KPMG are collaborating with UKTI and helping to exploit the phenomenal recent growth in the mobile applications space, by sending 8 of the most promising UK based mobile start-ups to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona; the initiative began with over 60 applicants, whittled down to a shortlist of 20 companies, with 8 finalists eventually making it through to compete for the title of Best British Mobile start-up. The winner will be decided, after a final pitch in Barcelona, by a panel of 3 judges; the startups will also be showcased to as many as 11,000 KPMG employees.
On Thursday afternoon, at Thompson Reuters HQ, the start-ups participated in a “dress rehearsal”; a chance to fine tune the pitches they plan to present in Barcelona. Introduced by Patrick Imbach, who heads up the KPMG High Growth Technology Team, in front of a crowd of media, mobile and investment professionals. Those pitching swallowed their nerves and produced a series of near flawless performances which emphasised the strength and quality of the mobile start-up scene in London and indeed the whole of the UK; here is what they had to say:
1/ Babylon Health: Rabin Yaghoubi, Chief Commercial Officer at Babylon Health
The global health industry is worth $5.5 trillion dollars, representing 10% of global GDP, and yet access to good healthcare is often inconvenient, unaffordable or inaccessible. Whilst it can be hard to secure appointments in the UK, the situation in developing companies such as Rwanda is such that there is just one doctor for every 10,000 Rwandans. From City bankers to African farmers, however, more and more people have access to smartphones devices.
Babylon Healthcare have set themselves the task of providing quality health advice and consultation direct from the mobile home screen. Their “ASK” feature accesses a store of curated medical information to enable users to self-diagnose; research shows that in 80% of cases illness can be successfully treated without paying a visit to the doctor. When required, however, voice and video consultations can be arranged, typically within 30 minutes, a prescription made, even delivery arranged. Data is stored securely, and samples can be sent and uploaded to provide doctors with instant access to detailed patient medical records.
New features in the pipeline include the provision of health monitoring tools via a clinical platform, and an in-app store for users to purchase appropriate wearable devices. Babylon Health, launched last year, has gained significant traction in both the B2C and B2B spaces; deals with some of the UK’s largest insurers have been put in place, and a joint venture with the Bank of New York Mellon will see the app made available to all BoNY staff for free. A freemium version is in development, and access to online doctors, who are employed directly by Babylon Health, is available as a subscription service. Health and peace of mind for the price of a cup of coffee a week.
2/ Braci: Juma El-Awaisi
Braci is a “smart ear” sound recognition technology sending visual or sensory alerts when pre-identified sounds are detected. The device has multiple use cases; assisting the hearing impaired (1 in 6 people in the UK suffer from hearing problems), those who may be out of earshot but need to stay aware, and those experiencing excessive noise levels or whose hearing is restricted by wearing headphones, for example. Braci makes it possible to receive alerts from home even when you are on the other side of the world; the device works equally well indoors or out.
Products include a snore detector, baby monitor and “on the go” application to help users feel safe and secure when out of doors, as well as a “pro” version which can detect up to 1,000 sounds within 2-4 seconds, without draining battery life. As well as individual users Braci is working with city councils, car manufacturers, and other industries where noise detection can aid compliance with regulatory requirements.
Braci has partnered with organisations including Samsung, the NHS and Innovate UK. The team behind Braci met on a reality TV show and still share a house together! Braci is a unique technology and represents a significantly cheaper alternative in what is a niche, yet growing marketplace.
3/ Verticly: Ryan Klizsart, CEO
Verticly are re-writing the rules of advertising; research shows that 90% of all purchases are made in store, but, in 60% percent of cases, the journey begins online. Verticly helps to bring the two worlds together via their mobile ad platform, enabling brands to engage directly with customers through provision of re-deemable vouchers, issued using hashtags. When the voucher is re-deemed in store, the brand is able to re-target the user and develop a specially personalised relationship.
Verticly exploits the recent growth in 3 interconnected markets: mobile advertising, programmatic, and branding. The journey can begin with a variety of media such as TV, providing brands with both audience extension and invaluable customer data. Revenue is generated on a per user basis.
The company is planning expansion into Europe and the US, having already developed 10,000 connection points in the UK. Verticly are working with global advertising agency Publicis, media buying agency Starcom and Scottish television, and recently won £100k of funding from Innovate UK. Backers include a former managing Director of Blackberry and an Investment Director from Goldman Sachs.
