Hi its James from mjelly here at Mobile Industry Review with another “Mobile 2.0 Service of the Week”. This time we’re going to take a look at ebuddy – which might be the next big European startup success story to follow in the footsteps of Skype and Last.fm. I spoke with the CEO Jan-Joost Rueb earlier this week and he filled me in on the latest and greatest on their absolutely stunning user metrics and some interesting stuff about how powerful mobile is becoming as a platform relative to the PC-web.
What is it
eBuddy lets you log into your IM networks like AIM, Googletalk, MSN Messenger and ICQ as well as the Facebook and Myspace social network chat systems from a single account. The service also integrates with mobile photo-sharing.
Initially the service was based on a PC web messenger but was extended to mobile with the launch of the Mobile Messenger Java app and a mobile web site Lite Messenger which is optimized for XHTML mobile browsers as well as the iphone, ipod Touch and Sony PSP.
eBuddy is truly international with support for 37 languages and offices in Amsterdam, London and San Fransisco. The company has raised two rounds of funding, Series A (5m euro) from Lowland Capital Partners, and Series B (6.5m euro) from Prime Technology Ventures.
The mobile IM space is really hotting up and eBuddy faces a range of international competitors which we have previously covered here at Mobile Industry Review like Nimbuzz, Mig33 and Heysan as well as some strong local players such as Mxit in South Africa. However, as the CEO Jan-Joost points out, ebuddy is the one to beat in this space with really massive traction – here are the latest numbers:
– 11m downloads of the ebuddy mobile application, growing at the rate of 1m downloads per month
– average user logs in 30 times per month
– 3m monthly uniques on mobile, growing at CAGR 195% (2004 to 2008)
– processed 45bn messages in 2008
eBuddy was founded in 2003, in the depths of the dot com nuclear winter, at a time when people were writing off mobile internet as a failure – so its a great success story for these difficult times!
Why is it interesting?
As a converged service working across online and mobile eBuddy offers an interesting case study of the relationship between the two platforms as mobile gets stronger and stronger.
In some markets, such as Indonesia, eBuddy’s mobile traffic is 2-3 times its web traffic, providing more evidence to support the view that mobile is going to be the primary online access channel on a global basis. eBuddy is also finding that they are able to build a web brand and web traffic as a result of their presence in mobile – this is the inverse of the way things normally work e.g. facebook mobile building off the strength of the PC site.
Whilst eBuddy haven’t started monetising their mobile traffic yet there is clearly a massive opportunity both from mobile advertising and from user-payments – Jan-Joost mentioned a Chinese IM player called QQ which is already generating $700m p.a. in mobile payments revenue in addition to $300m in advertising. There are other examples such as Mobile Gametown in Japan which have also successfully proved this model. With many online web 2.0 sites struggling to build revenue streams it could be services with a big presence in mobile like ebuddy that prove to be more commercially attractive.
The other thing to note about eBuddy is that they are one of the first mobile services to really get viral effects working on a massive scale in mobile. Historically, mobile services have had to invest in high cost customer acquisition through carriage on operator portal decks or off-net advertising. With eBuddy, every time someone logs into an IM network using the system their status is changed to show that they are using the service – which has amplified the word of mouth effects of a great service. As a result, the huge traction that ebuddy enjoys has been achieved with fairly limited marketing spend.
What this all adds up to is a European start-up in the mobile space that could well achieve a major exit in the near future. ebuddy would be a great fit for an international telecoms company, handset vendor or one of the major online players so watch this space…