MocoSpace Passes 2 Million Users, Collects $4 Million
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they’re interested in social networking but are overwhelmed by (or don’t have broadband access to) more conventional social networking communities such as MySpace.
But while MocoSpace may be mobile, it’s still based on Web standards. And going the Web route—rather than making the MocoSpace platform a downloadable application and working with mobile carriers to get it built into phones’ “decks” or top-level menus, the way competing social-networking platforms such as Twipster, Loopt, Zannel, Yahoo Go, and Nokia’s LifeBlog have tried to do—entailed both sacrifices and advantages, Siegel says.
“There are definitely things you can do with a downloadable application that are a little bit tougher in a browser-based experience,” he says. “But by and large we feel like we’ve gained a lot by going this route. We don’t have to port our software to all of the different handsets, which is a major expense. And we don’t have to go through the usual gatekeepers—so we’ve been able to control our own destiny, in terms of the feature sets and the editorial guidelines, which are all things that usually need carrier approval. Also, we’re not splitting revenues with the carriers this way, which is another pretty big advantage.” (“Splitting” is a euphemism—mobile carriers are the playground bullies of the communications business, typically extorting 70 percent of the revenues from outside software and content providers.)
Siegel says MocoSpace benefited greatly from launching when it did, in late 2005, when MySpace wasn’t yet a household name and had only a tenth as many users as it does today. “Today the saturation level is very high. But when we started MocoSpace, there was really nobody doing [social networking] on the mobile side,” he says. “I wouldn’t advise anyone to start a mobile community or a Web community today unless you have an incredibly strong angle. It takes a lot more than a few subtle twists to get traction and to get people to stick around in the quantities you need to have a decent business model. There will only be a few winners—and I think we’re extremely well positioned to be one of those winners.”
But that will depend, in part, on whether MocoSpace can use its new capital to hire more skilled developers and sales and marketing experts who want to live and work in the Boston area. “It’s definitely not Silicon Valley, in the sense that when you go out to lunch in Boston you are not bumping into other startup people or hearing them talk about their Web 2.0 launch or their fundraising,” says Siegel. “It’s tough to recruit talent in the area, and a lot of the kids coming from Harvard or MIT who want to get into the consumer Internet business head right out to the West Coast, for obvious reasons.”
On the other hand, Boston is gradually emerging as a hub for mobile entrepreneurship, as exemplified by companies like Third Screen, Jumptap, Buzzwire, Enpocket (recently acquired by Nokia), and MocoSpace itself. There is ” a pretty decent group of consumer-facing mobile Internet companies coming from the Boston area, so it’s starting to be recognized that there is interesting stuff happening outside of Silicon Valley, specifically in Boston,” says Siegel. “That’s certainly what we hope, anyway.”
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