22Cans, Brainbow, and Fireproof Games among this year's most inventive UK mobile businesses
Develop's sister publication, Mobile Entertainment, has now been running the Top 50 Mobile Innovators project for three years.
The exclusive initiative recognises the 50 most forward-thinking UK mobile firms in sectors including: gaming, social, location, payments, web, marketing, video, development and more.
ME is hosting a champagne reception for all of the finalists this evening and will be feverishly shaking their hands for their enthusiasm and devotion to the industry.
Katy Phillips, publisher, Mobile Entertainment, said: "We are in to our third year now and the calibre of companies entering the Top 50 still blows us away. It is important to highlight the talent that the UK mobile scene has to offer and Mobile Entertainment is thrilled to showcase another stellar line-up.
"To this year’s Top 50 Mobile Innovators, congratulations and good luck in superseding the success you’ve already had thus far."
Check out the full list of winners below.
Gaming veteran Peter Molyneux's 20-person strong 22 Cans was launched in March 2012. The company experienced wild success with its November 2012-launched 'Curiosity – What’s Inside the Cube' social games project, which required players globally to collectively hack away at the shape from their phones and break into the centre for a prize. The winner entered the core in March and will receive revenue from 22's crowd-funded Godus title.
Sector: Mobile web
51Degrees.mobi’s goal is to ‘make the mobile web work’ through device detection, which matches over 5m devices per second, optimisation and analytics tools. The firm is doubling its reach every six months and serves one per cent of the world's websites globally – that’s equivalent to more than 750,000.
Admoda is still funded by profit rather than outside interference and believes text and banner ads are important to mobile. That said, the company embraced rich media this year to support expandables, videos, galleries, live chat, mapping and social media to build on the billions of ads it serves each month. Clients were also treated to a new campaign management and statistics interface in the summer.
Antix unifies gaming with a cross-platform design that lets users play on smartphones and tablets, but also PCs, TVs and set-top boxes. The design means gamers can continue playing on screens that suit them and developers get maximum exposure of their titles. Indonesian OEM SpeedUp preloaded the Antix Game Player store on its tablets this year, while other Antix deals include PopCap’s Plants vs Zombies, Veros Digital, Lotus TV, and Toshiba.
Sector: Augmented reality
Blippar seems to be the go-to-solution when brands want to smother their marketing in augmented reality. Over the year, the company has worked with huge names including Anne Summers, WKD, Westfield, and London Underground. More notable work saw pop acts JLS and Tulisa promoting the app for their respective albums, while Disney transformed London for a Wreck-It Ralph promo and The Independent has launched AR editorial.
Nobody likes queuing, least of all when you're hungry or thirsty and the till is heaving, so Boppl is designed to solve the issue. The company has partnered with various eateries and drinks establishments to allow users of its app to peruse the menu, order and pay from their phones without having to leave the comfort of their seats. Beyond that, the app is designed to encourage loyalty, with users receiving freebies in exchange for answering surveys.
Sector: Educational apps
The Brainbow team comprises staffers from Google, Amazon, Playfish, and EA, meaning they're well placed to know the value of mobile games. The developer's ideals look to blend gaming with health and education, and it secured funding in April this year. More recently Brainbow caught the attention of Facebook and became one of the pioneers of its mobile games publishing venture.
London can be a hellish city to navigate regardless of whether you're a local or tourist, with Underground signal failures, slow-moving pedestrians and wild cabbies just some of the many obstacles to face on a daily basis. Given that, Citymapper is designed to simplify the journey with live transport updates for buses, tubes, trains, and Boris bikes, all of which comes complete with mapping guides for ultimate transparency.
Corethree provides mobile payments and ticketing solutions to the transport industry for over 150 million annual journeys provided by various UK bus operators. Over the year, the company has produced apps for Plymouth Citybus, Brighton and Hove and Metrobus, each of which comes with a wallet solution that allows users to store details and pay with any debit/credit card or major processor, such as WorldPay and PayPal.
Wapple has conquered the web world and seemingly felt inclined to diversify with the launch of Didlr, which it describes as 'Twitter with pictures.' Draw Something may have risen and fell dramatically, but Didlr's drawing concept for Android, iOS and Windows Phone – and the web – encourages users to 'didl' anything they like and share to with friends across social networks, email, text and, of course, Didlr itself.
