Allan Isfan is a co-founder of FaveQuest, a young start-up. This blog covers start-up topics.

Sunday, February 22, 2009



Nasty three way tug of war

There's a three way tug of war going on in mobile and it is going to create massive disruptions in the web which is great news for smart entrepreneurs and great for consumers. Read on.

Two major and radically different worlds are about to collide: the fixed web and the mobile web. We're not quite there yet. A number of websites are not quite easy to navigate on a smartphone (even the iphone), there are missing components on the security side which prevent me from logging on to a number of accounts (I can't do banking for example) and so on. We're not there yeat but we're really close and what will result is one superweb.

Furthermore, accessing this superweb from a mobile device will provide some extra features and services that only make sense with a mobile device: GPS, presence, mobile coupons, mobile payments and so on (many of these services already exist). So while the mobile web is inferior to the fixed web for now, accessing the superweb from mobile will allow us to actually do more. I think that is really cool.

Actually, it is more than cool, it is HUGE

The significance of this superweb coupled with all the app stores popping up everywhere, is that anyone can now provide value to mobile customers in the form of applications and services and with value shift comes a shift in dollars. But how are the dollars going to shift?

Handset manufacturing playing tug of war with carriers

Mobile carriers (Rogers Wireless, ATT, Verizon, Orange, Vodafone ...) have traditionally controlled the end mobile consumer in terms of the critical piece: billing. Any service on your mobile (long distance, voice mail, text messaging, ringtones) was payable to the mobile carrier. However, handset manufacturers are wrestling that away from them with things like app stores. Nokia even announced that it will be including skype with some phones (will start with N97). Nokia might as well just put up their middle finger to the carriers.

An even more concrete example: I bought a twitter app from the app store for 99 cents and my carrier got absolutely nothing for that (Apple and the app developer share that revenue). Add webservices that bypass even the app stores and you can easily see the danger carriers are in: becoming the big dumb pipe. Of course, they hate that. All is not lost for the carriers of course,they are doing some cool stuff too, but that is the subject of another post (I don't think carriers are evil BTW).

Web developers playing tug of war with handset manufacturers and carriers

This one is less obvious but hang on for a bit, I'll explain. Right now, wireless bandwidth is still poor, mobile browsers are sucky and people haven't yet figured out how to build good mobile websites. Apps provide far superior functionality and usability on a mobile phone which explains why they are doing so well. This walled garden is not going to last more than a few years. PCs are now moving more and more to web services in the cloud instead of on-board applications you have to download. This same trend is going to happen in mobile devices since after all, they are simply very small, always connected little computers.

So basically, all seems fairly quiet with everyone catching up to Apple and all major handset dudes positioning themseleves to cut out the carriers from the applications market. While that is happening, bazillions of web people will ultimately be able to reach the consumer directly and cut out even the handset dudes. Fun stuff. Will be interesting to see how it will shake out .... either way though, it will no longer be business as usual which hopefully creates opportunities for you.

Allan Isfan
CEO, FaveQuest

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TOUCH me, I'm Sexy: Mobile World Congress Theme

I just attended the Mobile World Congress 2009 in Barcelona and the clear main theme was: TOUCH me, I'm sexy.

Take a look at this picture very quickly.

What do you think it is? Yes, you are correct, it is the new LG Arena with the 3D S-Class UI. You didn't think it was an iPhone did you?

Then there is Samsung's new "TOUCH", at first look, very similar to the iPhone.

There's also Microsoft Mobile 6.5 (out second half of the year) which is sporting an apple style icon based touch screen (demo of 6.5 appeared really buggy ... shocking, I know). I can go on and on. This year's Mobile World Congress was definitely about sexy touch screen apple killers.

I was unimpressed by nearly all of them (didn't play with the Palm Pre) but I did find one exception: the Nokia N97 coming out in June. At 520 Euro, not for the faint of heart but it certainly looks to be very capable with many smart usability features, slim formafactor, touch screen and a QWERTY keyboard.

You've heard of the iPhone App store right? Google had already recently announced an app store for mobile devices using their Android operating systems. Well, Nokia and Microsoft both announced their own equivalent stores at the show (Nokia's OVI Store, Microsoft's Windows Mobile Marketplace) and there are several others ones as well. These app stores are a real boon to entrepreneurs allowing many of to finally easily play in the mobile space. Though app stores are not new, they are a big deal.

This is the first time at Mobile World congress that I don't detect any true innovation or NEW theme. In years past it was the hope of WiMax, or femtocells, LTE and so on. This year, all of these themes remain but the clear one theme is "I want to be an iPhone" and very few phones come close, even if their features on paper beat apple by a long shot (better camera, FM radio, Flash, copy and paste ...). It shocks me that people forget that usability is king in this space, not features.

Having said this, there is something VERY interesting brewing under the covers. Check out my next post on that story.



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Tuesday, February 10, 2009


ten reason for launching a startup NOW!

I was privileged to have been invited to speak to a group of entrepreneurs last night. The group was taking part in OCRI's entrepreneurs edge program. This program consists of five half days of intense training lead some of Ottawa's top entrepreneurs.

I was asked to talk about my experience at Catena Networks (where I cut my startup teeth) and FaveQuest, my new venture. Startups are much harder than you would think but also more rewarding than you could imagine. I did my best to share the highs and lows, including mistakes that I have made along the way and any words of advice.

I closed the talk with my top ten reasons why now is a perfect time to launch a bootstrapped startup or revector and recharge and existing company. Here are my top ten reasons (some borrowed from others):

10. Opportunity to demonstrate your skill and tenacity
-most people don't have the courage to bootstrap a company in this climate
-you have to be compelling to get partners and paying customers in this climate. If you do, it says something significant your team.

9. Tighter teams
-if your team sticks together in the tough times, you'll emerge extremely tight
-don't forget, if you're an entrepreneur you'll be doing lots of startups so building tight teams that stick together from one startup to another is a big deal

8. Focus
-you don't have the luxury of goofing around and build "wouldn't it be cool if" type concepts
-that is not to stay that you shouldn't test different things and experiment to see what works and what doesn't

7. More people available
-nuff said

6. Market disruption
-the market is experiencing a major disruption which creates opportunity

5. Less competition
-many startups will drop off, especially if they don't know how to be frugal
-large companies have been cutting so heavily, they are in a frozen state from a major innovation perspective

4. Frugal
-this economy teaches you to be extremely frugal. This will serve you well when things rebound. Furthermore, you frugality implies you can massively undercut your competition.

3. Lower Costs
-you can get equipment for cents on the dollar, rent office space for much less than you would in boom times and salaries are much more reasonable.

2. Forced to test the market
-if you are relying on revenues for operations, you don't have the choice but to go sell and close deals. that means you are very close to the market

1. ? I'll leave this one to you

What do you think is the # 1 reason your company has a better chance of succeding because you started it in a down market?

Looking forward to your thoughts.



Link to Entrepreneur's edge info (

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