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. Below find our 2014 picks for the top 25.
What it does: Entertainment media company.
Why it’s hot: Rovio started life as a developer of casual games across multiple platforms. Angry Birds, Rovio’s breakthrough game, is now part of the collective consciousness. In September Rovio Entertainment launched Angry Birds Star Wars II along with Hasbro’s Telepod toys. The game immediately topped app store charts in over 100 countries. Rovio’s ToonsTV channel surpassed more than one billion views in its first seven months. Rovio’s animated Angry Birds feature film is planned for July 1, 2016. In early 2013 Rovio’s CMO said he saw no reason for an IPO because the company is “insanely profitable.”
What it does: Social gaming developer.
Why it’s hot: In mid-October 2013 Japan’s SoftBank Corp. agreed to buy 51% of Supercell for $1.5 billion. In 2012, the company had revenues of $105 million and $40.3 million in profit. In April, a funding round of $130 million valued the company at $770 million. The current $3 billion valuation is the largest valuation for a mobile app company, according to Rutberg & Co. Last year Supercell pivoted to become a “tablet-first” publisher. About 10% of Supercell users purchase in-game extras, much higher than the industry norm.
What it does: Largest skill gaming site in the world.
Why it’s hot: Originally started in Stockholm, where it maintains a large development base, King offers over 150 exclusive games in 14 languages through its website, mobile devices, Google+, and Facebook. Overall, its games are played by 40 million players more than three billion times each month. Analysts estimate its popular game Candy Crush Saga makes $3.6 million a day. Just filed for an IPO expected to value what the founders call “The Kingdom” at $5 billion.
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 15 other cities – with passengers via the two main smartphone platforms, iOS and Android, is set to become a must-have for denizens of those cities. Hailo has carried eight and a half million passengers and grown to annualized sales of well over $100 million. The company has raised a total of $50+ million in funding; its last round valued the company at $140 million. The business is solidly backed for further development as it moves to take on Uber in the U.S.
San Francisco, U.S.
What it does: Free credit card reader for the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, allowing anyone to accept credit cards anywhere, anytime.
Why it’s hot: Over two million individuals and businesses can now accept credit and debit payments using Square. The company is processing over $10 billion in payments on an annualized basis. Closed a Series D financing round in September 2012 (investors included Starbucks, and recently expanded into Canada. In June 2013 Square launched an online marketplace called Square Market to enable local businesses to sell more goods and services. Square will face some competition in Europe from the likes of Adyen, 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: Streaming music service with social media interactivity and mobile apps.
Why it’s hot: Allows users to stream more than 20 million songs from the big music players and smaller independent labels using either a free, ad-supported service or a premium ad-free service. Has more than 24 million active subscribers, of which six million pay. Spotify is now available in 28 countries; one billion playlists have been created so far. The Swedish press reports the company is seeking debt financing at a $5.27 billion valuation. Last year it lost over $77 million.
Santa Clara, U.S.
What it does: Cross-platform, freemium mobile messaging app.
Why it’s hot: Sitting squarely in the same space as BlackBerry’s Messenger app and Apple’s Messages, 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. Started by two ex-Yahoos in 2009, in December WhatsApp reached a milestone that no other mobile messaging service has achieved: 400 million monthly active users, with 100 million active users added in the previous four months alone. The company handles more than 10 billion messages a day. WhatsApp charges $.99 after the first year to keep it ad-free, “and we hope to keep it that way forever,” the website says.
San Francisco, 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. The company now has 45 million users across 400 mobile networks in 170 countries, making it a leader in mobile security. Lookout is a 2013 World Economic Forum Tech Pioneer and one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Mobile Companies. In October 2013 the company announced that AT&T will bundle Lookout’s software with all Android smartphones and tablets it sells.
San Francisco, U.S.
What it does: Transportation booking app and website.
Why it’s hot: Since its launch in 2009 Uber has disrupted taxi services in 70 cities around the globe, and is on track to disrupt the auto manufacturing industry as well, as the availability of services like these leads to fewer people buying cars. The company is estimated in receive one million ride requests per week. Revenue for 2013 is rumored to be roughly $125 million. In July 2013 Uber raised a total of $361 million at a $3.4 billion pre-money valuation; the largest investor was Google Ventures, which put in $258 million. (The company had already raised about $50 million in previous funding rounds. Despite growing threats of regulation in some of the cities in which it operates, Uber is starting to look unstoppable.
What it does: One of the top Chinese search engines for mobile apps.
