So I thought I’d try something new… here’s a video review. We last featured ROK Talk back in October, now a few months on and I got a beta version of ROK Talk from Ed Hodges the CEO of Howler Technologies. Ed’s company developed the technology and has a joint venture with ROK Corporation who markets the product – thus the “ROK” in ROK talk. See the review for more…
Seeker Wireless provides location awareness technology for mobile phones, but rather than offer location based search or advertising, Seeker prefers to help carriers with more accurate phone bills (at least initially). I caught up with the GM of Sales at Seeker Wireless, Andrew Grill, to find out more.
As background Seeker Wireless was spun out of research within the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). The company’s technology hooks into carrier networks to process signal information and provide an accurate location for mobile handsets. Seeker has 50 staff is privately funded and is currently in trials around the world.
So what makes Seeker’s technology unique? Well the technology sits on any phone (thus larger reach than GPS) it comes carrier installed (thus not depending on users to download an application) and while not as accurate as GPS it is 6-9 times more accurate than Cell ID (400-800m versus 2,500-7,000m). According to Grill this is the key to Seekers advantage; a relatively accurate location awareness technology that will work on more phones than its competitors.
So what is Seeker’s business model? Seeker’s focus is on providing mobile operators with accurate billing data for their ‘home zone’ offers. If you are not familiar with the ‘home zone’ concept this is where mobile operators position their service as an alternate to fixed line phones. By using Cell ID a cheap home-based plan can be offered, hopefully cheap enough to entice users to forego a fixed line. Unfortunately for mobile operators Cell IDs can result in huge ‘home zones’ – subscribers could be at the local shops and getting ‘home zone’ rates rather than full mobile rates. Seekers proposition is simple, with more accurate location technology you reduce revenue leakage and thus increase profits. Seeker believes this leakage is significant and have a calculator to demonstrate this.
Seeker may have a real edge by pitching location technology that has an immediate impact to the bottom line. The same technology that Grill hopes will be championed by a mobile operator’s CFO will then allow further opportunities to ‘turn on’ location aware services such as advertising. Seeker’s approach means the Chief Marketing Officer won’t need to convince the CFO to buy a whole lot of infrastructure… it will already be there.
So who are the competitors? According to Grill it is the R&D sections of mobile operators! While technologies such as Femto Cells and Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) also pose threats, he also sees potential synergies. That story will need to wait till another post however…
After talking to Andrew I have to agree that Seeker does have an interesting play on the traditional location based services we often report about on inbabble.com. There appears to be a clear niche with an approach that has an obvious business case to any potential mobile operator with a ‘home zone’ offer.
Every now and again we get some truly passionate people on inbabble.com. Our interview with Rodger Raderman, co-founder of the mobile content Veeker, is one of these times. Rodger gave us an insight into why Veeker is unique, their recent funding round, and deals with NBC. For an online demo of Veeker follow this link. Read the interview below and you cant help but be excited for Rodger and the Veeker application.
Can you give a quick summary of veeker and why it is unique to other mobile content services please?
Raderman: The first version of Veeker was a mobile content service, but we do not see ourselves that way any longer. A few weeks ago, we launched Veeker 2.0, a video and picture messaging service. It’s a different paradigm—uploading a video or picture to a channel for others to view, versus sending a video or picture directly to a specific person as a message.
Mobile content services like Kyte, Zannel, and Radar work on a channel paradigm. For Kyte, it’s like a personal, online TV channel. For Zannel, it’s multi-media micro-blogging. For Radar, it’s more of a private channel. For each of them, the flow is the same: you create an account, upload mobile videos and pictures to your channel, and others can see these by viewing your channel.
With Veeker, you send video, picture, and text messages from your mobile phone directly to the mobile phone, email account, and/or Veeker account (if they’re registered) of a specific person.
The flow is different. When you join Veeker, you populate an address book with your contacts’ mobile phone numbers and email addresses. Veeker automatically creates an @ veeker.com address for each of your contacts. Then you can send video, picture, and text messages from your mobile phone to any contact’s @veeker.com address. You also can send webcam messages to them. That person will receive your message on the mobile number and email address you provided for them. Plus, the video/picture/text is saved for you in an online Sent Folder.
I record a video on my phone for one person, and send it to that person exclusively, from my phone to their phone, instantly. That’s messaging. It’s the natural evolution of text messaging. You can’t do it with a “channel” paradigm, and it is our fundamental differentiation.
I understand you recently recieved some funding ($2.5m?) … how do you intend to use the funds?
Raderman: We have received a total of just under $2.5M in funding, over the course of about a two years. Some of this came from angels, and some from Meritage Funds and Labrador Ventures. We never announced our Series A round when it closed last March. When Liz at GigaOm reported it recently, many misread this to mean that we just banked the funds. That’s not the case.
We have been using the funds primarily for product development, to build Veeker 2.0. It’s very robust technology, enabling not only sending videos and pictures from mobile phones to individuals and groups, but also cool things like sending webcam messages to phones, publishing videos and pictures to widgets, and more. If you look at our technology and platform, we feel like we’ve developed quite a bit of value for very little money. For example, none of the companies mentioned above have anything on us technologically, and they all have spent quite a bit more money.
We’re just about to begin looking for a series B round, and are being very, very careful with the money we have in the bank right now. We feel this space is still quite immature, and are planning for a marathon rather than a sprint.
What is your longer term plan to generate revenue (advertising, subscriptions etc). How far off is this in your business plan?
Raderman: We’re generating revenue now via B2B partners ranging from media conglomerates to consumer goods companies. We’re finding high demand amongst these companies to use our video and picture messaging platform to incorporate user-generated media (mobile and otherwise) into their online and off-line offerings. And, also, to communicate back to those people. The use-cases range from movie promotion to citizen journalism. Each of these deals is some combination of service fees and advertising revenue share. In the short term, these kinds of deals will be our focus for revenue generation. Over the long term, on the consumer side, our plan is to continue offering a basic free service, supported by advertising. And, upsell to various premium services.
