First Utah iPhone Developers Meetup

Last year I started a Facebook group for Utah iPhone developers. The group now has 146 members. Recently, Cary Snowden (of CrunchLunch fame) and Brad Hintze jumped in to help run the group, and they have actually started organizing real world (hopefully monthly) meetings for this group.

The first meetup will be at Novell (building A) on Wednesday, May 13th, from 6-8 pm. To RSVP, or for more details, click here.

With 12 teams of BYU students recently launching iPhone applications at the Omniture-sponsored competition there, and with recent BYU and UVU conferences on mobile development, there is a ton of local interest in iPhone development. iPhone 3.0 will absolutely change all the rules of the game, and give Apple an even greater leadership position in mobile computing than they already have.

This is the mobile computing platform that will transform industries. It’s a great opportunity for entrepreneurs. Whoever jumps on board early, will have a chance to shape/disrupt whatever industry they are in. You have an opportunity to catch this massive wave, and it’s not too late because iPhone 3.0 is still coming, and it provides more business model opportunities than ever before.

I won’t be able to attend, but I’m hoping that Ryan Hatch and others from FamilyLink.com who are working on our mobile applications will be there to network.

iPhone developers, unite!

A few months ago, after feeling the initial rush of getting a million users of our Facebook app We’re Related in just 29 days, I set up a Facebook group with an admittedly dumb name: Utah CEOs With a Facebook Strategy. It now has 488 members. We met a couple of times in Provo earlier this year. Jason McGowan and Michael Jensen from our team at FamilyLink.com shared with about 30-40 attendees how to build an app that is viral and can scale, and I tried to pump the Facebook opportunity as well as I could. I’m a true believer in what Facebook did with their Platform, as you will see from my original blog post the day they announced it, back in May 2007, when I predicted that Facebook would become the world’s leading social network. It only took a year for that to happen, as recent Comscore data shows Facebook with more worldwide users and page views than MySpace.

In the ensuing months we have tried to find other Facebook applications developed in Utah that had more than say 50,000 users, so we could invite other developers to share their learning with the group, but we haven’t been able to find any other Utah company with a successful Facebook app–so this group has kind of stagnated.

I don’t understand why we don’t see more Utah entrepreneurs anticipating and catching these amazing waves of opportunities, as new platforms open up for software developers. After all, Utah once boasted the world’s leading word processing company (WordPerfect) and the world’s leading networking company (Novell). And we still have the world’s best web analytics company (Omniture) and the world’s best online video delivery platform (Move Networks.)

Of course today the world celebrates the launch of another new platform, which might end up being far bigger and more important than the Facebook platform. Apple’s iPhone, despite today’s launch problems, will be purchased by tens of millions of consumers in the next year and hundreds of millions after that. Back in March, Apple announced the SDK that allows developers to build applications for the iPhone. Tens of thousands of developers were accepted into the official beta developers program. Today, hundreds of applications premiered in the app store. I’ve downloaded six or seven, including the ridiculous PhoneSaber app, and the silly Light app (turns the iphone into a really lame flashlight), but a few others with some promise. The iPhone is definitely the most amazing consumer device I’ve ever owned from a design standpoint (although I am more addicted to my Blackberry for its utility and more in love with my Kindle for the fact that it just does books, and I love books.) That it is now a platform for software developers makes it even more amazing.

This time I know at least a few Utah based companies that are planning iPhone apps, including one that I think will be wildly successful. And so, once again, I’ve organized a Facebook group, again with a dumb name: Utah Executives Creating iPhone Apps. We aren’t targeted developers only, as much as business people and entrepreneurs who want to take advantage of this new platform. But maybe we should focus on developers, since they are often way more into technology and are sometimes looking for the next new thing. Who knows? Only 10 members have joined this group, but maybe after this blog post we’ll get a few dozen members and organize our first get together in the next month.

If you are from Utah, and work for a company that ought to have an iPhone app, or after that an app for phones based on Google Android (read this incredible Wired article about what Google Android is all about) or the Symbian OS which Nokia recently purchased and announced plans to open source (this is really big news, since Symbian phones still have the most market share, I believe) then join this Facebook group, and help me rally some support for companies to invest in mobile software.

I’d love to see some entrepreneurs/developers from Utah coming up with some killer mobile software applications, and then showing up in the Deal Flow report on SiliconSlopes.com, the web site that best covers the Utah high-tech economy.

I sometimes miss running the Provo Labs incubator, because with each new platform there are a myriad of opportunities, but then I remember how much I love running FamilyLink.com, where we actually get to take advantage of every new platform that makes sense for families (which may exclude Google’s new Lively virtual world as well as other virtual world’s that have recently been announced) and build applications, widgets, or full-functioning software for these platforms. Our Facebook apps now have 6.8 million users and nearly 150,000 daily active users. And we actually launched on that platform about five months later than we had hoped. (We were really in bootstrap mode back then.) We may be a few months late with our iPhone apps as well, but the opportunity will be so vast in the long run, that it probably won’t matter too much.

