Blog Post

Mobile social networks, don’t go it alone

The web-based social network boom and the rising use of cell phones for non-voice functions, makes the trendy ‘mobile social network’ phenomenon an obvious area for investment. But the reality is that it’s difficult to base a business off of just turning an unknown brand into a single mobile social network. You need a lot of money to grow the subscriber counts, and mobile users aren’t so enthused about mobile data in most markets around the planet.

Only 4% of U.K. mobile users and 6% of U.S. mobile users have uploaded content to social network sites (including sharing sites or blogs) from their phones, according to Telephia. That’s just uploading mobile content, and doesn’t include any of the other mobile social network features from the mobile web, or an application. And with MySpace mobile leading the way in these small markets, with 32% of U.S. mobile upload traffic and 21% in the U.K, what do you do if you’re a small startup with a little-known mobile social network?

If you’re InterCasting, a startup founded by CEO Shawn Conahan, you try to make friends with your web-based potential competitors. The company has been working on building its mobile social network and chat service Rabble for several years now, but has recently started selling a technology platform service for carriers and web-based social network providers. Basically, social network providers can plug into Intercasting’s gateway via APIs, and the service combines a server software and a handset client.

Conahan, in an email response to GigaOM, said: “I agree that it is difficult to start a mobile social networking business from scratch, AND it is cost-prohibitive for existing social networking sites to build their own mobile applications, and that is why we think enabling the whole opportunity is a better approach.”

The company’s investors must think the strategy shift is a good move, otherwise they wouldn’t have handed over another $12 million in a Series B financing, led by Venrock and including existing backers Avalon Ventures and Masthead Venture Partners. We had mentioned that the company was looking for investment in a recent post.

18 Responses to “Mobile social networks, don’t go it alone”

  1. I’m interested in seeing what happens with which is a new mobile social network for the iPhone that was just launched about a week ago. I’m thinking they can compete with their geo location / GPS cell phone tracking to show where friends are.

  2. Privacy is still a major issue of location based platforms. MagnetU who provides an amazing mobile social networking accessory that match and make new connections with people around you overcome the privacy challanges and make mobile social networking in a really enjoyable way. No need to install any application on your phone. I just bought it in Taiwan and actually it works with all operators in the world and does not require the high data plan cost.

  3. People are carrying their cell phones any place, any time, most of them are social network members, do they can recognize each other? not really!
    with NearConn – cellular social network it possible. the system Search your close environment and You will get relevant information about facebook members / other people that are in your close environment.
    But lets talk about more value that people can get from carrying they cell phone – to every one we say: “CellYourSelf”.
    NearConn is the best way to “CellYourSelf “, so your phone can represent you (will act as your poster), you can Turn your profile to a personal billboard to promote your self in a personal / business matter.

  4. I use and it’s quite reasonable, only the standard text rates. I use it for my networking. It’s really neat!..I get all my music updates from there. I think they’re branching out to mobile marketing too. They are quite innovative. Maybe you could try that too.

  5. its free when advertising is not involved. a well established service dosnt need to spam. you have to have a very well known name to be able to charge for a service on the net and be big. is the only proper mobile social network out there, and theres going to be more.

  6. Some interesting comments,

    “Free” is not always the only business model. People are happy to pay for things they want and pay a premium for things that are easy to use, convenient and don’t subject them to spamvertising!

    In the world of mobile content little/nothing is free it is particulary important for social networks to look to deliver value which (take it from me!)is a little more challenging with a 2in screen…


  7. support peekamo. its a valid and trusting mobile network that offers free text messaging. i dont undeerstand why people are so hesitant to such a service. i know mmost thuings in life are hard to believe when you tag the word frewe with the business, but try it out and see instead of being so ignorant.

  8. richard

    Andrew you were on the money. I never saw it that way when I read the article, but upon reading your comment and a second read at the article your points are absolutely correct.

    Well this article was a waste of time, but a good lesson learned nonetheless.

  9. andrew

    I think we are all in agreement that the mobile phone is the next big step for social networking. However what I can’t agree on is this article bizarre notion that it takes big money to be successful in the social networking arena.

    If we consider Myspace to be the Microsoft of social networking it would make the smaller social networks somewhat of an Apple or Linux. The market is big enough for everyone and each social network comes with it’s own 31 flavors. Just have a look at the wikipedia list of 200+ social networks.

    Capitalizing an article based on Myspace constant growth and denouncing other social networks’ ability to grow and be successful would be like saying “Apple doesn’t have a chance at success in a Windows dominated world.” Hello, has anyone heard of this thing called an iPod? Great little gadget that nobody expected, from a company who holds about a 5% share in the computing industry. And Linux, the little operating system nobody knows how to use but finds its way into almost all major financial institution as the founding layer for all of our daily financial transactions.

    We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and someone of us still haven’t learned our lesson from the .com days of thinking and researching before speaking and acting.

    Just something to think about before you all go ot and start buying MySpace “stock” because GigaOM said it would be leader in mobile social networking.

    GigaOM, this is truly disappointing coming from a blog who’s sole purpose is to introduce, help and support internet business, small or large, not just the big boys, I get enough of that on TV and the newspaper. Let’s keep it real.

    Serenity now.

  10. hi all,
    nice that everybody speaks about mobile communities:

    we ( are live and the no.1 in usa by mobile homepages, due to the fact that applications definitely a good thing, but just i know arround 80 companies prod. appli`s, and we have learned that users like 100% easy services, into the mobile web.

    and by the end, nothing is live, just move to the mobile web and have a look, ìt`s realy not entertainment what happens!

    best Vince

  11. i Agree to that but i would also like to add that social networks related tomobile are not the only side of coin there are lot more companies coming in other fields of mobile like content resellers i.e

    Then you can see lot of whitlabels being provideby these content reselers these social networking communities like Mobihand

  12. Have to agree with Yaromir here. Relative to a startup, I’m pretty sure that Myspace wouldn’t find building a mobile application very “cost-prohibitive”.

  13. yaromir

    Could Mr.Conahan elaborate more about the “cost-prohibitive aspect” of existing social networking sites building their own mobile applications? Is it a proved fact or just an aspiration to sell your own solution instead?

  14. Speaking to that well known and reliable info source last week, a bloke in a pub (though he did represent a company building mobile socnet tech.)

    He told me that texting just can’t hack it vs people on Blackberry’s and PC’s – gets drowned out – so they have to throttle the faster typers in chatroom type socnets and radically simplify pasteboard types – thus mixed media socnets are a tough play.

  15. I may be a little biased, but the vision behind Mojax ( is to provide the ability for services like social networks to extend the experience to the mobile device without having to make a risky and expensive investment in mobile. One example that is being worked on right now is mJaiku (, a J2ME application that extends the Jaiku social network to Java mobile devices (and soon to windows mobile and BREW).