What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?
The Cloud Phone project has been proved in the market and developed in line with proven user needs. While we are convinced of the size of the opportunity, the mobile industry can move quickly. Mobile operators, device manufacturers, or SIM card manufacturers could change their own business models to focus on base of the pyramid users. For instance, a low cost handset could enter the market at a more affordable price point, and if the purchasing power of users increases significantly users might choose to buy a phone rather than our service. However, the size of our market is so large, and the income volatility of our users so pronounced, that even if cheaper handsets are made available, they will remain out of the reach of most users.
For mobile operators, providing our service to base of the pyramid users represents a change and a new area. We have hired a very experienced sales team and have collected a great deal of evidence to advocate for the opportunity and support the mobile operators through the transition.
We have a few, large competitors who offer elements of our solution, although they do not focus on the base of the pyramid market and their solutions are at some technical disadvantages. If these competitors chose to change their focus, they have significant assets at their disposal. However, we have a track record of several years of work on the issue, and a great deal of proprietary knowledge they would be hard pressed to equal.
The mobile industry has a great deal invested in the current ecosystem, and we could prove a threat to some very powerful players. This might create an opportunity to partner with them, or to be acquired by them. We remain focused on meeting user needs, and we do not require non-strategic investment.
Tell us about your partnerships
Technology partnerships: we have partnered with specialists to support our development teams in Africa and India as well as mainstream best in class hardware and software companies. We work with many of the current vendors to the mobile operators and this provides a strong level of comfort to the mobile operators that our solution will fit in well with their current operations.
NGOs: Our NGO partnerships include a range of global and regional NGOs such as Praekelt, Unicef, and Technoserve. We work with our NGO partners to trial and scale valuable information and micro-credit services that at the moment tend to reach only 20-40% of the addressable market due to the lack of secure mobile identities. We are under discussion with a number of NGOs, foundations, the United Nations private sector partnership group (Business Call to Action), and other bodies to ensure that where Cloud Phone is relevant it becomes a part of leading NGO provision.
Service delivery and research/user need partners: Design is a critical element to serving the base of the pyramid well. We partner with Frog Design, who are mobile and technology user experience specialists, to understand the unique needs of the base of the pyramid and create the appropriate user interface and collateral support. We have a strategic partnership in place with TNS, one of the world’s largest market research companies, to support our field activities at consistently high quality.
Explain your selections
Movirtu was originally funded by our founders until proof of concept stage. We then received seed funding from investors Grassroots Business Fund and Gray Ghost Doen Cooperatif of $1 million which enabled us to develop the technology and launch our first commercial pilots. In November of 2010 Movirtu closed a Series A funding round of $5.5 million from existing investors and TLcom, to enable us to accelerate development and commercial roll-out. Given the pace of the technology industry, venture capital will allow us to accelerate and reach a strong position in an emerging and fast changing market.
How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?
We have a three year plan with milestones and goals. Our plans include a significant expansion in technology development resources in Africa and India, in order to bring more of the core elements of our technology under our direct control and simplify our offering model.
We plan to using our technology and IP from developing markets to provide services in developed markets to mobile operators which will provide a useful balance of revenue.
We plan to partner with some commercial and brand partners to create alternative and sustainable revenue streams.
By end of 2014 we plan to have deployments in over 20 countries and be impacting the lives of over 7 million people.