My first mobile portal

Back in October 1999 I was contacted by two IT guys that had an idea about creating a mobile portal, but wanted help in understanding the mobile industry, help making a business plan and finally also help in finding financing for the project.

My business partner Henrik and I offered our assistance and together with Johnny, Morton and Rene we made a plan on how we wanted to handle this project from idea to finished product. I basically wanted us to be the first to launch a commercial mobile portal and that it should already from day one differentiate itself from what we could expect any competition might launch. We wanted to be unique and make a difference, rather than just be a simple version of Yahoo! with a link collection for mobile phones – we wanted to do much more.
We started work with a plan that basically meant that 30 days after our first meeting, we would be online with a portal that apart from just having links, would differentiate itself in two areas; firstly it would have a POP3/EMAP e-mail client and secondly the portal would be able to be personalised so that users could divide their links into two main groups “All links” and “My links”.
The possibility to personalise the portal was in our opinion one of the most important functionality’s for the mobile portal. If you look at how a mobile telephone is different from a PC, it is partly the lower speed it offers when online and the fact that the screen is significantly smaller than a PC screen.
By creating the functionality so each individual user via a PC interface could design their own mobile portal, we felt we could combine the best from both worlds, the fast Internet with the large PC screen – and the mobile telephone with its mobility, giving access to e-mails and information anywhere and at any time.
In just 30 days, Morton, Johnny and Rene succeeded, with a little external help, in building a unique portal, that compared to many of the portals most mobile operators have today, contained much more functionality than mobile customers still actually experience on existing portals today.
I will never forget the evening where I for the first time via my PC designed my own portal. How I then took my Nokia 6210 and logged on to my portal and got a “Hi John Strand, Welcome to your portal” message on my Nokia. It was an unforgettable experience being able to directly access the WAP links I had chosen earlier on my PC and then being able to browse the “main” collection of links to other WML based sites designed for mobile phones with small screens. ¨
Just a few days later, actually the day before we were to launch the portal, I had a meeting with the charismatic and legendary Monique Mulle-Zetterström, who was then CEO of Mobilix in Denmark (that later became Orange Denmark). During the meeting I asked her who would be the first to launch a mobile portal in Denmark. She answered in her charming English with her heavy French accent “Why Mobilix of course – we are ALWAYS first”. I smiled and asked her to go over to her PC and write wapportal and press enter – she was extremely surprised, not only was there a portal but the name was a surprise too – this was in the middle of a time when everybody was talking about WAP and the expectations they had for the future.
The day after, my partners and I launched Denmark’s, Scandinavia’s and one of the world’s first mobile portals. We had financed and launched a mobile portal that in just 12 months reached break even and two months after that had offices in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and France. We had created a company that was successful – it was both a mobile portal and a technology company, delivering portal technology to operators and media companies with focus on the mobile world – our portal was the showcase that proved just how well our technology worked.
The company employed 30 people and just 17 months after it had launched, SilverStream Software from the USA made an offer for the technology developed by the company – an offer that I and the other shareholders chose to accept. In practice, we took the money from the sales of the technology and closed the portal, as at the time the outlook for mobile operators around the world being willing to share revenue generated by people creating traffic in their network was non-existent.
A hard-working team had, in a short space of time, created a unique portal, given a great many people a good mobile experience and proved that with limited resources one can create a portal with a better customer experience than the experience operators like TDC, Sonofon, Telia, Telenor, Comviq, Netcom and Vodafone were offering their customers in the Scandinavian region.
We made a difference, had fun – and made money at the same time….