bCode : Say goodbye to your wallet

bcode phone sms text message to buyImagine you could do away with carrying all of your loyalty cards, paper tickets and coupons. That would make your wallet a whole lot lighter. Thanks to bCode , you can digitally store all of the above, right on your phone.

And that is not all. You can buy food at a grocery store and pay for it simply by sending an SMS. And if you are buying a ticket for an event, you can receive that via an SMS, also!

This is how the virtual ticketing works. Say you buy a concert ticket, online. The system sends you a code via an SMS on your mobile phone. This is not a standard bar code, but rather an alpha numeric “bCode”. When you arrive at the concert, you place your phone with the SMS in front of a special scanner which reads the code, and you are in.

bcode buy a drinkbCode used the mobile ticketing technology at a major exhibition in Australia (CeBIT) in May of 2007, and claimed to have totally eliminated lines of people waiting to get in.

bCode is a mobile payment solution that can be used at retail stores, or at entertainment venues. Since it uses standard SMS text messaging, it is mobile device, and carrier, agnostic.

The only impediment to adoption of this rather slick system, is that it requires a special scanner to scan the virtual ticket, at the retail location. Technology adoption slows down whenever there is the need to buy and integrate new hardware. However, given the potential savings associated with shorter queues and faster processing time, for a lot of businesses, this would be a worthwhile investment.

Gizmodo has complained about the bCode technology that allows you to buy someone a drink at a bar, by sending an SMS to their mobile device. The problem, they say, is that it requires you to have the phone number of the person you are buying the drink for. This is a problem?? With all the ploys people think up in bars to get phone numbers, this one is, at least, pretty clever!

bCode founder Michael Mark, previously founded start.com.au which sold a partial $8 million stake to the search engine, Looksmart.

bCode has an office in Huntington Beach, California and one in Sydney, Australia. bCode has raised $5.525 million in Venture funding from CIBC and Wilshire associates, as well as from the Australian government.


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SunRocket : Casualty of Patent War

Toni just posted a note on the Sunrocket and every point she makes is true!

Cable companies are encroaching the VoIP business turf; SunRocket was bleeding and without a major cash infusion, it was not going to survive for long, but the event that precipitated its demise was the patent war between Verizon and Vonage.

So what happened? Because of the Vonage-Verizon patent tussle, where the punishment for loosing the lawsuit was death, investors taste for VoIP companies dried up. In March/April, SunRocket, (the #2 independent VOIP company) was looking for $20-$40M series D funding, but had trouble closing the round; after the patent verdict, the whole sector had became untouchable. Vonage, Packet8, SunRocket , the whole group joined the bottom pool and without new cash and any possibility of getting new cash in near future, SunRocket died.

Without the patent sword hanging on its head, Sunrocket would have survived for another couple of years and then probably would have merged with another VoIP provider. After the Vonage verdict, it became a game of Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun.

People very often ask me, are patents really worth having? Give me a good example of where patents (and not much else) mattered. I guess now there is a new poster child; Verizon vs. VoIP. The last I heard, the court had ordered Vonage to pay $58 million in damages for infringement, and a 5.5 percent licensing fee for the continued use of the patents. If the appeal fails, Vonage is toast.

Some say that the Verizon patents are junk patents and yet when the order came down from the court, it didn’t seem like a Junk order to me, the damages awarded had a lots of zeros in them!

Verizon patents crippled Vonage, one of its major VOIP challenger and summarily killed the second VoIP challenger without spending an extra dime. All other players in this sector are feeling the pinch. Hope this demonstrates the power of having the right patent.

The company that may survive is Packet8 , another independent VoIP company. It has a slew of patents and they are likely to be able to use this patent portfolio as a defense against Verizon and others.

A patent can work as a sword, a shield and, as in Verizon’s case, as a shot gun!


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SunRocket closes its doors: Vonage moves in

sunrocket-wtaglineSunRocket, the voice over IP provider is no more. SunRocket never had the whacky commercials that rival Vonage did, but what they did have was inexpensive VOIP service. The $199/year service was very aggressively priced, perhaps too aggressively some say, for all the features that they provided (such as call forwarding and voice mail).

sunrocket got vonageWe used SunRocket a while ago, when we had immediate need for some additional lines for “overflow” calls. The service was fairly easy to set up and included most of the bells and whistles that the telecom companies want to charge separate prices for. The sequential call forwarding was particularly useful.

It is surprising that the company did not do better, given that it was backed by Nokia. The Vienna based company had raised a total of $34 million in 2005 from Mayfield Fund, Anthem Capital Management and others. But lately, competition had been coming to their doorstep in the form of cable companies and their three way packaged services.

We hear that SunRocket abruptly closed its doors down, and is not answering its phones any more. Customers are definitely not happy.

Now all the rivals are swooping in to pick up the 200,000 or so SunRocket subscribers. Looks like Vonage is winning the race so far. The SunRocket home page now has a button “Got Vonage?” which leads to the standard SunRocket subscriber plan. Clearly Vonage is moving in fast, to stake its claim in this field of fickle customers!



Acquisition fever for online Ad. companies on the rise

ValueClick Inc. agreed to pay up to $352 million to buy MeziMedia Inc., in the latest in a frenzy of acquisitions in the shopping engine space. Los Angles based MeziMedia owns the shopping comparison engine smarter.com. ValueClick owns Commission Junction and Price Runner.

Other online advertising company acquisitions in the works - Microsoft Corp.’s deal to buy aQuantive and Google Inc.’s planned purchase of DoubleClick.



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