Bardowl, Betable, zeebox and Nosy Crow join ME's list of the most dynamic companies in the UK mobile space.
ME's Top 50 Mobile Innovators project was established last year to celebrate creative and successful representatives of the market we write about every day.
It was so warmly received, we've done it again.
As before, the 2012 list recognises the firms doing remarkable work in apps, gaming, loyalty, ticketing, payments, advertising, education and more.
It was assembled by the ME team with the help of a panel of judges comprising VCs, analysts and entrepreneurs.
Tim Green, executive editor of ME, said: "Running this project was a real pleasure, reminding us of the sheer depth and breadth of mobile innovation in this country.
"It's great that ME is in a position to throw a spotlight on these brilliant companies. Good luck and well done to everyone on the list."
ME's Top 50 Mobile Innovators project was open to privately-owned UK registered companies. The Gold Partner of the project is Twilio, and the initiative was also supported by Frog Capital, IMR, SNR Denton and BDO.
The 50 winning firms will celebrate their inclusion at a special reception at the 24 London bar on September 10th, which will include a talk by Russell Buckley.
Buckley was employee number two at AdMob, which was sold to Google, and is now an angel investor. He is currently helping to run the Springboard accelerator programme.
ME will contact the 50 companies in the next few days with details of the celebratory reception. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you can't wait that long.
The Top 50 Mobile Innovators are listed below:
Sector: Enterprise apps
5app is one of the new breed of enterprise app specialists. Apps are an opportunity for enterprises but also a potential headache. They have to work with security systems, scale across different OSs, do reporting in the right format, not crash a user’s phone, work offline and so on. 5app reckons it’s nailed these. Users are authenticated, and each user only receives those apps, which they are authorised to run – no app store is required.
Adfonic is now one of the fastest-growing ad networks in the world. It has offices in London, Madrid, Munich, New York, Paris, San Francisco and Singapore and has emerged as one of the few pan-national firms in a highly competitive space. It offers real-time reporting, analytics and post-click measurement to its base of over 15,000 publisher sites and apps. This gives advertisers access to over 200 million users, and drives over 80 billion quarterly ad requests. Earlier this year it launched a major push into the rich media ad space.
It’s easy to overlook Admoda because it doesn’t make a huge noise about itself or chase multi-million dollar VC rounds. But the firm has grown organically without any external funding to serve over 26bn ads a month in 231 countries. It has run campaigns by huge brands such as Footlocker, Xerox, HP, Puma, Sky, Artic Vodka and more. Earlier this year it began working with EA in Asia. Among recent innovations was Mobile Redirects, a tool that detects whether the user is on a mobile device and re-directs it to a mobile site.
Antix wants to bring gamers together across different device types using a smart wrapper. In theory, it could link the mobile gamer, the tablet gamer and the smart TV gamer in one seamless lag-free play session. It may be a familiar idea. Antix rose from the ashes of previous attempts to do this. But now it believes the market and the tech has caught up with the concept. The first deal with Telkomsel and MLW Telecom in Indonesia was done this summer.
Bardowl has a proposition anyone can understand: Spotify for audiobooks. Like the Swedish music firm, Bardowl streams audiobooks to the device rather than downloads them, and uses local cacheing to store up to three hours of audio. It charges £9.99 a month for unlimited access to its entire catalogue. At launch, this comprised a collection of business books, with fiction to follow shortly. Bardowl has Penguin, Macmillan, AudioGo, Wiley, Summersdale and Creative Content on board.
Sector: Mobile web
bemoko has offered a cross-platform web solution since 2007, enabling clients to convert their desktop offerings to mobile devices. Customers include Nokia, McDonald's and Macmillan Cancer Support. In the 12 months up to Christmas last year, it delivered 43 mobile web projects and this year it expects to double this. Recent enhancements include an ‘internationalisation module’, which allows mobile sites to be created in multiple languages.
Betable is making the most of operating within the UK – possibly the world’s most progressive gambling market. Its simple mission is to enable developers to offer real-money gambling within their apps. Betable is a licensed gambling operator and says it's streamlined years of complicated legal issues into a simple API that anyone with basic programming skills can implement. Giants like Zynga are watching the real money space carefully. No doubt Betable are on the radar.
Sector: Augmented reality
Let’s admit that the long-term case for AR is still unproven. But in the meantime, credit Blippar for its expert job in popularising the concept and unlocking the budgets of major brands. Its ‘Blipp to Buy’ service offers marketers the chance to merge m-commerce with image recognition and AR. It has been tested by Tesco, ASOS, Domino's Pizza and Aer Lingus. A promo with the Olympics edition of Stylist mag generated more than 152,000 blipps – an average of 5.8 each user.
Chelsea Apps Factory
Sector: Enterprise apps
Ex-News International exec Mike Anderson spotted the opportunity for Chelsea Apps factory when he saw that newspapers kept writing about mobile, but had little idea what to do with the medium. His studio has made since made apps for RBS, Vodafone, CNBC and Robert Walters and Deloitte Digital. But it’s really prospered in the enterprise space, building products that sync with the BYOD (bring your own device) trend.
UK-based Corethree's big idea is that, rather than build their own payments enabled apps, potential partners to take a presence on the Core payments app. This allows end users to register their payment card details once, and re-use them securely across multiple services and payment providers. In theory it means the consumer has one app through which they can order from a range of merchants. It’s working with Cancer Research, Post Office and others.
Enrich is a mobile ad company, but it doesn’t just run banners. Famously it put together the Rovio Samsung promo, which rewarded Angry Birds gamers with a new Golden Egg Galaxy level they could only unlock by visiting a video site promoting new Samsung products. Users didn’t just engage, many personally ‘thanked’ Samsung for its help with the unlock. Engage says users spent more than 12.8m minutes engaging with the Samsung branded level.
Another amazing year for one of the UK’s most dynamic mobile marketing and ad agencies. It is set to more than quadruple turnover in 2012 thanks to work with clients including Sony Music, Hotels.com, William Hill and Cancer Research UK. Fetch does the creative but also plans and buys campaigns – making it a genuinely mobile agency. Thus, its work with Sony included mobile ads, an HTML5 creative with MTV and a listening screen takeover on Shazam. Fetch has now opened a second office in San Francisco.
In the last 12 months, Golden Gekko has delivered more than 500 mobile apps and sites for many of the world’s largest brands. It’s a true giant, and it counts among its clients Disney, Duracell, Mango and VW. Golden Gekko also developed O2’s much-hyped Priority Moments local shopping app. It offers a DIY app building platform and templated products tailored for different verticals.
In just two years, Grapple has established itself as arguably the most public app maker in the UK (thanks largely to being featured on The Apprentice). It’s built over 200 apps and sites for clients including P&G, McDonald’s, Adidas and the Post Office – and gone from five to 85 employees in the process. A stand-out product was the app with built-in barcode scanner for Comet customers that gives users access to over 15,000 reviews across 5,000 products. It ended up comprising 20 per cent of Comet web sales in Christmas 2011.
2012 has been the year of the taxi app. They’re everywhere. But Hailo is without doubt the one to break through. Tap twice on the screen and it shows the nearest cab and how long it will take to arrive. Key to its success was creating a viral trend among black cab drivers, of whom 3,200 signed up in five months. A Hailo cab is booked every minute in London. The firm recently raised $17 million from Accel Partners.
Describes itself as a post-PC digital agency specialising in mobile and emerging platforms. This means helping enterprises turn traditional paper-based processes into mobile solutions, while also building mobile experiences for brands ‘that rock’. One such was an acclaimed collaboration with FT on its ‘Top 1000 World Banks’ app. The Newcastle agency opened a London office in 2012.
Along with fellow Top 50 entrant Hailo, Kabbee has emerged as the breakthrough app in the crowded taxi space. Kabbee is all about mini-cabs. It selected 60 of the best London fleets to provide access to over 4,000 drivers. The app gives price comparison of fares and pick-up times before booking, with the option to pre-pay.
Made In Me
Made In Me is one of the UK’s most progressive children’s e-book publishers. It broke through with the Land of Me interactive learning adventure for Ladybird, which was BAFTA nominated. But now it’s readying the ambitious Me Books series. This comprises interactive apps based on favourites like Peter Rabbit, Elmer, Peppa Pig and Charlie & Lola. Children can embellish the stories by recording their own ‘press and play’ dialogue.
