The last DEMO morning session was made up by presentations from 15 mobile-centric companies — some trying to help devices connect wirelessly, others offering mobile clients for wireless data services. Thankfully none of them pony-showed any celebrities like mobile company Bling Software did yesterday afternoon with a lackluster Barry Bonds appearance.
We wrote about some of the wireless companies throughout the week like DART, Devicescape and Whisher, but here’s three mobile content startups whose demos stuck in my mind from today, and who have all raised fresh funding in the past year:
1). Vringo: I really wanted to dislike this ‘video ringtone’ service — the idea itself isn’t so new, and how much more content are we expecting consumers to buy to personalize their ringtones? But the service is actually an interesting way to help kick-start mobile video sharing. Using a mobile application (only available for Symbian now) friends can use Vringo to show video clips (Vringos) to each other’s phones that play during the ring session — CEO Jonathan Medved, who founded Israel Seed Partners and invested in Israeli startups for over a decade, says the trickiest part of the technology is waking up the phone during the ring. The technology does not use MMS and uses data services, so if you ever try it out make sure you’ve got a data plan.
The year old Israel-based 26-person startup raised $2.35 million in a Series A six months ago from a group of angels and private investors, and is currently working on a Series B round. New funds will have to go into building out more client versions, marketing, and making the service scalable if a lot of users ever start wanting to swap the video tones. The service is in ‘closed beta’ for now and is offering its service for free at this point, but working out the business model — free with ads, subscription, pay for play, or likely a combo.
2). Mobio Networks: Like Vringo’s execs, Mobio’s CEO Ramneek Bhasin, is pretty convinced that the rich client experience has won out over WAP browsing. The Cupertino-based company, which raised $9 million in a Series A led by Storm Ventures and InterWest Partners last year, was showing off its GetMobio downloadable software. The client offers 50 different web-based applications like OpenTable reservations and finding and purchasing movie tickets.
It’s interesting because its an easy way for smaller web sites to go mobile, and less sophisticated phones like the Motorola RAZR and Samsung BLADE can use the simple-enough data application. Like Vringo GetMobio uses data services, so don’t get killed on data charges if you don’t have unlimited data. I wasn’t sure if people were ready to use “Mobile 2.0″ quite yet, but Mobio unabashedly uses the term, describing its products as “Mobile 2.0 mash-up applications.”
3). TeleFlip: Unlike Mobio and Vringo, TeleFlip is hinging its service on text messages. The Santa Monica-based three-year-old startup was running its simple email-to-SMS service out of its founder, Guy Botham’s bedroom when a venture firm and a viable business model came calling. Last August the company raised a Series A (size undisclosed) round from GRP Partners in LA, and put CEO Tony Davis in charge of turning the company into a working business. The result is the service they showed off at DEMO, which will be available in March and basically helps average phones without data connections send email and other text-based content to the SMS inbox.
It’s kind of like a Blackberry-style email service for basic phones but relying on the text message inbox. They’re offering a free service for 5,000 messages a month, and plan to offer an ad-based and premium service. One issue, is that you’d better get yourself an unlimited text package, because you’ll be pretty unhappy if you’ve got limited per month texts used up by email spam or unimportant email messages.