MoMoLo: Accelerators and Finance

mobilemondaylondon.gifLast night I was at Mobile Monday London where the topic was Accelerators and Finance. John Spindler, CEO of Capital Enterprise gave a presentation on available finance and accelerators in the UK and Jessica Stacey from NESTA gave some insights into NESTA’s research into accelerators. John then chaired a panel consisting of Jessica, Simon Cook of DFJ Esprit, Brian Taylor from PixelPin, Diane Perlman of Microsoft Ventures, Simon Devonshire from Wayra (Telefonica) and John Bradford of Techstars London. Here are some aspects I found noteworthy…
  • One of the main benefits of accelerators is gaining contacts
  • While money might be the initial attraction, the amounts (typically £75k) tend to be too small to take the company through the accelerator and additional funding is usually required
  • It was mentioned that accelerated companies can gain as much from their peers as they do from the more formal accelerator activities
  • Many startups actually spin out of startups and/or end up investing in further startups
  • Between 5% and 9% of of the TSB applicants get funding
  • Only a small proportion, estimated to be 1% of 1% of UK SMEs go through the VC route
  • For the Techstars accelerator, about 10 or 11 companies get picked out of every round of about 1500 applicants
  • When picking, the team tends to be more important than the individual or idea
  • An accelerator usually accelerates something that already exists and it’s rare that it’s just an idea on paper unless it comes from someone who has previously had ideas that have proven to be successful
With so few companies actually taking the accelerator route, there was a question as to what non-accelerated companies could take/gain from the accelerator ecosystem.  Diane Perlman said that Microsoft extends some of the networking aspects of Microsoft Ventures to BizSpark members thus widening the benefit. John Bradford explained that similar techniques, used by accelerators, can be applied to any startup. For example, if you need advice find the three cleverest people you know and seek their advice while taking them out for coffee. Ask them to recommend three other clever people and repeat the process several times. When you get to about 27 people you will find patterns in their response that you should find useful.

Mobile Monday MWC Stand Competition Finals

mobilemondaylondon.gifThis evening I was at Mobile Monday London where the MWC Stand Competition Finals were being held. The following short listed companies competed for UKTI / ICT KTN free stand space at Mobile World Congress in 2014…
  • Nquiring Minds – Nick Allot
  • Viewranger – Ben Howard (Winner)
  • Capito Systems – Tony Ballardie (Winner)
  • 23snaps – Meaghan Fitzgerald (Winner)
  • 5Tiles – Michal Kubacki and Piotr Pieczynski (Winner)
  • Peachinc – Daniel Morris (Winner)
  • Spatial Buzz – Leon Hardwick
  • Coveritas – Sean Redmond
  • Design for Social Change – Priya Prakash
  • Red Glasses – Adam Martin

I was particularly impressed with Spatial Buzz that solves a problem I have very recently experienced myself – knowing if/why a telco network is down and feeding back information to the telco. At first I was very sceptical as I have seen, first hand, how difficult it can be to get multiple parts of a large telco to cooperate and share information. However, I was impressed when they said they were already working with Telefonica and Tesco in the UK. Sadly, Spatial Buzz didn’t win a place.

I am not sure if it was the nature of the competition, the short listing or the the prize itself but nearly all the companies said they were looking for ‘partners’ (rather than ‘customers’) to help grow their businesses. Also, none of them were a pure app selling or freemium proposition – which are probably less viable business models now apart from a few exceptions.

Mobile Monday London: Mobile OS Platforms


Last night I was at Mobile Monday London where the theme was mobile platforms. The event was sponsored by Ubuntu (Canonical).

The event was started with a short presentation by Victor Palau, VP of Phone and Hyperscale Delivery at Canonical where he quickly got to the question of whether the new Mobile OSs such as Ubuntu, Jolla and Firefox can "make it". His argument was that the current few major players (Apple and Google) are now killing innovation in that new features tend to be new apps rather than changes to the OS. This presents an opportunity for disruption. However, he warned that any challengers to iOS and Android need to be attractive to operators, OEMs and end users.

Next, Andreas Constantinou gave a short ‘Top 10 insights’ from Vision Mobile’s latest (Q3 2013) developer economics that are out today. There was so much content that I’ll cover this another time.

A panel session followed chaired by Geoff Blaber of CCS Insight and consisting of Alex Sinclair of the GSMA, David Wood at Delta Wisdom (formerly Symbian), Andreas Constantinou of Vision Mobile, Victor Palau of Canonical and Christian Heilmann from Mozilla Corporation.

