To identify the most promising global mobile start-ups Informilo asked some of the most active investors around the globe to nominate and evaluate companies outside their own portfolios. Some are well-known, others are below the radar but unlikely to stay that way for long. This year’s entries include a mobile micro credit company in Nairobi which provides emergency airtime credit to prepaid mobile subscribers in seven African countries, with another 10 planned, an app finder in Beijing, a Singapore-based mobile advertising company and an Irish company that enables people living or working abroad to instantly recharge mobile phones of friends and family back home. Scroll down to see our 2013 picks for the top 25 global mobile start-ups.
San Francisco, Ca, U.S.
What it does:Revolutionizing everyday transactions between buyers and sellers with free credit card reader for the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices
Why it’s hot: Over two million individuals and businesses can now accept credit and debit payments using Square. The company is processing over $8 billion in payments on an annualized basis. Closed a Series D financing round in September 2012 (investors included Starbucks), and recently expanded into Canada. Square will face competition in Europe from the likes of PayPal, Payeleven, SumUp, and iZettle, which is currently in seven European markets and has nearly $50 million in investment from American Express and MasterCard.
What it does: Mobile micro credit.
Why it’s hot: Mo De launched in May 2010; it has live operations in seven countries in Africa with another 10 countries on the way. The company’s anchor product is Airtime Credit Service (ACS), which provides emergency airtime credit to prepaid mobile subscribers ( typically paid back at the subscriber’s next reload). Mo De has to date facilitated over 200 million transactions in 6 African countries. The service has helped operators like Airtel and MTN increase both subscriber revenues and talk time on their networks. Earlier this month the company won Global Entrepreneur of The Year at IBM’s Smart Camp.
San Francisco, CA, U.S.
What it does: Security software for mobile platforms.
Why it’s hot: Security is a growing problem for users of mobile devices. Lookout delivers award-winning protection from malware, phishing, privacy violations, data loss, and loss of the phone itself. Lookout now has 30 million users across 400 mobile networks in 170 countries, making it a leader in mobile security.
Atlanta, GA, U.S.
What it does: Enterprise-grade mobile management solutions.
Why it’s hot: AirWatch is a global leader in mobile device security and management (MDM) systems, with 5,300 customers and nearly 1,000 global associates. The company has brought in no outside capital; it’s predominately funded by operating cash flow. AirWatch claims it manages virtually every mobility project with more than 20,000 devices. It can certainly claim an impressive customer base: the top four global Fortune companies, nine of the top 10 US retailers, six of the top 10 global airlines, and two of the top three global hotel groups.
Redwood City, CA, U.S.A..
What it does:An app that’s “helping the world remember everything.”
Why it’s hot: Evernote is a unified collection of apps that help people get things done. More than 50 million users and 2,000 businesses use Evernote to increase their workday productivity. In May 2012 the company announced a $70 million Series D investment led by Meritech Capital and CBC Capital. The financing will support growth into new regions; expansion into new verticals; and strategic acquisitions (starting with Penultimate, the most popular digital handwriting application for iPad, acquired right after the funding round).
Tel Aviv, Israel
What it does:Text-to-video platform that can automatically turn any text-based article, post or feed into a short video.
Why it’s hot:More than 20,000 sites have generated videos using Wibbitz, which also allows publishers to monetize their videos through pre-roll advertising. In June 2012 the company closed a $2.3 million Series A round headed up by Horizons Ventures, Li Ka-shing‘s investment fund; previous investors Initial Capitaland lool Venturesalso participated. Wibbitz is ready to grow along with the rise in popularity of online videos.
What it does: Discovery service for music, TV shows, and ads.
Why it’s hot: Bar-goers have since 2002 been holding their handsets up to speakers so the Shazam app can identify the music they’re listening to. Since then it has morphed into a powerful marketing tool: the user can now not only identify the music in, say, an ad, but also buy the goods featured in the ad, concert tickets, the track itself, etc. It boasts 275 million users in more than 200 countries and 33 languages, adds two million new users a week, and claims to have identified more than five billion songs. Now it is expanding onto second screens, making TV ads “Shazamable,” allowing its large user base to buy not just music but all sorts of merchandise connected with programming.
What it does: Mobile-first customer engagement platform.
Why it’s hot: InMobi provides end-to-end solutions for mobile advertising, including award-winning rich media ad creation, distribution, tracking and optimization. Backed by SoftBank, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sherpalo Ventures, the company reaches 578 million consumers, in over 165 countries, through billions of mobile ad impressions monthly. In January InMobi acquired Overlay Media, experts in context aware computing. Crowned the Best Mobile Ad Network at November’s Mobile Entertainment Awards in London.
