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.

EXCLUSIVE Q&A: Govind Balakrishnan, CEO Curio

It’s one of the strangest phenomena in technology, the inexorable rise and popularity of podcasts. While there is any number of places to access such content, one London-based company is focusing on quality.

Curio is a free app that offers curated content that gives listeners the opportunity to fully engage with audio and CEO Govind Balakrishnan talks exclusively about why his company’s product is music to our ears.

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Monty Munford: Welcome to Mob76 Outlook, Govind. I believe Curio produces quality podcasts, would that be right?

Yes, that’s right. In a world where everything is available at once, people’s time and attention are scarce resources. Curio solves that by helping people listen to the stories shaping our world as they go about their days.

Through high-quality audio and curation, we give people back time and surface content worthy of people’s attention.

We solve the two biggest problems for people in the world – time and attention. We choose content from the best providers in the world and get that narrated as high-quality audio – saving people the time of choosing the right content to consume.

Govind Balakrishna: Every startup has a founder’s story. What’s yours?

I was a strategist at the BBC and saw the really high engagement that radio and other audio were receiving online. This was particularly heartening when journalists had put themselves at great personal risk, such as in war zones.

At the same time, print engagement was plummeting and this prompted me to ask – why is a 100-year-old trusted medium getting so much more engagement than print or websites?

The insight was that people’s lifestyles had changed and the new world required a media platform that worked seamlessly with their busy, on-the-go lifestyles, while also actually rewarding content producers.

That was how Curio was born.

Would you describe yourself as a media company?

Media is the software that powers society, but we no longer have the time or attention to engage with it deeply. Curio is a subscription-based audio app that helps people live curiously, by allowing us to listen to the stories shaping our world as we go about our busy lives.

Is this the right time for Curio or are you awaiting a tipping point?

The advent of conversational devices, their popularity and the fact that technology is going through a fundamental paradigm shift means this is a perfect time.

Due to multitasking, we are becoming a species that is entering a post-literacy/ post-Gutenberg age. In the same way that Snapchat is a communication medium, so audio and voice will be as well.

It will go to the core of how we engage with media, content and entertainment and how it all fits in and around our lifestyles.

Why is now the right time for Curio?

We want to become the media platform of the conversational future. Most innovation so far has been in the form of functional interaction. But content consumption is also going to move in that direction.

And as it does, it’s going to go beyond one-way consumption to more a more interactive form, closer to augmented reality.

Ever since the year 1439 the visual medium – books, TV, screens – has dominated. When we are visually engaged we do little else. This future, however, will be characterised by audio, conversational interactions and ultimately augmented reality.

What particular problem are you solving?

We are solving the problem of time and reduced attention spans and using the power of audio to help build a more well-informed world effortlessly. In that way, we also indirectly help with breaking information bubbles, fake news and superficial engagement.

In a world where everything is available instantaneously, people’s time and attention are scarce resources and we are just unable to and deeply engage with stories that are shaping the future.

Who are you working with and on what platforms?

We partner with top publishers such as The Guardian, Salon, The Financial Times, Aeon and more than 40 other providers to gain access to their exceptional content base.

Our learning algorithm and human curators then scour their databases for the best content – across various topics which have current relevance, are part of the zeitgeist or are of evergreen interest – and we then get that narrated by the best voice actors in the industry.

That content is offered to our subscribers through our mobile apps, our website and our Alexa skill.

Please take me through a user journey

Simply download the free Curio app and sign up. You can either subscribe to a monthly or annual plan, or listen to a certain amount of content free everyday.

Subscribers get new audio tracks curated across our partners everyday. Much of the content on Curio is evergreen and is easily discoverable. Playlists on topics ranging from Hackers to Privacy, Stoicism to Creativity.

Why is Curio better than its competitors?

We consistently produce high-quality content from premium and niche brands, an all-you-can-listen ad-free experience, best-in-class curation that makes for both a lean-back and lean-forward experience.

