OPW INTERVIEW -- Aug 26 -- Jumbuck powers some of the top mobile chat and mobile dating services on the planet. Here’s our interview with Ted Verani, the SVP Sales and Marketing at Jumbuck. - Mark Brooks
How was the company started?
The company was started in 2000 by Adrian Risch, who is our CEO. It was around the time mobile data was taking off. He created one of the earliest mobile chat services.
What are your main products?
Power Chat is our biggest original product, and it’s a mobile-only service. All these users are connected globally. Overall, we have three main products – Power Chat, Fast Flirting and Mobilove.
With Power Chat, you enter into a chat room. There is a list of users who are online. You can watch them communicate and jump in at any time. People can chat about anything, but the reality is most are flirting. There is also a one-to-one messaging option.
Fast Flirting is a live service, too. You see a list of people who are online. You can check out profiles and photos. Then, you invite someone into a flirt request. If both people opt in, they can have a timed, 10-minute flirt session.
Mobilove is our more classic dating product. It would perhaps be more closely aligned with your traditional mobile dating or online dating services.
Do you think a lot of your users are using Internet dating services, as well?
No, I think the demographic of our users are younger. They’re using it for fun, flirting and entertainment but not for finding a partner or getting married.
How does the service make money?
Power Chat is $2 a month, Fast Flirting is $3 a month and Mobi Love is $4.99 a month, which also includes premium alerts. You can get alerts to find out when someone is online now or when you have a message in your inbox.
Do you have any applications that use location-based services (LBS)?
We don’t do true LVS in the sense of geo-coded targets, but we do use proximity. In this case, we would use zip codes. Even some of our chat rooms, you can go into a specific geographic room, like the West.
Is that mainly because of the carriers concerns over liability to LBS?
Partially, it was how it was designed in the beginning.
I think LBS is great for social networks that are more friend managers. You already know this person in an offline sense. You want to keep track of them and their activities. However, I think with dating products you have to be a little more cautious. At most you would want to use proximity for someone nearby rather than giving them your actual location.
Still, there is lots of excitement and enthusiasm right now for LBS as it is beginning to open up. Originally, carriers would have to give you the LBS information. Now, with devices like the iPhone and other smart phones, you can get the coordinates right in the phone.
I’ve heard iPhone applications monetizes far better than any other platform. How do you think the iPhone is changing the game?
It certainly has changed the game from the standpoint of they made an amazing device, and it has raised the bar for how other handset manufacturers need to respond. So, you’re seeing more and more phones coming out. You also see a change in how carriers are going to monetize and work with content providers.
With the iPhone, they’ve now opened up to smaller developers who have creative ideas. Apple probably approves 96 percent of the apps provided to them.
So it’s created a challenge from the content provider’s point of view in terms of discoverability and getting your application noticed. However, they have certainly changed the market in terms of customers wanting to consume content and data.
Now, the carriers have realized that offering up the likes of MySpace, Facebook and other social networks on their phones improves their retention. Have there been any other points of realization on Internet dating side of the house – the chat and flirt?
They love us, because we do consume quite a bit of data. We do probably a billion page views a month worldwide, so that’s quite a bit of traffic.
How easy is it working with the carriers?
Working with carriers is great, and it’s challenging. We have obviously a unique advantage. We’ve been around since 2004 and having really created arguably the largest mobile social networking application. We work with about 80 plus carriers worldwide.
We can talk about iPhone and other ways to get in the market. However, working with wireless carriers is going to be the surest way to get your application in front of as many eyeballs as possible.