Its nice to see something that I championed 18 months ago now become a reality. Spark headphones had a great idea, but needed serious funding to bring it to market. Many would simply shrug their shoulders and move on. Some things are maybe not to be.
But not Spark. They decided to get the funding without the banks or other formal channels taking away control from their business, just for bringing it to market. Spark went down the crowd-funding route. Crowd-funding is where ordinary people – the people in the street like you or me – can invest in an idea they think is great and just put in whatever money they feel comfortable with. Its that simple.
Crowd-funding in online and purely social-media driven technology. Most campaigns are run for a short period with a specific target in mind. If that goal isn’t reached, you get your money back. So its a great low risk strategy. But one that’s really satisfying to see come to market. Many crowd-funded businesses offer an incentive, such as shares or you get the items you invested in at preferential rates. But all offer the satisfaction of putting one over on the banks and the suits.
And that can’t be bad, can it?
Sick of trying to balance your SmartPhone, tablet or compact camera when taking a snap of friends or other social stuff – are the close-up selfies making you look like a hamster?
Well take a look at this device. Its called the iStabilizer. Its a really cool mount for your photo device that’ll probably attract as much attention as that new iPhone 6 of yours. The company has been making universal lightweight compact tripods, steady cams, and other products for smartphones, tablets and cameras for some time. And this cool gadget has just won the USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Award in the Best App/Gadget for Phone Pics category.
USA Today’s awards are voted for digitally, so give an accurate reflection of what today’s users of mobile devices really like. In making this award, USA Today said “USA TODAY is thrilled to have this method of sharing what 10Best and USA TODAY readers and users love most,” said John Peters, President of USA TODAY Travel Media Group.
“Our readers are well-informed, well-traveled and opinionated. At the end of the day, content on our platforms is a reflection of them. A business which finds itself the recipient of a 10Best Readers’ Choice Award has really accomplished something.”
USA Today site recently acquired 10Best.com, which provides users with original, unbiased, and experiential travel content of top attractions, things to see and do, and restaurants for top destinations in the U.S. and around the world. The site’s uniqueness is its team of local travel experts who are not only experts in their fields and their cities, but discriminating in their tastes. These local experts live in the city they write about, so the content is constantly updated.
In 2012, 10Best.com averaged more than 700,000 monthly unique visitors generating approximately 28 million page views. 10Best.com was recently acquired by USA TODAY, the nation’s number one newspaper in print circulation with an average of more than 1.6 million daily. USATODAY.com, an award-winning newspaper website launched in 1995, reaches a combined 6.6 million readers daily.
Go find out more at http://www.10best.com or http://www.istabilizer.com.
With all the bad news coming out of the Middle East at the moment, its good to report about something great happening in this sector – its a pity its not being talked about more in the current climate.
Israel – the start up nation
Israel’s often dubbed the start-up nation because of its unique tech ecosystem. But tech-savvy Israeli-Arabs have struggled to compete with Tel Aviv’s unique tech scene, because of the geographic distance from the centre of the country, limited funding, restricted social network access and by not being allowed to serve in the army, which funds a lot of technical research.
But despite these barriers, a vibrant tech cluster is emerging in the Arab community, centred around Nazareth. The birthplace of Jesus is also an Arab town where Muslims and Christians live side by side. Its surrounding neighbourhoods are now establishing a reputation as the hub of Arab entrepreneurship and innovation in Israel.
Coming to the UK
Organised by the UK Israel Tech Hub at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, a delegation of Israeli-Arab entrepreneurs is meeting the UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid MP, in London today, (2nd December, 2015) as part of a three-day tech trip to talk to some of the capital’s most innovative technology companies and services. Israel’s seeded 7,000 start-ups in the past decade, more than any other country outside the US. But the nation’s Arab minority faces many obstacles within this thriving sector.
The UK Israel Tech Hub at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv is a public-private initiative investing in Israeli-Arab rising-stars, helping them develop their skills and foster business relationships abroad. By encouraging them to set the UK as their destination to grow and expand globally and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, who’ll have a better chance of becoming part of the Israeli economic mainstream.
The UK sees a huge potential within the Israeli-Arab start up space for its own economy. The Arabtech delegation mission is connecting 10 promising entrepreneurs from Nazareth to British accelerators, investors, companies and leaders from the UK’s tech ecosystem to create real business value for both sides. But its not all Arab; the diverse delegation represents a 50/50 Arab/Christian mix and features a unique balance of genders, with four women on-board.
