I wonder if mobile IM will ever catch on in Africa.
DM: So Pascal, you’ve just closed an $8 million (£4 million) funding round. What are you going to do with the money?
PL: We’ll use it to finance the development of our US operations. We’re now a leader in Europe and Asia for mobile IM (Instant Messaging) and we want to take advantage of this position to go to the US market.
We’ll also use it to invest more deeply into our new product line. This is an intelligent dynamic address book which will be officially launched by the end of July. It allows the user to get on their phone’s contact list a kind of dashboard showing who is doing what. So you get their name and number of course, but you also get a small icon showing who is listening to music, who is updating photos on their blog, who has video files to share, so at any time if you browse your contact list, you have this dashboard of the activities your close friends are up to, so you’re never alone, you’re always connected. It’s a purely optin system, so it’s not intrusive, but the first tests we have run show that teenagers are very willing to let other people know what they’re doing.
DM: Will you charge for it?
PL: It will be distributed by carriers and we are pushing very hard for the carriers to give it away for free, because they will accumulate the data usage. It’s a great way to stimulate data traffic
DM: Where will it be available?
PL: In Europe and the US initially. We will have deals in place with three carriers in Europe by the end of the year, with the first one launching in September.
DM: So what else has been happening since we last spoke?
PL: Well the company now has operations in Europe, Asia and US. We have 86 people, and offices in London, Paris, Madrid, Munich, Berlin, Singapore, Taipeng and Cupertino. In the last 12 months, the company has doubled its revenues, just as it has for the last four years, and we are predicting that we will double our revenues again this year to achieve a revenue of between $12 and $20 million.
DM: And how do the revenues break down?
PL: 50% comes from mobile IM, 30% from mobile email, and 20% from blogs, picture sharing and social networking.
DM: And if you fast-forward 12 months, how will the split look then?
PL: Well we think the new product line, the rich address book, will generate 50% of our revenues by 2010, based on own research, and the footprint and the traction we are getting from our customers today. Our carrier customers have all shown a very strong interest in the new line of products.
DM: So how difficult is it to stay focused on what you do. You haven’t jumped on the mobile advertising bandwagon, for example.
PL: It is hard to stay focused, but having said that, as CEO, my main role is to lead the vision and focus of the company, and in order to do that, I don’t go to the office every day. I talk to customers all over the world, and I visit Japan every month, because this is the most advanced market. We have run trials in Europe and Japan on mobile advertising, and I can tell you that these tests show that there is interest from the end-user perspective, but as far as advertisers are concerned, there is not much interest in replacing the commercial (paid-for) model with the advertising model.
When we see sufficient interest from advertisers, we will get involved; we have a mobile advertising platform, we are plugged into Google, AdMob etc., but the inventory is not there yet, even if they say it is. We can bring them millions of page views per day, but they don’t have the inventory, even though they claim to.
DM: And are there any other areas that you’re looking at?
PL: We have built our reputation on doing what we do well and remaining focused. We have a leading position in Europe because we are focused. We do look at other ideas, but unless they are a very good fit with where we want to go, we don’t go there. There are so many opportunities, but to be the best, you have to focus on the areas where you are