Monthly Archives: February 2014

Startups: Where Can You Get Help in Europe’s Digital Capital?


The startup environment has no doubt transformed during the past five years. There are more interesting success stories than ever, there’s much more support on offer and your mates will probably think you’re cool rather than crazy for doing one – hey, they’re probably your fellow founders.

In spite of that, more than half a million startups launched in the UK in the last year alone and the success rate is still pretty dismal. Ian Merricks, head of London’s Accelerator Academy, says the first goal of any organisation like his is to increase that survival rate.

Accelerator Academy runs three 12-week programmes every year where they take on 10 first-year tech and digital media startups with fast-growth potential. The Academy aims to build business readiness for these companies in three key areas: the team, the market and finally investment, all via intenstive training and mentoring.

Running for two and a half years so far, it has already supported nearly 70 startups tackling areas including B2B and B2C, eCommerce, marketing technologies, app development and data analytics. 75 per cent of its alumni have gone on to raise seed funding, Merricks says, totalling around £10m to date.

But a word of caution. A tiny 0.1 per cent of today’s startups will be able to secure a place in the 17 ‘tier-one’ accelerators across the UK. That’s pretty stiff competition.

So who is the Accelerator Academy for?

People that can go the distance: “It’s competitive getting in,” says Merricks. “We get around 100 applications per semester and only take 10. And once you’re in, it’s still really hard work running your startup as well as taking on and applying the learning.”

Adults: “The average age of people in our programme is 32. They’ve had jobs in the real world, and have a bit of life experience, so not generally 21-year-old grads full of bright ideas. They have to be bright enough but also humble enough to listen to people.”

Women: “I don’t go in for women-only accelerators and we couldn’t care about the founders’ gender or where they are from. But we do get fewer applications from women entrepreneurs.”

Disruptors: “We’re looking for technology solutions that change the way markets behave and where spending another year or two getting it right is a bad idea.”

And who should take their ideas elsewhere?

‘Wantrepreneurs’: “We aren’t looking for people who’ve just been sitting in Starbucks playing on their MacBook Pro for years.”

Sole founders: “If they can’t get one other person to agree with them, it’s possibly not a great idea.”

Businesses with more than £250,000 in revenue: “If you’re all in a similar place in your first year, whether you have issues with sales, marketing, financials, recruitment or legals, there are pretty consistent challenges we can help you deal with.”

Bad novelists: “Anybody can found a startup, but they say there’s a book in everyone and you wouldn’t want to read mine.”

Written for Mobile Marketing and first published here:

Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales Talks Ethical Telcos

Jimmy WalesJimmy Wales is a man that hardly needs an introduction.

As co-founder – and self-titled ‘constitutional monarch’ – of Wikipedia, the fifth-largest website on the internet and by far the most visited not-for-profit, Wales is assured his place in history alongside the likes of Gates and Zuckerberg.

But, unlike many of his peers, Wales’ less commercial focus means he’s not a billionaire, although he does count former prime minister Tony Blair among his friends.

In January, Wales became the director of The People’s Operator, an MVNO that donates 10 per cent of each person’s bill directly to a charity of their choice, with a further 25 per cent of the company’s overall profit going to its charitable foundation. The business runs on EE’s network in the UK and although many are concerned about the future of the telco industry, Wales is very excited about his new role.

“People often pitch me things that are somehow worthy or noble in their objectives but don’t have a practical way to achieve them,” he told Mobile Marketing. “Others just pitch on things with safe business goals. I got excited because The People’s Operator seemed to be both – and it has the potential to raise a huge amount of money for good causes.”

Asked about the threat to telcos from the growth of OTT providers, for example, Wales simply said the MVNO model ‘looks good to me’. “It’s a long-standing, stable business model. Obviously it will always have internal quirks, like the fact that you’ve got to work with mobile operators, but it’s a great business. The telcos seem very interested and very excited to work with us – so far, so good.”

Global movement

The for-profit operation based in Tech City is online-only and keeps costs down by spending little on offices and marketing, enabling it to commit to making charitable donations. So where is it planning to find its customers? “We’re going to be a global business so we have to be in as many places as possible,” Wales said.

“Our concentration is online, viral marketing and word of mouth, which won’t really work if we happen not to be in country and someone wants to sign up. We want to give people as many opportunities to participate as possible. First off, the US is obviously a big target and then Europe generally.”

