Archive for November, 2008

Tough Economies Can Drive Innovation

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Whether we are currently in a recession is debatable, but whether or not we are dealing with tough economic times right now is not. It was just two months ago that the federal government took over Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae, then came the $700 billion bailout for financial institutions that included Freddie & Fannie, the Dow Jones Industrial average has dropped 4,961 points or 38.29% since this time last year (November 20, 2007), & now the big 3 car manufacturers are requesting a $25 billion dollar bailout. During all of this, the IT & telecom sectors have begun to feel the pinch too. This is evident from layoffs reported by Sun Microsystems, job cuts by Cisco right here in Texas, 10,000 job cuts announced by BT, 3,000 cuts by Motorola, & unfortunately the list goes on & on.

In response to these tough economic times companies need to look to new & innovative solutions that can save them money, time, & ultimately help them succeed in growing their business. We are always looking for ways to grow our business by investing in solutions that save us time & money. Just recently we were featured in an article about how we have used virtualization in order to streamline our systems administration processes all while saving money too.

Many of our products & services result in costs & time savings for businesses & I wanted to share a few in hopes that they may help your business.

Web & Audio Conferencing
Provides businesses with affordable, on-demand conferencing that can be used anytime by simply picking up the phone & dialing a personal code. The service includes a convenient Online dashboard for account management, monitoring live conference calls, & reporting.

Transaction Processing Services
We manage 860 million end-user accounts & we process well over 19 million transactions per day. Our transaction processing capacity is capable of handling over 40 billion transactions per year - more than enough for practically anything that a business could dream up.

Least Cost Routing & iQT
By combining our Least Cost Routing (LCR) engine with our patented iQT technology we can monitor & analyze ever call in real-time & automatically remove carrier routes that do not meet strict quality standards. The result is the best possible ratio of quality & pricing for terminating your calls.

By using these & many other products & services you can save your business money & precious time that can be better spent focusing on your core competencies & your customers.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka

Mobile Money Transfer From Around the World

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

The last day of MMT08 was focused on the true landscape of the mobile money transfer market & offered insight on how to succeed in this emerging market. As conference delegates, we had an opportunity to directly interface with the CEOs of many of the companies who have already deployed MTT solutions. The list of CEOs & their companies included Michael Joseph of Safaricom, Karim Khoja of Roshan, Brian Richardson of Wizzit, & Carol Realini of Obopay who have all had their own unique experiences developing & deploying MMT solutions.

Of the four CEOs that offered their insights, Carol Realini of Obopay is the only one whose company is experienced with deploying a MMT solution in the States. I understood Realini’s description of the MMT market in the U.S. very well which today is primarily made up of unbanked & underbanked immigrant workers & teenagers. For those teenagers that are adopting Obopay’s MMT solution it is more about convenience than anything else & since teenagers trust almost any application available on their phone it’s no wonder that this market is one of the first to adopt Obopay’s solution. In the States the MMT market is also being utilized by working immigrants because MMT offers them both a convenient & more importantly a cost saving option compared to traditional means of transferring money such as Western Union & MoneyGram.

Banks, Point of Sale (POS), eCommerce solutions, etc. are readily available in the States. In other countries, these solutions are practically nonexistent. What is readily available in these other countries with undeveloped baking & payment solutions are cell phones & because of this reason MMT is taking off!

Brian Richardson, CEO of Wizzit, did a beautiful job of describing the undeveloped market his company is working hard to serve in Africa where less than 4% of the population is banked. Richardson gave an uplifting & passionate presentation about the opportunity that exists in Africa & why his company is taking an innovative approach of bringing the banks to the unbanked; not the other way around. Richardson asked the audience of the conference to consider giving up all bank accounts, credit cards, debit cards, Internet banking, etc. The question was followed by an uncomfortable silence while we all pondered the difficulties that this would present in our lives & what the unbanked population deals with on a daily basis.

The current situation in Africa does not nurture a system for banking. Banking fees are high, the banks are open for short periods of time (9am - 3:30pm), banking services are poor, & the banks are an average of 30 kilometers (18 miles) from where most Africans live. Cash is an expensive, dangerous, & an inconvenient option, but despite the inconvenience & danger cash presents it is still a better option than banking at a conventional bank in Africa.

It was evident from beginning to end that Richardson possess real passion & excitement for this industry & to succeed in any business passion & excitement are key. Just as we at NetworkIP through our own passion & excitement have brought affordable & quality telecommunication services to the unbanked & underbanked here in the States, I hope that Wizzit will succeed in empowering those in Africa with a banking solution using MMT.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka

Mobile Money Transfer Regulatory Hurdles

Monday, November 10th, 2008

First to present this morning at the Mobile Money Transfer Conference (MMT08) here in Dubai was Ryan Gilbert of 1688 Inc. Gilbert excited the crowd when he described the size & potential of the Mobile Money Transfer (MMT) market. The money transfer market is currently estimated to be a $700 billion annual industry, of which $350 billion is reported through traditional means of money transfer through services such as Western Union & MoneyGram. The other $350 billion goes unreported because of non-traditional money transfers such as sending cash via snail mail & cash delivered during travel. The mobile phone, a now ubiquitous device across the globe, is the key to capturing a piece of the existing reported $350 billion market, & more importantly capturing an even larger percentage of the $350 billion which is currently untapped.

The mobile phone offers not only a more convenient way of transferring money, but is also a less expensive method for the consumer. Sending money via Western Union for example is quickly becoming a dated solution & as consumers realize the simplicity & the many advantages of money transfer via mobile the likes of Western Union will need to adapt their services to the  mobile phone or their business will suffer significantly.

