Startup communities spur mobile innovation around the world


In a world going increasing mobile, innovation in wireless media is becoming increasingly important not just for big business and government but also for an emerging wave of startups.

Mobile innovators from around the world gathered in Abu Dhabi recently for the World Summit Awards – Mobile to honour successful app developer teams and also discuss ways of advancing mobile innovation. While big tech players and mobile operators are ramping up their R&D efforts, smaller entrepreneur teams are also organising and scaling via startup communities.

“It is a privilege of our generation to be in mobile,” said Jari Tammisto, president of the Mobile Monday global network of mobile startups and developers.

Key values of MobileMonday chapters in 150+ cities around the world include: fun, volunteerism, orchestrated leadership, hub focus, and trusted peer relationships. Each month or quarter, on a Monday of choice in each city, mobile innovators gather for an evening of networking, discussion and demos.

In addition to the usual challenges for startups such as product monetisation and human resources, mobile startups face additional issues such as revenue share with operators, brutal competition from startups around the world, and a turbulent landscape of device player strategies.

According to Vision Mobile data cited at the conference, one in three developers lives “below the app poverty line.” Average per-app revenue is in the range of $1,200-$3,900 depending on the platform, and an app has a 35% chance of generating $1 – $500. Only 14% of app developers will make between $500 and $1,000 per app.

To address these challenges, mobile startups need better peer validation of their work, contacts for potential customers, mentors and nimble investors, according to panellists at the Mobile Monday workshop on mobile innovation held at WSA-Mobile.

Mobile Monday publishes research reports on mobile startups in different regions of the world (eg. Africa and Southeast Asia). See also the YourStory MobiSparks 2012 report on mobile startups in India.

Nagwa Zahran, Mobile Monday Egypt chapter manager, observed that mobile and social media transformed the Arab Spring, which in turn affected subsequent usage of digital media in the region. Egypt’s Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre (TIEC) organises ideation camps, incubates mobile startups, and hosts awards for excellence for local mobile innovators.

Alper Celen, founder of Mobile Monday Dubai & Riyadh chapters, said that local and localised apps are key for success in emerging economies. “Operators will become more product focused, and forge new alliances with startups,” predicted Celen.

This is good news for mobile startups, and they need to concentrate on their management teams and business focus. “Investors look for a good management team in startups, and their ability to focus: what they do not do is also as important as what they do,” advised Milind Pathak, Global Head of New Business of One97 Communications, India.

A strong connection to Silicon Valley is also emerging in this space, with successful Valley entrepreneurs moving back to their home countries in regions like Africa, Middle East and India. Successful investors are forming funds and accelerators for mobile startups, bridging Silicon Valley and emerging economies.

A range of fascinating books on these topics has also been published, such as ‘App Empire’ by Chad Mureta, and ‘Cellphone Nation’ by Robin Jeffrey & Assa Doron (next in line for reviews on


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