Sign up for the Utah iPhone group, and let’s get together to brainstorm and fan the flames of excitement about mobile platforms and how Utah companies can participate in where the high-tech economy is heading.

Yahoo Go on my Blackberry

I switched to GMail about 2 years ago, but I have kept my Yahoo email account around so it can forward everything automatically to GMail.

But today, because of Jerry Yang’s CES Keynote, which makes it clear that Yahoo is going to become very friendly to third party developers, and because Yahoo Mail still has more users (I think) than GMail, I decided that I would download Yahoo Go! to my Blackberry, and start using YahooMail again, so I can keep my feet in both camps.

My company email will still be GMail based, but I’ve got a ton of contacts in Yahoo that I never transferred to GMail, and there are a lot of Yahoo Mail users that I could instant message with, from the 7-8 years that I did use Yahoo Mail as my primary email account.

The Yahoo Go features on my blackberry are very impressive, but a little less intuitive for me than all the Google applications that I have on my blackberry. Yahoo installs everything as one app. Google has about 8 or 10 icons on my blackberry, and their Mobile Application updater just automatically updates their apps for me. I can delete the ones I don’t want. So in terms of taking over my blackberry real estate, the Google strategy is much better than Yahoo’s.

Music on cell phones

Last night I was told about a great site for buying cell phones online called letstalk.com. So I checked it out and they do seem to have most phones and most carriers, so a lot more options than you typically see. They offer referral bonuses as well. My friend got a free Blackberry Pearl and loves it.

Speaking of mobile phones….I am advising a lot of entrepreneurs to skip the internet phase of their business, meaning trying to get desktop traffic to their web site, and instead focus on mobile applications and mobile web site development. That seems to be where everything is going right now. Google’s mobile search is ready for primetime, Yahoo launches a mobile ad network, GPS-enabled phones are finally arriving in large numbers, video is getting to phones, and on and on.

Today I saw this press release from letstalk.com that shows how much music is making it to cell phones.

SAN FRANCISCO, March 22 /PRNewswire/ — Online wireless retailer LetsTalk today announced the results of a survey that found the music player feature on cell phones isn’t just for teens. The survey shows over 83 percent of music phone purchasers are over the age of 25, and that 55 percent of those 35 years and older are listening to music on their cell phones. Yet, the music they are putting on cell phones isn’t typically coming from carrier offerings.

The music feature on cell phones is becoming more popular with people of all ages — about 63 percent of multimedia cell phone users have listened to music on their phones. Over 50 percent have downloaded 20 or more songs, and 89 percent have downloaded at least four songs to their phones.

Music phone users have several options for acquiring and downloading music to their cell phones, but in spite of the convenience of buying and downloading songs directly from their carrier, only 14 percent of survey respondents said they have done this. Overall, buying music online is popular, with over 60 percent of those polled going this route. While 67 percent of those polled stated they have used a computer to transfer music files to their cell phones from CDs or the Internet.

“Our survey results indicate that consumers are listening to music from their own collection, so virtually any music phone can meet their needs” said Delly Tamer, CEO of LetsTalk. “Customers are making the most of their music phones with cables and memory cards. The industry needs to offer customers a more compelling reason to download songs directly and easily to their cell phones — better prices, easier navigation, faster speeds, exclusive songs, or all of the above.”

I still don’t have a decent RSS reader for my cell phone (although I downloaded Bloglines for Blackberry today, so I’ll try that), and my web connection is still way too slow (can’t wait for T-Mobile to upgrade their network), and I haven’t bought a Blackberry 8800 yet so I’m still missing the GPS and location-based services that I can’t wait to have, so there are still limitations to my using my cell phone for everything. (I still use my 60GB iPod for music and audio books), but I think those limitations will fade over the next 1-2 years and by the time the successor to the Blackberry 8800, the Nokia N95, and the iPhone version 2 or 3 arrive, they will be so useful that I may never need to use a laptop again.

My European Awakening

I just returned from 7 days in Europe. Thanks to LinkedIn Answers, I probably saved $1,000 on airfare on this trip by taking the advice of some of my connections who are more experienced last-minute travellers. (I’ve joked that with all this great advice, I could publish an ebook on last minute European travel and probably sell it for $10 on our ebook site.)

Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, said in his excellent podcast from Stanford University last month that he hopes LinkedIn Answers becomes the first truly useful Answers service online. He told about asking a question (took him 2 minutes) and getting 26 answers, 18 of which were very helpful.

