About Monty

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.

Winter essentials #1 – Zippo Deluxe Hand Warmer

zippoAt one time or another, most people who have ever smoked have owned a Zippo lighter. A small object of beautiful desire, the Zippo defined the cool of America, a short-cut to being a beatnik or a hipster… by simple ignition.

I travelled across the States in the winter of 1994 clutching one such lighter, not the square shape of lore, but a customised round one. I was devastated when I lost it; it defined 12 great months of being on the road. Nowadays, I have little need for one as smoking is long gone and it’s not the same using a Zippo to light a bonfire or an in-house candle.

The joy of a Zippo was knowing how to light it and that was by pulling it down as you lit it. That way there were no embarrassing attempts at losing the flame. Owning a Zippo meant you used it properly as well; it was part of its cool appeal.

So, the Zippo Deluxe Hand Warmer brings back great memories and makes diversified sense for the company now the age of smoking is coming to an end. While bigger and palm-friendly yhe shape is the same as before and it feels warm just touching it, and that’s before it is initiated.

Somewhat deliciously, it only works by filling it with lighter fuel, the same familiar process that was part of owing a Zippo lighter. This product is an obvious fisherman’s friend, keeping hands warm on a cold night at sea or by a river, but it is great to hold on to when between pistes on the ski slopes… apres-ski if you will.

The price is reasonable as well, at a little over £20 this is a new and hot design classic classic that warms the heart.

Games investors queue for PG tips in London

mobile_gamesThe mobile games industry is now a $25 billion business and next month’s Pocket Gamer Connects conference in London will be as celebratory as it is influential.

Taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday (13th/14th January) near London Bridge, the conference brings together more than 850 attendees and 150 speakers from more than 40 countries, of which 70 are developers. A varied track of sessions and keynotes from mobile games mavens make it an industry cynosure and the first important trade event of the year.

Most interestingly (and almost par for every global conference nowadays) there is a pitching session from 2pm on 13th January where more than 10 Finnish developers are pitching to an array of VCs and investors for Series A funding.

At time of writing, there were still a limited number of investor slots still available to find the latest Rovio Mobile or Supercell mobile games behemoth. To see an investor pack click here or register directly here.

“The $25 billion mobile games industry is still growing at an amazing rate and the Finnish mobile games development scene is pretty much the hottest on the planet right now.

“Pocket Gamer Connects is all about connecting people, so we’re delighted to be able to bring together ten of the most promising upcoming Finnish companies with some of the worlds smartest investors – the results should be interesting!”, said Chris James, Pocket Gamer CEO.

I shall also be at the show next Tuesday and Wednesday to find some stories and meet some interesting and smart people. Please reach out to me by email if you would like to meet up – monty.munford@gmail.com

Influential Israelis Blonde 2.0 Boston bound

blonde_bostonNotwithstanding the sparkly element of the picture and that we are obviously superstars, the adjacent picture is at a recent event in London’s Soho House, with Mike Butcher, editor-at-large of TechCrunch, some bloke in the background, my good self and Blonde 2.0 founder Ayelet Noff .

Blonde 2.0 is an award-winning tech-focused communications company and was founded by Ayelet eight years ago in Tel Aviv. Almost a decade on, it has decided to open its first office outside Israel in the rarified city of Boston, Massachusetts. They are very good at their job.

The company’s clientele includes tech giants such as Viber, StoreDot and Yo, as well as more than 70 other clients and will focus on providing services to startups and technology-focused companies in the US. It also works for VCs such as Rhodium, Singulariteam and Shaked Ventures.

“Expanding overseas is the next logical step for us. For several years now, the majority of our clients have come from outside Israel, so we wanted to add a location that will boost our ability to service and communicate with clients from around the world. We chose Boston since we already have great clients there, and good ties to the business community in the city,” said Blonde Co-CEO Motti Peer.

Blonde 2.0 is headquartered in Tel Aviv and employs 25 people and you may have noticed from the picture that Ayelet is a brunette, not a blonde, a fact that has no relevance at all to the rest of the content of this piece.

The Gaza Sky Geeks bring hope to the Strip

sky_geeksOne of my highlights of 2015 was a visit to Ramallah and Jericho in the West Bank to speak at a conference and meet some of the amazing startups in Palestine.

Under extraordinary conditions, how these companies exist is difficult to believe. Israel has control over the spectrum and still refuses to grant 3G licences to mobile operators who have already paid for them, but Palestinian tech companies are not only thriving, they are also doing business with global companies in Israel itself.

The tech boom across the border in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities is impressive. Some are spawned out of the Israeli Defence Force, especially in Beersheva and a significant cluster is forming in Jerusalem, but this is all achieved with the help of 4G, a technology Palestinians can only dream of accessing.

Conditions in the Gaza Strip are even worse. Here, operators with 2G licences are still being blocked by Israel and with blockades on all sides, this territory of 1.8 million people is more like a refugee camp than the ‘pene-exclave region of Palestine’ described by Google.

Understandably these people are seething, but while some turn to anger and extremism, others are turning to technology to give themselves an identity. One initiative is Gaza’s only startup accelerator, Gaza Sky Geeks. In December a crowdfunding campaign was launched by global humanitarian agency Mercy Corps means to secure its future and at time of writing, it had raised $142,325, 203% of its original $70,000 goal.

This campaign has now been extended to January 8th, with the hope of raising this amount to $500,000, money that will be spent to keep its co-working space open for all of 2015, expand support for female startup founders, arrange an international hackathon, and coordinate the first Silicon Valley visit by Gazan startups.

“Although humanitarian assistance is critical in Gaza, most youth are craving opportunity, not food. Youth in Gaza are among the Arab world’s most educated young men and women, and they are hungry for the chance to prove themselves in the global marketplace,” said Iliana Montauk, Director of Mercy Corps’ Gaza Sky Geeks program.

Gaza Sky Geeks was launched in 2011 by Mercy Corps with a generous grant from Google.org. Subsequent financial and program support from Google for Entrepreneurs has enabled Gazan startups to connect with more than 30 startup communities globally, including in Silicon Valley.

Over the last year, GSG has progressed from providing technology entrepreneurship training and facilitating competitions, to bringing in the first private startup investment to Gaza and promoting women’s leadership.

“Mercy Corps has created a vibrant technology hub in Gaza that we’re proud to have supported over the last few years,” says Bridgette Beam, Senior Manager at Google for Entrepreneurs. “We’re thrilled to see this exceptionally talented and passionate community receive the boost it needs to continue growing.”

That boost that Beam refers to is that crowdfunding campaign that lasts until January 8th. While the story of Israel’s startup nation is one of great innovation, perhaps it’s time to even things up and support the ‘startup pene-exclave region’ story of Gaza.

As the song goes, if they can do it there, they can do it anywhere. Good luck to them all…

FIVE GOLD GIFTS… #5 – Brentford FC half season ticket

beesticketMuch has been made about a certain star crossing the Sinai desert and an alleged Christmas miracle more than 2,000 years ago.

Be that as it may, the past six years have seen a real miracle occur at a certain meeting-point in West London called Griffin Park as Brentford FC failed to ever succeed.

After biblical traumas that would have tested any saint, let alone a religious adept, this Christmas will see Brentford FC challenging for promotion to the Premier League.

Griffin Park is destined for demolition in two years’ time as Brentford move to a bigger ground, but a Christmas present of a ‘half season’ ticket would enable you to join 12,000 other lucky souls to watch the miracle unfold. This may be the best thing you may ever do. I implore you to do so.

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