The simplest and most succinct way to describe what Davidson-based UpSNAP does is to call it a potential “Google of mobile phones.”
And if you consider there are nearly 2 billion mobile phone users across the globe compared to ‘only’ about 900 million Internet users, it’s fair to say that UpSNAP co-founder Tony Philipp’s claim is no hype: “Mobile search and info services is one of the largest potential market spaces in the country.”
It works like this: No matter who your carrier is or where you live, you can access UpSNAP though text-messaging (also referred to as SMS or short messaging services). Anyone can punch in 2SNAP to find phone numbers, either for a specific person or company — or by category, such as pizza or taxi. You can also get your horoscope or jokes, access a calorie counter or comparison shop. And it’s all free. (Most carriers charge $1.50 for each 411 call.)
UpSNAP makes its money from merchants and sponsors. A merchant can pay a fee to be the first name listed under a category, which also enables the phone caller to connect with the merchant with a single click. A special offer — such as 20 percent off — can also be offered as an incentive. Users have to dial the full number to reach other vendors. At the bottom of the horoscope screen, users can connect with a horoscope advisor, whose services they pay for.
Philipp said the service’s database includes 95 percent of the companies in the U.S. and that no other mobile search provider has a comparable business plan. They also have a patent pending on the VoIP technology that makes the service possible. In addition, with the recent acquisition of XSvoice, UpSNAP also provides not only mobile search via text, but also audio content to mobile phones. Content choices include ESPN Radio, NASCAR Fanscan and Fox News.
The company currently has eight employees, and he says he is actively seeking to increase that number. He would not divulge revenue figures or those regarding usage.
Philipp, 43, and his partners, Wendell Brown and Richard Jones, started UpSNAP in San Francisco about two years ago and relocated to Davidson, just north of Charlotte, in November. It was about that time that the company also completed an important round of funding, called a reverse merger or share exchange, in which it bought the assets of an existing company — Manu forti — traded on NASDAQ. So the company is now publicly traded on the OTC exchange as UPSN.OB
“We already had an experienced management team — between the three of us, we have negotiated 10 successful start-up-and-exit strategies — and we had better contacts than most of the potential investors,” Philipp said. “We were already pretty mature. This lets us tap into public market vehicles and lets public investors in early.”
Philipp has been involved in the web-search industry since 1995 and was involved in the start up of Magellan, one of the first search engines in Europe, as well as the start-up operation of Lycos there. He said the idea for UpSNAP came to me when he was on the board of Mobile 365, a global company that processes text messages between phone carriers.
Philipp has roots in the Carolinas — he was born in Greenville, SC, spent his early years in Charlotte and attended Clemson University and the University of South Carolina — but has lived and worked worldwide, including Germany and the rest of Europe, RTP, the Northeast and California.
So why did Philipp move UpSNAP to the Charlotte area?
“People in Charlotte are very receptive to new technology companies, and it has non-stop air service to the West Coast and Europe, where text messaging is far more widely used than in the U.S.,” he explained. “Charlotte is a financial center, so there’s a lot of growth, and UNC Charlotte and Davidson College are both part of our demographic, which is college kids. And the weather is good, too.”
Money Saving Tip
Early birds can receive a 20 percent discount to this year’s Blue Diamond Awards, presented by the Charlotte Chamber’s Information Technology Charlotte (ITC), if they purchase them by the end of the month.
The annual event — being touted as ‘The Ultimate Reality Award Show,’ is set for Monday, March 27, at 6:30 pm at the NC Blumenthal Performing Arts Center and features a cocktail and heavy hors d’oeuvre reception.
Until Feb. 1, ticket prices are $60 for ITC members and $75 for non-members. A block of eight seats can be reserved for $460. After that date, prices increase to $75 for ITC members and $85 for non-members. The price for a block of eight increases to $600. Tickets can be purchased online at: www.charlottechamber.com
The Blue Diamond Awards were created in 1988 to recognize technology-based solutions and contributions made by Charlotte area companies and individuals.
A piece of Silicon Valley came to Charlotte with the opening of the headquarters of Seertech Copration in the Queen City. The developer of advanced technologies for the display, signage and power industries has R&D facilities in the Valley, as well as another lab in Japan. Glenn Sanders, vice president of R&D, said, “Seertech will benefit from the advantages of each region.” For Charlotte, that means being close to a manufacturing site the firm plans to build in the Carolinas. The company also plans to start the process of going public this year.
Brian Gomme, founder and president of Charlotte-based ebasedEVOLUTION, was chosen as a 2005 Ronald Reagan Gold Award winner by the National Congress Committee. The company is a search engine marketing and web development firm that provides ethical search engine optimization and marketing services.
Titan Technology Partners, a Charlotte-based provider of information-technology consulting and outsourcing services, has acquired Titanium Consulting Group out of Cincinnati. Financial terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed. Titan Technology markets services related to information-technology consulting and outsourcing and has completed more than 1,500 projects for 350 U.S. and international clients. Founded in 1998, it had revenues of $12 million last year. Titanium provides information-technology consulting services.
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