Droplet is the mobile wallet app that lets users stash cash on their phones and send funds to friends or businesses without charge. Meanwhile, developers can lace the technology into their own apps, and Droplet offers businesses bespoke solutions for a fee and also profits from consultancy. It's currently in beta, and transactions can be made with partners in its native Birmingham or London.
Instagram has more than 130m users and Eventstagram sensed an opportunity to make the most of such a strong user base, delivering a solution that aggregates photos taken at events by fans onto screens. It recently secured a deal with O2 for the operator's 4G launch, and will push gig-goers filter-based snaps across monitors across London.
Fetch's staff numbers have increased by 380 per cent since January 2012 and it boasts a 100 per cent turnover year-on-year. The company expanded overseas and opened a San Francisco HQ to complement its London base, and alleviate some of the work generated running over 20 accounts in 40 countries for clients like eBay and Krispy Kreme.
Fireproof Games is a subsidiary of Fireproof Studios that launched with a sole focus on iPad production. Debut title The Room, which was released in September 2012, reached number one on the Paid App chart in the UK, US and 64 other countries – impressive by anyone's standards. This prompted the Room Pocket to launch for iPhone and Android, while the original Room has passed sales of 2m.
In addition to its London HQ, Golden Gekko also has homes in NYC, Barcelona, Stockholm and Berlin and Cambodia. The company produces apps and HTML5 mobile sites for clients including Heathrow Airport and Warburtons, and has worked with more than 150 brands in total since launching in 2005.
Grapple has supported B&Q, NatWest, RBS and Premier Inn over the past year, and helped the latter double in-app transactions following a revamp, and the pair are hoping to build on the 100,000 mobile bookings experienced in 2012. The firm has launched a Brand Insights Engine to provide clients with data trends, so they can move with the market, and insists mobile CRM is key for monetisation.
The mobile taxi market is as crowded as Central London during rush hour, but Hailo seems to have distinguished itself from rivals – the yellow cabs will have helped. The company started the year with a spring in its step and secured a $30.6m funding round – taking the total past $50m – which was used to push into New York, Spain and Tokyo to bolster its $100m plus sales.
Location: Royal Leamington Spa
Hardlight Studio started its journey by helping Sega Europe push into the digital market in 2011, reinventing the company's branded titles for the mobile world. PlayStation Vita was originally on the menu, but the focus has been all about iOS, Android and Windows Phone since then. Sonic Jump and Sonic Dash have been released over the past year and hit 9m and 16m downloads respectively.
Judo delivers customised payment solutions to mobile websites and Android and iOS apps, allowing merchants to offer their customers one-click payments and make the most of their traffic through a single API. In summer the company ran a £1m competition, which rewarded app developers with free credit and debit card processing for their commerce-based creations.
Advertising can be irksome and LoopMe knows that, which is why it launched a solution that makes mobile ads less intrusive and more likely to drive engagement. Promos appear via an inbox that can be integrated into apps, offering consumers the opportunity to decide for themselves whether they want to interact. Ads are rated by users to make the concept social, so its in the best interest for brands to generate interesting content. LoopMe raised $500,000 in January.
Made In Mind
2009-launched Made In Mind was a runner-up in the Smart UK Project at Mobile World Congress this year, achieving a spot for its redesign of the traditional UK plug and charger. The Mu, as it's known, has a foldable design and is being rolled out internationally following three funding rounds and an audience with the Queen. The slimness was inspired to match that of smartphones, and it can charge any device that connects via USB.
MagicSolver is an app discovery company that has evolved since winning the Cambridge University Entrepreneurs contest in 2009. The team tests thousands of apps from developers globally, with the best of the best selected for a daily round-up on the FreeAppMagic app for iOS and Android, as well as for special events like Christmas. MagicSolver celebrated its fourth birthday in July and has reached 30m users in 120 countries.
Cross-platform tools provider Marmalade has had a busy year, offering its developers support for Windows Phone 8, Roku, Tizen, Intel-based Android devices and BlackBerry 10. The company has also launched a Rapid App Development SDK to 'turbo-charge' games creation, while it's partnered Immersion for Haptic tools integration as Fortumo enables in-app purchasing and operator billing.
