Presenting ME's annual run-down of the people making the difference.
It’s time for Mobile Entertainment to dish out its new year’s honours, revealing who we think are the 50 Most Important People In Mobile Content.
Actually, not just who we think.
We polled a few hundred of our contacts in the biz to get their suggestions too, then whittled the list down to the 50 below.
As ever, the roll-call reflects the ever changing direction of the mobile content space.
This year there are is another strong showing for representatives of ad networks, social media, location-based and apps.
But the list also includes more execs from mobile payments, augmented reality and other ‘hotspots’.
Finally, controversially, there are no operators this year. While there are many fine individuals working for the carriers, it has to be remembered that this is a content-specific list.
And the fact is, carrier portals just ain’t where it’s at any more.
Next year, when operators build out some of their ambitious plans for NFC, in-app billing and even (who knows?) the Wholesale Application Community, we may well think again.
So that’s the excuses over with. Here’s the list (in alphabetical order).
Go ahead and leave comments, and try not to be too cross.
Italy’s D2C and B2B giant ended the year with revenue up and an acquisition of Brazil’s Zero9 completed. It’s stealthily become a genuine worldwide content giant.
The completion of a protracted purchase of UK-based WIN made IMImobile a real juggernaut in the mobile VAS space. With a European footprint to complement strength in Asia and Africa, IMI can compete with any rival for global contracts with operators and brands.
Bango finally moved into profit as a public company in 2010. The investment is paying off, and the m-commerce space that Bango pioneered over ten years ago is coming of age.
Vice President of Media and Games, Nokia
Many changes at Nokia this year, and the firm still has stern challenges to face. But Ovi is now doing over 3m downloads a day, and those mid-range touchscreens do massive volumes in global markets.
VP of platform, mobile and new ventures, PayPal
After a few false starts, PayPal found its feet in mobile in 2010. The firm projected $700m in mobile transactions in 2010, but it’s in the area of payment for digital goods that looks most intriguing. Will an official deal with Android Market be green-lighted in 2011?
Head of content, Layar
Augmented reality is still unproven as a commercial force, but as long as it fascinates the geeks and the VCs, it will command attention. Layar is arguably its top player, with paid layers that can be bought in 179 countries worldwide, using PayPal billing.
VP of Global Alliances, Admob
Buckley is now the top man inside AdMob after founder Omar Hamoui departed. Should be interesting to see how the integration inside Google proceeds in 2011.
CEO, Mobile Streams
Mobile Streams sold its ringtones.com URL in 2010 – almost a symbolic act of breaking with the old-school past. The firm remains a power in B2B content, but its new focus is the socially-oriented, multi-platform app store, Appitalism.
Executive Chairman, mBlox
With in-app payments and one-click billing all the rage, m-commerce is heating up again. mBlox, and one of the sector’s pioneers, is right in the middle of it, delivering 3.5 billion transactions in 2009. In Andrew Bud, it has one of the industry’s most authoritative figures at the helm.
A D2C giant evolving from a world of ringtone revenues by diversifying into social media, marketing, loyalty programmes and even gambling. It’s paying off, with pre-tax profit of €15.5 million in Q3.
Foursquare ended the year adding 25,000 users a day and registering 2m daily check-ins. Next year expect more action with merchants and lots of buy-out rumours.
Flirtomatic’s social media business model continues to impress. The UK firm bagged more VC funding this year, on the back of growth across Europe and via US partnerships with AT&T, MetroPCS, Virgin Mobile, T-Mobile and others.
After seeing the writing on the wall for its D2C services, PlayPhone re-engineered around social gaming and launched with one of the deals of 2011 – an exclusive on global Wii sensation Harvest Moon.
Tapulous uses Apple's in-app payments system to let players buy new tracks from major label artists, and has sold more than five million songs this way via its Tap Tap Revenge games. Got bought by Disney in July.
Jury’s still out on Spotify’s chance of long-term success, but you can’t deny its progress so far. Now firmly established as the streaming music app par excellence , and with more than 750,000 paying subs.