Like all great opportunities there tend to be hurdles that we must work together to overcome. In a post 9-11 environment we a forced to deal with many new strict laws & regulations that will unintentionally impede the growth of the mobile money transfer market. The larger regulatory hurdles which are causing the most concern include the global patchwork of laws, the fact that current legal frameworks do not fully cover cross-border remittances, compliance is expensive, & most importantly the pace of regulation has not kept up with pace of technology innovation.

Within the United States, we are burden with even more regulations. U.S. regulations include property law, consumer protection law, AML/CFT/KYC/OFAC (also known as the alphabet soup of regulation), privacy law, telecommunications law, the Federal Money Service Business registration, & lastly the State Money Transmitter License all plaguing the industry.

Since inaction is not a viable option, the following actions for moving forward with MMT were recommended by Gilbert: 1) we must close the gap between that exists between innovations of the mobile network operator (MNO) & the regulatory goals, 2) we need inclusive planning processes, 3) we need to address consumer demand, & 4) we need to balance regulations with service-based trust & safety.

If we work together inside this mobile payment ecosystem these hurdles in comparison to the opportunity that exists are insignificant. The goal is to move quickly in order to meet consumer demand while keeping true to the regulatory compliances before us.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka

Mobile Money Transfer

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

Earlier this week I departed from Austin & boarded one of three flights that would eventually land me in Dubai, which is serving as this year’s host city for the Mobile Money Transfer (MMT) conference that I will participate in. As noted by the conference organizers, there are significant profits to be made out of MMT. Only a finite group of market leaders such as Safaricom who developed M-PESA & Globe’s G-Cash have proven it, & now mobile network operators, banks, micro-finance institutions, money transfer networks & technology providers (like NetworkIP & Jaduka), are mobilizing in an attempt to grab a share of the market.

According to a study by Juniper Research, mobile remittances & contactless Near Field Communications (NFC) will account for 50% of the overall mobile payment market globally by 2013. The mobile payments market, currently dominated by purchases of digital goods such as ringtones, music & games, is expected to be led by mobile money transfers & NFC for purchases in the future. This will boost the overall m-payments market by a factor of ten until 2013.

At NetworkIP & Jaduka we are constantly looking at new services & products that can easily be powered on our ever growing network & platform. For the next four days at MMT08 I will meet with many of the thought leaders in the mobile payment industry & will participate in a variety of conference sessions in an effort to build NetworkIP’s knowledge of this evolving space as we continue to seek new ways to leverage the power of our platform to bring success to our customers & partners.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka

Text Messaging Opens New Doors

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

According to a recent survey conducted by Opinion Research Corp. (ORC), a text message is far more likely to elicit a quick response than leaving a voice mail. To add, those under the age of 30 are four times more likely to respond within minutes of receiving a text message compared to a voice mail, & 91% respond to a text message within one hour. Adults 30 & older are also quick to text & are twice as likely to respond within minutes to a text message as compared to a voice message.

I’ve been testing the results of this study both at work with colleagues & after hours with friends & my results coincide with those published by ORC. Text messages are not only easier for people to access, they are also less evasive, & more importantly in my opinion text messages force both the sender & the receiver to get straight to the point - 160 characters doesn’t allow for much “small talk.” To my delight I met with a client today who described a previous job where he worked directly with his CEO for 3 years & within those three years they never left more than 3 or 4 voice mails for each other because outside of face-to-face meetings all communication was done through text messaging because text messaging proved to be so effective.

If text messaging can speed up communication between two people, what else could text messaging make more efficient for us?

As I began to consider all the things we could do as part of our daily activities through text messaging I was reminded of some examples that Jyri Engeström, co-founder of Jaiku, a microblogging service acquired by Google in 2007, discussed at the Mobilize 08 conference that I attended earlier this year. Jyri discussed how he uses text messaging back home in Finland on a daily basis. He described a scenario at an airport where you, the consumer, are alerted of flight delays via text messaging, you pay for your airport parking with text messaging, you check-in for your flight via text messaging, & you use a previous text message you received from your airline as your boarding pass to board the plane.

This evening I did a quick bit of research on Finland & their use of text messaging & I found a couple of interesting articles that I thought I’d share. The first article describes how the Finnish Road Administration is using text messaging as a way to curb vandalism in public restrooms. Their solution requires restroom visitors to text “Open” (in Finnish, of course) to a local SMS number that will then unlock the door to the restroom. The idea of course is that people will be less likely to graffiti up the place knowing that their mobile number is on file as a result of opening the restroom door via a text message. This second article I found doesn’t point to a specific texting service or solution, but it does demonstrate the popularity of text messaging in Finland given that even the Ilkka Kanerva, Finland’s Foreign Minister, uses text messaging. Unfortunately for Kanerva he used text messaging in a way that resulted in him being ousted from his seat in April of this year. Lastly, I think it’s worth noting that the “Father of Text Messaging”, Matti Makkonen, is from Finland & according to this article Makkonen didn’t make a single dime off his invention which started as an idea while at pizzeria in Copenhagen.

Just as I begin to believe that we in the U.S. have figured this “mobile thing” out I’m reminded of how far behind we really are. The good news is that the mobile market is still open for us & others to shape here in the States. We have an opportunity to learn from what others have done well, what they haven’t done so well, & then to use that knowledge to build our mobile services even better. Opportunity is knocking in the mobile market; can you hear it? If you still can’t hear it, maybe I’ll send you a text message.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka