MoMo Global Peer Awards 2009

I’m just back from Mobile World Congress and will try and jot some impressions down later, from my observations. But one of the highlights (as always) was the Mobile Monday Global Peer Awards, part of which I was lucky enough to judge again this year, for the third time running.

The idea is that each MoMo City chapter puts forward the best early stage startup, as well as the best emerging startup from their part of the world. Then, after a pre-judging session, 12 early stage and 8 emerging startups get to present their companies in 3 minutes, or less, to the audience and panel of judges. I sat on the early stage jury with my pals Roberto Bonanzinga of Balderton, Matthaus Krzykowski of VentureBeat and we were joined by Laure de Saint Denis of Orange and Alejandro Romero of Yahoo!

You can see the whole list of entrants here and it’s worth checking out. With no disrespect to previous years, the standard of companies and presentations was much higher this year and I think most of this list may have actually have won in 2008.

A couple of entrants especially stood out for me.

Firstly, Babajob, which won our section’s Jury Award, from MoMo in Bangalore. Babajob is a business with a social mission, which is always nice. The big idea is that many people are trapped in poverty as they don’t know the right people to get better jobs. As an example, they presented two nannies, one of whom earned $120 a month, because her sister knew some rich people and the other who earned $20 a month because she was born and worked in a slum – despite both doing essentially the same job.

A further issue is that over time in urban areas, people can travel shorter and shorter distances to work, due to congestion. This means that the number of jobs they could do, gets smaller and smaller.

Babajob’s solution is use the mobile as a tool to merchandise new jobs to Bangalore’s poor, via the mobile and it works via IVR, sms, up to a mobile web portal. This is a fantastic use of the mobile as the poor often have no access to other media, such as newspapers or PCs. They also provide incentives to mentors to help illiterate people or those who don’t have mobiles themselves.

Posting a job with them costs Rupees 999 ($20) and for that, you get access to people with various skills living in your area. You then find someone you like and everyone wins.

It’s a very simple idea, but I find it interesting not just because it’s successful (30,000 registered users so far), but because I think it’s an early example of a big trend. Up until now, most innovation in technology has been a one-way street – from the developed world to the developing markets. In the future of mobile, this is likely to change as developing economies will be experiencing the mobile as their first screen and much of their ideas and behaviour are going to be influencing us for the first time.

Orbster was also an idea that makes you think. The idea is that it’s a platform, where unskilled people like me can create their own location based game, quickly and easily, with no knowledge of coding, or location technology. That’s right, user generated content meets location gaming.

An example of a really innovative idea coming out of it, is a fishing game. You get in a real boat and use your phone to land virtual fish!

Mob4Hire was also a neat idea, which brings crowd sourcing to phone testing. Their website connects thousands of qualified phone testers throughout the world with companies that need to know say, how a Nokia 6600 behaves on a Serbian operator network, when loaded with a JME game.

This solves a perennial problem that plagues our industry as anyone who has worked for more than 5 minutes in mobile knows.

Also of special note for me was BioLocate from Jakarta, which helps you avoid traffic jams, while simultaneously passing information on traffic conditions back to their server (another crowd sourcing application) and Aka-Aki from Berlin, a stranger-finder (as opposed to buddy finder), which helps find like-minded people around you in urban areas. Aka-Aki is an a very competitive space, but it’s a very interesting concept.

And if you didn’t go, you should next year. If you’re not a MoMo member, you should be (or start a chapter in your city). And if you have a startup, don’t forget to enter.

Special thanks for Team Rudy for organising it so brilliantly again and a shout-out to Bena Roberts, of GoMoNews for doing a great job as MC this year and for a great party on Wednesday.

Looking forward to Barcelona 2010!

—–>Follow us on Twitter too: @russellbuckley and @caaarlo