MobileSparks 2014 is on December 19, here's a quick recap of 2013!

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MobileSparks 2013

YourStory is pleased and proud to announce the launch of the 2014 edition of the Mobile Sparks showcase of mobile startups. The event will be held in Bangalore on December 19, and to give you a flavour of the excitement of this conference, here is a quick recap of the 2013 edition (see 2012 recap here). Make sure to book your place at the showcase this year!

Shradha Sharma, CEO and Founder, YourStory, welcomed the audience to Mobile Sparks 2013 and urged them to check out the large selfie booth and solar-powered Christmas tree during the break! “Mobile is our future,” she said, citing the mobile-centric moves of a number of Internet players like Facebook, Google and Apple.

Subroto Bagchi, Co-Founder of Mindtree and author of the bestseller ‘The Elephant Catchers’ (see my book review here), shared key insights on scaling a startup. He identified six dimensions of scale: comfort with the idea of scale, visible change every five years, scaling of intellect, scaling of reputation, scaling of people, and ability to deal with adversity.

He cited the rise of Arvind Eye Hospital which blended a scaleable business model with a powerful social vision. In addition to IT stars, he also cited Sri Krishna Sweets and GMR from other diverse sectors as exemplars of scaled startups. “Even if you are in love with technology, you have to understand branding,” he advised the entrepreneurs in the audience, and also urged them to rope in a board of advisors to help them in uncharted territory.

Karthee Madasamy, Managing Director, Qualcomm Ventures, brought the focus squarely on mobile by explaining how “mobile is the biggest platform in the history of mankind.” Mobile is disrupting computing, entertainment and television. “Smartphones are becoming the anchor of a range of sensors: light, acceleration, motion, toxic gas, motion, temperature and so on. Smartphones are powering the Internet of Everything,” he observed.

The impact of mobiles on commerce was highlighted by the next panel on mobile payment, featuring panellists from Ezetap, Helpshift, Twist Mobile, Magzter, TenCent and Deck App Technologies. Digital magazines on iPad opened up the possibility of monetising apps for startups like Magzter. Virtual goods, gaming and m-commerce will be key drivers for mobile money.

Sensors in smartphones are also enabling new kinds of commerce not at all possible in the PC-based Web era. Affiliate ad networks can help app developers tap into revenue streams. In a sign of the times, a schoolboy in the audience urged the industry to take students more seriously as app developers!

The much-awaited mobile startup showcase then took centre stage! Founders presented the following apps and mobile services.

1. Awaz app by Invention Labs for empowering kids with learning disabilities

2. Culture Alley for non rote-based language learning via social media such as tweets

3. Haptik app for customer service across companies in the commerce chain

4. Mad Street Den for creating mind-abled devices

5. Mosambee for mobile payments

6. Nautilus mobile games

7. Next Drop civictech solutions for municipal water supply monitoring

8. Scandid price comparison app on mobile

9. Trip38 post-booking travel app to deliver e-tickets and guides to business

10. YPayCash pre-paid mobile payment solutions for retail

11. TeeWe converged device and app for managing TV content across home devices.

Nishant Sameer, Principal, Corporate Technology Office, Samsung, provided the mobile view from industry heavyweights. He covered three major trends in mobile space: contextual computing, collaborative computing and wearable computing. Dongshin Jung, Global Developer Program Manager, Samsung Electronics, presented updates on the company’s Tizen ecosystem.

Another panel then dived into the mobile market in India, specifically focusing on investment opportunities. Speakers from Qualcomm Ventures, Seedfund, Inventus Capital, Accel Partners, Kalaari Capital, and IDG Ventures took the stage. Investors noted that mobile apps are attractive for them since the app can be global from Day One – but it also helps to have an international presence in markets like the US. Choice of investee depends on pain points solved, differentiation from other players, availability of key data points, and capacity of the management team.

“Timing defines approach. If Flipkart were created today they would be mobile first,” observed Shekhar Kirani, Partner, Accel Partners. Services such as last-minute bookings are well suited for mobiles. But there needs to be better understanding of UI and UX in India, especially since connections are slow and drop frequently. More M&As need to happen in India to make it easier for startups and investors to grow the market.

India is generally seen as a tough market to play in due to all manner of unforeseen problems on the ground and regulatory changes. However, Indian startups who succeed in this space can then expand to Africa and other emerging economies.

The concluding fireside chat picked up on some of these mobile traffic and UX themes. “In the last six months, traffic to our site from mobile tripled but primarily from searchers,” observed Subramanya Sharma, CMO, Cleartrip.

UX is cross-disciplinary and collectively involves algorithmic designers, anthropologists, interaction designers and business strategists. “You can’t just say ‘let’s bootstrap and then design later,’” cautioned Ashwini Ashokan, User Experience Strategist from Intel. Design skills are unfortunately in shortage in India.

With this food for thought and action points for the future, the final item was the closing ceremony followed by a group photo of all the startups. We look forward to the third edition of Mobile Sparks in 2014 already, in Bangalore – see you all there!

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