Sunday, October 11, 2009

#CTIA FundFest

On the final day of the CTIA Wireless I.T. and Entertainment show (10/09/09), the morning keynote session was replaced by the 1st CTIA "Fundfest". This event provided an opportunity for founders of five startups in the wireless space to give a short presentation of their business plan to a panel of 3 judges:
  1. Rory Moore, CommNexus San Diego CEO
  2. Andy Seybold, Andrew Seybold, Inc. CEO and Principal Consultant
  3. Quinn Li, Qualcomm Ventures Managing Director
I live-tweeted the event; offering my opinions and reactions real-time during each presentation. Since returning from CTIA I have received several questions about the FundFest presenters (via Twitter). To put my answers into the proper context along with my thoughts at the time, I thought it would be good to recompile my tweets here along with the follow-up questions.
  • #ctia small crowd for Fri keynotes on new companies
  • #ctia 5 startups presenting their biz plans
  • #ctia 1st up: Mjedi (em Jedi) social net for commerce
  • #ctia Mjedi: idea to create 'pull' of consumers. Target teens & women, because they like to talk about shopping. LOL. Facebook for the mall.
  • #ctia Mjedi wants to use shoppers to create ads for their social networks. Good way to lose friend in my opinion, but I'm not target demo
As the tweets above show, Mjedi's business plan is based on the idea of making shopping a (virtual) social experience. The motto on their website says: "Take ALL your friends shopping with you!".

As founder Chander Chawla said during his presentation, this really is not a guy thing. Teenage girls? Maybe. Users send UPC bar code ID numbers via to Facebook via SMS so that their friends can comment, compare prices, etc.

I just didn't see this as a very attractive business model. Sure, I can see advertisers and merchants buying into the idea of turning shoppers into an ad hoc advertising network. But isn't shopping one activity that the target demographic actually still likes to do socially in real life? Not that I go to malls very often, but when I have there were always groups of teenage girls together. The idea of those girls entering bar codes seems to very unlikely to me, but as I said at the time.. I am far from the target demo.

So, as to one of the tweet questions I received: "Who was most likely to gain actual customers?"... my answer for Mjedi is I don't think so.
  • #ctia next up ParkVu: take all your media with you. I was hoping it would help me find a parking spot!
  • #ctia ParkVu: huh? How much storage in smartphones vs desktop?
  • #ctia ParkVu Bold, Storm, Curve app to xfer iTunes media to Blackberry
  • #ctia ParkVu: "all" media apparently means music. Who wants a replacement for iTunes?
  • #ctia ParkVu storage is on SD cards and in the cloud.
The 2nd FundFest presenter was ParkVu. I don't know where the name of the company comes from, but it doesn't connect (in my mind) at all to the product they are developing.

ParkVu's 1st mistake was to have co-presenters. This is always unwieldy, and that was even more true in the short time allowed for each pitch at FundFest. The 2nd mistake was starting off with too much hype, with the problem statement "wouldn't you like to take ALL your media with you"? My answer? Umm.. no... why would I want to do that? I have enough of a problem sorting through all the gigabytes of photos, music, video, etc. at home.

In any case, regardless of the hype, the product that has actually been developed is limited to transferring contents of a user's iTunes library to a Blackberry's flash memory card. Perhaps I'm missing something here, but Blackberry already has such a function: BlackBerry Media Sync. The judges also raised all the appropriate issues; such as DRM compliance, and storage capacity requirements. My conclusion on ParkVu was nothing new here, and too much competition from the major stakeholders already.
  • #ctia 3rd up Billing Revolution. Enables credit card transactions from handsets. Order a pizza on the go.
  • #ctia Billing Revolution. Clearly most viable biz. Overlay on merchants mobile site
  • #ctia Billing Revolution: using SMS to send purchase codes. Charge merchants 50 cents per + monthly cost
  • #ctia Billing Revolution: has 100+ merchants. Challenge is getting merchants to understand mobile. Seybold sees banks competing.
Billing Revolution has an offering in the mobile payments space. Unlike the preceding presentation, I felt they had a viable business model - which was backed up by the fact they already have customers. The idea that was presented used codes provided by merchants to enable credit cards purchases via text messages. That sounds useful and, if security issues are properly addressed, I'd have to say that Billing Revolution could attract (more) real customers.