During the London trip. the delegation will be partnered with a sector counterpart in the UK, to understand how each work. Companies like BT, Wayra and even Google, who’ll be hosting them on the Google campus. As the UK’s first Asian cabinet minister Sajid Javid will bring his own experience of overcoming cultural barriers.
British Ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey, said “The British economy can greatly benefit from partnering with start-ups from Israel’s Arab community. Just like other sectors of the Start Up Nation, entrepreneurs from this community bring huge amount of talent and innovation. The British Government, through its UK Israel Tech Hub, is proud to introduce the British business community to tech opportunities from this community”.
Its cold, you’re standing outside. Waiting for a bus, train or shopping. But we still need to use our technology and stay warm too, right?
Well, just check these out. They’re new leather touchscreen gloves from Dutch company Mujjo.
These techno-gloves are powered by state of the art nanotechnology, which mimics the conductive properties of the human skin, Mujjo’s touchscreen gloves offer an unrestricted touchscreen experience and enable the user to utilize all fingers and even the palm of their hand.
The gloves – along with a breathtaking range of other products – were designed by Remy Nagelmaeker, the co-founder of Mujjo. The usability doesn’t just stop with the ability to use your phone, tablet or other touch device as easily as you can with your bare fingertips, the gloves are clever from the aesthetic point of view, too. I’ll let Remy explain:
“The matte finishing of the leather allows for a well-balanced iconic look in uniform dark tones along with a few areas of contrast intensifying the low-key design. Regular leather gloves don’t work with touchscreens, but these will work flawlessly with almost every touchscreen, because they feature state-of-the-art nanotechnology.”
These gloves’ fold-over closure features the brand’s familiar slant line and uniquely integrates a neat magnetic snap closure, so you keep hold of your valuable tech (or partner’s hand!) while fastening your gloves.
The total package
Its essential for any premium product to impart a great experience to the buyer in or out of the box. Not only when presenting a gift, but also when paying for them yourself. Its something the cheaper end of the market often overlooks. The cool design of Mujjo’s products extends to the box.That’s been given some serious design thought, too. Company founder Tom Canters takes up the story:
“We’ve put serious effort into designing the gift box. It is important to us that the high quality of these leather gloves radiates through the packaging. The gift box package embodies the low-key personality of the gloves, delicate yet striking. Made with attention to detail, the materials are of uniform dark tones and contrasting textures.”
I can’t disagree.
The gloves are part of a range of truly inspired, quality tech-wear that not only works superbly, but captures the current street biker and cafe racer trend. But don’t worry. You don’t need to have slung your leg over a Triumph or Ducati bike to look cool.
Just buy the gloves. Its all you need.
Find out more, right here. PS: Christmas is coming – if any of my generous friends are reading this…
London, 4 June 2015: Smart devices on track to replace cash and cards as UK mobile payments projected to hit over £1.2bn a week by 2020. So says Jeremy Nicholds, Executive Director for Mobile, Visa Europe.
Visa’s latest predictions
Despite many false dawns, UK mobile payments is predicted to grow three-fold over the next five years as savvy shoppers embrace new options and spend more on mobile, with one in four consumers estimated to spend more than £50 a week on mobile by 2020.
British consumers driving the change
Nicholds believes the UK is moving towards a “cash-last” society as one in four Brits expect to use their mobile phone to make payments on a daily basis by 2020, growing from the one in twelve who do so already today. According to new research from Visa Europe, consumer adoption of mobile payments will grow faster than ever in the next five years, with six in ten Britons (60%) expected to use their mobile devices for payments at least once a week by 2020.
The UK mobile payments boom will probably see an upsurge in the weekly value spent using mobile devices, with the market growing to an estimated £1.2bn per week* by 2020. The tech-enabled shopper expects to spend £27 on mobile each week by 2020, up from the £17 they spend today. In fact, nearly 24% respondents think they could spend more than £50 a week using a mobile device by 2020, an estimate sure to raise eyebrows in the payments industry.
While apps and music are still the items are the most popular mobile purchase today, Visa has observed a growing number of consumers already buying higher value items, with electronics (23%) and clothes (22%) among their top-five most purchased m-commerce items.