CAMBRIDGE, MA, U.S.
What it does: Rich media mobile advertising.
Why it’s hot: The company’s AdCreator platform has been widely adopted across the largest mobile publishers, ad networks and other ecosystem players. Eight of the top 10 media agencies also use the platform. In January Celtra announced a $4 million strategic investment led by SoftBank Capital. The investment will be used to explore business opportunities in Japan and the Asia Pacific region, and to expand the company’s engineering presence in the U.S. Celtra became profitable in Q3 2012; revenue growth for the year exceeded 300%. Named one of the Most Innovative Tech Companies of the Year by the American Business Awards and won MassTLC’s Innovative Mobile Technology of the Year Award.
San Francisco, Ca, U.S.
What it does: Mobile monetization platform for Android, iOS and mobile web.
Why it’s hot: MoPub is a one-stop ad serving platform designed for mobile application publishers to manage their ad inventory on iOS and Android. MoPub enables app publishers to optimize multiple sources of advertising in a single product – including direct ads, house ads, ad network, and real-time bidding through MoPub Marketplace. The company was founded by former AdMob and Google team members and is backed by Accel Partners, Harrison Metal Capital, and Jafco Ventures. Claims to be the world’s largest mobile ad exchange. MoPub’s marketplace gives advertisers access to over 300 million unique users and served 1.5 billion ads a day.
Santa Clara, Ca, U.S.
What it does: Cross-platform, free mobile messaging app.
Why it’s hot: This app, which bypasses SMS charges, has the potential to be disruptive both to the cellular networks and the hardware vendors it challenges by taking the concept across all platforms. WhatsApp Messenger is now available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Android and Nokia. Started by two ex-Yahoos in 2009, WhatsApp now has an estimated 250 million users, and handles 10 billion messages a day. The app is paid-for, to keep it ad-free, “and we hope to keep it that way forever,” the website says.
Venice Beach, Ca, U.S..
What it does:Now you see it, now you don’t photo-sharing service.
Why it’s hot: Snapchat claims to be the fastest way to share a moment on iPhone and Android: up to 10x faster than MMS. The user controls how long friends can view messages before they disappear. Growing fast: more than 60 million messages are sent each day by millions of users, up from 50 million messages in December. Recently raised $13.5 million in venture financing, led by Benchmark Capital. Snapchat taps into fears of social media mistakes that could live forever.
What it does: Social gifting service that allows friends to contribute to digital gift cards via Facebook and mobile apps.
Why it’s hot: It brings together retail and social: connecting via Facebook means retailers get demographics and other analytics, allowing targeted advertising while at the same time tapping into the feel-good vibe of gift-giving. It aims to have its offering embedded with e-wallets and is already trialing a service with PayPal. The company’s team includes seasoned entrepreneurs and its board of directors includes Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström and Linked-In co-founder Reid Hoffman.
What it does:Enables people living or working abroad to instantly recharge mobile phones of friends and family back home.
Why it’s hot: ezetop is used by millions of people each month, and delivers revenue to more than 213 mobile operators worldwide. The company claims that to ensure quality it only works directly with mobile operators. Services are available from more than 450,000 retail stores in 20 countries; directly from mobile operators; or through ezetop’s website, which it calls the largest international online recharge site. It also offers a white-label solution for mobile operators.
What it does: Links licensed cab drivers with would-be passengers via smartphone apps.
Why it’s hot: An app that links licensed cab drivers – starting in London, but now also offering the service in New York, Dublin, Boston, Toronto and Chicago – with passengers via iOS and Android, is set to become a must-have for denizens of those cities. In late December Hailo reportedly raised an additional $30 million in funding, on top of earlier investment of $17 million; the latest round values the company at $140 million. The business is solidly backed for further development as it moves to take on Uber in the U.S.
Palo Alto, Ca, U.S.
What it does:Free navigation and traffic service that creates “local driving communities that work together to improve the quality of everyone’s daily driving.”
Why it’s hot:Has a community of 30 million global “traffic resisters” who keep users informed about road conditions in real time. Last year Waze integrated Foursquare and Yelp points of interest into the service. Initially funded by the Blue Run Ventures, Magma Venture Partners and Vertex Venture Capital, the company recently received additional investment from Kleiner Perkins and Li Ka-shing’s Horizon Ventures. Consistently the number one navigation app in the Android Marketplace.
