September 16, 2008

Spotlight: SeekMobile

It’s a very interesting time in technology, as we watch not only the development of new, and revolutionary technologies, but also the convergence of various pieces being brought together into Mashups. For those not familiar, a Mashup is essentially the taking of various pieces of other applications, and hooking them together in new and exciting ways. Think of it sort of taking all of the best pieces from your favorite toys and snapping them together to create a cyborg Hulk with spidey-sense.

Another type of “trend mashup” involves taking the momentum that a specific type of movement, medium, or social trend and combining their energies together like multiple tidal waves merging into a single massive Tsunami.

SeekMobileA local company, Seek Mobile Interactive, is looking to capitalize on just such a convergence: Mobile Experiences, Social and Persistent Gaming, and Location based interactions.

Whatever your feelings might be with regards to the apple iPhone, it’s hard to deny that it has forever changed the way the world views the mobile device, and at a more fundamental level, the whole mobile experience. No longer is it just about making a call. Your mobile device is now your portable computer, and more: it is your portal to the world. It is the web, your phone, twitter, maps, weather, pictures, the world and where you are in it. With this new horse power, display, and tactile experience so far beyond “hit 1 now,” it has also become an extremely powerful gaming platform.

Speaking of gaming… gaming as an industry and an experience has undergone a massive revolution as well. With the internet and Xbox-live the world became introduced to, and hooked on, gaming as a social experience. It’s not just a place to play, it’s a place to meet new people, and meet-up wit those you already know. It is not just a thing to do, it’s a place to be. This was taken even further with the concept of “persistence” through games like Everquest, and Worlds of Warcraft, and environments like Second Life. Now the things you gained, the groups you’ve joined, and potentially even the buildings you’ve built are all still there in the virtual world when you return.

But what if there were a way to tie this virtual world in wit the real one? A way to meet some of those people, and see some of those places? Something like an “overlay” of virtual on top of the world that surrounds us? This is another social area that technology has continued to advance and facilitate. “Blue Dating” as gained huge momentum, as young people use Bluetooth devices to learn more about those around them. Similarly, with the GPS capabilities of the iPhone this leaps beyond the ability to know who is near to you, but where you both are in the world, and who and what else might be nearby.

Welcome to the social gaming mobile tsunami.

iPhoneSeek Mobile Interactive has spent much of the last year in development on a revolutionary game that allows players in a virtual fantasy world to go on quests, fight monsters, collect gold, and best of all, find each other. With their flagship product, Living Arcana, Seek Mobile allows the players to meet and even battle one another on their iPhones. Additionally, it allows players to create things and even people in this virtual world. Imagine that you could create a person that would show up if someone went to the base of your favorite rock climbing spot. He would interact wit the player, and give them a quest to climb the rock face, then talk to his partner at the top. Upon reaching the top the player would be presented with their reward.

This is but one example of how the persistence of an online game, the ubiquitous access of the handheld, and the targeting of location based services can enable a whole new experience. Imagine a ninja game where you can drive outside of someone’s office building to execute that killer combo and take them out. Imagine a zombie game where those around you become infected, but if you can get to the GPS location of the local Home Depot, and enter the SKU of a chainsaw into the phone you can mow them down for the next several minutes.

But Seek Mobile is more than just cool ideas for games. These guys have some real hands on experience. Seek has been hands-on with Torque, a slick gaming interface design platform for about as long as the concept of the App Store has been out. With the roll of Torque as iTorque directly to the phone, Seek Mobile is now leveraging their jump on the game to quickly put out all of the work they have put into Living Arcana.

Look for these guys to be making some serious waves soon.

iPhone Activation: $199

Game download: $0

Hitting your boss with a fireball from the parking lot: Priceless.

Written by: Steve Spencer , Utah Technology Spotlight.

September 12, 2008

No Posers Here

FundingUniverse maintains an exclusive, invitation-only social network for our investors. We keep our network closed to ensure we’re working with legitimate investors who legally qualify for the opportunity to view the thousands of deals available through our website. We’ve heretofore accepted just over 700 investors into our network and turned down at least that many because they weren’t accredited.

Every investor who applies to join the network is taken through an interview process to ensure their legitimacy before we allow them access. We don’t let investors in who just solicit services to our entrepreneur members or, worse, are scammers posing as investors.

It’s a delicate balance between making joining as a legitimate investor easy while protecting our entrepreneurs from shady characters, so we continue to work on making the sign-up process smoother and more efficient.

Recently added for investors who apply to join the network is a limited view of the many dealflow and group collaboration tools available. They are still required to complete an interview before seeing deals but they can now see a sample of what’s available and complete their profiles right upfront to expedite the process.

What this means is we can now more efficiently process investor applications and orient them to the service much more effectively. The benefit to you? More genuine investors who might invest in your business.

Rest assured, FundingUniverse will maintain it’s strict “no posers” policy and do what we can to keep our network legit and elite.

September 11, 2008

Social Lending

Earlier this week I received the following email:

Hi Joel,
We’d like to give you a repayment update on the loans you’ve made through Kiva.
A total of $3.14 has been newly repaid!

I chuckled to myself as I read the email because I was sarcastically thinking to myself  ‘Whoa, where am I going to spend the $3.14?’  But for Doris Nuhey in Ghana the $25 that we loaned to her several months ago was critical to her small business.  Doris owns a hair salon in Ghana and applied for a $750 loan through Kiva.  She has paid back almost 40% of her loan.  $3.14 won’t even buy a gallon of gas here in the US, but in her neighborhood, the money goes a long way.

I found out about Kiva about a year ago while watching a documentary on microenterprise loans in third world countries.  Three things stuck in my head that night.  First, Kiva allowed entrepreneurs access to funding that they would never get otherwise.  Two, the entreprenurial spirit is alive around the world, even in the most dire of countries and economies.  Third, the default rate on loans from Kiva was less than 1.5%  Since their conception several years ago, Kiva has loaned out close to $14 million dollars.

I was curious enough the next day that I decided to visit Kiva’s website and scroll through the small businesses that were looking for loans.  Our family discussed each business carefully and finally decided on Doris.  We joined a dozen other people from the US, England, Canada and Australia to fund her business.  Shortly after she received her funds we received the following report from a Kiva field representative.

I wish my lenders God’s blessings. Entrepreneur: Location:
Sunyani, Ghana  Doris Nuhey, the beautician was visited at her business premise last week for news out about her business progress. She did not hesitate to express her gratitude to all her lenders for their kind gesture. She recounted the impact the loan has made on her business life. Doris says she now has lots of assorted weavon, hair creams, activators, shampoo etc. in stock to facilitate her service delivery. Her customers are now proud of her for the fast service delivery they receive whenever they visit. For these Doris is very grateful to all her lenders for that great change. She says many thanks to you all.
For us, social lending has been a smashing success!  While we don’t make a penny of interest for our loan, emails like the one above make the experience worthwhile.  I have a genuine love for all small businesses and enjoy watching them succeed.  I have often wished for an opportunity to serve entrepreneurs outside of my geographic area and Kiva allows me to do that.  When times get hard for your business, may I suggest making a $25 loan to a complete stranger in a third world country?  I assure you, it will put your problems in a wonderful perspective.
Joel Nielsen is a Venture Consultant for Funding Universe and can be reached at