Sector: Games services
Nothing jammy about Marmalade’s place at the peak of the growing market for cross-platform app development. Its middleware gives developers a cost-efficient way to 'develop once, run anywhere' in a fragmented smartphone market. This year, Version 6.0 brought its cross-platform SDK to makers of HTML5 and hybrid apps – a potentially huge new audience. Developers have embraced it. There have been over 60,000 installations and thousands of apps and games including Draw Something and Cut the Rope.
Sector: Mobile ticketing
Another great year for Masabi and its mission to be the go-to firm for mobile ticketing – and not just in the UK either. Masabi’s mobile barcode or SMS solution works on any phone, and supports consumer-facing applications, back-end servers, payment integration and scanning/validation software for train conductors. It is being used by Virgin Trains, CrossCountry Trains and Chiltern Railways. But this year Masabi sealed its first US deal, with Boston-based MBTA.
Sector: Kids’ apps
Mindshapes was formed by ex-Playfish staffers and specialises in apps for pre-schoolers. It won early success with the self-developed Jellytoons but is now on an ambitious plan to launch virtual worlds. These include Magic Town, the first online world based on picture book characters from Hachette, Simon & Schuster and Penguin. More ambitious will be Mindshapes’ attempt to revolutionise the online language learning space with Language City – an interactive learning game for the social networking generation.
Sector: Mobile money
This London-based start-up has a simple aim – to simplify overseas money by sending via mobile. The M2Cash system sends the recipient of the remittance a mobile ‘virtual card’ that has an eight-digit code. To claim funds, the recipient goes to the nearest M2Cash outlet and enters the virtual card number received, the amount of money to be withdrawn, and a four-digit PIN. The recipient can even redeem funds from an ATM.
Mobicart offers a store-front builder that quickly turns an e-commerce service into a functioning mobile app. It already has over 10,000 merchant sign ups and supports 40 different shopping carts. They now include Zooz, which stores the users’ various payment cards and then gives a simple browsable UI for selecting the designated channel. Developers can integrate the SDK in under ten minutes.
Mobile Money Network
MMN’s mobile checkout app, Simply Tap, lets customers buy a physical product by typing in or scanning a printed code. Customers pre-register their card and delivery so that, from then on, when the code is inputted there are a few clicks to purchase. A year after the soft launch, MMN has been signing ‘real’ deals. In July it won a deal with Associated Newspapers to enable purchases from Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday.
In an era of freemium content, where apps are hard to discover, a thriving market sector around analytics has emerged. In the UK, Mopapp made a big impact with a platform that provides actionable analytics through an API. Users can track downloads for apps sold through websites, app stores and in-app ads via one dashboard. Developers do not need to install an SDK in their apps to use it. 40,000 app makers have signed up so far.
This division of the MoBank Group offers a managed service to integrate a mobile retailing platform with minimal disruption to a merchant's everyday business. It comprises everything from m-site build and cataloguing to a secure mobile checkout that integrates with existing payment providers. MopPowered was selected to be part of Google’s GetMo project to take brands mobile and counts clients from small bespoke retailers through to internationally recognised names such as Waterstones, HMV and Game.
mPowa is one of the many companies chasing Square, the US firm that turns phones and tablets into cash registers (via an app and a plug-in card reading dongle). However, mPowa has made more noise than most. The difference is that it supports chip and pin, and that it’s aimed not just at merchants but also at SMEs. It reckons the latter are owed £35.5 billion in the UK and take 29.6 days to get paid. It believes credit card-enabling these traders can tackle this shortfall. mPowa is also looking at white labelling its dongle.
Founded in 2009, Mubaloo already has offices in London, Bristol, New York, Helsinki and Berlin. Mubaloo has strategically planned, designed, developed and delivered over 130 bespoke consumer and enterprise apps for clients including Hargreaves Lansdown, BP, Virgin Media, the NHS and William Hill. One award-winning app developed by Mubaloo is the Met Office's Weather App. Available on iPhone and Android, within its first month the app had 1,000,000 downloads and formed 40% of all web traffic.
