Unlimited Drinks London December 2007 – a review


At 5.55pm I arrived at the Number3Bar to setup for SMS Text News Unlimited Drinks December – this time held in the site’s spiritual home of the city of London, centre of Her Majesty’s Empire.

“You can’t come in yet, we’re still setting up,” the huge, tall bouncer blurted out when I walked up to the bar.

“Er,” I said, momentarily taken off guard, “I’ve paid for it, I’m Ewan?” I said.

“Oh, right, come on in,” replied the chap, simultaneously changing from double-hard-bastard bouncer status to friendly giant.

It was a relief to get into the warmth of the bar. I got the ubiquitous Unlimited Drinks banner set up and proceeded to the bar and relaxed when I saw fridges filled to the brim with chilled Carlsberg. Right on. Ready for the onslaught!

First in through the door was Rax Lakhani, social media expert and digital PR genius, from Splendid Communications. Rax has been helping me understand what Blyk are up to (he arranged for me to ‘become Antonio‘).

Rax and I headed to the bar whilst I explained how delighted I was to get a picture message from Blyk suggesting I might want a McChicken sandwich. The message was sent to my handset at midday yesterday.. just when I was thinking about getting something to eat. Unfortunately my 30-year old metabolic rate doesn’t quite compete with that of a 22 year old; so I’m being careful about what exactly I eat nowadays. But… mmm… a McChicken sandwich… 😉

Whilst I was giving a bit of thought to the food I’d arranged for the evening, Oleg Podsechin of technology services company Ionsquare arrived. Ionsquare specialise in providing IT consultancy services for start-up companies and spin-off ventures — they do quite a bit in the mobile sphere. Definitely worth talking to them if you’re on the hunt for some tech assistance.

Dean Elwood, newly appointed Platform Director of Truphone (congratulations Dean) arrived along with, if memory serves, Andy Abramson, CEO of Comunicano — also very well known as Mr VOIP Watch. It was excellent to connect with them both as I’ve been reading their posts for some time.

James Body, Research Director at Truphone arrived in good form. I pointed him out to another attendee just as he was (I kid you not) shuffling his iPhones looking for one of them. I think he had three or four of them, as well as a whole host of other devices. It’s nice to see someone definitely living the dream, eh? I suspect that we should see some announcements from Truphone related to the Apple device soon.

Nick Booth of Late4work arrived. I didn’t get a chance to congratulate him on the Late4work concept. It’s brilliant! You can have a rant about being late for work thanks to Nick’s service. You call +44 151 266 9513 and you record your rant (e.g. “The sodding Victoria Line has stopped working again…”) and Spinvox‘s Spin-my-Blog-Post service converts the voicemail to text and posts the rant on www.late4work.co.uk. Smart.

Mark Tynan, bursting with energy, arrived. Mark runs ShopQwik, one of the most innovative and most valuable mobile services I’ve seen, ever. You can book a flight, a hotel room (or car hire) anywhere in the world within 60 seconds, from your mobile phone. It’s utter genius. Think Expedia on your mobile. Mark was excited because they’ve almost finished adding nearly every single airline on the planet to their service. They have also built one of the world’s most ubiquitous mobile payment gateways by dint of developing ShopQwik. They will no doubt be snapped up shortly. I’m going to be using ShopQwik a lot when I’m in the States.

Ken Young, Managing Editor of The UK Mobile Report swept in to say hi shortly afterwards. I’ve been reading Ken’s work at theukmobilereport.com for a long time and it was excellent to actually connect with him in person. Do check out his site and to your feeds if you haven’t already.

Jayant Pimple, Senior Biz Dev for Aztecsoft popped by to say hi. They do quite a lot of mobile related development services, in particular application development and testing. Just as I was talking to Jayant, the doctor arrived. In the form of Dr Tim Snaith, Research Director for OnePoint SMS Surveys. Tim was accompanied by Managing Director, Neil Jessop (who was sporting an ultra sharp pinstripe suit — kudos). I’ve been going nuts over OnePoint’s services for a month or so now ever since they came across my radar. Try out their demo. Text surveys done right. Think Surveymonkey for mobile. In fact, Surveymonkey should acquire them quickly and start offering mobile services to all their clients. I pointed Tim and Neil to Hetty from event networking service Eventscope — via the bar.

