Electronic Money

The Economist writes:

Information-money can be handled by any information-processing device. That includes the mobile phone, which can add to money’s utility thanks to its display and its power at any time to link to your bank as a mobile ATM. Visa thinks a contactless digital transaction takes less than half the time of a cash one and that people liberated from what happens to be in their wallets spend a fifth more.

Which is why digital cash is now solving its chicken-and-egg problem. In the past shopkeepers would not install systems unless shoppers had electronic cash. And shoppers would not use electronic cash unless they had something to buy. But smart cards and readers have become cheap and consumers now possess mobile phones in droves. The trillions of payments that are too small to bear the fees of paying by credit card have come within reach and almost everyone stands to gain. Some Japanese merchants have already begun to offer discounts to people using electronic cash. Others will follow.

SaaS Opportunity

Sramana Mitra writes:

Last Fall, I wrote a widely read piece called Venture Capital in India, in which I pegged the Indian venture boom to be largely in Real Estate, Retail, and to an extent in Consumer Internet, not much in actual technology.

Last week, Sujai Karampuri made a well researched case for technology product companies in India.

In the recently concluded Philippe Courtot interview series, we discussed at length the various ways in which India and China could undercut US companies, and Philippe acknowledged that in his business (Qualys is an outsourced managed security service provider, a SaaS play), it is quite possible that an Indian company could come up with a vastly lower cost structure, and customers would switch immediately, if they are convinced about the reliability of the service.

Just to set the economics in perspective, Qualys has invested $65 Million to build an infrastructure that “is at the scale of the planet” to monitor, audit and report network security problems.

Let me throw a challenge in the direction of the Indian entrepreneurs: Go figure out how to build this same business for $30 Million, and I can tell you, you will have an absolute winner in your hands.

ps. You can read the Courtot interview here:

[Part 1]
[Part 2]
[Part 3]
[Part 4]
[Part 5]
[Part 6]
[Part 7]
[Part 8]
[Part 9]
[Part 10]
[Part 11]

The Edge of the Web

John Battelle writes:

Where are the greatest opportunities, and the greatest risks? At the Web’s edge – the places where the Web is just beginning to take root: the industries, geographies, and applications that have yet to be conquered by the web’s wide reach.

For the past three years, the Web 2.0 Summit has explored ideas which have already begun to slip into the mainstream. This year, we’ll highlight news from unusual suspects- the enthusiasts and dreamers touching the edges of spaces not yet conquered by the Web, as well as established players who are looking to expand into new and previously unimaginable realms.

How is the Web infiltrating new beachheads in areas we never thought it could–or would? What are the majors doing at the edge, at the loony “ten percent time” at Google, in the labs at MSN, IBM, etc., that might inform entirely new applications, opportunities, even threats? What are the edge startups promising to redefine the center? What are the things we wish or know the Web can do, but so far, is failing us? What are the edges in terms of policy, politics, and morality?

3GSM Winners

Here. India’s Idea Cellular won the Award for Best Billing or Customer Care Solution. “Indian prepaid subscribers being low-spend customers are extremely cautious and like to get into details of everything that has an impact on their cash outflows, namely the recharge voucher that they should buy to get maximum talktime, promotions on various recharges, current balance etc.. They are also greatly inclined to give up use of service, if these details are not easily accessible to them & any waiting easily upsets them. Since waiting is generally required in calls to the call center, they quickly churn from the network, out of dissonance. To prevent this and to empower customers to have information within seconds, CARE was developed and launched in Gujarat Circle this year. The service has since seen tremendous response from customers, which shows that it has positively impacted customer satisfaction. However, there is insufficient data to link it directly with reduction in churn although any increase in customer satisfaction is likely to lead to greater customer retention.”

Ads and Mobiles

The New York Times writes:

Ads are creeping onto cellphones around the globe. At this rate, experts say, it will not be long before the 2.2 billion mobile phone users around the world consider it natural to tune into a 15-second spot before watching a video, sending a message or listening to a downloaded song between phone conversations.

Or so they hope.

This is the year that advertising breaks out worldwide, said Laura Marriott, executive director of the Mobile Marketing Association, based in Boulder, Colo., which represents more than 400 advertisers, phone makers, wireless operators and market research companies. Previously, there were not enough of the right phones and fast networks to support good advertising.

TECH TALK: Demo 2007: VC Ratings

VC Ratings ranked the companies that presented. The criteria is based on the likelihood of the startup becoming a large and profitable company over time or earning a big return on investment in the next few months. Basically, home run investments. Putting valuation aside, this is my ranking of the companies that I would and wouldnt invest in right now. Here is a list of the top 15:

1. Blinkx Theyre already doing well. Will fly higher when video ad inventory matches its video aggregation capability. Video search leader has a chance to leapfrog Google.
2. Boorah Best approach to user-generated reviews Ive seen yet. Not facing the typical local ad barriers. Needs a better user interface and to master each vertical it enters.
3. Vringo Love the market and the technology. Targeting the youth market with video ringtones. Easy to understand revenue model.
4. Zink Truly breakthrough technology. Smart business model based on paper, rather than hardware sales. If it gets the right deals and stimulates market demand, could be a phenomenon.
5. Shipwire Outsourced shipping and storage solution is very scaleable. Complicated to manage. Easy to market with capital.
6. Aggregate Knowledge Outsourced recommendation engine. Immediate return on investment for publishers and e-commerce sites. How big can it get?
7. SplashCast Too tough to choose between the numerous personal video players. Pick em. (Although $5 million from Benchmark boosts their rating)
8. Me.dium Makes browsing a less solitary activity. If it can catch on, a big hit.
9. 6th Sense Analytics Clear ROI for buyers. No other software project analysis programs out there as good. Raised a fresh $5 million first round.
10. Bling Software Barry Bonds appearance at the show is a wash. Could ride the mobile content wave. Too early or perfect timing?
11. Mobio Mobile content in an easily digestible form is a killer app. If it hits, it hits big. It it doesnt
12. ZoomInfo Im not letting the fact that Im the number one result for a query of my name color my judgment. Business search done right is lucrative.
13. Soasta What do I know about service oriented architecture?
14. Whisher Revenge is the sweetest motivation. If it can convince users that sharing their WiFi networks will benefit them, this could grow rapidly.
15. Mywaves – Too tough to choose between the numerous personal video players. At least this one is for the mobile phone.

Videos of all the presentations are available at Demo’s site.

Tomorrow: Read/Write Web

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