What it does: App discovery network.
Why it’s hot: AppGratis delivers more than 100 million non-incentivized app installs for app developers. Profitable from day one, the company needed no external funding to grow to 10 million users in over 30 countries. However, in January is closed a $13.5 million Series A round led by Iris Capital and including the Orange Publicis Fund. Although it currently adds 100,000 new users per day globally, it says it can go further with funding. AppGratis claims that at peak, featured placement in its app can drive over 500,000 downloads for a title in a single day.
What it does: Appdiscovery service for Android and iOS with social elements.
Why it’s hot: Appsfire claims it has served 1.5 billion app recommendations to its users since its launch in 2010. More than 1.5 million people use the app each day, and its users have been responsible for more than 9 million app downloads. In 2012 the company acquired Appstatics, a tool to track the performance of iOS and Mac apps in the App Store rankings.
What it does: One of the top Chinese search engines for apps.
Why it’s hot: Founded in early 2010, Wandoujia now has more than 100 million app installations in China. The company’s search engine for apps has partnered with more than 30 app stores, and has indexed more than 400,000 apps on the Android platform. Each day, its users download more than 17 million apps from its platform. Wandoujia’s cloud sync service, which launched last year to help users sync photos, messages and contacts, has more than 6 million users. The English-language version is at SnapPea.com.
What it does: Streaming music service with close social media interactivity and mobile apps.
Why it’s hot: Allows users to stream music from the big music players and smaller independent labels using either a free, ad-supported service or a premium ad-free service. Now requires a Facebook account, so has enormous potential reach; recently declared itself a “platform,” encouraging developers to write apps for it. Users can share playlists, driving social crowdsourcing for events big and small; premium users can also access and share music on most mobile devices. Currently available in 17 countries and has more than 20 million active users, and over 5 million paying subscribers.
What it does: Provides unlimited music on demand to computers and mobile devices.
Why it’s hot: Since its creation in 2007, Deezer has negotiated agreements with 2,000 music labels and rights management companies around the world — including the four major labels — and launched in every continent. In December 2012 Deezer announced the launch of free ad-supported music service in more than 160 countries, giving the company access to a minimum potential audience of 600 million people (it serves more than 26 million music fans worldwide today).
What it does: Social DJ app for iOS and Android.
Why it’s hot: Claims to be the first music/video platform on the Internet that allows listening, sharing and mixing of more than 20 million video clips — for free, with no limits, and legally. Just a few weeks after its release, the company’s edjing dj turntable app was downloaded 500,000 times; it’s been ranked among the top apps overall in the U.S., France, and Italy.
What it does: Developer of casual games across multiple platforms.
Why it’s hot: Angry Birds, Rovio’s breakthrough game, hasn’t just made it on to multiple platforms — it’s now part of the collective consciousness. Launched in 2009, the game was downloaded more than 1 billion times in 2012 (30 million during Christmas week alone), with more than a quarter billion monthly active users in December. Angry Birds Space was 2012’s most downloaded paid iOS app. The games have spawned real-world stores to sell fluffy versions of its grumpy avians and pigs as well as apparel.
What it does: Mobile game developer
Why it’s hot: Zeptolab’s Cut The Rope has racked up 300 million downloads across all platforms. It was the first iOS game to win a BAFTA Award, as well as an Apple Design Award.ZeptoLab, which has raised no outside funding, has extended the franchise into toys, board games, clothing and online entertainment, with more brand extensions planned in the coming year. In October ZeptoLab launched a Web-based animation series called “Om Nom Stories,” which is attracting more than 100,000 views per week.
What it does:Real-time social gaming developer.
Why it’s hot: Since pivoting to become a “tablet-first” publisher the company has released two games: Hay Market and Clash of Clans. The first is a global hit and is now the top-grossing iPad game in 77 countries; the second is also a blockbuster, and is the top-grossing iPad game in 32 countries. The company is now generating revenues of $500,000 a day.
What it does:Mobile app offering virtual pets/friends.
Why it’s hot: Outfit7 offers a series of Talking Friends apps for iOS and Android; the “friends” interact with users. The apps have had more than 600 million downloads in less than three years, across 120 countries. User engagement is deep; there have been more than 25 million views of user-generated Talking Friends videos on YouTube each month. Outfit7 is in discussions with media and entertainment companies about possible partnerships; definitely one to watch.