Ben Keighran, Founder of Bluepulse has created a mobile communication platform that is used by people in over 190 countries. He has aspirations of being the communication platform for hundreds of millions if not billions of users worldwide.
Interview conducted by Nathan C. Kaiser on Monday, July 28, 2008 in San Mateo, CA.
It was launched in 2006 and in the last fourteen months has attracted users in 198 countries, that send over 200 million messages per month.
It’s based on a really robust platform, that was working on a huge range of handsets and was allowing for, consumers to get access to the service directly on their phones, and not directly through the carrier.
The reason for the shift to the mobile web browser, is really based on the fact that even though we’ve got users in 198 countries, our target audience is here in the U.S. and that’s where our biggest user base is, and the type of the handsets that people are using to access the Internet, are mainly the smart phone devices which are the ones that have sort of the qwerty keypads, you know built into them such as the I Phones or Blackberry’s or Trios, and these sorts of devices.
Really the browsers that are being built into those phones are absolutely fantastic, and mean that we don’t have to have different custom and tweaked versions of a physical application based on the different handsets, we can build once and it works across all those different browsers that are built into those handsets.
They are really encouraging handset manufacturers to build great browsers into their handsets. I believe that anyone building a mobile application should start thinking about leveraging that mobile browser, for all the reasons you just said. I think that that’s a great direction for people to move in.
So if you think about Outlook or Mac Mail or something like Gmail on your desktop computer, you get those similar sorts of trade-offs. So, if I’m on like an airplane or something, and I don’t have Internet connectivity, I can’t log in and access my client right then and there, because it’s web-based.
You miss out on a mobile of some of the functionality built into the handset of maybe being able to upload a picture or video, although there are a lot of browsers that now allow you to do that anyway, through them.
If you’re building games, or something along those lines, that’s pretty resource-intensive, and requires clients to actually load onto a handset or a platform of some sort for particular resources, that’s where you need Bluepulse. It’s the similar sort of trade-off between building a web-based app and a client app on a PC, that you have on a phone.
I think that in some cases you do need to have different addresses, to allow people to contact you only in certain ways, and certain mediums. For having that sort of one universal contact name, I think that, that limits the different types of messages that are being set free. You’ve got all the different messages from everybody you know, coming into that one central main and there’s no way to break it up, between your business or your personal life and those sorts of things.
It’s great to have this one app to be able to receive all the different types of communication and to be able to send out to all the different places. I think that empowers the user to control how they’re going to send and receive their different types of messages.
Having that sort of one, sort of singular address that everybody contacts you on, that, I think creates a situation where, I don’t know whether I’m going to send you a text message, or an email, or whether I, the receiver, wants to give you the capabilities in sending me a text message or an email, because I just think that they’re two different mindsets for when you send somebody a message.
Now, if they wanted to be able to send and receive messages instantly, from their phone using a special part of apps such as Bluepulse, then that’s sort of their own prerogative.
Bluepulse has evolved and was started as a business at the end of 2006 to build a communications app, a new communications application for your phone, was really driven by what users wanted to do, which is to have a better way of communicating.
That makes sense because the driving force behind Bluepulse is that it’s the app that allows you to stay connected with your friends, wherever you are in a much better way than any of the other communications apps on your phone do it. It makes communication really efficient between you and all the people you know.
It addresses the biggest, possible market on the phones. I think about the three billion phones that are around the world today, people would prefer to leave their wallet at home than their mobile phone, because they always want to be able to be connected, but with their friends it’s really, really important to them.
I think that when I think about what became sort of the starting point on the computer, it was search, because it makes browsing and exploring concept really efficient, and even though if you look at the billion PC’s users out there, with an Internet connection, people may use search only one percent of the time or some people might use it 50 percent of the time.
It’s the one thing that is made more efficient that addresses the biggest possible market size, and if you think about Bluepulse, the one thing that people want to do with their phone is to be able to always be connected, in a really efficient way with the people they care about and that’s exactly what Bluepulse does.
And, we basically got into the position we are, by just really listening to the user base and following what they want to do with their phone, which has allowed us to come up with this really unique and cool way of always staying connected with your friends is messaging application.
It’s a combination of advertising and transactional revenue. I think that the value of a mobile user is significantly higher than a web based user, because you are a lot closer to doing a transaction and people are prepared to pay a premium for here and now.
You know, there have some data recently released by Matrix showing that mobile advertising is yielding high, quick troughs and people, are more susceptible to buying things on their mobile than any other medium to date that have recently come out.
Our business model is based, first of all, in advertising for sponsor deals and running banner ads and text ads, but in the future we want to be distributing digital goods through the servers, as well as a whole other range of premium and transactional services, transactional products on Bluepluse.
We want to connect users with what they need, wherever they are.
They’re carrying around the phone to stay connected with their friends today, and if you can give them something that improves the way that they stay connected with those people, with the people they care about, then I think that the market opportunity for that is every person that owns a mobile phone which is almost three billion handsets.
In terms of then being able to bring interesting content, whether it’s in the form of digital goods, like, avatars or digital goods like gifting, and these sorts of things, or whether it’s simply telling you about things based on what they’re doing with friends, ongoing or concert, or they want to buy tickets to an event or, I simply just want to get information sent to my handset everyday from various services.
I really think that the mobile messaging space is really the next multi-billion dollar opportunity on the mobile phone.
After starting a project and getting 20-30,000 users around the worldwide, using this platform I was using, and thinking about taking the killer widget and turning it into what I thought was going to be the killer mobile application and hopefully have hundreds of millions if not a billion people.
I want them to wake up every morning and reach for their phone using an application that I’ve been involved in creating to stay connected with the people they care about. That was sort of the driving passion behind starting Bluepulse and that is the intensity, almost the fire in my belly, every single day while startup to work.
The second reason was I wanted to build a killer team and the sorts of people I thought needed to be on that team are people that had built phenomenal messaging products on the Internet.
And then the third reason I came over here is because I wanted to find investors that could help us build the firm. I wanted to find investors that had backed these sorts of businesses before that started off really small and became really big.
Australia has a much smaller population than the U.S. of about twenty-million people as opposed to three-hundred million people over here. Just by nature of the population, it’s a much smaller, entrepreneurial spirit in Australia than it is over here. But either way you look at it they are some the three big driving reasons why I came over here.