The expected British embrace of digital payments is a sign of shoppers’ becoming less nervous with mobile payments as the option becomes more widely available, easier to use and better understood. With the increasing publicity around m-commerce options, digital wallets and contactless payments, 43% of shoppers say they may be interested in using a mobile wallet service and nearly half (47%) are interested in using their smartphone to make low-value contactless payments in a shop.
Nicholds added, “While we’re excited to see consumers saying they expect to triple their weekly spend using mobile payments over the next five years, we at Visa think those numbers could be rather conservative and that the actual adoption rate will be much higher. This is particularly true when you look at the growth in contactless usage, which saw European usage grow by 2x and spend grow by 3x over the last 12 months.
Contactless and online commerce enhancements have been key in paving the way for the next generation of mobile payment technology. The environmental conditions are already in place to meet the demands and expectations for digital payments. It’s no longer a question of ‘if’ consumers will embrace this new way to pay – it’s when – and for us the next 12 months are when mobile payments become mainstream.”
People who’re already using mobile devices to make transactions are also open to other mobile money services. The research highlights that these ‘mobile money’ users are five times more likely to be interested in paying friends through a smartphone app compared to non-users (48% vs. 9%). One in five would be open to social media payments too, compared with only one in twenty non-users.
Lack of knowledge – and worries, too
When looking at the main concerns about mobile payments, a third of respondents admitted that they simply didn’t know enough about it. As with other new technologies, this has resulted in apprehension about issues like privacy, fraud and security.
Jeremy Nicholds continued, “We’re witnessing a huge surge in interest from consumers in the UK for faster and more convenient payment methods as mobile and online commerce technologies continue to evolve at pace. This is why Visa Europe spends more than €200 million in on innovation including a number of secure payment technologies such as tokenisation to address security and convenience.
When it comes to money, concerns over control and security are understandable though a simple lack of knowledge is often an underlying cause, and consumers are quick to see the benefits of convenience. We’ve seen this with contactless card adoption – once people learn about the technology, see others using it and get used to paying with it, usage soars.”
Friction at the point of sale
Visa has invested a lot of money in mobile payments, with services like Apple’s ApplePay slowly beginning to get traction. But its the retailers themselves, who’ll have to invest heavily in new Point-of-Sale infrastructure, something they’re currently reluctant to do as consumer interest is still a long way away from critical mass and many moving to online buying anyway.
The problem with mobile payments and a point may industry commentators always make is that its solving a problem that simply doesn’t exist. Cards are easy to use, quick, familiar, have virtually 100% adoption everywhere, are cheap and free to replace. Who’ll buy you a new phone if it breaks or gets stolen?
You’re also far more likely to be mugged for that nice expensive smartphone than a piece of plastic.
But let’s not forget, suppliers like Visa and MasterCard get huge amounts of money from retailers and don’t want to lose out, should mobile payments take off.
And let’s not forget the threat posed by PayPal – but that’s a topic for another day!
About the ‘Mobile Money’ report
The mobile money research was conducted between 30 April and 20 May 2015 in six European countries: Finland, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and the UK. The total sample size was 12,015 consumers, approximately 2,000 respondents per country.
For more information, visit www.visaeurope.com and @VisaEuropeNews
[*] Figure calculated from ONS Population Estimates for UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Mid-2013 release and research figures from Visa Europe’s Mobile Money report.
Here’s a cool new website for the fashion cognoscenti. Secret d’or launches this month, designed to offer digital shoppers cutting edge fashion inspiration as well as access to the world’s most coveted new designers and brands. Luxurious, curated and highly desirable, Secret d’Or is a new frontier for the world of online fashion. Featuring collections from over 70 designers, the platform is for fashion forward individuals with a taste for the finer things in life.
Secret d’or offers unique pieces which are worlds away from the usual, conventional high street brands and off-the-shelf, push, pack and pack collections. Instead, Secret d’Or spotlights independent labels to connect forward thinking fashionistas with a top drawer choice of contemporary designers.
Camilla Jerath, Secret d’Or founder said, “In a world of fast fashion there is a new found respect for independent creatives who offer innovative products made with exceptional quality. We have created a curated platform to bring fresh and stylish independent brands to fashion forward men and women who crave unique and limited edition pieces. Take our Portamento shoes for example. Rather than generic designs, our collection is handmade in Italy using only the finest 100% genuine leather.”