Why it’s hot: Founded in early 2010, Wandoujia is the second-largest Android app store in China, with more than 300 million app installations. Each day, the platform sees 500,000 new users and 30 million app installations. (The English-language version is at SnapPea.com. In January 2014 the company raised $120 million in funding led by SoftBank; existing investors DCM and Innovation Works Development Fund (IWDF also participated. The funding will be used accelerate growth and support developers. Although Baidu recently bought 91 Wireless, a smaller app store, for $1.9 billion, in a blog posting Wandoujia’s founder says, “We wish to always stay independent.”
What it does: Smartphone messenger with a built-in browser.
Why it’s hot: Kik’s instant messaging app has gained 100 million users since it launched in 2010. Instead of using phone numbers or real names to contact each other, each Kik member has a user name. Conversations and images can’t be viewed publicly, which makes the service more private, but also makes it difficult for parents to monitor Kik, which has led to some concerns about its use by teens. In February 2014 Kik became the first messenger app with a built-in browser, which enables its users to search for and send any web site from within Kik. Zynga recently launched a second game for the Kik platform.
What it does: World’s largest rewards platform.
Why it’s hot: Jana is integrated into the billing systems of 237 mobile operators, so can instantly reward 3.48 billion emerging market consumers in 102 markets in 70 local currencies with prepaid airtime. Corporate customers CNN, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Nestlé, Unilever, P&G, Danone, Google, and General Mills., use Jana to understand, acquire, and retain emerging market consumers. In July 2013 Jana raised $15 million in funding from Publicis Groupe; it had previously raised $10 million in funding from Spark Capital of Boston, New Enterprise Associates partner Rohini Chakravarty, former AOL CEO Jon Miller and former Akamai CEO Paul Sagan. Helping brands reach “the next billion” consumers.
What it does: Global Wi-Fi sharing network.
Why it’s hot: Founded in February 2006 by serial entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky, Fon offers members access to more than 12.6 million crowdsourced Wi-Fi hotspots in 1,000 cities around the world (50% more hotspots than a year ago. In countries such as the UK, France and Belgium, the company estimates more than 10% of households have a Fon hotspot. Fon has also partnered with some of the world’s leading telcos, including BT, Deutsche Telekom, and SoftBank, to increase in-country penetration. In January 2014 closed a $14 million funding round, led by Qualcomm Ventures; other participants included existing investors Index Ventures, Google, Coral, Atomico and Deutsche Telekom. Fon expects to hit 35 million hotspots by 2016.
What it does: Social, mobile marketplace for second-hand clothes.
Why it’s hot: Vinted was founded in 2008 in Lithuania to provide a marketplace for girls in Vilnius to swap clothes with one another. It became a mobile-first company after raising a $6.5 million Series A investment from Accel Partners in January 2013. With 75% of its business on mobile, Vinted has three million members, 14 million listings, and 60 million monthly visits. In late January Vinted announced a $27 million Series B round led by Insight Venture Partners with participation from Accel. Vinted will use the investment for product development and further expansion into the U.S.
What it does: Global phone directory app.
Why it’s hot: Developed by True Software Scandinavia AB, the Truecaller app uses a crowdsourced database to find contact details, and provide caller ID and call-blocking services in more than 100 countries. In February 2014 the company raised $18.8 million in funding from Sequoia Capital, as well as existing investors Open Ocean, Stefan Lennhammer, and an unnamed private investor; the round values the company at $80 million. So far, the app has been downloaded 45 million times. Truecaller also announced a partnership with Yelp; it will use Yelp’s data to identify business numbers when they call Truecaller’s users.
Pretty Simple Games
What it does: Social gaming.
Why it’s hot: Founded in 2010, Pretty Simple’s three games are now played by over 35 million monthly active users. Its social investigation game Criminal Case has gained more than 40 million likes on Facebook; it claims to have more Facebook fans than Farmville, Playstation, The Beatles, and even Barack Obama. More than 100 million Facebook users played the game in the last 12 months. Idinvest Partners invested $2.5 million in the company in 2011. Pretty Simple expects 2013 revenues to be in the “eight figures range.”
Doctor on Demand
San Francisco, U.S.
What it does: Telehealth platform.
Why it’s hot: Launched in December 2013, the Doctor on Demand app offers users a video chat with a doctor, for a fee of $40 for 15 minutes (the company keeps $10. There are currently 1,000 doctors in 15 U.S. states lined up for consultations. Doctors on Demand has raised $3 million in seed funding from investors Venrock, Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, Lerer Ventures, Shasta Ventures and Athena Health CEO Jonathan Bush. It counts Senator Tom Daschle among its board directors and celebrity doctor Jay McGraw among its founders. Another co-founder, Adam Jackson, has had two successful exits from previous ventures.
What it does: Language technology experts.