Wales explains that around 2m users donate to Wikipedia every year. But with around 540m visitors every month, that means just 0.03 per cent of those people put their hand in their pocket. So is he really convinced that customers will vote with their cash for a more ethical operator?

Tech for good

“The People’s Operator is part of a much broader trend. Customers are really interested in being involved with companies that care where their money is going. The basic pitch is: go with another operator who will spend a big chunk of money on TV ads and billboards – or go with us. In return, we want you to get the word out and get your friends signed up. Wikipedia had its most successful fundraiser ever this year,” he adds.

Wales’ wife used to work for Tony Blair, with the former PM a guest at his wedding, and the Labour Party is mentioned as a ‘good cause’ currently being supported by TPO’s Foundation. Does this mean TPO is a partisan operation? “There are already hundreds of charitable partners and causes that people can support. We’re not specifically tied to any particular view of the world,” he explained.

So is Wales determind to change the entire mobile industry, one that is fraught with everything from privacy breach allegations to objectionable hardware production practices. “We’re definitely going to do our best but as an MVNO we don’t have direct control over lots of things, like supply chains for phones. I’m very interested in some of the things going on right now – like people trying to put together ethical hardware – but realistically there’s not much we can do about that. It’s definitely something we will try and support.”

Self-organise online

Like his work with Wikipedia, which champions free access to online information, The People’s Operator project looks to be another business where technology and politics can meet. Does Wales see it that way? “This is certainly something we’re seeing – an increasing intersection of tech and politics – in lots of different ways that are both good and bad, and this will continue to be the case.

“One of main things that interests me is the ability of people to get together online and self-organise in ways that weren’t possible 50 to 60 years ago. In society, we’re just at the beginning of understanding what that really means.”

Although Wikipedia isn’t for-profit, the smartphone revolution is having a massive impact here. “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the mobile portion of traffic. Wikipedia and mobile is a perfect match: you wonder about something – perhaps you’ve got a bet with a friend – and you look right there on the spot. Mobile is really good for Wikipedia in the long run.”

Written for Mobile Marketing and first published here:

Mobile Marketing in the Wild: GetTaxi Hijacks #TubeStrike

Get Taxi tubestrikeMillions of Londoners were held up across the capital this morning, many apparently desperate to work from their desks despite well-publicised industrial action by Underground staff.

As many were having to make a treacherous journey above ground, cab app firm GetTaxi was keen to take advantage of the situation. The company created the above image – based on the well-known travel disruption boards seen at Tube stations – using an online image generator. They tweeted out the image, hijacking the Twitter hashtag #tubestrike, which has been used today by the public to praise their own ‘blitz spirit’ in tough circumstances.

We reached out to GetTaxi to see if the risqué tactic worked. Head of marketing for GetTaxi, Rich Pleeth, said: “We’ve seen around 200 per cent uplift in orders from a usual day and we have extra people in our customer care team today trying to help everyone who wants to find a taxi via our app. However there are a lot of Londoners who can’t get a ride as unfortunately we can’t move the amount of people the Tube can.”

If you enjoyed that, see what everyone else has been up to and make your sign here.

I have a bike #smug.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and first published here:

EU Finally Rules in 10-year Google Anti-trust Case

Google CarouselGoogle has committed to improving its business practices as part of a decade-long investigation by the European Commission into monopolistic behaviour in online search.

Having rejected two initial proposals for reconciliation from Google, the Commission has now accepted the ad giant’s offer, with anti-trust chief Joachin Alumnia speaking in Brussels to say he believes the company is now ‘capable of addressing the concerns’.

The Commission said: “Google has now accepted to guarantee that whenever it promotes its own specialised search services on its web page (e.g. for products, hotels, restaurants, etc.), the services of three rivals, selected through an objective method, will also be displayed in a way that is clearly visible to users and comparable to the way in which Google displays its own services.

“This principle will apply not only for existing specialised search services, but also to changes in the presentation of those services and for future services.”

‘Difficult to feel complete comfort’ with process

Glen Collins, CEO of user-generated content review site Review Centre, told Mobile Marketing that he doesn’t feel entirely comfortable with the length of the latest case. “I think it’s very difficult to feel complete comfort in an anti-trust process that takes 10 years to reach a decision in a market where the rules, the players and the technology changes seemingly overnight.”

