Tuesday, August 02, 2011

5 questions with a mobile entrepreneur

I first worked with my friend Rob Lawson about 10 years ago.  In fact he was good enough to give me my first job in digital media.

Rob's now based in the US.  His new venture is HDmessaging, and I thought it would be interesting to find out more about the company, and also his views on mobile, and other entrepreneurial opportunities:

What's the elevator pitch for HD Messaging?

We are the backbone for text 2.0. Our free, fully featured API and open source clients provide everything developers need to build killer group messaging apps.

In more lay terms, SMS is outdated - few consumer features, relatively expensive for the operators to deliver. IP based messaging is the future - we want to provide the platform to make it happen. We are primarily working with mobile operators and handset OEMs to provide white label IP messaging services for them.

What's the current status - plus how many using, geographic scope etc?

We have been working with one of the largest handset OEMs for almost a year. We also have deals with 2 major carriers and one messaging infrastructure provider. We expect to have apps in the hands of 100+ million consumers in 2012 based on current deals.

What are the biggest challenges you're facing in a) developing & b) persuading people of the benefits?

A. Our biggest development issue is probably speed. We're extremely excited by our roadmap, but never get to build things as quick as we like. We are looking for great developers to join our team in Helsinki

B. Again our main obstacle is bandwidth. There are carriers all over the globe who are potential customers - we know they respond well to what we have to offer, but its hard for us to get in-front of them because we are busy taking care of existing clients.

How would brands & agencies get involved in what you're doing?

Probably the biggest differentiator in our business is what we call MagicWords (see http://hdmessaging.com/magicwords/).
This is really a content play inside for messaging. Lets say you and I are texting back and forth to arrange where to meet for a beer. The word 'beer' might be highlighted and when you click it you see a list of the nearest pubs to where you are standing. If I say 'it looks like it will rain' - then rain becomes a link to the local weather forecast.

From a consumer's view these hidden sources of content add real value to messaging without disrupting the user experience. They also act as great advertising units - a bar might pay to be featured in the list of local pubs, and Sky, ITV and weather.com would all bid to be the provider of the weather forecast to the user. The obvious analogy here is online search - but there are approximately 10 times more text messages sent/received than their are online searches every day - so the market opportunity is huge!

At the moment we are doing some free trials for brands - they can contact us here if they'd like more information. http://hdmessaging.com/magicwords/contact-us/

What other opportunities around mobile do you think are taking off at the moment?

I think 3-D is going to be a lot of fun in the next 12-24 months - especially in the entertainment and ads space. Mobile commerce is finally happening, though I think is going to ramp slower than many expect. There is plenty of room in both areas for real innovation that can gain market traction quickly.

I still think as an industry we haven't yet found the ad unit that makes mobile marketing explode - banners are just too intrusive and unsophisticated. Search is growing fast but isn't differentiated enough from online search. We believe that MagicWords is a great step to something that is based around natural mobile activity (messaging) and ads value to both consumers and brands.

See more here - hdmessaging.com

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