The road from an idea to its realization is long and paved with numerous difficulties. Nevertheless, with a little luck, a good idea will often pay off, especially if we’re talking about some kind of technological innovation. After all, we’re living in a high-tech, interactive, mobile era. Here are some examples of good and essentially simple ideas that happened to appear at the right time and as a result attracted – money. Lots of money…
More and more information and less and less time – surely you’d agree that that’s one of the main features of modern life. Nick D’Aloisio must have been thinking along those same lines when he was developing the technology for summarizing texts for smartphones. What was initially called Trimit later got the new name Summly, an application that automatically condenses internet contents into comprehensible and informative summaries, making their consumption easier and faster. Summly attracted a lot of attention in the technological and investing circles and was finally sold to Yahoo this year for a reported $30 million. However, we’ve yet to come to the most interesting part of the whole story. Namely, the newly-made millionaire Nick D’Aloisio isn’t even 18 yet! Can you remember yourself at that age?
How would you feel about your digital activities giving you something tangible? Let’s say you’re using an application for running, and after a certain number of miles, you get a free bottle of a beverage, the same one that’s being advertised in the application? Kiip, a company founded in 2010, has developed an innovative platform to connect advertisers and mobile phone users, who are awarded palpably for accomplishing tasks and goals set out in their applications and cell phone games. Kiip has attracted more than $15 million in investment capital, and the highly-reputed magazine Fast Company has recently included it on the list of the 50 most innovative companies in the world. Its owner Brian Wong is just 22 years old.
Dag Kittlaus is a Norwegian who started a company with several colleagues in order to focus on developing a project initially based in the California research institute SRI International. Their idea seemed like something out of an SF movie – they wanted to create a virtual assistant for mobile devices that would recognize the user’s voice and answer their questions. Three years ago, the story got the attention of Steve Jobs and his Apple, which allegedly offered around $200 million to buy the new technology. From here on the story is pretty much well-known: when the iPhone 4S appeared on the market, everyone was writing about something called Siri. Kittlaus and his colleagues became millionaires and Siri a crucial component of the future models of the iPhone.
Games are big business, that’s old news. Yet, the money isn’t just in those complex videogames that take years and huge investments to be developed by teams of programmers. Take Draw Something, for example, a simple social drawing and word-guessing game, launched by OMGPOP last year. Draw Something started a craze on Facebook and among Android users, attracting the attention of the famous Zynga, known for games like Farmville, which offered the head of OMGPOP, Dan Porter, an offer he couldn’t refuse – $183 million. However, this story also has a dark side. Known for making rash business decisions, Zynga has recently decided to shut down the purchased company. The popular Draw Something, which has in the meantime also been turned into a physical board game, was spared.
Thrillist is an online service and ‘members-only’ club for men based on newsletters that offer information about places to go out, restaurants, shopping malls, shopping discounts, etc. But among other things, it also enables the advertisers to target users in specific cities. This fairly simple concept has turned Ben Lerer and Adam Rich, the duo behind it, into millionaires. In the meantime, Thrillist has turned into a veritable little media group, generating an estimated $100 million in income.
In European countries, it is quite common to buy a prepaid cell phone with no contract with a mobile network operator. On certain other markets, such as the American one, however, that is not a very common practice; a fact that has resulted in another simple, yet genius business idea. Namely, two friends, Junaid Shams and Ahmed Khattak, started an online shop called GSM Nation, which sells prepaid, no-contract cell phones. An idea originating from the Yale campus has today turned into an international business that has in the three years since its foundation generated an income in excess of $100 million.
As most gadgets belong to mobile technology these days, a great problem has surfaced – battery life longevity. That’s where the startup company from Texas, Ambiq Micro, comes in. Feeling out the needs of the market extensively, it has started producing advanced chips that drastically extend the life of batteries in different mobile devices such as smartwatches, medical devices, sensors, smart cards, etc. A group of investment funds put up $10 million into Ambiq Micro this summer.
An Estonian company launched in 2007 was one of the first to recognize the potential of mobile payment, building a system that would enable the developers to monetize their applications, or in other words, integrate them with the option of paying or shopping. What separates Fortumo from other such companies is that instead of the USA or Europe, it focused more intensely on developing countries, which has resulted in its presence in over 70 countries today. At the beginning of this year, the company attracted new investors who have brought in around $10 million of fresh capital.
The Israeli startup Waze has developed a popular little program that uses the cell phone’s satellite navigation in order to give the user information about the state of traffic in real-time. What sets Waze apart is its social component, that is, the fact that it also gathers information from other users who might be reporting on accidents, traffic jams, police barricades, etc. In other words, the more people use it, the more detailed and current traffic information is. This year Waze was acquisitioned by the mighty Google, which paid up more than a billion dollars for it to the Israeli company.