The Blyk chaps arrived shortly afterwards — Adam Levene, Interactive Designer, Geoff Wright, Campaign Producer and Tom Gutteridge, Head of Creative. I demanded cards from them all whilst I regaled them with my experience over the weekend of Blyk. I’ve had exclusive short videos from Ratatouille to messages encouraging me to think McChicken sandwiches. They’re definitely doing their jobs well — and I congratulated them accordingly and pointed them to the bar.

Stephen Wadeley from mobile messaging service provider AQL came bounding in to say hi, (Stephen handles wholesale telecoms sales for them) closely followed by another Doctor in the form of Dr Adam Beaumont, Managing Director. I welcomed both and then went quickly to find Michael Day, a Corporate Life Coach to get his card who’d popped along for a drink.

Just then, the Regulator turned up.

A ripple of awareness flew across the crowd as Sam Morris, Head of Communications and Mark Collins, Policy Executive, arrived from PhonepayPlus (the new name of UK premium rate regulator, ICSTIS). Whilst everyone has an opinion on their new name, I think we’re all agreed that it’s a lot better than ‘ICSTIS’. Sam and Mark came along to learn as much as they could about what the mobile industry in the UK is thinking — and how they can structure the regulations for best results for both the industry and the consumer.

“You’ve come to the right place, then,” I said, waving my hand toward the crowd gathering by the bar, “Most people here are either mobile industry executives, mobile applications developers or have a direct interest in the industry.” Sam’s eyes lit up!

I pointed them both to the bar as I welcomed Terence Eden from Vodafone. Terence was sporting a 2-D barcode business card badge that contained his details. Very smart. He got out his N95, flicked on his QR scanner (“It’s big in Japan, this!”) and proceeded to demonstrate it working really well. Genius. I’ll need to look more closely at these QR codes. Although there in an unofficial capacity, Terence was fantastic with the assembled masses who were firing Vodafone related technical questions at him — to which Terence had no shortage of answers. Right on Terence. It’s good to see Vodafone fielding such smart cookies.

Ben Smith, Principal Consultant for Detica waltzed in with software integration engineer colleague Julian Cooling. Julian’s been behind quite a lot of iPhone related opinion comments posted here on SMS Text News – although he sports one of the old reliable P800 Sony Ericssons. Ben, you may remember, has contributed some excellent pieces to SMS Text News about 3UK X-Series (he also runs a blog on X-Series).

A lady came round with some really nice pizza slices at that point. I helped myself to one and was pleased to note other delicious food trays being handed out across the venue. Good news. I wanted to make sure everyone was fed properly!

Kersti Klami and colleague Elissa Fry arrived from Racepoint Group (the new name for Fuse PR, by the way). Racepoint work for some rather cool mobile related clients so I fired questions at them for a little while asking all about the client activities. I’ll hopefully have some news to publish shortly along with some Q&As.

Stephen Holmes of BloodyBigSpider came bounding in. Stephen’s done the branding and image for almost every one of my companies and has some particularly direct opinions on the mobile industry that I always enjoy hearing. As I was chatting to Stephen, Nicholas Shaw, Director of BlinkSystems arrived. BlinkSystems specialises in providing easy to implement Bluetooth based solutions — so if you’ve got a requirement, particularly when it comes to Bluetooth marketing, do give Nicholas a call and tell him I sent you.

Tee Banwait of web based streaming audio service, meTracks, arrived bearing wickedly good quality meTracks headphones for a few select attendees (he’d run out so only had a few to hand out — lucky for you if you got one). Tee’s busy overseeing the first round of finance for meTracks and I’ve been thoroughly approving of their mobile service that enables you to stream your MP3s from anywhere on the planet to your mobile. Smart.

Speaking of streaming, Caroline Teunissen of video streaming services company, Groovy Gecko, arrived. It’s been a while since I caught up with Caroline so it was super to see her — she’s responsible for business development there at Groovy so if you’ve got a requirement, drop her a note. Caroline arrived with other half, Simon Wilcox of Digital Craftsmen. Although specialist in the provision of website design and management services, Simon’s been doing a ton, a veritable ton, in the mobile industry of late. Alas it’s not yet public but when it is, I’ll be posting about it.

Simon Maddox of Spoken Group came bounding in to say hi. He left me with a funky business card showing him and the Simpsons family sat at what looks like a very cheesy American restaurant. Heh. Brilliant! Simon’s companyy, Spoken Group, have been doing some super things with mobile and books. They work with authors to provide them with a mobile platform — something I think is a terrific way of connecting with interested readers. (e.g. You see a call to action on a billboard at a station, text the keyword and get sent back an audio preview. Brilliance. I’m going to do a post on them shortly).

