Millions of people do not read for one reason: they do not have access to text. But today mobile phones and cellular networks are transforming a scarce resource into an abundant one.
“One thing about data in Africa is that there’s a huge lack of it,” says Jasper Grosskurth, managing director of Research Solutions Africa, a pan-African research firm based in Nairobi, Kenya. “If there is data, it’s usually unreliable and dubious,” he continues.
Gour Lentell insists he’s not trying to change the world. As co-founder and CEO of the Sydney-based start-up biNu, he says he simply wants to build a great company. The fact that that company is enabling millions (and, perhaps someday, billions) of people in the developing world to connect to the Internet is, he says, just a nice byproduct.
biNu, a startup that makes technology for feature phones, has been recognized by the United Nations for its efforts in bringing better quality of life to people around the world. To honor the startup’s work, the UN today gave biNu a MY World Innovation Award. The award especially speaks to biNu’s work toward creating the next set of Millennium Development Goals for the UN.
biNu, a cloud platform which enables web access to rival the iPhone… but for 2G feature phones, is proving hugely successful across Asia and Africa. Kathryn Cave speaks to co-founder Gour Lentell about Mills and Boon, credit cards and the surprising street network that could propel African consumers firmly into the digital age.
You can teach an old feature phone new tricks. Among the 6 billion mobile phones in the world, most aren’t the smart kind, which means they can’t run the hundreds of thousands of apps now available. And while there are efforts to make smartphones more affordable, that won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, Gour Lentell’s Australia-based startup, biNu, has a technology to help bridge the app divide — software that can give feature phone users a Facebook or YouTube app experience without the need of a pricey iPhone or Android device.
biNu, the startup that focuses on bringing first-class apps to developing markets, has just extended its feature-phone platform to include Android-powered devices. This means that folks with spotty cell service and limited access to electricity will be able to use apps like Facebook, download ebooks, and watch video clips on YouTube without putting unnecessary strain on their already limited assets.
“‘And if I refuse to marry you?’ Although she did her best not to allow her feelings to show, she was conscious of the fact that her voice trembled slightly. Max looked at her. ‘I think you know the answer to your own question.’” Mocked, derided and lampooned, the text above could only come from one source. Yes, this is straight from the opening paragraph of a Mills and Boon, courtesy of Harlequin UK Ltd. Of course it is extremely easy to criticise, yet Mills and Boons are phenomenally popular, boasting 3.2 million readers in the UK and 50 million worldwide.
Last week, I wrote about an Australian entrepreneur who sold an ad-serving company to 25/7 Media for $75 million only to see its value evaporate in the dotcom crash. He then built up a search engine marketing company that he eventually also sold to 24/7, this time for $30 million when the Internet industry was in recovery. In that post, I mentioned that Gour Lentell was also working on a new startup, biNu, which offers an app platform that gives feature phones smartphone-like functionality.
It sounds counterintuitive, but in certain developing nations it’s easier to get hold of a cell phone than a good book. More than one in three adults cannot read in sub-Saharan Africa, yet almost every home there has access to at least one mobile phone, according to USAID. Developing nations are among the fastest growing mobile markets in the world, but literacy is still a big problem.
biNu Opens Its Feature Phone Platform To Third Party Apps, Starting With Romance Publisher Harlequin
biNu, a startup that brings apps and content to feature phones and lower-end smartphones, is announcing the first partner in its third-party platform. And that partner isn’t just another tech company — instead, biNu is working with the UK division of romance publisher Harlequin to offer 8,700 books, including the romance titles published by its Mills & Boon subsidiary, in the biNu app.
BiNu, the cloud-based service that brings apps and other smartphone-like experiences to feature phones, has followed its $4.1 million Series A round announced in November with news that it has passed 5 million monthly active users worldwide. In conjunction with the milestone, the 2010-founded company is introducing a range of new features, including cloud storage and a Snapchat-clone.
Back in August, the company said it had raised $2 million from Eric Schmidt’s Tomorrow Ventures, along with the Savannah Fund, David Risher, and Paul Bassat. Now the company says that was just a partial close of the round, which has expanded by another $2.3 million, and now includes 500 Startups, Dick Parsons’ and Richard Lauder’s PanAfrican Invesmetment Co., CVC Capital Partners’ Adrian McKenzie, Australian economist Nicholas Gruen, and Lend Lease Ventures’ Anthony Pascoe.
Not everyone has the sheer level of access to information that comes with owning a smartphone, but biNu is working to close that gap. Short of handing everyone in the world iPhones, the company is making it possible for many in the developing world to connect quickly to modern apps through cheaper and older phones.