Sector: Mobile ticketing
Masabi specialises in delivering ticketing solutions for the transport industry, assisting UK train operators such as Greater Anglia and Virgin. The company launched its first Stateside service in November 2012 through a partnership with Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and processed $1m worth of rail tickets in seven weeks. It went on to secure a $2.8m funding round in March, which will be used to continue expanding in the US.
Sector: Children's apps
'Disneyland for the iPad' is how Mindshapes' CCO describes its flagship MagicTown storytelling platform, which offers one free story a day or unlimited access for £2.49 a month. The company has worked with the BBC and schools to hone its products and generate feedback, and truly believes its materials can be beneficial to children's learning. More than 400,000 families use its educational apps each month.
Location: High Wycombe
MPOS systems are rising in popularity, with company after company introducing their own unique solutions. Well, not quite unique. Miura Systems is the manufacturer creating Chip & PIN units for Intuit, Payleven, PayPal and so on. Claiming around 95 per cent of the mobile Chip & PIN space, the company expects to ship half a million units this year.
mPowa is one of the many MPOS systems doing the rounds at the moment, launching in summer 2012 to kick-start the payments method in the UK and replicate the success of US-based Square. The business looked beyond simply processing card payments for clients this year, and has set about branding the products for telcos to allow them to maintain their identity with business users.
Sector: Enterprise apps
Mubaloo has developed over 170 apps for clients in retail, gaming, finance and more over the past four years, and it struck gold in April when EE partnered it to produce apps for its business customers. The enterprise specialist recently launched sister business, The Responsive Website Design Company.
NaturalMotion's CSR Racing game turned one in June, having generated $12 million revenue after its first month of launch on the App Store. It expanded in April with an Android launch. NM has built on its Oxford footprint with offices in London and San Francisco, while it acquired Brighton-based developer Boss Alien in summer last year.
Last year Neon Play's CEO claimed mobile games would replace consoles within the next five years, with the graphics on smartphones and tablets rivalling the wired box alternatives. The studio turned three in June and revealed it had smashed past 50 million downloads in 155 countries. It will forever be a part of mobile games history, having had its Paper Glider game become the ten billionth app download on the App Store.
On Device Research
Sector: Market data
On Device Research specialises in, well, research on devices. That means pushing surveys to mobile users on behalf of companies, harnessing the ability to target respondents based on location, device, time and beyond. More than nine million people in over 54 countries have taken the survery so far.
Crowd-sourced information service OpenSignal cuts through the clutter and tracks mobile operator data from users based on their individual reports, which can be made in real-time. The apps display maps and make it clear what networks are performing well or badly and where, while the app also displays free wi-fi networks. OpenSignal debuted on Android originally but launched for iOS in April and the company was also declared Smart UK Project champion at MWC 2013.
Oxygen8 provides marketing and payments support through SMS to companies including Aer Lingus, Halfords, Travelodge and Unilever. For example, airlines can push flight details and check-in barcodes, while a retailer can drive people into stores with text-based promotions that need to be redeemed at specified locations. The company boasts offices in ten countries and operates in 20.
Paddle has developed a wallet solution that stores the card details of the user safely in the cloud, so that consumers needn't enter their information each time they want to make a payment online. The service supports iOS, Android and desktops and completes transactions within ten-seconds via barcode scan. The company is currently working with M&S.
ParcelGenie is the gifting service designed solely for mobile, allowing users to buy and send real gifts to loved ones via SMS. The presents are posted once the recipient accepts the text, and the app runs across the App Store, Google Play, and Windows Phone. All treats are posted First Class Royal Mail and there are more than 50 goodies to choose from.
We're continually told to change passwords regularly, and with the abundance of digital accounts the average person has, it's easy to forget what they were. PixelPin has changed the security game with a solution that replaces passwords with pictures, clicking on it in specific places only they would know in order to sign in. It's cross-platform too, so supports smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops.
Proxama is the NFC specialist that has worked with huge brands such as KFC, EE, Costa, 20th Century Fox and beyond. The company teamed with Guinness in August for a marketing campaign that encourages drinkers of the black stuff to their device against the beverage makers harp logo to discover whether they've won a free pint.
Music has changed drastically over the past few years, with physical sales damaged by the power of digital downloads and streaming. Psonar's concept, however, has a pay-per-play strategy to offer consumers song play for as little as 1p per listen. The idea is to cater to those that feel subscriptions are too much hassle and downloads are too pricey.
Qriously is designed to make mobile advertising an interactive experience through question-based apps, which provide developers and brands with real-time data and analytics, and the option to ask questions suited to their personal interests. The company reaches more than 300m users and has worked with Lexus, eBay, Samsung and more.
No longer just a music detection app, Shazam is all about media discovery and has been furthering its push into TV over the past year. It's teamed with brands like Volvo to encourage Shazam users to tag the ads and access additional content and has even made plans to take the scheme to cinemas. The apps continue to be updated with new features, such as auto-tagging, while the company secured a $40m investment from America Movil.
Video is huge in the mobile space right now, as demonstrated by the likes of Vine and Instagram. Six3, however, had the jump on the two US companies with a debut last year. While it's still in beta, the video messaging company has been bolstering its iOS engineering team to enhance its clip-based comms service. Over the past year, Six3 furthered its reach with Facebook integration.
The agency has exploded massively in its four years of service, now employing more than 130 people across EMEA, the US and APAC, with a HQ in six cities. It secured funding earlier in the year from a pot that was being managed by the Mayor of London, which was used to advance engineering. Somo helped Audi enter the AR market this year and has been tinkering with Google Glass recently.
Live music startup Songkick provides users personalised updates about events, offering the ability to track favourite performers, which can be chosen manually, via iTunes, Last.fm or Facebook Likes, and push alerts when they're playing nearby. The company secured a $10m fundraiser last year to make hires and produce new products, and more than six million people use the service a month. Meanwhile, the iOS app, which was developed by a third-party, was recently moved in-house.
Space Ape Games
Space Ape Games was recently drafted into Facebook's mobile games publishing project, which will see the social network provide the studio with exposure and expertise. The startup has a focus on the mobile and social games arena, and has produced real-time sports betting app Call It: Football, which lets users compete against friends and other players globally.
SwiftKey was forged by then 22-year-old Jon Reynolds, who now rules as CEO, with the realisation that many friends were failing to type successfully on smartphones. He enlisted Cambridge University friend Ben Medlock and SwiftKey was born. The technology allows users to type without typing, simply dragging their finger from letter to letter to create messages, emails and so on. Consumers can download the app to their devices, while some OEMs embed the solution into their devices as standard.
txtNation has pledged operator billing in Belgium and Switzerland, while the firm has added more than a dozen new EMEA markets to its payments platform and powerered in-app payments and operator billing for over 400 brands including EA, Easyjet, Samsung and Nokia. txtNation recently attacked the app market with the acquisition of 24GMedia and secured access to Pizza Hut and more.
UK Music Apps
If a recording studio is out of your price range, UK Music Apps-owned SessionBand is the iOS music app that provides users the tools to create high quality music in minutes. It boasts jazz, piano and acoustic guitar editions to support different tastes and offers one-touch recording and more.
Do you like living on the edge? You look like you do. YPlan is 100 per cent mobile and all about spontaneity. The team of entertainment experts creates a app-based list of the hottest events and speeds up the booking process with users able to pay in just two taps, while the need to print is eliminated. The company has supported Kanye West and The Comedy Store among others.
Innovative app company Yuza is always behind unique projects, with one creation arriving in the form of self-help app Digipill, which has passed 1m downloads since launching earlier this year. Meanwhile, affiliate gambling platform BetFuze boasts partners Ladbrokes and William Hill. Snapcam is also an interesting service, one that was debuted at a recent Nokia launch, with the mobile app enabling digital-to-real world photo printing in partnership with Xerox.
Social TV service Zeebox was one of the first to recognise the second-screen space. The app aggregates content related to the TV shows viewers are watching into one stream. Versions for Android tablets and BB10 were launched this year, while broadcaster Telemundo recently became the first US-based Hispanic Zeebox partner. The firm has also introduced personalised 'TV Rooms' to enhance interactions between brands and consumers and offers 'spoiler-free tweeting.'