General Manager, OpenMarket
The mobile billing arm of Amdocs has more than 400 customers in the US and currently handles around 400 million messages every month. With the purchase of UK-based MX Telecom, it is set to expand beyond its US heartland and into EMEA.
CEO, Saffron Digital
Whenever a new streaming video service is announced by an operator or handset firm in Europe, there’s a good chance Saffron will be powering it. Clients include Sky, Sony Ericsson, Paramount and Nokia.
The ID app has just passed the 100 million users mark and remains a darling of the download stores. It has astutely moved from music to general discovery, and rumours of a big Apple or Google buy-out persist.
VP of Kindle, Amazon
Amazon is cagey about sales figures, even though it did boast that Kindle is now its best selling product ever (bigger than Harry Potter). But, of course, Kindle is more than just a physical reader, it’s a platform for Android, iOS and others too. With ebooks at a tipping point Freed and his team are in
President, Qualcomm Internet Services
Intriguingly Qualcomm used its summer Uplinq event to announce fresh drives into widgets, social media aggregation and even AR. But underneath it all, the firm’s fundamental role in chipsets and networks remains.
Gameloft straddles the operator/app store axis with success that only EA can match. Its 3Q revenues were €34.7 million and iOS sales were up 80 per cent.
Like Zong, Boku is riding a wave on interest in billing inspired by in-app purchases and pain-free online transactions. Boku operator deals reach over 1.6 billion consumers around the world and merchant partners include EA, Playfish, Facebook and more.
CEO Mobile Interactive Group
In 2010, MIG began its expected geographical expansion, taking its repertoire of payments, messaging, apps, ads, mobile web and ‘experiential’ into Africa, US and Australasia. Big year beckons.
Tempting to choose someone closer to the detail, but no, it has to be Jobs. His vision pervades everything at Apple, and this year has seen more triumph (125m iOS devices, iPad launch, $4bn profit in one quarter). Even Antenna-gate couldn’t dim the glow.
SVP of mobile, Zynga
With 200m people playing its online games every month, Zynga is the big daddy of social play – particularly on Facebook. But the migration to wireless is well-established now, with 10m accessing games like Farmville on mobile.
BuzzCity delivered 15 billion ad impressions in Q3 2010 alone across 200 countries. It’s one of the major players in Asia – and increasing its influence in western markets too.
What a year for GetJar, which is now firmly fixed as the browser-based alternative to handset app stores. Among many coups was a deal to offer free downloads of Angry Birds. Shifted 7m.
VP of BlackBerry Global Alliances and Developer Relations, RIM
RIM’s new OS, its touchscreen Torch device and its huge developer contest around ‘super apps’ indicated how determined the firm is to build out its content services.
Zong proved it’s all about being in the right place at the right time. Its ‘frictionless’ payment system for digital goods (type in number, get a PIN, you’re done) is not 100 per cent original. But everyone’s talking about it. The deal with Facebook may have helped. A US carrier agreement with the big three will make Zong an even bigger deal next year.
Director of mobile, Facebook
Relentless. Last month, Facebook confirmed 200 million regular mobile users to round off a stunning year that had seen the introduction of Facebook Places and a zero data rated mobile site pitched at emerging markets. Moissinac
Mexico’s D2C giant Binbit consolidated its footprint in Latin America, and the gains it made buying South Africa’s Atinco and Singapore-based Acme Mobile.
Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers/iFund
The iFund investment vehicle has quickly emerged as a supporter of the most innovative iPhone app makers, and arguably helped to make California the centre of the biz right now. Those funded include Booyah and Shazam.
CEO of DeNA Global
2010 was the year DeNA looked beyond Japan with a stunning acquisition of ncmoco. That deal married two of the world’s best known virtual community specialists. Later DeNA confirmed Samsung would take its Mobage game global. Expect more like this next year.
