Excitement in the ranks as we enter 2011

Welcome to 2011 at Jumbuck – we are looking forward to an exciting one!

There is no doubt 2010 was a challenging year for all involved with Jumbuck, but one from which we emerge quietly excited about the foundations we now have, and the potential to re-establish our position in the global mobile entertainment world.  So what is driving this optimism? Let’s take a quick look at what is getting us excited:

  • In late December we completed the acquisition of the assets of Insqribe. This brings new skills to Jumbuck, and a technology platform that will accelerate the extension of our mobile communities into the application space (iPhone, Android), and into context and location based services.
  • The first of our new mobile web based communities will be formally launched taking us from the world of romance to that of pets – of the furry four legged and related types. Pets are regarded by many as extended family, are things people obsess about, and lend themselves to mobile communities. Our beta release is at www.jmbpets.com – have a look, and send us any comments you have (noting it is designed for a mobile web briowser) – including suggestions on a name.
  • We haven’t forgotten our carrier based relationships, and are working with renewed enthusiasm with many existing and new carriers on our new communities and offerings. This includes adding Orange to our carrier list in the UK, extending our reach in Latin America, and opening new doors into Asia-Pacific.
  • The organisation has been reshaped and we enter 2011 with renewed focus in key areas with the formal addition of Katherine Rossetti as Marketing Director, Andrew Glen as Product Director, and Ed Young as Chief Information Officer. These appointments complete the new ‘One Jumbuck’ leadership team post transition from the three product based operating entities of a year ago.
  • Our first Launchpad investment, myLevel, is progressing well and we expect to bring the first release of this to market in March. This will start within the Facebook environment and migrate to our broader mobile communities as it builds momentum.
  • And lets not forget we have been busy upgrading our existing romance properties to be competitive in a D2C world – and this program continues to enhance the revenue generating capacity of these established communities.

From our efforts last year we now have the foundations in place and we are committed to deliver on our mission of managing and monetising mobile entertainment communities globally. I look forward to keeping you updated as the year unfolds.

Opening the mobile web

As I outlined at the AGM, the Direct-to-Consumer acquisition world requires additional sales and marketing commitment, but also brings wider revenue opportunities. And these new opportunities are larger in the Smartphone arena.

Within Jumbuck, our chosen approach to this is to maintain our traditional chat and interaction offerings across both Smartphones and Feature phones, while adding richer functionality through experiences tailored to the web browsers on Smartphones. This can be seen clearly in our recently released mobile web version of Mobilove which can be found at jmblove.com (this works best on a mobile browser!)

From the front page users can:

  • enter the full product through My Mobilove;
  • browse a selection of users and their profiles through Top Pics;
  • explore the range of offerings in the MobiStore, which will be extended to include gifts, rewards and links to games in addition to links to our other products;
  • read latest tips, Q&A and up-to-date content in the Love Box area.

While only live for a couple of weeks, we are getting a very positive response to this ‘window’ into the core product offering, and the wider monetisation options it opens up through transactions and advertising. This is first release functionality, and the first or our real mobile web offerings. The second mobile web offering, due in a couple of weeks, will be our first completely new community outside the romance area entirely. I look forward to introducing it to you here!

Transition bearing fruit

It has been a while since my last musings, and here at Jumbuck the team has continued the transition we talked about through our year end presentations – both on the product and organisational front. A lot of this transition work is now starting to bear fruit, and is providing us the enhanced set of levers we need to effectively monetise communities we chose to operate – across both the on-deck and off-deck worlds. These are currently in flirting and dating, but with new categories very close.

Some of the vital foundations we have been working on include:

  • Rolling out capabilities like SMS based alerts uniformly across all our products to keep our users up to date on things of interest to them;
  • Building the single identity and billing management system we need to underpin our own virtual currency across our product suite – supporting enhanced rewards for our loyal user base, and enabling wider gifting and purchase functionality;
  • Trialling our voice connect service for those who want to move beyond our group and 1 to 1 text chat services.

And there are many more in the pipeline.

Close observers will also see we are updating functionality and the ‘look and feel’ of our primary products, and are beginning to roll out a much richer experience for smart phone users – starting with Mobilove in Australia and the UK.

While in their own right these are little steps, they all contribute to increasing the average revenue per user and opening our ability to harness direct-to-consumer acquisition initiatives effectively. We are excited that much of effort over the past months is now beginning to come together, and provide exciting foundations for renewed growth as we prepare for 2011.

Momentum building as we divest non-core assets

As I said in my last post we have been awaiting the release of our year-end results to address some of the questions and feedback this column has prompted. I am delighted to announce that the results are now finalised and were released publicly last week.

First, let me reaffirm Jumbuck Entertainment’s strategic direction. We are passionate about the mobile space – in particular the increasing power of devices and the convergence of mobile telephony and social media. As a business we have many of the critical assets needed to effectively manage and monetise our unique communities globally, and are committed to acquiring those we don’t.

