Plusmo is a San Jose start-up that lets you fill your idle mobile phone screen with content — from news alerts to Flickr photos and blog content.
Plusmo is backed with $500,000 from angel investors, including Iggy Fanlo, chief exec of AdBrite, Rajeev Motwani, a Stanford professor who advised Google, Gil Penchina, chief exe of Wikia, and several others.
Like many other mobile companies, however, Plusmo knows that competition for users’ attention is cut-throat. Mobile content providers are numerous these days. And — surprise — people are still using their cell-phones mainly for voice and text (see Othmer’s column at VentureBeat today about this). Finally, it will take near a million users to sustain an advertising-based mobile content business, Plusmo’s co-founders estimate. Until Plusmo gets there, signing one good deal to distribute content for an honest price can trump the grandest of free distribution strategies. That’s what Plusmo has done, with cricket. More on that in a sec.
Plusmo says 200,000 people have downloaded its application since it launched six months ago. The application lets users load all kinds of blog and other Web content. The content is like a slide show on your screen (see Plusmo for example). Once you sign up, say for VentureBeat content, Plusmo pushes VentureBeat headlines to you — and they scroll across your screen — saving you from having to visit VentureBeat.com’s site. Or if you want to find out the nearest Starbucks, you can download the Starbucks feature, which offers you info on the nearest stores and click-to-call. Or you can register for all stories on Google and Yahoo news about Tiger Woods, and those pushed to you in a slide show of headlines. Each one of these services sit on your screen in the form of a box “gadget” — see image below. The plan is to then offer locally relevant advertising beside the content.
To be clear, people can get some of this content promised by Plusmo in other ways, too — Plusmo is targeting those who want content to scroll across their idle screen.
Of 80,000 people who have returned to Plusmo to request more content, 8,000 people do so daily, and another 8,000 at least weekly, says chief executive Krishna Vedati.
Plusmo’s biggest boost comes from users of its live cricket game-casting. Plusmo offers play-by-play text info for free, and video highlights to users paying $5 monthly. More than a thousand users have paid. With the cricket world cup in March, Plusmo expects up to ten thousand subscribers. But it gets only 50 percent revenue share from the rights owner — Willow. This has encouraged Plusmo to pursue cricket-casting deals with carriers too, but carriers will take a cut too. NFL games may come next. It says the revenue from these deals put it on track to make $1 million in revenue next year.
It serves BlackBerry, Windows Mobile/PPC and J2ME MIDP 1.0 & 2.0 phones with native clients. It plans to serve Treo phones by Q1 2007.
The company’s founding team — Vedati, Srinivas Mandyam & Kelvin Chong — hail from mobile company Covigo, a mobile middleware company founded in 2000 and sold in 2003 to Symbol. Krishna is also a Stanford grad, and has good ties with the start-up community.
It plans to raise another $500,000 soon, and then a venture round later this year.
Other mobile content players include Widsets and San Bruno’s Bluepulse. Widsets offers a very similar service as Plusmo. Bluepulse, another player, adds more social networking features like chat and text. Like Plusmo, it features content widgets, giving users access to specific sites — like Digg, Gmail and Flickr. Bluepulse also offers mobile IM, and focuses on developers, allowing them to deliver games. Plusmo doesn’t do games, mobile IM or social networking.
Another company, Onskreen, offers a product called Fusion, which offers news, ringtones and other content, but only in partnership with operators.
Handmark, of Kansas City, also offers content, from TV to games, but mostly through subscription.
Below are some of the “venture” channels and features offered by Plusmo.