Business Irish

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Live Mobile is making waves with solution to cyber bullies

Published 27/01/2013 | 05:00

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The company's Mobile Minder application helps parents monitor their children's phone activity – and it's a big hit around the world

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Mobile Minder allows parents to check their child's mobile remotely for possible signs of bullying

WITH growing numbers of children using mobile phones, Irish company Live Mobile is emerging as a world leader in developing software solutions that help protect these children – particularly from the threat of cyber bullying.

The company was set up in 2011 by young Dublin entrepreneurs Don Corbett and Brian Shannon. Located in the Guinness Enterprise Centre in central Dublin, this thriving hub of entrepreneurship is home to more than 70 new businesses in such exciting sectors as multimedia, software development, computers and game development.

Before Christmas, Live Mobile announced a lucrative deal with one of the world's largest mobile operators, China Telecom, which will see the company create 70 new jobs in Ireland and China.

"So what exactly does Live Mobile do?" I ask. "We specialise in the development of software applications for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets," explains Don. "Our big success to date is our Mobile Minder application. This software helps parents keep their children safe and secure by allowing them monitor their children's mobile phone devices from their own computers or smartphones."

I am eager to learn how it works and find myself continually interrupting Don to translate his tech speak into English for me. "What does it allow parents do?" I ask. "And how does that work again?"

Don's enthusiasm and in-depth knowledge of the industry is matched equally by his patience. I "get it" and am quickly converted.

Parents initially install the software application on their child's mobile phone with the child's full knowledge. Using their own password, they then access the Mobile Minder website, which allows them to check their child's mobile remotely for possible signs of bullying. "The software alerts parents to the use of certain prescribed keywords frequently used by bullies," Don explains. "In addition, parents can customise the list by adding words they feel are inappropriate."

The software also allows parents to monitor and control any inappropriate images of a sexual nature, or otherwise, that appear in the child's photo gallery on their mobile.

They can also monitor who a child is in contact with, how often and for how long.

Parents can view which websites their child is looking at, and for how long, as well as which applications or games the child is downloading and how long they spend on each.

The "Location" feature lets parents know the where- abouts of their child, while the "Geo Limits" feature sets particular areas within which the child is allowed to visit. Once the child goes outside these areas, the parent will receive an alert and so can contact the child to ensure their safety.

A key "SOS" feature is the child's personal alarm, allowing him or her to send an automatic message, alerting the parents to the fact that the child is distressed or in danger and identifying their exact location.

Launched in the middle of 2012, Mobile Minder has really captured the concerns of many parents and so it is not surprising that the product is proving a real hit.

Don and his colleagues have also managed to find that highly sought-after but illusive of business models: recurring revenue. "At a monthly fee of only €3.99, it equates to 10 cent per day to keep your child safe," Don explains. It's a tag-line they use to promote sales and it appears to be working successfully. "We already have thousands of users signed up," says Don.

What about their route to market? "Parents in Ireland can access the application online or through Carphone Warehouse stores nationwide," Don informs me.

The company has chosen to partner with large telecommunications companies as their preferred route to market internationally and the majority of the company's users come from a diverse range of countries including the US, Russia, Japan, Brazil, the Middle East and China.

While Mobile Minder has been re-branded as a China Telecom product, the potential in China is huge. "China Telecom is one of the world's largest mobile operators with a subscriber base of 155 million," says Don. "And this figure is growing at a rate of four million subscribers a month.

"This deal has the potential to totally transform the company," says Don. "And China Telecom is now pushing the product through heavy TV, radio and print marketing campaigns in China."

The US market is also growing, following the company's recent exposure on Fox Media and from Don's recent interview on Lifetime, one of the largest female TV networks in the US.

I ask Don where the idea for the business initially came from.

Having attended Belvedere College, he went on to complete a degree in International Marketing and Japanese in Dublin City University, before moving to Tokyo for three years. In 2005, he returned to Ireland to undertake a Master's Degree in Advertising, in the Dublin Institute of Technology.

"It was around the time that smartphones were becoming popular among children," Don says. "There was a growing concern about child safety and the idea emerged from there."

He first met Brian when he joined the Hot House Programme, an incubator initiative run by DIT.

Brian had completed a degree in Information Systems with the Institute of Technology in Tallaght and a Master's Degree from Trinity College, specialising in mobile networking.

For over a year, the two men worked on developing their business from Don's kitchen table before securing a place on the Ryan Academy's Propeller Programme, a business development initiative run by Dublin City University with the support of Declan Ryan, of the Ryan family.

They later secured significant investment of €600,000 from private angel investors, one of whom has more than 20 years' experience in global telecommunications. Don says that this investment has been instrumental in the company's growth, and has helped fund the final development and roll-out of their Mobile Minder application.

Not content to sit back, the company has already developed another application, this time for the corporate market, called ClearView.

This allows companies and sales managers to get real-time visibility on how their sales teams are performing in the field. Sales managers are able to see where their teams are at all times as well as what phone calls have been made to potential customers. Sales staff are able to easily record the outcome of each call or visit, thereby reducing time spent on administration and freeing them up to focus on their core skill of interacting with customers.

I meet the 12 Live Mobile staff. They include a number of software developers, marketing executives, technology infrastructure specialists and specialists in the field of website security and encryption.

I am immediately struck by the age profile, with most being in their 20s. "The age of our staff has to do largely with the sector we're in," Don tells me. "Cloud services and mobile is a very hot space right now.

"The team here is like a real family. We all hunker down as a group and get on with the job in hand."

The company is fast approaching break-even point and has projected revenues of €2m for 2013. The co-founders are also seeking to raise a further €5m to fund the growth of the company globally.

I am really excited about what Don and Brian have achieved. They have managed to develop an Irish solution to a global problem. They have successfully developed a lucrative model that generates recurring revenues for the business.

There is truth in the old saying that "if you want to launch a big ship, then you need to find yourself deep waters".

Their decision to partner with large telco companies is set to ensure they achieve growth and scale internationally. Smart moves by smart guys in a smart industry.

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