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22 February 2010

Global hotspots for mobile innovation

Filed under: innovation, startups — David Wood @ 1:42 pm

In which parts of the world can we find the most innovative developments in mobile products?

One way to answer that question is to look at the 20 finalists of the recent “Mobile Premier Awards” event.  Entries to this contest came from all over the world, nominated by local Mobile Monday chapter organisations.  An international group of judges whittled down the list of local nominations to a group of 20 finalists.  Here’s the geographical breakdown of the final 20:

  • 1 from South America (Bogota)
  • 2 from North America (New York and Silicon Valley)
  • 2 from India (Chennai and New Delhi)
  • 1 from the Middle East (Tel Aviv)
  • 5 from Baltic countries (Copenhagen, Estonia, Lithuania, Oslo, and Stockholm)
  • 1 from Balkan countries (Slovenia)
  • 8 from Western Europe (Amsterdam, Austria, Barcelona, Berlin, Edinburgh, London, Milan, and Munich).

On the day of the final itself, out of these 20 companies, prizes were awarded to:

But another way to answer this question is to look at the view of the influential publication Fast Company.  They’ve just published a list of the world’s ten most innovative companies in the mobile industry.

What kind of geographical breakdown would you expect in Fast Company’s list?

90% of the list are companies headquartered in the USA:

  • Google, Apple, Amazon, Ford, Evernote, Qualcomm, Clearwire, Foursquare, Intermap.

Only one entry on the list is headquartered outside the USA:

  • HTC.

What should we make of this fact?  Here are three ways to think about it:

  1. Fast Company, immersed in activities in the US, is suffering from myopia (short-sightedness)
  2. It’s smart marketing by Fast Company.  As Matt Millar suggested: Fast Company is a US mag, read by US people. So tell them the US is great, they buy more 🙂
  3. The lion’s share of the greatest mobile innovation really is happening in the USA, and the rest of the world should wake up and recognise that fact.

If the third explanation is the right one, perhaps I should seek my next employment in the US.

I’m reminded of the marvellously thought-provoking picture produced a couple of years back by Rubicon Consulting, of how Internet companies view the mobile industry:

Footnote: Thanks to Petteri Muilu for drawing my attention to the Fast Company list.

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2 Comments »

  1. David,

    I said something similar on my blog Saturday (for different reasons), very consistent with the Rubicon-Steinberg drawing. However, I think the rest of your metric is a bit overblown.

    Yes, Fast Company is not a mobile phone publication but a Silicon Valley publication, and thus reflects what’s happening in Silicon Valley and not the global mobile phone industry. When Nokia was innovative, almost no one in the US knew about it because they couldn’t sell their products here (I’m told because of bad relations with AT&T — and of course their neglect of CDMA). Similarly, FT has tended to bias towards European telecoms — because that’s where its reporters and readers are; its coverage of Japanese and Korean innovation has been not much better than the Americans.

    However, (as I note in my blog post linked above) Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo was quoted Friday as saying “There is no doubt the center of mobile innovation has shifted from Europe to Silicon Valley. We are working to tap into this innovation.”

    Meanwhile, the Mobile Monday process by its nature is not going to pick the world’s most important innovations. MoMo wants to highlight up and coming firms, rather than established firms. And if there’s a MoMo chapter in the Republic of Elbonia, it’s going to nominate its best company and lobby for its recognition.

    So the truth lies in between the two extremes you’ve cited.

    Joel

    Comment by Joel West — 22 February 2010 @ 4:29 pm

    • Joel,

      What struck me most about the Fast Company list, wasn’t just that Nokia was excluded (despite the innovation of, say, Ovi Maps, the N900, low cost smartphones, and Comes With Music), but that many other non-US companies were excluded (eg Samsung, LG, MediaTek, Layar – to pick just a few).

      A 9:1 bias in favour of US companies is truly striking.

      I’ve no doubt that Silicon Valley is having a dramatic impact on the mobile industry. But it’s going to take me some time to come round to seeing a 9:1 influence factor.

      Comment by David Wood — 22 February 2010 @ 5:51 pm


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