Oxford-based Natural Motion began life as a maker of middleware for consoles –but it found a second life as an iPhone games, scoring big hits with Backbreaker Football, Jenga and others. It has also had a 10m download success in the freemium space with My Horse. This year Natural Motion raised $11m and added Mitch Lasky –investor and founder of pioneering US publisher Jamdat – to its board.
A deserved second year in the 50 for the big success story from Cirencester. Neon Play is well known for making Flick Football and Paper Glider, which was the ten billionth App Store download. But this is just one among nearly 40 games that have propelled the studio to international acclaim. Earlier this year Neon Play passed 30 million game downloads. 11 apps have done more than a million. That’s one game download every two seconds.
Sector: Kids’ apps
A standard bearer for kids’ apps and ebooks. It’s won awards for its ‘beautiful’ apps, and has been careful to introduce lots of technological enhancements. The most recent is highlighted read-along texts: words turn from black to red in time with the audio reading. The multi-awarding winning 3D Fairytale apps The Three Little Pigs and Cinderella plus highly acclaimed Bizzy Bear apps, Bizzy Bear on the Farm all carry the new feature.
This summer Qriously presented at ME’s Monetising Mobile conference. The reaction was so warm we decided to include the firm for a second year in this list. Qriously is like an ad network that replaces ads with questions. Users get free 'question-funded' apps and developers get a rev share. Brands meanwhile get a service for measuring location-based public sentiment, in real-time. In January the firm expanded into the US and added two new measurement products, Censio and Tactus.
Paythru operates in a highly complex space, but its proposition is simple: it provides a seamless card payment experience across any mobile device on all networks with every bank in the world. Crucially it is Level 1 PCI DSS compliant meaning customers don't need to pre-register or have an e-wallet to transact. Paythru has tailored its service for verticals and is live in games, gambling, sport, charities, money transfer and more.
Sector: Apps/user interface
Few companies know more about the psychology of the mobile user interface than Brighton-based Ribot. It has brought its expertise to bear on multiple projects, not least the award winning Tesco app, which lets users scan and even speak their selections. It says the app is responsible for one in five shops on Tesco.com. Meanwhile the firm is plugging away at developing a revolutionary 3-button phone UI called Threedom.
Sector: Location-based marketing
Location based mobile marketing is one of the market’s big growth areas and one of the UK’s most talked about participants is Rippll. McDonalds, HMV and TGI Fridays use the Rippll app platform to help consumers find their nearest stores and receive mobile SMS vouchers based on their location. Rippll also developed the plug and play Geowave analytics solution and the Appsplash platform, which uses templates to help brands get apps to market in two weeks.
Shazam is one of the pure mobile world's breakthrough brands. Its tech initially started off detecting songs, but swiftly expanded to read TV shows and ads. This enabled the firm to partner with mainstream brands such as Pepsi, Sony and the 2012 London Olympics. This summer Shazam notched five billion lifetime tags and revealed its 225 million user base powers up the app ten million times a day.
Sector: Video messaging
Six3 wants to create a new kind of video messaging service that makes sending video as easy as SMS. Messages can be created and viewed on iPhones, PCs and Macs. Videos are capped at 63 seconds. The aim is to fill a gap not served by Skype (needs too much organising), MMS (unreliable), e-mail (too fiddly) and YouTube (too public). It is part of Telefonica’s Wayra accelerator academy and the team includes Simon Frost, formerly technical architect of the BBC iPlayer.
Another stellar year for Somo saw the London-based marketing agency take its team past 70 and complete campaigns with Glamour, EA, lastminute.com, Thorntons, IGN, Google, Orange and more. It also opened in San Francisco. Somo is also experimental, winning praise and awards for its AR-based creative work with Audi, which let users ‘see’ a car in 360 degrees.
Live music specialist Songkick has had a remarkable year. It started as an email service that provides users with info on concerts. But its debut iPhone app was downloaded over 100,000 times in ten days, while the overall service reached over five million users a month. To improve the quality of its info, Songkick scans music on the phone and bases recommendations on the user’s music taste. It raised $10 million capital to fuel hiring and the development of new products.
