Mobile Life

17thJun 2011

Mobile Life was set up by Stephen Doyle in October 2002 to deliver a new wave of internet services to mobile phones and PDAs.

The idea

Although mobile phones have been able to connect to the internet since 1999, unless websites are specially designed for mobile phones the result is about as hopeless as looking at the inside of a house through a letter-box. Most websites also take a frustratingly long time to download - if they download at all that is. Until now, developing widely-usable mobile websites needed specialist device knowledge, experienced programming skills and ongoing maintenance. This involves a lot of effort, so most website owners haven't seen the benefit outweighing the cost.

Stephen previously ran Motorola's data services developments and knew that demand for mobile phone internet access would grow - in the same way it happened with ordinary internet use. "Today, the number of mobiles which can connect to the internet has grown so much that almost half of them can view compatible services," he says. Stephen created software which lets web designers develop mobilecompatible websites but without having to know anything specific about mobile devices. Moreover, he says designers will only need to design websites once. "SlipStream handles all the rest and is very easy for designers to learn as fundamentally all a designer has to do is work in HTML.'" He adds that as an easy-to-use tool designed and priced for the web design community, SlipStream lets web designers and website owners break into the previously prohibitive world of mobile website publishing. "Designers no longer need to know the ins and outs of every kind of phone or PDA" he says. Stephen adds that SlipStream is designed for a huge volume market - individual websites. "We can already see individual market sectors developing each with 10,000-plus small business customers - and that is just in the UK,' he says. 'Within five years there will be millions of mobile sites."

Funding

The venture has so far been funded by the founders who Stephen says have already invested funds running into six digits. In addition, Stephen has dedicated nearly two years of his time (including most weekends and evenings) to develop SlipStream. In May 2004 Stephen gave a presentation at the inaugural South West Angel and Investor Network (Swain) meeting held at the offices of Bristol law firm Osborne Clark. This resulted in him being able to attract business angel funding. Stephen says that it is much harder to raise money these days. "It used to be that more or less any technology-based idea could get funded," he says. "Now it's a lot harder because everyone wants to avoid the problems caused by the dotcom crash. The real value is the networking and business support community as well as the credibility of SETsquared and its staff".

Stephen Doyle: The networking and business support community adds value. Progress so far In February 2004 Stephen filed a UK patent covering the core capability of content delivery to mobile devices. This patent protects the sophisticated content production algorithms within SlipStream, which hit the streets in September 2004. Although patents cannot protect every eventuality Stephen is convinced that Mobile Life has an unrivalled position in this emerging market.

"I know from the time spent developing SlipStream and my professional experience running development projects that a competing product would take at least 18 months to develop," he says. "We're clearly in a market that is going to take off before any potential competitors can even deliver a rival to SlipStream."

How SETsquared has helped

Although Stephen finds SETsquared's office space, facilities, review panels and mentoring excellent, the real value for him is the networking and business support community as well as the credibility of SETsquared and its staff.

"It means that when you get introduced to someone in the business community, you're already much further forward," he says. "It's that much easier to get on to potential clients' agenda." As well as the facilities and the professional office space, Stephen says that being in the same building as other entrepreneurs brings other benefits. "We can spark off each other because we're in a similar boat and can share experiences - which, in terms of developing a new business, wouldn't happen in the same way if working from home or from an industrial or office unit." This benefit is not just confined to other ventures in the Guildford centre. "Because SETsquared is spread across four universities the networking is much more widespread," he says. Overall, Stephen says that the value of SETsquared boils down to helping great ideas get going in two years rather than five. He adds that the idea that entrepreneurs should somehow suffer for years in penury and a damp garden shed no matter how great their idea is absurd. "It benefits everyone if great ideas get help right from the start - especially with technology-based ideas where markets move quickly and you must react just as fast,' he says. The future Stephen says his market is poised for growth. "Text messaging has grown hugely because it appeals to mobile customers' desire to keep in touch and mobile web services have crept up on text messaging without anyone really noticing," he says. He adds that browser page impressions are rapidly catching up with text messaging volumes. "Page impressions in the UK reached 1.4 billion in March 2004 - four times as many as there were in September 2002,"he says. "If trends continue then by the end of this year there will be the same number of page impressions a year as text messages."

As well as this, he says that worldwide there are now more than a billion mobile devices containing mobile browsers and more than 50 million current web hosts and domains. He naturally hopes that many of these will become his potential customers. Stephen dismisses the idea that web browsing from a mobile will be costly, saying that since SlipStream cuts the amount of data downloaded an average page will typically cost less than a penny to download. "Yet text messages - which are only 160 characters - cost far more and picture messages cost 30 to 50 pence each," he says, "despite the fact the services we power are much better." Finally Stephen says that that as more and more people get mobile devices which can access the internet, website content owners will increasingly want their sites to be seen. "SlipStream basically makes mobile publishing easy."

www.mobile-life.com