INTERVIEW: biNu’s Mark Shoebridge on the next 4 billion users

Feature phones are widely used in the developing world, especially in Africa, to access the Internet leaving the user on the periphery as far as new Web services targeted and developed for smartphones are concerned. An Australian technology startup company believes it has the solution to this.

biNu, an 18 months old technology startup company from South Africa, is looking to radically improve mobile Internet experience, especially to those using feature phones and low-end smartphones by providing faster, low-cost, easy access to Internet based apps and services.

biNu, as an app platform, looks to allow its users to instantly discover, use and switch between cloud-based apps, change to local languages and translate almost anything on the fly, without having to download, install and update separate apps each time.

In addition to using biNu to access favorite apps such as Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more than 100 other services such as email, books, health information, news, sports, weather and classifieds listings, biNu users can also interact with each other via social features including social profiles, newsfeeds, chat/messaging and sharing making it a content-rich mobile social community.

HumanIPO managed to talk to Mark Shoebridge, VP Marketing at biNu, on the motivation behind the app platform.

HumanIPO: What was the motivation behind the creation of biNU?

Shoebridge: Mobile phones are a critical device, and becoming more so, yet so much focus is paid to the minority of people in the world who have access to the high-end smartphones and the best cellular networks.

We set out to developed technology and services that bring the experiences and services people on high end smartphones are used to, to the billions of people around the world who don’t have them. In just 18 months, we have over 4 million active users and a vibrant mobile social community.

Where do you see the future of mobile phones and the internet going?

We see a significant amount of growth still in the low-end smartphone and feature phone market. There are 4 billion people who don’t have a high-end smartphone and, while in the medium term a small few may be in a position to buy one (and hopefully have access to a mobile network that can support it) for the remainder there is a world of content, information, entertainment and news that can be viewed and shared.

Mobile money, while better developed in markets like Africa than even America, still has a long way to go, and with it a whole range of commerce and services. It’s a little like the early days of the internet all over again.

One of your uses is that people read books on feature phones, any involvement with educational institutions or plans to do so?

We have been approached by a number of educational, government and NGO organisations who are very interested in how the biNu platform can help them reach millions of people in the developing world. We currently work with WorldReader and others will no doubt come on board.

Where are the bulk of your users (geographic area)?

biNu members are split between Africa, Asia, Latin America, South America and Europe, with a small number of members in Oceania and North America.

Shoebridge will be speaking at the upcomingMobile Web Africa 2012 event taking place in Johannesburg towards the end of November 2012. His talk will be titled “The creation of a data-lite app that offers feature phone consumers fast, affordable and usable internet service: How a combination of the cloud and maximising the functionality of feature phones has attracted 4 million active monthly users.”

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