Watch out, Viber and WhatsApp! Free SMS!
If you have a smartphone, there’s a good chance that you have Viber or WhatsApp installed. These apps use your already established address book as your social graph and provide free texting or even free VoIP calls among those contacts. Now, there’s a new competitor in that space, a company called yuilop. I first discovered them through Andreas Dittes (@dittes), who visited them on his founder trip to Barcelona.
The app calls itself a free-to-all communications app, which means you can call and text everyone for free. If the other person is also using yuilop, the message is delivered through the app; if not, you can send a regular SMS. Oh, and Facebook is also integrated.
The calls and messages outside of yuilop are limited. They use a virtual currency called “energy”. Users receive energy by actively using the app to communicate with yuilop contacts or through special sponsored offers, and they spend energy by making calls and messages outside.
I can’t help but look at this app from different perspectives; the user perspective, the marketing perspective and the business perspective:
- As a user, I’m happy to save on calls and texting, especially internationally. But more than that, I can see all communications threads within a single app; because (on Android, at least) I can even pull in regular SMS from my mobile number. This is similar to iMessage on iOS, which is fully integrated with SMS but, well, only for iOS devices.
- From the marketing perspective, I think the team has done a brilliant job. Because of the energy system, users are not only motivated to share and spread the word but they are also motivated to use the app whenever possible, even if they could text over another channel (such as WhatsApp). Users can also get a number (currently only available in the +49157 range and you need to provide a German postal address) on which they can receive SMS and earn energy for every message. This is another lock-in effect for yuilop.
- Looking at the business perspective, I’m curious how they will monetize in the long term. They do not only have costs for servers and app development, they also have to pay for regular calls and SMS. Right now they can give away a lot of energy, but when the viral distribution has gone far enough, they may not be able to afford giving energy, so users will have a hard time earning their energy (e.g. by installing apps from an offerwall). Personally I think an option to purchase energy with real money would be great, since even then it would probably be cheaper than my contract’s rates, but yuilop would lose it’s “everything is free” slogan.
I’m curious to see whether yuilop will gain traction in the market. I wish the startup good luck. If you’re interested, you can download yuilop from the AppStore or Google Play and try it yourself! Unfortunately it is not available in every market, the team is slowly rolling out internationally; most notably the United States is not on the list yet.
9 Lessons on Startup Failure
Birds fly, fish swim, startups die. This is a fact, but people learn most from their failures. Sarfaraz Hassan (@_sarfarazh) is a UX designer and entrepreneur from Guwahati, Assam, India. Two years back I had the pleasure of working with him for some time while I was in Bangalore.
Sarfaraz then went back to the entrepreneurial journey with a project called chefsnear.me, a site designed to connect foodies with home chefs. Unfortunately, the project failed and the company pulled the plug after 1 year, 3 months and 26 days. These are the 9 lessons that Sarfaraz and his team learned from it:
- Do not search for ideas. Search for problem and then find an idea to solve it.
- Startup idea competitions are good. But winning or losing it says nothing about your idea.
- Stay away from press. Do not create a hype before you have validated your idea. You’ll disappoint more users.
- Do not wait to build a perfect product. There isn’t any. Launch. This is what we did and it helped us realized our mistake sooner!
- “Everyone” or “Anyone” will never be your customer. Find that “Someone” who will buy.
- You might have a good idea but it may not be practical. Test it yourself and ask if you’re gonna use it.
- The first time you fail doesn’t mean it’s over. change and adapt based on your lessons. But do it fast. We took too long.
- Talk to your customers before writing a single line of code.
- If the problem you are solving isn’t big enough you won’t find enough customers.
If you want to read more about the story behind the site and how they learned their lessons, you can read the full post on the chefsnear.me blog or on plugged.in, a site for Indian startups, who reblogged the story. I wish Sarfaraz and his team more success with their future projects.
Web Montag Frankfurt Meeting #38
On Monday, I made a trip to Frankfurt in order to visit the Web Montag Meeting Frankfurt #38 (web monday) at the Brotfabrik. I have attended this event a couple of times starting back in 2006, but I haven’t been there for more than a year.
It was great to feel the vibe of the geek crowd at such an event and overhearing people talk about hashtags and checking in with Foursquare. That alone was worth it, since I haven’t been at any similar event lately.
At 19:30, Ali-Pasha Foroughi, one of the organizers, took the stage, thanked the sponsors and welcomed the first presenter. Every time he spoke, Ali put a lot of emphasis on the local nature of the event, reassuring everybody in the audience that there are things going on in the Rhein Main area, not just Berlin and Silicon Valley (“Rhein Main rules!”).
There were four talks on this evening:
- Surviving re:publica - report from the “school trip”: Jan Eggers a.k.a. @untergeekDE (who is doing social media for the public broadcaster hr) told about his experience attending the re:publica conference in Berlin. He said journalists are trying to grasp this event and describe it with one headline which is not (or no longer) possible. Thus, he didn’t try it and rather told only a few highlights and anecdotes. Aforementioned journalists also keep on using the term “Netzgemeinde” (net society), which is totally inadequate to use since there is no working network at the conference … . His highlights were @RegSprecher (representative of German government), scientific analysis of personalities in comment threads (trolls, anyone?!) and the poll for the worst web video. What I personally found interesting is that Twitter was the biggest corporate player at this “blogger conference” and the company was placing a lot of emphasis on being “the second screen”, probably in an attempt to find a distinctive feature over Facebook.
- The Cloud - you’re deeper in than you think: René Büst, a technology analyst for clouduser.de, told the audience that everyone is in the cloud. Then he proceeded with an explanation of cloud computing, describing terms such as public vs. private cloud, IaaS vs. PaaS etc.. The presentation was focused on the fundamental basics, maybe too high level for the attending crowd?! I had the impression the people around me already knew what they were told. One interesting remark, though, was about the cloud challenging corporate IT departments, which often cannot act fast enough and so other departments bypass them and purchase resources directly from external cloud vendors. At the end of the talk, the CloudCamp Frankfurt was announced. I’m curious how this partly barcamp-style event will turn out and how they broad topic cloud computing will be packed into one day.
- Designtage Wiesbaden: Did you know that the small town of Wiesbaden has over 600 design agency?! I didn’t. Those agencies celebrate themselves and connect with local SMBs at the annual design days. This was the second report from another event on this evening, but it was presented in a quite different style. The speaker, Tina Rötter, is a print designer, but was qualified for speaking at a geek event by her dog (who also took the stage with her) having his own Twitter account …
- Oli.TV - an online concert portal: This talk was different from the others because it was a startup pitch. Still it was maybe the best and most engaging talk of the evening, thanks to the passionate and very likable founder Sebastian Knoll who really knew how to pitch his idea of streaming concerts online. They’ve already signed major artists (such as Alicia Keys and 50 Cent - “my brother is the tour organizer for 50 Cent”) and they have a clear business model in terms of pricing and marketing. However they are still at the start of building the product and looking for developers, on both this evening and at Startup Weekend (which was also announced at the event). What I’m wondering is why I missed this company at the code_n CeBIT booth …
All in all, the talks were not mindblowing but nevertheless interesting. I’m planning to go next month as well, since it’s a great way to feel as part of the “Netzgemeinde” :-) I hope I’ll find more networking opportunities then as well.
In case anybody wants to attend the other events which I’ve mentioned: When signing up for Startup Weekend, the code webmonday gives you 25% off.