My experience was similarly helpful. I asked about 200 of my 600 LinkedIn connections how to get a cheap last-minute flight to Europe. I got 37 responses, most of them were very helpful. (One told me jokingly to pretend there was a funeral in the family and get the bereaved family discount. Another said I could be a courier and fly for free.)

From these answers, I learned of about 10 online travel sites that I had previously not used. SideStep.com was the most useful on my trip. (Venere.com, an Italian site, turned out to be the most useful for booking last minute hotels in Paris and London.)

I booked a flight on Air France two days before leaving for Europe, for $980 round trip from LAX to Rome, with a stop in Paris at CDG (Charles De Gaulle) airport. (Air France serves great food, by the way.) After Rome, I fly one-way to London, got a hotel downtown for 69 pounds per night, then on Saturday morning flew round trip to Dublin on British Airways for under US$200. Rather than fly back to Rome, I took the Eurostar train from London to Paris, and arrived in Paris Sunday night. I think it was US$229. My hotel was across the street from the Gare du Nord station and cost only 60 Euros.

So all in all, the travel costs weren’t so bad, considering the last-minute planning. What adds up was the cost of transportation within each city (taxis, metro) and the cost of food, which was surprisingly high.

But the trip itself gave me a sweet taste for world travel. I grew up with a very tiny reality map (see my Connect magazine article titled “Expanding Your Reality Map” in March 2006.) But it has been expanding every year. And especially now.

Reading Russian literature in high school, I dreamed of travelling, and meeting with the kinds of fascinating souls that Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky described in 19th century Russia. Their characters had great depth, education, and were master conversationalists. My favorite novel of all time, Brothers Karamazov, explains human nature better than any other book I have ever read. I wanted to be Alyosha.

So in college, I studied International Relations, which soon led to my talking a Russian class and then switching my major to Russian. I loved the language and the culture and the history of Russia. After graduation I went to DC looking for a job. I applied with the NSA and started undergoing their 6-8 month long background check process. But I never ended up interviewing with them. Instead, I started working at Folio, my brother’s search engine company.

For the last 19 years I’ve been in various high tech startups. But I’ve had a latent interest in world history, international affairs, foreign languages, and cultures and religions of the world. That interest has grown lately as my reading list has started including more books about the flat world we live in, and the economic booms in China and India.

But nothing has opened my eyes and piqued my interest in world affairs like my recent trip to Europe. Though my entire trip was business focused, I was able to visit several historic sites in Rome, including the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Vatican Museums which includes the famous Sistine Chapel, and in London, and in Dublin I saw the Book of Kells, created by Irish monks in 800 AD, and walked through the library at Trinity College, the largest library in Ireland, with more than 4 million volumes, including 200,000 very old tomes in one great hall. (Wikipedia says that the Jedi library in Star Wars may have been modeled after this great library.) Years ago I read “How the Irish Saved Civilization.” Now I must re-read it, after having seen these historic artifacts.

I had some excellent ideas for a mobile application for history travellers, which would be built for worldhistory.com, which is likely to become part of World Vital Records in the future. (History and genealogy are really inseparably connected.)

I couldn’t stop considering that Utah, where I was born and raised, was settled by the Mormon pioneers (including my ancestors and my wife’s) started in 1847–just 160 years ago. While most of the places I visited have recorded history going back at least 10-15 times that far back.

More importantly, on this trip I met many wonderful people. Genealogy is a great subject to start any conversation with, because everyone has some knowledge of where there family came from, and how they fit into the world. My discussions with people from England, Ireland, Poland, Italy, and France were very enlightening, albeit sometimes rather depressing. Life is hard in many countries. Many people aren’t having children because they can’t afford to. They have to live in big cities where costs of living are so high, that they don’t know how they can possibly have a family. And it is important to face the realities of what people around the world actually think of the U.S. More than one European told me that the US was exporting materialism to all the world through its media, and causing people to be disatisfied with anything except a fast-paced materialistic, hedonistic lifestyle. (Coming home to a ton of billboards, radio and TV commercials, and seeing how everything in the US centers around selling stuff, I see their point.) And of course, most people strongly oppose the war in Iraq.

So I get to learn history and meet people. I’m in heaven really. I’m a former humanities major now working in a high-tech business (online world genealogy) that requires me to travel to many different countries of the world. In each country, I must learn its history and politics to determine when governments started keeping records, what kinds of records they kept, and where they are preserved now. I must also understand the religious histories and cultures of each country, since so many records of births, deaths and marriages were created and kept for religious reasons. I get to revitalize my knowledge of Spanish and Russian, and start studying bits and pieces of French, Italian, German, and hopefully Mandarin and Arabic as well. I’m planning to buy a mobile translation device soon, probably a high-end Franklin Publisher dictionary that handles 400,000 phrases and also supports audio. I know I’ll never have time to really learn these things, but a little exposure to them is extremely interesting nonetheless.