We consider rival podcasts to be our competitors, but also traditional radio. One interesting company is Audible, but we believe we offer a more tailored curation, and content that fits any length of time for our audience.

How has the company been funded to date?

We’d like to keep this confidential at this time, but we have been through two early rounds of funding including our stint at 500 Startups in the US.

Pulse Sends FinTech Hearts Racing With Video Banking Stories

The New Pulse product from UK Fintech 11:FS uses videos to unlock the secrets of customers’ banking journeys from India to China and across the world.


PulseFinTech consultancy 11:FS has launched a new-and-updated version of 11:FS Pulse, the second iteration of the world’s first (and only) financial services UX insights platform.

The product crowdsources customer experiences from traditional and challenger financial services companies. For the first time, users can view on-demand videos of real customer journeys on real bank accounts from all around the world.

This could be a user on the Ant Financial platform in China, a PayTM customer in India, somebody using US banking services or even a UK High Street Bank user.

Pulse offers a subscription service that is instantly accessible for traditional banks, challenger banks or any company interested in FinTech and understanding how to embark on new territory opportunities.

11:FS Pulse gives users a seat behind the eyes of the customer, with time-stamped user journeys, top tips for success, and in-depth analysis conducted by in-house expert researchers.

“We have seen great value from the video walkthroughs of end-to-end customer journeys on the 11:FS Pulse platform. Gaining direct access to a large breadth of content with slick UI lets us filter information categories and has dramatically reduced our lead times,” said Joe Wood, Digital Insight Manager at Nationwide Building Society.

The FinTech ecosystem has become more crowded than ever before with a plethora of companies and services targeting the market and non-FinTech challengers ready to break through the sector.

Hugh Cornejo is the Head of Design at UK challenger bank Monzo and he is equally effusive about the 11:FS Pulse platform.

“11:FS Pulse is an incredibly well-organised and comprehensive tool. If you are a designer working in FinTech you should be begging for an invitation to use it,” he said.

Stakeholders and product owners are locked in a battle for customers, which means that rich insights and easy-to-access challenger UX data is fundamental to creating products that customers will genuinely love.

There is a constant conversation around the current approach to UX research. The current landscape of customer experience analysis relies heavily on slow-moving reports that heavily extend lead times and often result in a product that is not fit-for-purpose, driven by second-hand data and high-level UX research.

“11:FS Pulse has been created to take the guesswork out of UX insights. We have some of the biggest brands in financial services currently using Pulse to drive their innovation initiatives… or just to keep a close eye on their competitors.

“What we hear when we demonstrate 11:FS Pulse to customers is ‘I can’t believe this didn’t already exist’. For many of our customers, it is a vital tool that gives them the edge that they need to deliver exceptional customer experiences,” said Ross Methven, Co-Founder, 11:FS.

With insights and rich user-journeys from Alipay, N26, and many others across the FinTech landscape, 11:FS Pulse wants to shape the future of FinTech, and is the first in a series of announcements from 11:FS, which will shortly announce significant talent hires to continue its expansion and scale.

BOOK REVIEW: Ends by Joe Macleod

Ends – From advertising to products and even to death, we tend to put too much emphasis on beginnings, not endings.

ends

Ends is a book that focuses on how humans are very happy being taken on a journey from the beginning, but we find it difficult to face the end of such journeys. Naturally, the notion of death is the ultimate example.

I met the book’s author, Joe Macleod, in Sofia recently after he spoke at a conference. He has the look and mien of somebody obsessed with design and his book reflects that passion.

It’s a fascinating concept and one that held my interest, not only when I met him, but also while reading his book, a quick read that shouldn’t take a devoted reader any longer than two days.

Macleod has had an interesting career working for companies such as Nokia and talks about how advertising sets people up for a beginning with a product, but doesn’t prepare them for the inevitable ending.

Nokia is a case in point. When it once ruled the mobile world, mobile devices were replaced even faster than they are today, but Nokia wanted people to buy more, more, more and that led to a world of used devices that nobody knew how to recycle.