Here are the main points I found interesting…

  • Firefox’s mobile OS is targeting those people who don’t already have a smartphone and can’t afford iOS and Android.
  • There was a question whether new open Linux-based OSs would succeed given past failed attempts by LiMo and LiPS. It was claimed better management and consistent messages to operators might prove more successful this time.
  • David Wood observed that all mobile OSs have a lifetime beyond which they become less easy to extend to new innovations.
  • Andreas reiterated and stressed Victor’s previous comments that any new OS needs to be attractive to OEMs, developers, operators and end users.  Geoff gave Windows Phone as an example of a platform that hasn’t achieved this.
  • Alex said that the new OSs should be more attractive to operators because they should be able to use their own OTT services and not have to compete with Google/Apple services.
  • Enterprise represents a third of the app economy.
  • There was much discussion about HTML5 with Andreas saying someone had compared it to a car without brakes (i.e. runnaway memory that’s not able to be monitored). He also said a recent study showed only 1 in 4 Android Play store apps could be developed (for technical reasons) in HTML5.
  • Good reasons for having further OSs included re-balancing profits across the industry and leveling competition but ironically, more OSs means more fragmentation – something Android and iOS have improved on compared to pre-iOS days.
  • There was the question whether new OSs can compete when they don’t have the key 3rd party apps (e.g. Skype, Google Maps, Facebook).
  • Recent news events related to privacy also caused some speculation as to whether a new OS could take a stance as being more secure or at least more transparent with respect to data privacy.
My personal take is that the new mobile OSs will see small market shares. There’s nothing compelling for the parties (OEMs, developers, operators and end users) to make them switch. Microsoft has shown that being different or spending lots of marketing money isn’t enough any more. I believe the next hugely successful mobile OS (and there will be one) will involve a step change in either hardware design, input methods or something else. The current contenders (or even current incumbents) might evolve into that OS but the current new OS incarnations aren’t that OS yet.

MoMo London – Mobile, Maps and Geolocation

mobilemondaylondon.gifLast night I was at Mobile Monday London where the theme was Mobile, Maps and Geolocation – so much more than "Where am I?". It was a panel event with Gary Gale from Nokia, Christopher Osborne from AlertMe and founder and organiser of GeoMob, Ian Holt, Head of Developer Outreach at Ordnance Survey, Jeni Tennison, Technical Director at the Open Data Institute and member of the W3C TAG and Harry Wood of who is also an OpenStreetMap volunteer.


I thought the event started very woolly with lots of vague statements that seemed obvious and probably even obvious to the layperson. It’s when the audience got involved that things became a lot more interesting. I came to the event expecting discussion on such things as privacy, implementation practicalities and comparisons of map providers but came away with probably, more valuable, insights into where Mobile, Maps and Geolocation might be heading in the future. Here are some of my notes…

  • There was discussion on whether we will always have or need maps. For example, navigation doesn’t need maps and Foursquare is centred around POIs rather than maps. I think the consensus was that these are additional uses for map data that probably won’t ever replace 2D maps.
  • There will probably be more innovations and required standardisation for indoor mapping.
  • There will be more use of map data with other contextual data and historical data so that problems can be solved such as "What will the traffic be like when I set out and hence what route should I take".
  • As with previous MoMo events on GPS and location, it was observed that location ‘where I am going’ is often more interesting then the current location. Again, historical and contextual information can provide for more useful services.
  • Some solutions will require access to raw vector data that’s currently unavailable from most providers (I suppose at least easily available and at reasonable cost).
  • There are opportunities for transactional apps based on where you are or where you are going. The current Taxi apps are early innovators in this area.
  • There was a view that OpenStreetMap needs to somehow sort out its licensing so that it can be used for apps that generate revenue. The current Share alike licensing is putting off a lot of potential commercial users.
  • Telecom operators, who are best placed to collect and use location data, continue to be (too) slow to innovate. They have large opportunities in areas that use aggregated anonymous data such as government traffic management and business intelligence.
  • Medical, particularly the security (location) of expensive medical assets is a growing and viable area.
  • There are opportunities to use location data to perform queries that don’t just rely on distance. For example, you might do a query that shows POIs of certain type based on time to reach as opposed to distance.
  • There was discussion on the UK PAF (Postcode) database that’s currently controlled by the Royal Mail. The Royal Mail probably needs to open this data otherwise it will eventually be replicated via open/crowdsourced methods.

MoMoLo: Finance, Incubators & Accelerators

mobilemondaylondon.gifLast Monday evening I was at Mobile Monday London where the topic was Finance, Incubators & Accelerators. John Spindler, of Capital Enterprise started the event with a whirlwind overview of finance in the UK. There followed a panel discussion consisting of Alistair Hill, from Device Research, Nic Brisbourne from DFJ Esprit, Sitar Teli from Connect Ventures, Michel Sabatier from Crelligo and Inmaculada Martinez of Opus Corporate Finance. Here are some insights gained from the event…
  • Seed and VC investment are only suitable for a small percentage of companies. These are actually the most expensive options. They are suitable for companies that have big ambitions (to become multi-million companies) within a relatively short time (3-5 years).
  • Investable companies usually have a ‘Hipster’ (domain expert who designs), a ‘Hacker’ (who develops) and a ‘Hustler’ (who distributes).
  • Crowdfunding and kickstarter-type sites are great for smoke testing an idea and getting pre-sales.
  • Metrics are important to prove you know what you are talking about and that the idea can scale.
  • The time when a 100,000 download app was investable is over. Today, you need to build a platform, not an app. You should be able to prove the platform has width (to take on new pivots) and depth (able to scale).
  • VC is mainly a referral business. You need to network and/or gain entry via others already in the finance industry in order to get seen.
  • Raising too much money can kill a business. This is also a previous observation of mine.
  • London currently receives a relatively small amount of seed and VC investment. However, there was 50% more seed investment last year than the year before.
  • Near future opportunities are seen to be money (people started purchasing for the first time substantially via mobile last year), health, M2M and connected devices (devices connected to consumer phones).