We wrote about biNu back in August, when it announced it had secured $2 million from Eric Schmidt’s Tomorrow Ventures and others, and now the emerging market-focused mobile startup has closed its Series A round having raised a total of $4.3 million.
Everything is the opposite in emerging markets, there are not many screens in the average person’s life, and the one screen that is there is the mobile and they use it as a primary means of internet access not a secondary or the third level. This is the internet for many consumers, and they are very price sensitive.
In August, after biNu’s much reported $2 million Series A funding round, we noted that the emerging markets “Smartphone in the cloud” service seemed to be morphing itself into a mobile social network. It became apparent later that this indeed was the case. Now it’s not just a gradual background morph; biNu Social is here.
Social media content platform biNu attracts 0.5 million books readers on low-end smartphones and feature-phones
Africans have a thirst for mobile content and it’s not just for SMS news headlines and football scores. Last week social media content platform biNu announced that its partnership with World Reader had netted it 0.5 million book readers on mobile phones and that the number was growing 30% a month.
You could consider biNu a contrarian bet on technology. It is built on the expectation that smartphones will not be affordable to the bulk of the world population anytime soon. It is a reasonable one that has many startups salivating at a prospective market of delivering smartphone smarts, if you will, to about five billion people who will hold on to their cheaper feature phones.
biNu, a startup backed by Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures, allows owners of feature phones and lower-end smartphones to access apps like Facebook and Twitter. Now the company is getting more ambitious on the social networking side.
BiNu is a platform that brings smartphone app services to feature phones, a.k.a. “dumb” phones, reviled by the technorati but still widely used around the globe. The startup’s premise is a brilliant one, one that promises to bring new heights of information, communication, and connectivity to some of the least-empowered areas on our planet; to that end, biNu has just taken $2 million.
Eric Schmidt’s Tomorrow Ventures is leading a $2 million Series A round in biNu, an Australian startup that enables feature phones to run cloud-based smartphone apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and Google. BiNu highlights the opportunity in developing markets where smartphone penetration is low.
Savannah Fund, a new African venture capital outfit founded by Erik Hersman, Paul Bragiel and Mbwana Alliy, has contributed to a $2 million fundraising round for biNu mobile, a mobile app platform that brings iPhone-like experiences to low-end smartphones and feature phones.
biNu, a popular mobile application for feature phones in emerging markets is morphing into its own social networking platform as more and more native social features are added to the platform by the Australian startup.
biNu is actively playing an important part in emerging markets. The company has managed the impossible feat of making social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, as fast on any Java-running 2G feature phone as on a 3G smartphone. As well, it’s just as interactive. While the average iPhone toter may not be among their target market, biNu manages to pull in over four million monthly active users, specifically targeting developing nations.
Binu lands $2m Series A funding led by TomorrowVentures to bring the benefits of apps to ‘dumb phones’
Australia-based biNu, a mobile startup that brings smartphone-like experiences to ‘dumb phones’, has closed a $2 million round of Series A funding which included participation from Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures and private investors in the US and Australia.
Australian mobile app platform developer BiNU has captured the interest and US$2 million in funding from Eric Schmidt’s investment vehicle TomorrowVentures, former Seek founder and serial entrepreneur Paul Bassat and a number of US private investors.
Who’d have thought there would be so much smart money in dumb phones? A coterie of heavyweight investors including billionaire Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and the co-founder of Seek.com.au, Paul Bassat, have just invested $2 million in biNu, an Australian mobile app platform targeting the four or five billion people who don’t have smartphones.
A MOBILE start-up based in Sydney has secured $2 million in funding from a swag of high-profile investors including Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures and Seek co-founder Paul Bassat. binu (pronounced bye new) develops software that makes browsing the internet on older mobile phones as fast as on modern counterparts such as the Apple iPhone.
“The market is huge,” says Gour Lentell, the Zimbabwe-born, Sydney-based co-founder of a company called biNu. “There are around five billion mobile users in the world today, and more than four billion of them are non smart-phone users. And yet, the mobile forms their only and primary means of accessing the internet. Many of those people will go to extraordinary lengths to have internet access from their mobile devices.”
There’s already evidence to suggest that the smartphone revolution is taking its toll on text messaging in industrialized markets where services like instant messaging and social networks arguably do a better job of keeping people in touch, but even in emerging markets — places where even 3G data is often nonexistent — the writing may be on the wall.