In our annual reporting we openly discuss the transition from ‘on-deck’ to ‘off-deck’, the impact it has had on us, and the hindrances to our effective reaction in the past. In our Investor Presentation we go further, setting out the specific steps we are taking to directly tackle these issues – including substantive restructuring of the organisation, changes to revenue models, channels and products. Add to this the emerging fruits of our Launchpad program, internal R&D and skills acquisition initiatives and I can assure you there is real momentum building across the organisation.

Our revitalised business and new strategic direction was reinforced in London a few weeks back when our global sales heads spent three days together. Their focus was how to translate our revised business model to market. The team – (from left to right in photo above) Andy, Brian, yours truly, Leif and Boris – left the meeting feeling motivated and united. With more than 80% of our revenue coming from Europe and North America, we have access to huge opportunities on the international stage. This is a core competitive advantage for Jumbuck and we see this as the best use of our resources.

This was the backdrop to our recent asset rationalisation. We reviewed the resource and skill commitment needed to realise the full potential of both CarBuddy and OZtion – and concluded the valued customers and broader stakeholders of both would be better off if they were in aligned with more focussed Australian brands. We see Car Advice and carsales.com respectively as excellent fits on this front. Importantly, the divestment of these non-core assets strongly positions Jumbuck to focus on the main game ahead and build long-term shareholder value.

New faces, new roles to support Jumbuck vision

Amid the rush of business planning and attending to year-end reports, etc. that comes every July we’ve been making some major appointments and organisational changes at Jumbuck.

Before I introduce the new faces I wanted to thank all of you for your comments and feedback on the blog. The whole idea of the blog was to stimulate conversations and give interested people clear insights into our products and business. So clearly it’s working. And just in case you’re wondering we have taken much of the feedback on board and will address more thoroughly in discussion around our year-end results in late August.

The first appointment is our new CFO, Angelo Tsagarakis. Angelo’s appointment followed an extensive search back in April and May. But due to his previous commitments Angelo was unable to take up his new role until August. In the meantime Todd Richards and Jim Paulyshyn are acting as interim CFO and Company Secretary respectively at Jumbuck. As well as CFO, Angelo will take on the role of head of Corporate Services, one of our initiatives to centralise a number of functions that were previously handled within the three broad product business units (and hence spread across our geographies).

A second, related change is the creation of a new Technical Operations Manager role in Australia to provide a single point of focus for operational functions. With three major products and 120 carrier relationships globally, complexity can be a challenge if disciplines aren’t maintained. We’re confident this new role will significantly enhance our operational efficiency and product focus.

Thirdly, we are in the process of boosting our marketing leadership in Australia – working with our local sales and marketing specialists to improve our direct-to-consumer marketing skills, while making sure our efforts (and learning) and tightly coordinated.

Together, these new roles represent an important step forward for Jumbuck, enhancing our ability to execute fast, effectively and consistently across our international network.

Lift-off as Jumbuck launches commercialisation program

If a week’s a long time in politics it’s a lifetime in application development. Since my last post we’ve made a number of announcements as well as the usual day-to-day challenges of growing a business.

One – and arguably the most exciting – of these was the announcement of our new commercialisation program, Launchpad.

As the name implies, Launchpad is designed to help get innovative applications off the ground by supporting the local online gaming and multimedia industries. Launchpad is the ideal way to bring together the benefits of our relatively strong balance sheet and international distribution network with the many innovations we see arising from Australian developers. It gives developers with big ideas but not much else access to our back-office support and global carrier network – all vital if you want to commercialise an app in such a highly competitive and fast-changing market.

As far as the business is concerned, Launchpad reflects our determination to focus on the action beyond simple once-off plays like a specific iPhone game, to developments we see can become true networked applications globally. More of that in a future post.

In parallel with the Launchpad program, we also quietly released our Ask AHA! service. Based on our love question and answer service launched late last year, Ask AHA! is a radical departure from our previous offerings in that it is designed to truly span on-deck, mobile web and full web. In this way it, integrates fully into broader social media. It’s early days and the application has an intense development program ahead. See it evolve at www.askaha.com

‘On-Deck’ versus ‘Direct to Consumer’ – which direction is best?

Following the release of our market update last week I received a number of emails about our future plans. It’s great to see that people at interested in our journey and motivated to get in touch.

One question related to whether Jumbuck should be focussing on our on-deck (e.g. apps locked to the carrier’s network and handset) or direct to consumer (e.g. social media-based applications that work on any network or handset). It’s a great question and one that I have touched on in different forums. As with most things in life, however, the answer isn’t black and white.

