists will be chosen. All 10 finalists will be invited to present their ideas at an international conference, “The Soul of the New Machine: Human Rights, Technology, and New Media,” at UC Berkeley, May 4 and 5, 2009. A panel of judges, selected by the Human Rights Center, will choose three winners, to be announced at the conference. Winners will receive cash awards of $15,000 (first place), $10,000 (second place), and $5,000 (third place) to implement their ideas. You can learn more and participate at: http://netsquared.org/ucb-hrc

* N2Y4 Mobile Challenge
N2Y4's Mobile Challenge calls for your world-changing ideas of how mobile applications can help citizens, groups and others create a better world for everybody.  NetSquared and their Challenge Sponsors invite submissions of innovations in mobile technologies for use by civil society.  Through a NetSquared Community vote, 14 Featured Projects will be selected to participate in this year's NetSquared Conference.  Two representatives from each of the 14 Featured Projects will be invited to present their ideas in person at N2Y4, May 26-27, 2009 and compete for cash prizes. You can learn more and participate at: http://netsquared.org/n2y4

So if you’re interested in using mobile technology for the greater good of society, then one of these might just be the challenge you’ve been looking for.