Moreover, in the space of 12 months Nokia went from being one of the world’s most popular brands to one that finished faster than anybody expected. Nobody was ready for that ending.

Macleod is a clear writer, but the concept can feel a little elusive at times. It’s an easy read, but there’s a huge idea in there that wriggles away from the reader as he/she grapples with answers… perhaps Macleod needed a better editor.

As an ex-Fleet Street sub-editor, I find any book with typos a crime against humanity and there are several in this book. However, I still enjoyed reading it and understand where the writer was coming from.

Typos and editing aside, this is a decent read for anybody trying to make sense of how it’s all going to end.

Available now on Amazon for £16.99 or £5.99 on Kindle (the latter being maybe the better option).

REVIEW: PaMu TWS wireless earphones

The PaMu TWS is a really good addition to the range of excellent wireless earphones.

PaMu

The PaMu TWS wireless earphones are a product of crowdfunding and while that platform can sometimes be overhyped and insubstantial, it regularly turns out useful products. In this case, an excellent one.

When reviewing such products, I usually road test them myself, then ask my teenage son to do the same and he usually comes up with the better ideas and suggestions.

I’m not generally a fan of devices that keep music quiet and personal in people’s ears. I hated Sony Walkmans when they first came out and I have never really changed since that time. I like music to be shared, I like to hear it loud and I like it flawed and analogue.

My teenage son, however, is literally wired differently, his head is continually in his ears listening to music and he loved the PaMu TWS, not least because of the sound quality, but the cuteness of charging them.

There’s no need to think outside the box, the earphones are charged within the box and he won’t allow me to take repossession of them, which is its own positive story.

The company’s claim that these earphones never fall out are also credible, I tried everything I could to get rid of them, but they stayed in place. They’re also water-resistant and it’s good to use a product that seems to be made for the long-term, not just a short-term throwaway piece of gimcrack.

Available in black or white and currently retailing at $79 (£59) at a discount from the future price of $100, these earphones are an excellent option for a birthday or Christmas present.

It’s only June, but maybe it’s time to put in a Christmas order to the teenagers in your life, they’ll thank you for it, take my (and my son’s) word for it.

Where you can ACTUALLY use bitcoin to buy stuff

Bitcoin is a currency, bitcoin is a commodity, bitcoin is a sham, bitcoin is the future, bitcoin is a conspiracy theory. Bitcoin should be upper-case, bitcoin should be lower-case.

bitcoin

Bitcoin isn’t as good as Ethereum, bitcoin cash is a better bet than bitcoin. Bitcoin was just lucky, blockchain is the important thing. Bitcoin is the blockchain, blockchain is lower-case for non-bitcoin. I could go on and on and on and on…

All of the above may be true, but where can you actually spend it if you have some? This comprehensive infographic from the clever image wizards at 16Best and I quote…

“Everybody will remember 2017 as the year when cryptocurrencies skyrocketed in value, especially bitcoin. While bitcoin had been slowly rising since its creation, 2017 was the year when its value went from around $1.000 to almost $20.000, making some of the naysayers rethink their stance on cryptocurrencies.

“Even though cryptocurrencies faced a lot of backlash in their early years, today almost everyone is on the bitcoin bandwagon. Of course, some countries are still resisting, but the vast majority have embraced it. In a relatively short time, bitcoin went from being an obscure currency on the internet to a payment method of the future used by big-name brands in hundreds of countries.

“Now companies such Shopify, Subway and Tesla have fully accepted bitcoin payments, and you can pay for any of their products or services with them.

However, even if a company doesn’t support bitcoin, there are some creative ways to buy their best products with it. For example, Gyft.com will help you buy Nike shoes with Bitcoin, while Expedia has embraced this cryptocurrency altogether.

“If you are interested in learning what other companies are accepting Bitcoin, then this infographic is tailor-made for you. Just scroll down and prepare to be amazed at how many of them are there.”

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