Mobile Monday Creative Mobile Fight Club

momoshoreditch.pngLast night I was at Mobile Monday Shoreditch where the theme was ‘Creative Mobile Fight Club’ that discussed creativity in mobile.

Jennifer Wilson from the Project Factory explained how creativity represents not just something that’s original and worthwhile but also something that delights and satisfies. Simon Gill from LBi and Ben Scott Robinson from SapientNitro provided examples of commercial ‘campaign’ projects showcasing creativity while Alvaro Arregui (freelance) and Stuart Amos from the Digital Puppet Show explained how a lack of commercial pressure and the resultant increased ability to iterate considerably improves the possibilities for creativity. We were told that many ‘campaign’ projects, despite incorporating creative ideas, have poor usability until (and sometimes if) they get to a third version.

I came away thinking that there are many more types of creativity in mobile other than mentioned at this event. Creativity should also manifest itself not just in the original idea for an app and the visual representation. For example, there’s creativity in implementation and creativity in devising a software process or workflow. Missing out on these aspects jeopardises the success of the project.

Having a concept that’s invented remote from the customer and the developer, that’s fully designed then later signed off before being seen by the developer, can result in failed projects that only get usable by "the third version". Most commercial campaigns don’t have the luxury of a third or even second version. Instead, it’s better to be more creative in the use of a workflow, for example agile, that involves the customer and developer so that you get many iterations in before that one and only release. In particular, this allows the developer to exercise their own creativity for the good of the project rather that just being told to "Implement that".

MoMo London: Demo Night

mobilemondaylondon.gifLast night I was at Mobile Monday London Demo Night. There were talks from…
  • Blue Badge Style – A social network/geo system for the disabled
  • Animal Systems – A way to communicate small things (docs, images etc) using just sound
  • Boss Level – A multi-player, multi-platform HTML5 game
  • Connecthings – City information using NFC
  • Critical Arc – A large area (e.g. campus) based security system
  • Decibel Technology – Mobile (and desktop) analytics heatmap style reporting
  • Dennis Publishing – Responsive publishing system used for The Week
  • Globo Plc – GO!Enterprise – Enterprise mobility
  • Trademob – A way to reduce click fraud using publisher blacklisting
  • Vyclone – A social video platform
  • AudioSnaps – Taking small snippets of sound at the same time as taking a photo and embedding the sound in the jpg
One observation was that the majority (but not all) of the demo’ists had B2B business models in mind rather than direct B2C. I believe this is where the smart money is at the moment. Direct to consumer either via app purchase or freemium is a hard sell at the moment. There’s more opportunity in creating innovative apps that help a particular industry.

MoMo London HTML5 vs Native

mobilemondaylondon.gifOn Monday evening I was at MoMo London at the ‘annual’ HTML5 vs Native debate. It was excellently chaired by the entertaining Ewan MacLeod of Mobile Industry Review, with two teams of debaters. Andrew Betts (FT Labs), Sam Arora (DeviceAnywhere) and Jose Valles (BlueVia) were in the ‘Pro-HTML5’ team  while Nick Barnett (Mippin), Alex Caccia (Marmalade) and Chris Book (Bardowl) were in the ‘pro-native’ team.

To cut a long story short, the usual pros and cons of HTML5 and native were discussed (see my previous posts) and predictably it came down to ‘horses for courses’. It all depends on your project. However, there were some items of interest that might be worth further thought…

  • All the latest apps the panel had downloaded were native.
  • Andrew Betts from FT Labs suggested HTML5 hasn’t been found suitable for many projects because HTML app implementors "didn’t do it very well".
  • Jose Valles said that maybe there’s a need to push to get (HTML) APIs open. Later, Jon Rabin, organiser of MoMoLo mentioned CoreMob that has these goals. 
  • Alex Caccia commented on how they (Marmalade) think of ARM as a platform across devices, in a similar way to the way some people see HTML5 as cross platform.
  • Alex also observed that when you get stuck, HTML5 tends to be a black box that needs difficult experimentation while native has APIs that are easier to explore.
  • There was contention as to whether an app should look and behave like other apps on the phone or use brand-familiar idioms. Again, it depends on the actual app (and brand).
  • There was an observation from Andrew that companies tend to blow their budget on creating an iOS app. When they suddenly realise Android is needed, there’s much less money available and the result is a poorer app. When further platforms are needed, the budgets get even smaller.
  • There was a question as to what the next billion users, in less developed countries, might end up using and whether this might influence development trends.
  • Finally, reversing last year’s result, the audience voted for native over HTML.