Well, almost. It’ll be twenty years ago on 3rd December since the first text message was sent over the Vodafone network and a new era of communication and data dawned or should that be ‘spawned’? It took some time for SMS to break through to the mainstream, but when it did, it seemed to happen pretty fast. Now it seems a bit old hat as I find myself reverting to email, twitter, facebook and IM to connect with friends, family and colleagues. As for calling, well, I barely need that function on my phone any more. We’ve all been part of this change and it has been hardly noticeable as we migrate from one service to another. And with these changes, you’d think that incumbents like Skype and BBM had the sector sewn up. But if Skype’s future isn’t as clear cut as we may have thought, that means there’s still wiggle room and there’s still scope for new services to emerge and I’m interested to see how and when these take off.
So the newest kid on the block is yuilop who happen to be based in Barcelona, one of my favourite cities in the world. My friend Phil has gone to work for them and I challenged him on why he’d chosen to go and work for a start-up in, what I thought, was a market hard to penetrate and with little (obvious) sources of revenue for all the above reasons. And why would you go for yuilop and not, say, Whatsapp (which seems to be almost ubiquitous now and a real threat to the once dominant BBM)?
Yuilop seems to have greater ambitions than Whatsapp or BBM and calls itself a ‘social communication app’. It allows free rich media messaging (so audio, pictures, video – what the operators may have described as MMS once upon a time), free yuilop to yuilop voice calls (all via mobile) and on top of that, you can message your friends who are not on yuilop via standard SMS or voice. This means you can get in touch with your friend who has an old Nokia handset without app capability and still message or talk to them. The latter has some significant cost to it, but they don’t charge customers for this at the moment, but instead require them to get Energy by getting your friends to sign up and by engaging in consumer offers. The free calls and messages angle is always popular in youth markets and they’re savvy when it comes to taking advantage of them.
The ad-funded telco offering is not new. We saw it with Blyk back in the day, and more recently with Ovivo Mobile. But it’s a tough one. Will the maths stack up or, like one commenter on Yuilop’s Google Play page, should you just let the customers buy credit if they want to? I’ve been wary of wholly ad-funded services for digital services. The danger is that you attract the freeloaders who suck you dry and find every loophole in the system. They’re also the customers who will never ever respond to an advert. Or even if they did, they don’t have the money to spend anyway. The customers you’re trying to attract can probably afford to pay. It’s a dilemma. That’s not to say new business models shouldn’t be tried. They absolutely should. And our digital lives are changing and moving so fast, exponentially even, that anything could happen and the innovators and the businesses nimble enough to try something new are the ones who will win out in the end.
So is there room for something like Yuilop? Yes, I think there probably is. They’ve had very fast growth in the last 6 months with over 30,000 Google Play ratings which is just a proportion of the overall number of downloads, it’s clear that this one is doing something right. If they can get the balance right between consumer insight and marketing offers, then they’re on to something. Add in a dollop of big data when they get to 250,000 customers to do interesting targeting beyond age, gender, location and device, and we might start to see some interesting results for advertisers and customers alike. Will they catch up with the likes of Viber, Whatsapp, Kakao, Line, Skype and more? Time will tell.
Phil from yuilop will be in the UK on 17th October and you can meet him to talk about the opportunities with yuilop in Spain and the UK at Swedish Beers.
Want to know more about what exponential actually means? Well, I could explain it, but I’ll leave it to friend and colleague, Russell Buckley, to do that in this short video.