In the run up to this year’s ForumOxford — the truly interactive un-conference all about mobile startups and apps — the discussion centers on not whether London can compete with Silicon Valley, but rather how London can (and will) cultivate a new breed of startups that change the game.
It’s a key question that my panel (Russell Buckley, Tony Fish with AMF Ventures, Muriel Devilliers with LUMU Invest and Jouko Ahvenainen with Grow VC Group) will explore and debate in-depth. As Jouko wrote in an email to me today, this panel is out to push some boundaries.
“The theme is, could mobile make the UK the next Silicon Valley. I’m quite tired to these Silicon Valley copy-cat talks, but I would focus especially, how the UK can be unique so that it is good for startups, startup ecosystem, funding and growth. So, one important theme would be to discuss how to be unique and also be able to execute it, not only talk.”
I hear ‘ya!
I am transported to one of the most memorable mobile tech conferences I ever attended back in November 2009, when my dear friend Tomi Ahonen took the stage at a small venue in London and blew our minds. He described precisely how mobile would transform marketing (and — boy — did it ever!) and listed the reasons why 1) mobile was going to ultimately eclipse every medium and industry known to us; 2) why the shift to mobile was going to impact society at all levels; and 3) why London was going to be at the epicenter of ideas and innovation that would pave the way for the mobile-first revolution.
In Tomi’s view, London was destined to go one huge step further than Silicon Valley. It would rise up to compete head-on, and even beat, Silicon Valley because its community (academia, advertising agencies and innovators) had the talent and the values to move mobile forward. Winning in mobile was not about technology; it was about building services, content and entire businesses powered by mobile powered by people. He pointed to text messaging services in Europe and Africa — particularly successful mobile permission based marketing campaigns — to drive his point home.
Fast forward, and the U.S. consistently comes up with cool ideas, but cool alone won’t be enough for the next billion. That’s where Europe, led by London/U.K., can step up to take mobile that important step further.
Interview with Tony Fish
To set the stage for this discussion and the potential impact when people-powered ventures, models and funding approaches gain serious traction I caught up with Tony Fish (@tonyfish), an industry strategist/catalyst with a focus on crowdfunding, and Torsten Stauch (@torstenstauch), who founded AppShed.
The result is two video interviews (in collaboration with Rob Woodbridge over at untetherTV) that touch on the hottest topics in mobile. (Click on images below to play the video inteviews — each under 10 minutes.)
The timing couldn’t be better since startups everywhere (not just in Europe/U.K.) are at a crossroads. As this recent Business Insider post points out: “The fiscal cliff for startups funded in the recent explosion of seed-stage deals has arrived: Many are failing or have run out of money.”
Does it spell disaster for startups? Or it an opportunity for crowdfunding in disguise?
Tony Fish tells me it is the later. In fact, he argues that the end of Silicon Valley (and the funding models that made it great) is inevitable — and approaching fast(!).
As Tony puts it: Crowdfunding is hitting a need, particularly in the area of consumer- focused services where the venture capital market has never really showed a huge amount of interest.
He also tells the story of an idea he and a colleague had around 10 weeks ago and have since brought to the point that we will likely see an Alpha in December. All thanks to crowdfunding! (It’s a story he will also share during ForumOxford).
Where is it going? Tony tells me that the market is evolving to models that “aggregate several sources of crowd funds.”
Interview with AppShed
Torsten’s company has cracked the code on how (and why) tech startups must offer us value first in order to build trust and — ultimately longer-term commercial relationships. In the case of AppShed, it’s freemium meets open innovation — and it’s am exciting business blueprint others can surely follow.
His presentation during ForumOxford will track his journey as an entrepreneur. As he puts it: his life at startups has a common thread: the importance of service models. In our empowered age, it’s all about developing models to give before you take.
We also discuss the new focus at AppShed on education and providing learners (teachers and students) the tools to get in on the app revolution and build apps on their own. Imagine children can build an app in a morning and share a link to the app with their parents by mid-day (!) It sounds incredible but AppShed is making it possible today.
I have been ‘head down’ for much of the last months writing book(s); including The Everything Guide To Mobile Apps and a soon-to-be released look at the options for mobile operators to stay in the game; researching white papers and producing Thought Leadership. I am excited about the impact all these projects will have on the space. However, I am even more excited at this moment to attend ForumOxford, connect with mobile thinkers and do-ers and discuss great ideas and even better ‘action items.’