It was good to see Ben Whitaker of secure mobile developer, Masabi. I’m not sure if they’ve got anything I’m able to talk about yet — but from what he was describing the last time we met, it’s all very smart.

Stuart Brown, Sales & Marketing Director of Mediaburst arrived to say hi. I congratulated their publicity campaign. I firmly believe it’s critical for mobile service providers such as Mediaburst to continually tell the marketplace what they’re doing and with what clients. There’s no need to give away trade secrets, but the more and more providers who actually talk about the brilliant work they’re doing, the better.

Speaking of better industry relations, MX Telecom arrived in the form of Mark Hawkins, Communications Manager and Chris Wilson, Head of Systems Development. Every time I meet someone from MX Telecom, I learn about another market moving service addition or improvement. I can still remember when, back in the day, they were amongst the first to deliver a working picture messaging API. We made great use of that. Mark was telling me that MX have been working heavily on their hugely flexible content management system, CMX2.

I was delighted when WebitPR’s social media manager Stephen Davies walked in. Also known as Mr PR Blogger, Stephen is a wickedly nice chap and has just discovered Twitter. He, like me, isn’t entirely impressed with EAT in the context of Pret A Manger.

The real journalists arrived at this point. Jon Corke, Editor of What Mobile, Jonathan Morris, What Mobile Technology Editor, arrived together with Paul Withers and MaryLou Costa, both reporters at Mobile News. It was excellent to welcome them as I read their stuff regularly — I pointed them directly to the bar then proceeded to fire mobile industry questions at them.

Darryl Ashings of Ashings chartered accountants was in good form — he’s been doing my accounts for years and is an excellent chap to talk to if you’re planning on raising any funding or you need some assistance with your financial matters. Darryl had quite a few clients in the room, if I recall correctly! I bumped into Martyn Davies and had a brief chat with him — far too brief — before I had to welcome a load of people who’s just arrived fresh from MoMo London. Martyn, amongst other things, blogs on Mobile for Blognation. Best that I link you to his LinkedIn page as he’s got a lot going on!

Ladi Sansui and Herve Parrin from mobile service provider TynTec presented themselves to say hi although unfortunately I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to them as Jason Sharpe, head of software development for Consult Hyperion arrived. Again I was just talking to Jason when Nick Hancock of TagText arrived and shortly after Nick came Dave Bush, S40 Java Sub-Project Leader at Nokia. Before I could grab Dave to find out if he knew anyone I could get to help build me a Symbian wordpress editor, the delightful Vero Pepperrell, head of Blog Marketing for Taptu arrived with Ed Hodges, Dan Lane and Jay Fenton of Howler Tech (the company behind ROK Talk). The chaps were fresh from delivering a stonking presentation on their service to the assembled masses at Mo Mo London earlier in the evening. Joining them was James Whatley representing Spinvox and the always-informed Mike Stead of Hutchison.

As I was talking away to Mike I spotted Patrick Smith of Sonus PR at the bar chatting away animatedly to Ed from ROK Talk. They stopped chatting as Dan and Jay got out their phones ready to participate in another ‘Type Off’ — this is an exercise designed to test user interfaces. Now while it’s far from scientific, it’s always interesting to see what device is able to type the sentence ‘testing testing one two three’ quick enough (remembering that each chap is classed as an ultra-geek and therefore expert at using them).

If you’d like to see the results of the Type Off (including the winner), check out this (rather dark) YouTube video filmed by Dan Lane:

Right. Now for some pictures.

First, you can get the Flickr gallery here. I’m going to pull out a few here:

James Whatley of Spinvox, Abul Hussain of Mobile9, Dan Lane of ROK Talk and Vero of Taptu.

Me. Ewan. The usual stand-in-front-of-the-banner picture.

Ed & Dan from ROK Talk

The well stocked fridges behind the unlimited bar

Trying to type as fast as possible on a N95

Ed of ROK, Patrick from Sonus PR and Me

Dan from ROK demonstrates some Vuzix eyewear that plugged into his Nokia N95 camera enabling him to view the back of his head in real time. Nice.

The AQL chaps

Me, Dr Tim and Neil from OnePoint Surveys


Thank you everyone who took the time to come along. I had a super time. Lots more follow-up to do. Please do send me your news and I’ll be back in London soon for another event in 2008.

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