Tokyo Startup Leverages Mobile Mail
Nooper.com is an unlikely name for a technology that aims to turbocharge mobile mail. The system lets users specify events – “Noopies” – and then receive notification (as well as content) via keitai; Noopies can be anything – a Mail Checker Noopie alerts you when your corporate account gets a new mail, a Reminder Noopie tells you when rain is more than 40% likely (Remember your kasa!), and a List Noopie keeps you in touch with multiple buddies on a mailing list. The jury’s still out on whether Nooper can succeed in Japan’s roiling mobile market, but if they can succeed here, they can probably succeed anywhere.
Comments from Wireless Watch Japan Editor-in-Chief Daniel Scuka:
Juergen Specht and Tom O’Dowd are two of Tokyo’s long-time foreign IT guys – and they’ve been watching the mobile market here since the dawn of the i-mode era. Now, after more than a year of financed-on-a-shoe-string development work, their company, Nooper.com, has launched the eponymously named Nooper service, which aims to exploit the near universal ubiquity and usage of mobile mail.
Fundamentally, Nooper acts as a content delivery system, and can deliver any kind of digital content to a keitai via mail alert on an opt-in basis. While it can work with Java and other advanced handset services, the creators claim that Nooper also works perfectly well with plain ‘ol carrier email – the seminal service animating almost all mobile Internet usage.
The system lets users specify events – “Noopies” – and then receive notification (as well as content) via keitai; Noopies can be anything – a Mail Checker Noopie alerts you when your corporate account gets a new mail, a Reminder Noopie tells you when rain is more than 40% likely, and a List Noopie keeps you in touch with multiple buddies on a mailing list.
The service went public with a soft launch in March 2003, so it’s still far too early to forecast whether or not the Nooper team can succeed. But there are a few factors operating in their favour.
First, virtually everyone here who uses a keitai also uses mail – even crazy Aunt Takako-chan who can’t figure out how to use the microwave. Any service that targets mobile mail as the delivery mechanism is aiming at a huge audience. Also, there’s a growing level of frustration with mobile spam; Nooper claims to reduce this by serving as a filter for mail delivered to corporate or home ISP mail accounts. Nooper can check these for you, but you only actually download (and hence pay for) the messages you wish to read. Finally, the technology’s application is very simple – and as other service providers have seen, deploying the simplest possible services to time-starved, harried mobile users is key.
However, Nooper remains just a single, smallish fish in a huge, mobile ocean of wireless application providers. Their best hope, in my opinion, is to get noticed by a large system integrator partner or by a carrier, pick up some funding (or sell the platform outright), and then develop it into a defined offering that any large content provider would want to use.
Also, I think there are chances for them to succeed in other markets where mobile users are not yet as well-trained as Japanese i-moders and where carriers need to deploy simple, robust data services that will seed and leaven the market. And keep in mind that such a path is not impossible to realise.
If they can succeed elsewhere, Nooper will be following in the geta steps of other Japan-founded mobile application providers that have launched here, tested and trialed their systems, gotten picked up by a DoCoMo or a KDDI, and then later transmuted their service into something that works outside Japan (ImaHima.com, G-Mode, and HI Corp. all come to mind).
Whatever happens, Nooper appears to be another startup that is using Japan as a test bed for creating interesting new mobile applications that, if they succeed here, likely can succeed anywhere.