Besides my Blackberry, which worked nicely in Europe (I called T-Mobile on the way to the airport last week and they took care of it all in a few minutes), the most useful tools I had were LinkedIn.com, which enabled me to set up some last minute meetings, and Wikipedia, which basically enlightened me about every place I went, and all the things I saw. What a marvelous invention for travellers!

My dream is to travel with a Blackberry 8800 (with its GPS and Google Maps integration) and have a fully-functional mobile version of LinkedIn, and a mobile version of Sidestep so that I can plan trips on the fly (I usually procrastinate trip planning, but then while I’m there I want to make the most of it). I also want a business version of Dodgeball, so that I can find out if anyone that I’m connected to is also in the area. I may need to try out Twitter, since it’s getting so much positive buzz. (In fact, the Financial Times had it on the first page last Friday or Saturday as the next big thing from Silicon Valley–they called it miniblogging.) Perhaps it will be a helpful tool to let people contact me when I’m travelling… this would sort of be a pull approach to getting meetings, rather than a push approach. Finally, I need a database of all the LDS Family History Centers on my Blackberry, as well as a Genealogists Address Book, so that wherever I travel I’m seconds away from finding out where any local repositories or societies are. (Oh, and the Blackberry should support all the functionality of the Franklin device I described above. I don’t want to have to carry multiple devices.)

If I were young and without responsibilities, perhaps I’d take off and travel the world for the next year, visiting nearly every country, and just running World Vital Records from wherever I happen to be. As it stands, I’m currently planning a week a month for a multi-country trip. I guess I’ll see if I have the stamina to pull this off, and if it continues to make business sense to do so.

So…if you happen to be highly involved with genealogical records anywhere in the world, and would like to see if partnership makes sense between you and your organization and World Vital Records, please let me know. I don’t mind last minute trips, since my LinkedIn friends have shown me how to pull them off.

Make your web site mobile friendly

I’m reviewing some of the powerpoints from December’s Search Engine Strategies Conference, particularly the presentations on mobile web site design and marketing, which were excellent.

The session on Mobile Search Optimization, moderated by Danny Sullivan, was excellent. Someone took copious notes and posted them. Must have been a court reporter present.

One URL was given out that gives instructions on how to make your web site mobile friendly in just a few minutes.

I’m finding that I use my Blackberry web browser more and more frequently. I’m sitting at a desktop less and less for web browsing, and even more rarely for email.

Janice Roberts from Mayfield Fund (founded in 1969), a veteran VC firm from Silicon Valley, gave the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders lecture at Stanford last week. (You can get the podcast for free.) In her career, she worked at 3Com, bought more than 30 companies for them, was involved in acquiring Palm and taking it public, and has been at Mayfield for 6 1/2 years. In speaking of trends for the future in this lecture, she talked a lot about mobile devices and how many people (especially younger people) want anywhere access to everything.

If you haven’t thought about making your web site mobile friendly, you are falling behind the times.

If you have tried it, tell me what you think of the instructions from mikeindustries.com or how you approached the task.

Also, in your comment, give me the URL of your mobile-friendly site, so I can try it out on my Blackberry.

NONE of my portfolio sites are mobile friendly yet, including World Vital Records (where I am CEO), which is why I continue to lecture on this topic and blog about it.

22% of online advertisers also doing mobile marketing

I found this a little hard to believe–both the percentage of companies supposedly doing mobile marketing and also the overall advertising budget for mobile marketing.

From MarketingVOX:

A study this month from JupiterResearch found 22 percent of companies advertising online also are doing mobile marketing. Overall, the study predicted, mobile ad spending would more than double – from an anticipated $1.4 billion this year to $2.9 billion in 2011.

I have no doubt that mobile marketing will be a multi-billion dollar industry, but where is the $1.4 billion being spent this year?

At SES I attended a couple sessions on mobile marketing, and it seems so early, that I can’t imagine where the $1.4 billion is going.

Any thoughts from my readers?

What web sites do mobile phone users use?

Comscore and Telephia have teamed up to offer data about web sites that are being visited by mobile web users.

In their first report, Comscore and Telephia show some interesting data about mobile web use. It looks like checking weather is very popular.

Another thing I found interesting: Google Mail has only a fraction of the users of Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, both by desktop and mobile users. I switched from Yahoo Mail to Gmail last year and am much happier with the speed of Gmail. But it looks like more PC and mobile users still use Hotmail and Yahoo Mail.

I just added Telephia to my Google Alerts. This is a company that I want to track, since some of our companies are in the mobile content space and most of our other companies will need to develop mobile applications in the future. Any time they issue a press release about mobile application usage or mobile web market share, I want to see it.