How are you distributing Veeker – just via the web and direct to consumers… or through other means? (I note a recent deal with NBC… is this key to the way forward)
Raderman: There are three prongs to our distribution strategy: 1) via B2B partnerships, 2) via product development and viral growth, and 3) via widgets.
The most exciting B2B relationship we have right now is with NBC News. We power the citizen journalism efforts for each of their owned and operated stations, in major markets like San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Philidelphia, Miami, etc.
NBC San Diego received over 2500 pictures and videos from their viewers sharing their experiences of the fires. That is a remarkable number. I made a blog post called “6 Factors That Make Citizen Journalism Work for NBC”for those that are interested:
In terms of viral growth, Veeker 2.0 is a very open system. It ingests content from phones, from email, from webcams, and outputs it to phones, emails, widgets, and, of course, Veeker.com. As email is open, and TXT messaging is open—meaning, others don’t need an account to receive an email or TXT from you—so Veeker 2.0 is open. And since we’ve launched it, we’re seeing triple digit growth.
In terms of widgets, we’re big believers. Ours is a video message widget that you can embed on any webpage. Others can record a webcam message with it, and that will be delivered straight to your mobile phone and/or email. The widget also immediately can display any webcam video recorded on it, or video or picture sent to it from phone or email.
If I understand correctly Veeker does not require an application download or web access, just the ability to send multimedia messages. This must be great for consumer adoption ( i.e. easy to setup). Can you give our readers and consumers stats or useage stats (most popular media, number of subscribers, growth rates?)
Raderman: Yes, we we use the software everyone already has. A web browser on their computer and an MMS client on their phone. It couldn’t be easier. Since we relaunched, we’re seeing triple digit growth, which is validating.
What is next for veeker in both features/ functionality, and in a businesses sense?
Raderman: As I mentioned, we just completed a rather long product development cycle. So, we’re iterating as necessary from here. Small things like being able to reply from the phone, more granular organizational and archival features online, easier customization for our partners.
We feel like we have a very solid core. Right now, for us, it’s primarily about generating revenues on the B2B side, while working to make the consumer side of our business catch fire.
Many announcements over the last week or so including; InfoSpace sale, Sprint mobile TV content, mobile airline check-in, mobile payments to Verizon Wireless, $412 million to MVNO Virgin USA, Mobile TV and Mobile music firms raise money, Disney.com launch, Firefox mobile coming, Google buys mobile microblogging platform, and Google launch SMS based search in India. (more…)
Mobile events in the coming month include Location Based Services in Madrid, Spain 8-11 Oct. The event is run by IRR and includes speakers from Orange, Vodafone and a couple of companies we have featured on inbabble.com Seeker Wireless and Shozu.
From 16-18th this month is the Telco2.0 executive brainstorm in London. This event is interactive rather than a series of “sit and listen” sessions. There are various streams which include the strategy and business models around mobile advertising and marketing, messaging, and also social networking. Cisco, Intel and Alcatel-Lucent are included as supporters of the event.
In exactly one month from 7-8th of November is the Mobile Communities and User Generated Content conference in London. The event will address the issues for mobile communities and user-generated content success. This includes business models, role of advertising, moderating communities and optimising the consumer experience. Speakers include MySpace, Yahoo, Peperoni and Admob (see our coverage).
For those who plan further ahead the following events are over 1-2 months away:
27-28 Nov 2007: Mobile Instant Messaging, London, UK
28-30 Nov 2007: Mobile WiMAX – The Global Conference, Cannes, France.
26 – 29 Nov 2007: VoIP & wVoIP World Congress 2007, Madrid, Spain
26 – 29 Nov 2007: Mobile Advertising, Budapest, Hungary
3-6 Dec 2007: Mobile TV 2007, Berlin, Germany
McDonalds is to introduce free WiFi in most of its 1,200 stores in the UK by the end of the year. In the US McDonalds has free WiFi already in about 8,000 of 12,000 stores. This will be a handy addition for users of WiFi enabled phones.
More theories on an upcoming Gphone from Google. Current thoughts are for a free open-source operating system that helps push Google’s advertising reach (i.e. software, not an actual phone). The objective is to have mobile operators select the system over, say, Microsoft Mobile.
A company called PhoneCasting has raised $500,000. They offer a variation of a podcast service, but rather than downloading and listening to a Podcast you are provided a telephone number to call.
Vodafone UK is providing their music download service MusicStation free (usually £2/week!) for users on 18 month contracts over £40. The move is reported to be a response against iPhone/ 02.
FON the largest WiFi community in the world has made an agreement with BT. Existing BT wireless users (I am actually one) need to opt in to be part of the BT FON community. Why is this on a mobile blog… well obviously with the number of WiFi enabled devices such as the iPhone (US now and UK next month) and the N95 this will provide more potential access points to connect via. The deal has been in the works for a while, we reported on rumours in Feb this year.
In Japan NTT Docomo has released a health focused phone that amongst other things monitors your pulse and has a pedometer.
MySpace has announced a deal to be packaged with O2 handsets. O2 is the only other carrier in Europe besides Vodafone to have a MySpace mobile centric interface. The service will include free data charges for November and December.
Fox News Radio has announced a mobile radio offering called Fox News Radio Mobile. The service is delivered in partnership with GotVoice and delivers news twice daily to voicemail boxes.
Nokia beta labs has released an application called Conversations. The application groups SMS messages together that are part of the same conversation (much like the iPhone does and like Gmail does for email).