The largely Swiss-based watch industry boasts some very prestigious brands. Even in this economic cliumate, each one constantly raising the bar at sometimes mind-boggling cost to produce something spectacular for the watch fairs held all around the world each year. There seems no limit to what some people will spend on a piece of wrist jewellery.
Ever heard of NFC, ever used Google Wallet at the cash-out?
No, neither have most people. But how about this?
This may actually be the first mobile payments system that actually works. Check this out.
If you’re one of those people who uses a workstation rather than a notebook, you may have noticed despite the quality of your display, your eyes feel a little tired – particularly when working early in the day, later in the evenings or when the ambient light is changing.
That’s because the system that lights up your monitor – called the backlight – flickers as it adjusts to the light within the room. That causes the ciliary muscle in your eye to overwork, as it tries to compensate for this nearly imperceptible flicker.
So, your eyes feel tired, you actually squint at your screen (making you look tired) and you can even walk away with a headache. Not good at all.
Well, BenQ, the Dutch based monitor manufacturer has used its vast research facilities and experience in the medical sector to come up with a new range of displays designed to avoid this. The Senseye Eye-Care range…
You know, looking back I guess we’ve all come a long way over the last decade. Few could have imagined the rise of the Internet-driven business.
The dot-com bubble didn’t slow the launch of new devices and faster connectivity. Most of my work was in infrastructure design – data centres and desktops. Corporates saw the Internet as something to be tightly controlled and restricted – filtered out of existence. Barclays had 256Mb in 2003. In total.
Autumn 2011 has been a really interesting time for banking. I mean new banking, not that tired old high street of ours.
MovenBank’s appeared, Zopa’s broken more records, Wonga’s won more awards and a new social P2P player’s launching, CivilisedMoney.
It generated quite a lot of Twitter traffic with people on digital banking’s front-line, like banking innovators, Darren G and Aden Davies. And raised one key question.
Online or on high street – can a click ever replace a footstep?
You know, no matter how much you explain, some people never manage to get it. Take Wonga and the thorny question of APR, for example. Now I’m not going into compound interest’s mysteries and related technobabble. Let’s just look at the reality of how life is and take it from there.
Before the crash, we trusted banks and most of us funded our lifestyles with credit. Nowadays, most people are recovering from first-degree finger burns and avoid credit like gasoline on bonfire night.
But life still bites. You still get unexpected bills that threaten the next meal’s arrival. And if that happens – and you’re smart – you’ll appreciate Wonga…
If our high street merged, what would you take from each to form one super bank? I’ll leave you for a minute to have a think about that one.
For all banking’s “talent” and money, why so little to choose between each one? Why can’t we find a killer product or even one differentiator?
How can this be – in other sectors key differences exist. Why not in banking?
A writer who I follow was bemoaning the lack of change in banking the other day. Now the point was perfectly valid – until he took a pop at P2P lending. As I follow social banking – and as one of its great supporters, I had to disagree. But it raised an interesting question. How do we measure disruption?
The writer in question was James Gardner, who’s the general manager of Spigot, the leading business process software vendor in the innovation space.
In theory, he should know. But then he suggested that it could be “nearly 100%”. That sure had a disrupting effect on me – because that’s plain silly…
Ever stopped for a moment to consider exactly what is banking really all about? Could a lawn mower be the key to change?Not any old lawn mower. But Bosch lawn mowers – and how they came about. Because this is about re-invention at a very dark time. A time not unlike now.
About how a company faced with a collapsing market found the vision to change. Emerging stronger and able to cope with an even greater challenge to follow.
You know, technology works when it helps you do things you need to do easier. But its really cool when it lets you do the things you like to do better!
You basketball fans will know that the European Championships are currently on. There’s an app for that – and here it is… Its a really well designed app for iPhone and will be the go-to app for hoop fans. And at $1.99, if you don’t want to miss a game, you shouldn’t miss this.
The app’s of course available in the App Store right now. So why not give it a try? Makes a change to talk about this rather than the Euro as a basket case!
They must have made us buy millions of wallets. I’m talking about plastic cards. They became an obsession – even something we collected. Colourful, pictorial, themed, silver, gold, platinum, even black. We had them all. Pushed by banks and card companies desperate to part us from whatever cash the Government hadn’t taxed us on, we let them cause our own credit crunch.
But finally, the tide is turning. Its not just consumers who are abandoning them. The banks can’t wait to get rid of their dried up cash-cow too.