Startups should adapt to the developing world, not ignore it

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Credit: Jakub Mosur

In our smartphone-dependent lives, it’s hard to imagine getting by with a feature phone. But in developing countries, those phones have become lifelines that can handle a money transaction or goods order, and companies are continually finding new uses for them.

Frog’s vice president of creative Fabio Sergio and UNICEF Innovation Unit co-founder Erica Kochi made the case at the Gigaom Roadmap conference Wednesday that feature phone users cannot be ignored because they represent the fastest-growing markets in the world. And when companies enter those markets, they should apply the startup model of thinking big from the beginning, while also maintaining a conscience.

“There is clearly a must in what we are talking about, and then there is a should or a could,” Sergio said. “We should embrace the social must.”

Sergio noted that in many countries residents don’t have a government they can trust. They might not have a birth certificate or a formal bank. Instead, brands are stepping in as trusted service providers. Kochi cited that 43 percent of Kenya’s GDP flows not through a traditional banking system, but through M-Pesa, a money transfer service launched by mobile provider Vodafone.

These kinds of systems will require mobile developers to completely rethink how they go about their jobs. But when they do, they will find huge opportunity.

“For most people in the world, constant electricity is not a given at all. In the most extreme cases, they’re paying a tremendous amount of their daily wage for power,” Kochi said. “I think we’ll see the widespread adoption of smart phones. But when you’re thinking about the services that you put on top of them and that they’re so data hungry, I think we’re going to hit a major barrier, not just on battery life, but how we design apps.”

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jjj

They don’t understand that world, US companies don’t even understand Western Europe, even the giants are clueless.
The funny thing is that the US is not an early adopter of technology anymore. Look at solar, LED lighting or 4k. So in many cases it would be a lot better to target other markets with new technologies, new product categories but instead they target the US and fail.
Google killed Glass and Google TV like that and next they might kill Project Ara if they launch US first and only. If you look at Google over 40% of their revenue is US. Intel and Apple are going for the fashion strategy, guess they watched too much reality TV and the stupidity was contagious.It’s like they are from another planet., maybe they should leave Cali for 5 minutes every decade or so.
From cars to refrigerators the US is different and the internal market is loosing in relevance while politicians are making sure the long term outlook is negative. Since we are at mobile, ridiculous data prices and poor quality,, the smartphone market has been killed by the carriers monopoly and the FCC … i call dingo !

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