4/ Karizma Kidz; Erica Brodnock
Erica Brodnock has experienced having to raise a child as a single mother, and understands that in such difficult circumstances children can often be affected by lower levels of emotional intelligence, finding it hard to interact with others, making school attendance and understanding social behavioural patterns problematic. But Erica is a firm believer that emotional intelligence can be learned, and her start-up, Karizma Kidz, enables children from all walks of life to learn in a fun, engaging and inclusive fashion.
Karizma Kidz is a digital platform developed for tablets, featuring personalised avatars, a range of friendly characters and a series of rewards based learning exercises. From a central dashboard, tasks can be set by parents, rewards introduced, and progress made towards the ultimate goal of reaching “superhero” status! The platform engages with brands, allowing them to put children at the heart of their branding strategy, whilst encouraging parents to interact more with their children.
36 million children have access to tablets and the aim of Karizma Kidz is to reach 10% of that number. The team are working closely with Telefonica to exploit their first mover advantage and truly disrupt the Ed-tech space in a positive way. Erica Brodnock regularly appears on Sky News as a child confidence expert and works closely with Chris Taylor, founder of the Polly Pocket children’s toy range.
5/ Refme.com; Tom Hatton
Refme is an app for finding citations, lists, references and bibliographies. 18 months ago, whilst completing his dissertation, founder Tom Hatton was struggling to keep accurate records of the many different research materials he was using. When he realised that there wasn’t “an app for that”, he decided to build one.
All Refme requires is for users to scan the barcode of the book or reference material they are using and a complete record is created in seconds. To date, Refme has achieved 600k downloads, and attracts 35k users every day using purely organic search marketing techniques. Due to the universality of many referencing systems, students from all over the world can benefit from the service. Refme employs 30 staff in Old Street, next to the “Silicon Roundabout”, dedicated to finding and documenting as many reference systems as they can find on the web.
Refme’s mantra is data, data, and data! Tom estimates that over 300m students worldwide will benefit from the service, as well as doctors and lawyers, or any industry where careful documentation is a basic requirement, and firmly believes in Refme’s potential. Revenues are expected to be derived from the £150bn global publishing industry. Having turned down numerous acquisition offers, the team are now focused on developing a freemium model and pursuing a deal with a major anti-plagiarism firm. Happy referencing!
6/ DooWapp; Yaw
Doowapp is an ingenious, patent pending, free music messaging feature allowing users to insert recorded song lyrics into their instant messages or twitter posts. Recipients are given the option to buy the song or connect with artists and receive personalised messages about new releases or concert tickets. Doowapp has an open source API which allowing it to be adopted by any messaging app, and even become part of the Internet of Things revolution; imagine your fridge singing to you each morning!
The Doowapp team have developed relationships with both Universal and Sony, as well as the Independent newspaper chain. Revenues are sourced via affiliate sales, licensing of the API and in app sales. Having also been accepted onto O2’s accelerator program, the sky is the limit for Doowapp.
7/ Moni: Laurence Aderemi
Moni is tapping into the mobile payments market in order to provide a cheaper alternative to those sending money abroad. Overseas transfers can be unreliable and commission as high as 10% of the sum in question. With a market value of more than £500bn, change is an imperative; Moni’s vision is to treat overseas transfers not as “remittances”, but “parcels of dollars wrapped with love and care”.
Research shows that consumers gravitate towards convenience and the rise of mobile is transforming the payments industry. Peer to peer transfers are finally here, and Moni are confident that their differentiated offering will help them to succeed in what is becoming an increasingly crowded marketplace. Moni uses both aggregation and direct transfers to enable their clients achieve rates of commission far closer to 1% than 10. Due diligence, including enhanced due diligence for any transfer over $500, is at the core of their offering.
8/ Stylect: Giacomo Summa
When Giacomo Summa finally realised he was unable to win the battle for attention when it came to his girlfriend’s fascination with shoes, he decided to build the “tinder for shoes”! In an industry worth $185bn, and research suggesting most women desire to own more than 80 pairs of shoes, he has been able to create a simple user interface that allows users to swipe through a database of more than 500,000 shoes; by November last year, the site was attracting more than 3,000 downloads per day.
Giacomo’s expert knowledge of the mobile retail market enables him to predict with confidence that the space will grow 3 fold over the next 5 years; Stylect’s user engagement is growing exponentially and with a range of new features, including in-app purchases, and a search function, Stylect will both create and capitalise upon existing intent.
All 8 of the pitches were polished and a testament to the truly disruptive nature of their products. Questions from a panel consisting of representatives from the advertising, financial and investment worlds were testing and gave the start-ups much to ponder, with Barcelona now less than 2 weeks away. Questions from the audience provided equally challenging points for discussion. Good luck to all of the pitchers and roll on Barcelona!