I recently (Tuesday 11th of December 2007) had the pleasure of attending a breakfast seminar conducted by the Innovation Bay team with Ben Keighran as the guest speaker. Ben is the founder of an exciting new startup company called Bluepulse which has recently expanded into the USA after securing US$6M in seed stage venture funding. Ben shared with the audience a number of insights into both the mobile and social networking space. From meeting Ben he is certainly very accomplished and will be a future innovator to watch.
I have gathered in this blog post a collection of take away points from the seminar that I thought worthy of note. The points are collected from both Ben's talk, questions from the audience, general discussion and some of my own thoughts and thinking on the area.
Technical Notes on Bluepulse Mobile Platform Development
- In the early days, it was discovered that by trying out a few AT commands into the mobile phone, the menu items where returned.
- Ben connected a mobile phone to a PC (I assume by Bluetooth) which then allowed the mobile phone to control the music playing on the PC.
- I assume this consisted of client side software on the PC that sat between the Bluetooth API and the music player software API and then a small client (assume java based) on the mobile phone to pass commands to the PC client.
- Early days java and C++ as client on mobile. The mobile phone client detected handset and then controlled itself accordingly. Had over 2000 mobile phone configurations.
- The new back end detects the mobile phone handset and sets pages orientation accordingly.
Barriers to PC based Social Networking Platforms Getting Onto the Mobile Platform
The obvious PC based social networking platforms are in this case MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, etc. These social networks already have very large user bases. Many people therefore believe they will leap from the PC to the mobile with ease. However others in the industry believe they wont for the following reasons:-
- The platform leap is too significant. Examples giving was the huge efforts CNN had to go through to bring their content from TV to Internet.
- The change in platform is too significant of a paradigm change for the company staff.
- Current PC based social networking platforms are more focused on past connections. The term "social mapping" (which I assume has the same meaning as social network) was used to describe this phenomenon. Social network in this case refers to people being friends while in high school, playing in the same sporting team during 2005, etc.
- However social networking on the mobile phone is regarded as significantly different as it is behaviour orientated.
- Users share their actions, movements etc with their social network through descriptions of where they are going or where will they be at a certain time. It is therefore much more focused on the now rather than the past.
- PC ownership declining, generally only 1-3 PCs per house. Alternatively mobile phone ownership is rising with each user having their own, which is generally turned on 24/7 and always with them.
- The advertising proposition on the mobile phone is potentially more valuable as it is a very directed media.
Bluepulse Company History and Future
- Funded by family and friends. Bluepulse PTY LTD registered with ASIC on Sept 2002, Bluepulse Holdings PTY LTD registered Mar 2007 (I assume as a result of the VC deal). Therefore approximately 5 years of development.
- Seed stage venture funding of US$6M.
- Bluepulse is described as being a new messaging format for the mobile. Previously there was talk and sms, now Bluepulse is a third type of messaging format.
- Target group is university students.
- In future 80% of mobile phones will be Internet connected.
- Bluepulse feel that expertise in the US will help their move to using a much larger back end that scales well.
- A figure of 1 million unique visitors per month was used. I don't know if this is a current or projected figure.
- From US discussions 1 unique visitor = $1 in value. I assume value attributed is the price you can sell it for to advertisers.
My thoughts and comments
I can see more value to the end user when viewing the Bluepulse network as a new messaging format rather than social networking for the mobile phone. The blending of SMS, email, instant messaging, contact management and location with GPS in the mobile phone in a more user friendly manner is obviously a huge value proposition.
- Current use of mobile phone communications are all point to point based, one user talking or SMS'ing another. Now with web on the phone the Bluepulse network offers point to point between the user and a back end server which then re-broadcasts the message to many.
- New communication methods using web on the mobile phone are relatively new not because of new technological developments but due to mobile phone carriers opening the Internet access available from the mobile phone to the wider web after first offering customers only walled gardens.
Therefore I think Bluepulse is a great new idea. I imagine the company future could be a lot like hotmail in which registered users are the score card and once a significant registered user head count is reached acquisition becomes a real possibility.
Bluepulse is described on its web site as a "privately held mobile social media company based in San Mateo, California that is busy building one of the world’s largest communities on mobile".
Innovation Bay is described on their web site as "a not-for-profit group of entrepreneurs and business leaders who come together to discuss issues and share experiences within a casual, open and informal environment".