The 120-plus carrier relationships that form the basis of our on-deck business are one of our greatest assets. Provided our products are competitive and popular with consumers, these carrier relationships will remain a powerful path to market. But it is no secret that carriers are facing similar issues to us with the sustainability of on-deck, and we continue to work with them as partners on how we jointly address this. It’s also no secret that some of our products are maturing (particularly relative to the newer social media-based offerings). We’re working to fix this with new, next-generation products – and heavily focussed on ensuring they remain billable in an environment where many are effectively free.

Beyond that we see real upside in Direct to Consumer initiatives – especially social media-based applications and consumer engagement efforts. Demand for mobile phone applications has exploded alongside growth in social media. But it is not a black and white decision – these initiatives are just as important to supporting our on-deck presence and carrier relationships as they are to acquiring customers in our own right.

Jumbuck is strategically positioned at the intersection of these two developments and has the experience to leverage our products and know-how into future growth. So while on-deck is in our DNA, our future will be shaped by the viral building of brands, engaging products and communities within the many social media communities in which our products find a home. It is a challenge to get the balance right, but one we are equal to.

Sometimes you have to invest money to make money

The release of our recent Market Update highlights the challenges of managing a business through transition – whether it is recruiting new talent, rationalising product lines or investing in new technologies.

Certainly it has been a busy few weeks at Jumbuck as we work to find a new CFO (our former CFO has resigned to return to Scotland for family reasons) while also maintaining momentum on our many new marketing and development projects.

In parallel, the Board and I have been reviewing all operational aspects of the business and, based on this, we have issued the Market Update. Putting aside once-off adjustments, there are two major factors shaping our current performance and future outlook:

  • Some of our mature, on-deck products are behind the revenue decline. These represent a challenge as, while they still generate substantial revenue, their competitiveness against the broader feature sets of newer offerings is limited.
  • Consequently increased investment is targeted directly at launching our new initiatives. From our experience across our full product range we have a solid view on the modifications we need to make to address our revenue challenge in the short term – and that is where we have been investing our resources. Some of this has been on the creative and design side with the balance on redeploying our own internal development resources to bring these upgrades to market.

Clearly we would love to bring these developments to market fast enough to arrest the overall revenue decline. And as we do bring these upgrades to market over the coming months – and support them with increased D2C marketing efforts – we will keep you advised.

It takes more than an Icelandic volcano to keep Jumbuck tech leads apart

After lengthy delays caused by Iceland’s volcano (I sympathise having been stuck in New York two weeks earlier) our three global tech leads finally arrived down under for a week of strategy and planning meetings.

The trio, dubbed the “tech-trust” for their knowledge of all things technical, were in Australia to brainstorm our future technology road map.

After swapping volcano survival stories, we soaked up some of the autumn colour on our rooftop garden while attending to the serious business of planning future technology and business priorities for Jumbuck. Present and accounted for were (L-R):

  • Mick from our Australian office who looks after the Fast Flirting product range and our game and augmented reality developments
  • Bernhard who looks after our Ukraine development team and the Power Chat range of products (including all the non-English speaking communities like Chat del Mundo, etc.)
  • Me (the young looking guy with grey hair)
  • Peer from our Norway office and lead architect on Mobilove and Mobimodels (the Plutolife products).

Granted, senior management meetings aren’t usually blog-worthy. What made last week significant, however, was the singular strategic focus on building our direct to consumer capabilities in the social media space. What came out of the week (and the agenda for our tech-trust moving forward) was the need for innovations across our product range that:

  • enhance our current offerings on mobile
  • extend them into the broader web and social media environment
  • bring together some of the common elements of our platforms to allow rapid extension into new communities and applications as our new research and development program begins to bite.

As brainstorms go the session was pretty powerful (it didn’t ground air travel like the volcano but it kept us focussed) and we should see the first outcomes appearing in the market within the next four weeks.

We’ll keep you posted here

Jumbuck joins the blogosphere: read and learn

Welcome to The Jumbuck Blog – our new channel for Jumbuck-related news, happenings and events.

When I joined Jumbuck as CEO back in January 2010 my first challenge was to refine the direction of the company and establish the platforms for future growth. The second was to open channels to better communicate our direction and promote our achievements to shareholders, the media and others.

I am pleased to say that four months on Jumbuck is strongly positioned for long-term growth with a focussed direction, and internal refinements underway to ensure we can deliver.

Our direction is clear: we will continue working with carriers to grow revenue from our chat and flirting-based applications. At the same time we’re moving full-tilt into the rapidly growing social media space through direct-to-consumer focussed applications and supporting skills. We will also be seeking partnerships and other initiatives where they help us leverage our 120 global carrier relationships and strong balance sheet into platforms for future growth.

The Jumbuck Blog, meanwhile, addresses the second challenge. Blogs are a great way to communicate all manner of information, from personal musings to important announcements. They’re also a great way of encouraging dialogue with shareholders.

With each post, the Jumbuck Blog will help tell our story and give you an insight into the people and products that make Jumbuck great.

Stay tuned for more over the coming weeks.

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