Sector: Mobile marketing
Sponge is one of the UK’s original mobile marketing agencies, pioneering old school Text2Win campaigns when they was the height of technical sophistication. Quietly, the firm has re-booted to take account of the growth in smartphones and the mobile web. It has delivered over 10,000 campaigns for brands including Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Barclays and AutoTrader, and recently opened new offices in Lagos and Nairobi. Its Auto Trader mobile properties now deliver 20m searches from over 2m unique users each month.
Stonewash gives magazine publishers a platform through which to create interactive magazine apps for iOS, Windows 8, BlackBerry and Android. No specialist knowledge is required, so non-tech staff can add video, image galleries, social sharing options and hyperlinking. Over a million Stonewash-built magazine apps have been downloaded to mobiles and tablets. Clients include Fine Cooking, Lusso and Global Insight.
StrikeAd's platform helps media agencies manage mobile campaigns from multiple advertisers. They get a dashboard through which to buy best performing inventory and filter activity to improve sales. The firm had a memorable 2012, raising £2m to develop its 'real time bidding' platform. This lets clients monitor traffic across multiple networks, identify the consumers they want to reach and tweak where their ads appear in real time. Strikead also opened in the US and Asia Pac.
UK start-up Swipe Pay's app lets users store card details on their phones. It then displays them in a swipeable menu a bit like album covers on iTunes. When a merchant makes a sale, the purchaser opens the app, and selects the preferred payment option. They click and a QR code is produced. Scanning this code processes the payment. The plan is to make the service available for in-store payments, online transactions, transfers and even ATM withdrawals.
Touchnote has the quaintly old-school idea of helping users turn their digital pics into physical postcards to be sent anywhere in the world. It has delivered 2m downloads of its Android and iOS apps. This summer saw two breakthrough developments for the firm. Its Facebook app lets users send cards to friends without knowing their physical addresses. And then there was the free Olympics tie-in with Samsung, which saw over 750,000 postcards posted.
Sector: Educational apps
This London-based publisher seems to have cornered the market in high-end iPad book apps. Examples include The Sonnets by William Shakespeare and The Elements. They might be highbrow, but the latter was lavished with praised and has sold over 300,000. Not bad considering that until mid-June cost £9.99.
Ubinow enjoyed a breakthrough 12 months, combining its own D2C product output with the apps it makes for brands. For Specsavers it developed Eye Test, which enables users to test their eyes with their phones. Also did the Cadbury Dance off, which makes animations of clothes dance to songs in your iTunes collection. It’s linked to the TV ad of the same creative. Ubinow set up the 'Mobile Creatives' networking group to further idea exchange in the app space.
ustwo does highly successful work for third parties but is also brave enough to ringfence some of its profits for its own wildly creative in-house output. These projects vary from the ‘animate your own mouth’ app Mouth-Off to the sumptuous iPad children's book Nursery Rhymes with StoryTime. Its Whale Trail game sold over 150,000 units. ustwo has even created a unit for making and selling games in 48 hours.
Sector: Mobile web
Amazing year for this veteran mobile site specialist, which finally defeated Apple in a trademark infringement case. The pain of fighting the case didn’t stop Wapple from consistently growing a business that offers a DIY platform for small companies to build sites but also works with multinational brands on giant campaigns. Clients include 3, Fabreze, Comic Relief and others.
One of the most consistently inventive of app developers, anywhere in the world. Yuza began as a specialist in music apps, but has gone on to create some of the most ingenious products the market has seen. They include the Dynamo magic trick app, the CineCam ‘Instagram for video’ app and – the one that turned most heads – Dream:ON, an app that helps people shape the content of their own dreams. Genuinely.
Sector: Social/companion apps
Among the most disruptive firms to emerge in the last year. The zeebox service is a ‘sidekick’ app that builds on users’ desire to use their tablet or phone while watching TV. The app is like an alternative EPG that serves up social media feeds and conversations. Consumers use ’zeetags’ to search the web for more information, read up on characters or actors, purchase music, buy products featured on-screen. Sky formally co-opted it as its ‘second-screen’ consumer service this year.