VP of publishing, EA Mobile Europe
Pagano oversees the market’s biggest games publisher, with an operation that spans app stores, D2C and portals. But watch out in 2011 for the integration of new ideas from Chillingo and Playfish – and some other interesting stuff…
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Millennial is that it’s still Millennial and not the advertising unit of Microsoft or Yahoo or some such. Shouldn’t Millennial have been snapped up by now? There’s still time. Meanwhile the firm marches on, with 2,500 sites and apps and an expanding European operation.
CEO of Wau
Want to get access to the LatAM content consumer? Chances are you’ll need Wau, which has connections to 50-plus carriers in the region.
Javier Pérez Dolset
Quiet year for Zed, really. There were lay-offs in some locations, but also expansion in others, and Zed surprised people with that Monty Python deal. Probably the most interesting aspect of the vast Zed biz is the TV operation, which is huge in Spain and Argentina.
MD, Arvato Mobile
Arvato is a content aggregator with deep and longstanding links to brands and operators. It has a heritage in music thanks to ownership by BMG, but is now in the hands of the Abu Dhabi Group.
The winner of the 2009 ‘outstanding contribution’ ME Award is the godfather of the Indian content scene. His firm is its leading player, with close links to Bollywood and the Indian music labels.
MD, Ericsson IPX
Ericsson IPX is one of the original giants in a mobile payments space that is expected to get a second fillip thanks to single click payments, e-wallets and more. Watch out for lots of activity around NFC from IPX in 2011.
VP of Mobile Platforms, Google
You can argue about the detail of those 200,000 a day activation stats. But you can’t ignore the evidence of your eyes. Android has been a massively successful Google gamble. No wonder the firm thinks it can make (indirectly) $10bn a year from the OS.
CEO, TIM w.e
Easy for the Anglo Saxon media outlets to overlook a company like TIM w.e. We won’t. The firm is big in D2C, B20 and mobile marketing, and has 22 offices across 60 countries.
VP of mobile, Groupon
Mobile guy at the fastest growing company in the world, a firm that apparently turned down $6bn from Google. Watch Groupon explode across mobile shopping in 2011, if its army of copycats don’t get there first.
Chairman Emeritus, MEF Americas
Still moving and shaking all over the world, when he has every right to take it easy. Simon simply loves mobile content and loves to make things happen. Alo has the ear of Silicon Valley, Hollywood and even Capitol Hill, which helps.
Jon von Tetzchner
Founder, Opera Software
Opera’s mobile browser Opera Mini brings speedy but rich browsing to 150 million users. In 2010, it succeeded in getting availability on iOS and also closed important pre-loads with Vodafone and others. Will be a key player in the whole apps/browser argument.
A series of astute moves by Tewari have transformed InMobi from India’s AdMob to a genuine world force in mobile advertising. Changing the name from Mkhoj and hiring former Googler Rob Jonas were critical. Now, InMobi handles 24bn impressions a month.
VP of business and corporate development, Twitter
For all the fuss around Twitter, it wouldn’t have had a representative in the 50 before, because it had a vaguely laissez faire attitude to mobile. That changed in 2010 with the purchase of Atebits, which eventually became the firm’s mobile presence.
OK, so Rovio is basically a one-product company. But what a product. Angry Birds topped the iTunes chart in 2010 and gathered famous fans including the UK’s own premier. It’s become the first mainstream mobile content property since Shazam and Crazy Frog, and leaves Vesterbacka in position of commercial power and influence.
CEO, Myriad Group
Myriad is one of those giant companies you may not have heard of. Formerly Esmertec, it puts software in millions of feature phones – and increasingly this software is based around content/services. Myriad’s portfolio of browsers, messaging, Java, social networking, user interfaces and middleware is in over 2bn devices.
You’d think that the sunset of the operator portal would depress an infrastructure giant like Motricity. But no. Wuerch is taking his firm into emerging markets while establishing the ‘network as a service’ idea in mature regions ¬– utilising those operator analytics to maximise ARPU among individual subscribers.