Issues were raised regarding the add-on charge to merchants, who already pay a percent of each credit card transaction to issuing banks. Andy Seybold pointed out that some banks are adding free mobile payment to their merchant clients. Nevertheless, the technology that Billing Revolution developed could form the basis of such a service, providing a possible exit strategy.
  • #ctia Chyngle: mobile apps for use in sports venues. LBS based on stadium or arena. Mobile scalping app?
  • #ctia Chyngle: For team owners- sell products & services to fans through handset.
  • #ctia Chyngle: goal to enhance customer experience at a venue. Add to revenue? Will spectators buy more on handset?
  • #ctia Chyngle: can add public safety & security features. Good idea. Maybe I would risk going into Raider nation ;)
  • #ctia Chyngle is my pick of best business potential. A league/venue contract would be big. Targeting NFL
The 4th presenter was Chyngle (also an odd name to me). Chyngle's proposition was very easy to understand; providing a very specific location-based application for accessing products and services tied to a particular venue. The example given was a sports stadium; where one might want to purchase team merchandise, buy tickets (though if one is already at the venue, it would probably be for a future event), navigate the facility, order from food concessions, get real time stats, etc.

To me, this type of application could have significant upside potential, considering (for example) the latest hi-tech features being incorporated in stadiums - such as the new billlion dollar Dallas Cowboy's stadium that Jerry Jones has built. The key is to convince venue owners and concessionaires that it is worth paying for. As a pure advertising channel, the value would be marginal. (There's already plenty of that in all over most arenas). But, with an integrated payment mechanism, it woul be more valuable. Maybe Chyngle should get together with Billing Revolution!

To answer @statfame on Twitter, yes... I can definitely see people using it, but no I don't think they have any real customers yet. I know I would use it! If you're a sports fan, you know what a pain it can be to walk the stadium corridor to find the concession stand that has the food item you are looking for. Providing real time information feeds from the game would be interesting to many sports fans.

Would fans buy more with the app? Maybe. Imagine getting a special on beer delivered to your seat because you responded to an offer on your iPhone. Save the trip for you, save time for the guy hawking the beer... Lots of other ideas come to mind. That's why Chyngle was my choice. But they need to win a major deal with a pro sports franchise, or preferably a league.
  • #ctia last up Telcare: medical monitoring. M2M glucose metering. Target diabetes- fastest growing disease in U.S.?
  • #ctia Telcare M2M phone & carrier independent. Mirror data to caregiver cell phone.
  • #ctia Telcare not a 'sexy' app, but very practical & useful. Also looking at other conditions: asthma, heart disease...
  • #ctia Telcare vs competition: advantage in M2M device instead of a phone app. Patient replaces glucose strips, privacy must be addressed.
  • #ctia Telcare requires FDA approval as Class-2 device. Founder very experienced in process. Differentiation in state-of-art mpu, accuracy
  • #ctia Telcare will require 1 year to U.S. Approval
The final presenter was Telcare. Though this is not a "sexy" web 2.0 app, I was impressed with the experience and track record of the founder who gave the presentation. In general, the mobile healthcare market is seen to be a large and grwoing market, two attributes one should look for in any startup. However, that also means there is a lot of competition, as the judges pointed out. Qualcomm is one serious competitor, having invested in the establishment of the Wireless Life-Sciences Alliance as well as the West Wireless Health Institute.

Besides competition, the other negative (as with all healthcare-related products), is the time-to-market delay for obtaining FDA approval. On Twitter, @nbk1 asked about Telcare's proposed differentiation over iPhone medical apps:
"Why is there an advantage in extra m2m device re: privacy when at same time data is mirrored to caregiver cell?"
This may appear to be somewhat of a contradiction, but I think the point was the ease-of-use for the patient - especially in health care for the elderly. I would agree that a dedicated device would be much easier to use for many patients, who would also would be much less likely to be users of smartphones. Security and confidentiality of medical data needs to be addressed in either case.
  • #ctia Judges also chose Chyngle. I agree. People's choice - Telcare. Definitely best 2. Faster TTR for Chyngle
The three judges onstage at the FundFest apparently had a difficult time reaching consensus. This part of the program, which was being done for the 1st time, needs some work. The voting criteria being used by the judges was never described, and having them on stage with live microphones made it impossible for them to discuss amongst themselves. In the end, the winner was Chyngle. A "people's choice" award, tabulated from SMS message votes from the audience, went to Telcare. I also picked Chyngle and Telcare as #1 ans #2, though Billing Revolution was also a contender.

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