SEO specialist Richard Baxter, MD of, told us his company will be interested to know how Google will identify ‘three rivals’ to display within its paid search results. “The concessionary measure offered by Google today apparently opens a fairer, less biased playing field for brands to succeed in search regardless of their budget and company size.

“We’ll be analysing just where Google intends to find the data for their enhanced ad listings, though we expect to find they’ll be influenced by results from Google’s Organic search service.”

Not the first time

In January last year, Google agreed to change some of its business practices in the US following a large-scale investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). These related to issues around patents, use of other companies content to sell its own products and, as in the EU case, anti-competitive promotion of Google AdWords to advertisers looking to use multiple ad providers.

While Google was investigated for manipulating search algorithms to favour its own vertical websites, the FTC concluded that this ‘could be plausibly justified as innovations that improved Google’s product and the experience of its users’. Although this criticism was not upheld in the US, the EU case also looked at whether Google was favouring its own search results over others.

In another case, this time April last year, the Fairsearch coalition of tech companies, including Microsoft, Nokia, TripAdvisor and Expedia called for a ‘rigorous investigation of Google’s mobile practices’ to protect consumers and ensure competition. The group also filed a complaint with the EU.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and first published here:

Moshi Monsters Village App Launches Worldwide

With health warning to parents about in-app purchases…

The long-awaited Moshi Monsters game has launched for mobile users worldwide after an initial release in the UK in December.

Moshi Monsters Village, a freemium iOS game for children, has seen 250,000 downloads so far, without marketing spend, the company says. It reached the top 10 in the Family and Simulation app categories in the App Store in the UK and is now climbing the charts in countries as far apart as Burkina Faso, Azerbaijan and Peru.

The company has promised more mobile games ‘set for launch in the near future’, with Android and Kindle versions of Moshi Monsters Village available from February.

Moshi Monsters was originally launched on desktop in 2007 by Mind Candy and the company has been aggresively hiring mobile talent in a bid to catch up with smartphone usage. The company has a range of related app products, but this is the first time the full game has been available for mobile app users. Moshi Monsters Village was developed with Scotland’s Tag Games, makers of Dr Who: The Mazes of Time.

In-app purchases

Mind Candy has created an infographic to inform parents about how to stop their children running up huge bills making in-app payments, namely by deactivating the function on their iOS device. It also says that while children are able to complete the game without making purchases, ‘you may need to wait longer or repeat actions’.

On the app download page, the company highlights the controversial 15-minute window that Apple leaves after an initial payment has been authorised where further purchases can be completed by children without parents knowing. Mind Candy is unable to solve this issue as it is a feature of Apple’s system. The US Federal Trade Commission recently ordered Apple to repay $32.5m to parents left out of pocket.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and first published here:

Bauer Media Launches Buzzfeed-style Women’s Mag The Debrief

The DebriefBauer Media has created a Buzzfeed-style responsive site that goes live with a native ad strategy and is being brought to the masses via a social marketing campaign.

The Debrief site for 20-something women covers ‘people, life, sex, getting ready, in and out’ and has a launch team of 10 young women including editor Hattie Brett, who launched Grazia Daily.

“We know that The Debrief girl is constantly glued to her mobile – from the moment she wakes until last thing at night – so the site will be fully responsive at launch and the option to introduce a Debrief app is high on the agenda,” a spokesperson told Mobile Marketing.

H&M and Bacardi are the first advertisers to take native placements on the site. “As we develop our range of [advertising] formats with our partners, we may also consider developing formats that are exclusive to mobile,” The Debrief spokesperson explained.

The company’s social marketing campaign has focused on Facebook mobile, as well as other mobile ad networks, which ‘are a strong fit for the Debrief audience’. The creative for the campaign will feature popular ‘trending’ content from the site. It was put together by Gravity Road, a creative startup that boasts clients like Youtube, Dr Pepper and Sainsbury’s. The company was founded in 2011 by creatives Mark Boyd, formerly of BBH, and Drum PHD’s Mark Eaves.

The Debrief site is flagged as being version 1.0, indicating a commitment to iterating the product over time ‘because staying the same would be too easy’.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and first published here: