The chaps at Hotxt

Doug and David of Hotxt

Doug and David of Hotxt
Originally uploaded by ew4n.

Yesterday I met up with Doug Richard and David Whitewood of Hotxt. I had a super time and came away very encouraged and excited by what they’re cooking up. More on this soon!

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

23 replies on “The chaps at Hotxt”

“Hotxt has received around £4 million of investment from the UK’s leading technology experts at Cambridge Angels…”

Errr. Maybe I’ve been away too long, but isn’t four million pounds an awful lot of money? What on Earth is all this money earmarked for? From what I’ve seen so far, Hotxt presents itself as real back-of-a-fagpacket stuff. The website and mobile application materials are slightly tacky and could easily be replicated for a few thousand quid.

So there really does need to be something pretty mahoosive going on behind the scenes to justify the remaining 3.999 million quid, surely?…

Im not sure I agree that what we’ve done so far is “bag of fag packet stuff that could be replicated for a few thousand quid” but you are correct that £4M is alot of money, and hopefully, what we’re doing will reflect that in due course.

John, are you saying that they didn’t quite abide by the ICSTIS rules on text subscriptions (to cover the £1 per week)? Surely not Doug!? As a proper startup with professional funding and an experienced and seasoned businessman on board, I cannot believe for a minute that they wouldn’t have done their homework before launch on all the industry guidelines that they would be governed by.

However…as a mobile consultancy we get quite frustrated at the stupidness of a lot of clients (wow that sounds harsh about ones own clients but afraid it needs saying) who refuse advice on industry regulations.

We say to them “oh can we offer our one day consultancy package (ok it’s £1000 but when you have say 4 million to launch a new project…) to review your mobile model and guide you on industry guidelines and even areas of gambling law” (text competitions is a classic one that people fall over on). And the responses we get far too often are “oh no don’t worry I’ve got a mate who works at vodafone and he said its ok” or “oh I’ll get someone to read the icstis guidelines over the weekend” or “no we don’t have a budget for that (even though they are about to blow a few million on ‘marketing’)”.

There are just too many people entering this game “because mobile is the thing to be in” without doing enough homework. A bit of consultancy from people who understand the game could save £100,000 fine from ICSTIS or a criminal record for breaking various gambling acts…

With regard to what Kevin above said though; I think the perception of fag-packet stuff is more to do with the fact that as seasoned mobile app developers, a lot of us have looked at the hotxt java application and the process for downloading it and just think it is ‘not very good’. Maybe it has been re-done, but the last time Kevin and I looked at it was several months ago and frankly it was awful in terms of usability and design and contained several bugs that any developer worth his salt would have hanged himself over! it just felt like only 0.1% of the company’s budget had been spent on some very young and inexperienced developers to build the central piece of the company’s offering. Again, a typical mobile startup scenario where the line in the spreadsheet that says “development” is seriously lacking.

steve procter

I’d have thought that investment in the uk independant mobile software industry would be a welcome thing and not something to be taking a pop at…

Google probably started on the back of a fag packet and in lay man’s terms you could explain the way it works in 2 minutes… Bet it took longer to program !

Its very easy to say that something is easy to do and ‘I could to that’ but its very difficult to do something that works well all of the time and when you’re up at 3am wonding why something worked 99 times but didn’t the hundred’th …..

I suppose you can just refer back to the fag packet….

Hi Steve,
To be clear we did spend a long time reading the ICSTIS regulations and gettiing expert advice from our aggregator MX Telecom as part of the value they provide their clients. Hotxt has not fallen foul of ICSTIS or anyone else.

As a professional and well constituted business we carried our extensive market research: the £1 a week price point was VERY appealing. The difficulty was overcoming the trust barrier related to PSMS payments relating to subscription services. Hence the change in tack.

Finally an invitation, if you believe your company has something to offer in terms of expertise or advice then why not contact Carl Uminski our CTO.

David Whitewood

well said Mark.

all investment in UK innovation welcomed.

Steve maybe you could have got some business by chatting to them directly, rather than posting your (pretty unconstructive) comments here! Or is this sort of business no good for you?

mark/njar, erm I am not criticising investment in the uk independant mobile software industry. I’m criticising the lack of it; the fact that from an entire startup budget, far too many companies are simply not assigning enough of it to the development and research phase; and that this very often shows in the quality of the service.

And with all due respect, myself and my colleagues, like many of the cool people on this and other blogs/forums all have a lot of experience of building mobile applications over many years to feel that we have earned the right to a offer small bit of professional criticism of both the way people in this industry are working and also of actual applications. Come on guys, surely we can all push each other and learn in order grow this great industry from it’s current young and slightly immature state to something really very exciting.

David, yes I was sure you would have done enough homework, I was simply following on John’s comment – which I guess wasn’t a very good lead to follow – sorry if it has come across as even suggesting you fell foul of icstis; I hope John (whoever he is) clears up what he was trying to get at with his remark!! Although I still maintain that the actual app was lacking when I last looked at it and in my eyes, if an app fails when I first try it, I will delete it and never come back – which stretches how far those marketing dollars have to go to attract and keep customers. Good luck with the next phase of whatever is planned. I didn’t say it before but the overall concept of Hotxt is very exciting!

steve procter

The ICSTIS comment was in relation to anther interview these guys gave to Russell Buckley:

and (rather obliquely) a comment I saw Doug make elsewhere about the realisim of Dragons Den – it being very realistic apart from the lack of due dilligence. The subscriptions rules (and the consumer behaviour around subscriptions) were known quite a long time before hotxt launched.

ok Doug/David, sorry to come tearing back again but…and this follows from Alex’s post just now…

yesterday I got a text from you reminding me to bookmark some phone number or other. Now I haven’t used your service for 4 or 5 months so was a bit shocked to get a text from a shortcode which did not have the words “free msg” at the beginning to inform me that I wasn’t being billed for the message.

I can’t possibly imagine why your current mobile partner MX Telecom wouldn’t have told you about best practice for informing customers, etc when they gave you “expert advice” on running premium rate services.

steve procter

Yes… I got that too….

Hummmm, I dont like that at all but if I was a teenager or at uni I’d probably love it.

I must be getting to the old git stage now…!

I’m very unconvinced about the whole proposition.

When you consider that mobile operator ARPUs are falling against a back drop of competitive and regulator (e.g. roaming) pressure, they are not going to sit back and let anyone cannibalise precious SMS revenues.

Steve P is right, the user experience needs more work. Downloading the applet is very hit and miss. Missed calls to indicate waiting messages! That could become very annoying.

Even if the business starts to gain some traction, what happens if the mobile operators decide to blacklist the URLs that the Applet uses…

Also, what happens if the mobile operators introduce minimum charges per WAP data tranfer (Voda already do this on roaming data). They would be perfectly in their rights to do so and wouldn’t be seen as anti-competitive towards hotxt.

Oh, and in the defence of MX, they are (in my opinion), the best aggregator in the country with an excellent legal team and a first class platform.

Just my thoughts!



Apart from downloading the app via MMS or SMS, downloading to the desktop and transfering or having the app pre installed by the phone supplier, how else can you distribute your application?



So far, my experience of Hotxt has been this.

I downloaded it a while back, and installed it to my phone. Went ‘oh that’s nice’ (like you do), and never used it again.

Then I upgraded my N80, got rid of a pile of apps I didn’t use, and to be honest had almost forgotten about Hotxt til I was flooded with calls and texts from Hotxt telling me I had a new message.

Being the curious person that I am – and knowing that I hadn’t actually given out my Hotxt details to anyone, I decided to download it again.

After a bit of fiddling around, I got it installed, went to run it – nothing. Clicked again, still nothing. Clicked a few more times, not a sausage. So I rebooted my phone and tried again.

This time it came up, merrily went off and done loads of things and chewed some data (apparently initialising itself), and then finally.. the moment of truth. Who was this Hotxt from?

It was from Hotxt, telling me about their new improved service. So wait, I’ve just fiddled around for best part of 20 minutes, had two texts and two phone calls just to receive a marketing message?

I did find a little bug though, apart from the one Steve has already pointed out with the lack of ‘freemsg’ etc on the front of the text from the shortcode. It called me at 17:27 from 0845 054 6898 with the rather sleepy sounding female announcement telling me that I had a new Hotxt.

Then I had a text from 80468 at 17:28 telling me to bookmark the 0845 number. Having proper work to do and no time to sort out my Hotxt reinstall, I picked up a call at 18:27 from 0207 754 8958, thinking it was a customer. Nope, it was same drowsy female voice-in-a-tin reminding me I had to read my Hotxt.

So let me get this right, it called at 17:27 from the 0845 number, text at 17:28 to remind me to save the 0845 number to my phone book, then called again at 18:27 from a completely different number to remind me again?

Oh and after all that, it was marketing spam.

I’m not going to rant, or be bitter.. but hopefully someone at Hotxt will pick up on this and sort it out, as maybe other people aren’t so understanding if they’ve been through what I’ve just been through.

Quote from the Vodafone PRS code of practice..

‘SMS Advertising – For all SMS/MMS or WAP-based
advertising, marketing or promotion, the message shall be
FOC to the subscriber and begin with the text “FreeMsg”.’

Sure there’s more examples around, but that’ll do for a start.

Thanks everyone for their feedback. I know our product team will be take a long hard look at it.

Question – since Hotxt is no longer a premium rate service, its FREE. is it appropriate to get for texts to start FreeMsg for what are customer service messages?

Hope to meet some of you at future MoMo events.


David, as far as I know yes as it’s being sent from a shortcode. However, rules and regulations aside, putting ‘Freemsg’ etc at the start of each message isn’t going to hurt – if you asked most consumers how much a message from a shortcode cost I reckon they’d give you a figure, as they associate a shortcode with something they’re charged for.


absolutely yes you should!!!

…unless you want to field a million calls from users wanting you to confirm whether it was a free or premium message (because the public is being taught that shortcode equals premium rate). you will also save a handful of calls from ICSTIS saying that they have had complaints from users who “think” they have been charged a premium sms.

The industry guidelines should not treated too literally. try and understand why they are there, what they are trying to achieve in terms of usability and user education about your service.

And just because it is now non-premium sms, you really should be looking at some instructions (and STOP is a very good one) or links to your website, etc to help your users understand how to end the service. You really may not want them to do that but you have no choice and if you make it impossible for them to you will alienate them (and the friends they tell).

The above is based on iTAGG’s four and a half years of running a mobile business and understanding real user experience so i hope it is of use.

steve procter

[…] Perhaps you’ve heard a lot about ULC (Ultra Low Cost) cellphones in the industry (many companies are aiming this market, see The Motorola F3)…but they are targetted to new markets, where text rendering/input is really more complex than our relatively simple alphabet: it is mandatory if you want to reach the mass of Indian users, Sri Lanka, Cambodge, Hebrew, Arabic, Philippina , Chineese…and you want cause “texting (smsing)” is a big thing: else your new emerging market will be limited to eastern Europe or South America, and be sure that text messaging will continue growing bigger. Look at the buzz around hotxt (read this mobHappy article about this new service, even if it is all but positive about it or at SMS Text News, please check the comments on this one… ) or Berggi (Berggi GigaOM article, I’m not sure about the business model of such an offer, 10 bucks a month to send sms!!). IM is perhaps the next text heavyweight champion (check this techCrunch article about the next bif ideas around IM) So Text IS big and will stay big…so emerging markets have to have the tools to leverage this potential! Two different issues to be fixed araise: […]

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