Why it’s hot: Builds apps and technology that learn from their users to make text entry easier, faster and more productive. SwiftKey is one of the best-selling Android apps in the world. In 2013 and 2012, it spent more days as Google Play’s No.1 paid download than any other app. Currently supports 61 languages. In September 2013 SwiftKey raised $17.5 million in a Series B round from Index Ventures, Octopus, Cambridge Capital Group and angels, bringing total funding to $21.6 million.
What it does: Mobile authentication and supply chain security app.
Why it’s hot: Started in 2007 as an NGO, mPedigree relaunched as a business in 2009 to enable users to send a free text message and get a reply in a few seconds verifying that a product is authentic. It has now partnered with more than two dozen telecom operators, Fortune 500 technology companies, and regulatory agencies in several countries to combat counterfeit trade, which the company estimates is worth $700 billion a year. Its Goldkeys platform is used worldwide by the top five global pharmaceutical companies, some of the world’s largest generic drugs companies, the government of the world’s most populous black country, and regional cosmetics and electrical products companies.
San Francisco, U.S.
What it does: Personalized brain-training programs.
Why it’s hot: Developed by a team of neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists, Lumosity is a simple online tool that the company claims can improve cognitive function in various populations. Lumosity has grown by 150% year-on-year since its launch in 2005 and now reaches more than more than 50 million members from 182 countries. In January 2013, the company’s mobile app was downloaded nearly 50,000 times a day. 2012 revenue is estimated at $24 million. The service also has a social element; users can measure their progress against that of other users. Brain training has become a big business in the U.S., and Lumosity is among the market leaders.
Reykjavik, Iceland and San Francisco, U.S.
What it does: Game studio.
Why it’s hot: Plain Vanilla, an Icelandic games developer, is the creator of Quizup, which the company claims is the biggest social trivia game in the world, with more than 200,000 questions in 350 topic areas. Plain Vanilla was founded in 2010; its first game was launched in November 2011. In February 2014 the company brought an iPad version of Quizup, which has more than 10 million users around the globe and has been downloaded more than 30 million times. It aims to offer a local version of the game in “all major languages and countries” this year. It recently raised a $22 million Series B round from Sequoia.
Lacoon Mobile Security
San Francisco, U.S.
What it does: Mobile device security.
Why it’s hot: Lacoon offers a Security as a Service system that identifies mobile security threats and protects enterprises and mobile carriers; it focuses on reducing the risks inherent in increased corporate mobility and BYOD policies. Founded in 2011, but in stealth mode until October 2013 when it launched its MobileFortress product, the company’s founders include veterans of elite units of the Israeli Defense Forces. Lacoon has raised $8 million in funding led by Index Ventures and joined by existing angel investors including Shlomo Kramer, co-founder of Check Point Software Technologies and CEO and founder of Imperva. It already counts several unnamed Fortune 1000 companies among its customers.
What it does: Multi-modal transport and mapping app.
Why it’s hot: Launched in 2012, the Citymapper app provides real-time routing using multiple methods of transport in three cities: London, New York, and Paris. The company claims the app is installed “on half the smartphones in London.” Backed by Connect Ventures, Index Seed, and The Accelerator Group, Citymapper takes feeds from a variety of open data sources, such as OpenStreetMap and Transport for London, to suggest routes in real time. Its key differentiator is the information it integrates into the results: calories burned; tube and subway fares; and weather. In September 2013 it was named the best travel data service in a contest sponsored by the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Palo Alto, U.S.
What it does: Mobile, cloud-based diabetes management.
Why it’s hot: Glooko is dedicated to helping people with diabetes live life while effortlessly managing their disease. Its service transfers glucose readings and related data from a variety of meters into iOS or Android devices; the data can then be monitored and shared with doctors. In January 2014 Glooko raised a $7 million Series A-1 funding round from Samsung Venture Investment Company and Lifeforce Ventures; existing investors The Social + Capital Partnership, Sundeep Madra and Yogen Dalal also participated, bringing total funds raised to $11.5 million. The financing will support a move into using Glooko’s data for predictive care services.
Under The Radar
What it does: Mobile education app.
Why it’s hot: Originally started in 2009 by then-17-year-old George Burgess, who was disappointed with the lack of quality educational apps on the market, as a suite of GCSE and A-level apps that had more than 250,000 downloads. In January 2014 the company relaunched, bringing all the apps under the Gojimo umbrella, but focusing on content from top publishers including BBC Active, McGraw-Hill Education, Oxford University Press, Pearson Education and Taylor & Francis. It also announced a $1 million+ seed round led by Index Ventures and including JamJar Investments, the consumer venture fund started by the founders of Innocent drinks. The app is free, but students — and their schools — will pay for content.