Monday, December 22, 2008

U.B. Funkeys Launches Microtransactions

From Virtual World News (yes I cut and pasted this article - do not hate me Joey! Virtual World News is an excellent site and well recommended reading for industry watchers)

U.B. Funkeys, the vinyl toy collection and virtual world, announced the launch of a microtransaction model. Typically users buy Funkey toys, developed by Mattel, to get access to new game rooms and content online. Now they can buy Funkey Familiars, or virtual versions of the toys, to get access to the games as well as Portal Jammers, which offer one-time previews of the rooms and games. Uses can now purchase Loot, the virtual currency, in-game.

PG will analyze this intriguing development in more detail after the Christmas Holidays...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Loss Making HABBO Starts Giving Away Points

Ok, I will try and be discreet and professional here and offer my opinion on this latest strategy by Sulake to offer a "dual currency system" i.e.; one you buy and one you earn. So how should I put this? Maybe I will let Homer handle this. Finally I can spill the beans Posted by: Sulka
As of today, Habbo is a dual currency economy. Credits are bought and used to purchase persistent value, and you can earn Pixels by doing Achievements and just hanging around online. We're piloting the change in UK, and if it's working fine, the other countries will get it at some point in the future (as usual). The user feedback is of course mixed, but given the ratio of positive vs negative comments, I think we'll get pretty good overall rating in the final evaluation of the release. I'd like to thank everyone who's participated in the GDC "Free to Play, Pay for Stuff" round tables - I'm fairly sure this would not have happened without those sessions. And of course, Daniel James and Matt Mihaly for graciously sharing so much of what they've done with virtual economies. Unfortunately I can't spill all the beans on this but rest assured what's out now is not the whole system. There's still a lot to work on, and most importantly a lot of user feedback to read. It seems I'll be giving a post mortem of sorts about this in GDC, where I hope I can share a lot more than this. :)

Technocrati lays off 6, cuts pay - PaymentGuy's Blog Profitable

This sucks. Fortunately, the PaymentGuys and Girls are profitable and growing:

"Technorati announced on Tuesday that it was laying off six employees and cutting pay for the remaining members of the blog search engine company. Richard Jalichandra, the president and chief executive of the San Francisco-based startup, a leading site used to track and index blogs, announced the moves in a posting on the company blog. "There's not much I can say about the economy that hasn't been said a hundred times already," Jalichandra wrote. "We're facing the worst crisis of our lifetimes, and no one can say with certainty what lies ahead or how long it will last." Jalichandra said that to allow the company to "weather the storm," six employees were being laid off and two others would not be replaced. He said management would be taking pay cuts ranging from 15 percent to 25 percent and remaining employees would have their pay cut by 10 percent. The number of people employed by Technorati was not immediately available. Despite the cost-cutting moves, Jalichandra was optimistic about the future. "In spite of these challenging times, Technorati's prospects haven't changed, and in fact, have never been brighter," he said. "In the long run, Technorati will emerge a stronger and more profitable place for us, and the bloggers we serve, to thrive personally, professionally and financially." Technorati is the latest Silicon Valley company to announce job cuts. Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., a Chicago-based global consulting firm which tracks job-cut announcements, reported this month that the technology sector is on pace to lose 180,000 jobs this year, the most since 2003.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sybase Partners With Paybox

The deal, according to analysts, paves the way for paybox’s mobile payment software to leverage Sybase (News - Alert) 365’s integrated mobile messaging services and offer customers an open mobile payment infrastructure standard. “This agreement is a natural progression of where the market is headed and what customers are demanding from their mobile phones,” said Eckhard Ortwein, CEO of paybox. The deal supports a global effort to kick-start mobile payment services and help financial institutions, mobile operators as well as merchants.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sybase CEO sees mobile commerce as future

John Chen, chairman, CEO and president of Sybase, has led a dramatic turnaround for the Dublin company by focusing it on infrastructure software that helps companies go mobile. Now a leader in mobile middleware, device management, messaging and mobile databases, Sybase topped $1 billion in revenue last year and is on pace for a record 2008. The next big challenge for Sybase is to get consumers to consider mobile commerce and payments through their phones. The Chronicle caught up with Chen to talk about the economy, mobility and the future of smart phones.

Q: Can you talk about the economy and its effect on your business and the high-tech sector in general? How has it changed in the last six months?

A: So far, we've had three record quarters in a row and we expect to continue that for Q4, and ... we'll have a record year. But the revenue line is going to be slow (for tech companies), and people expected that mostly because the export market is going to be weak. Will it affect Silicon Valley? Absolutely. Overall, I think the tech sector will have a difficult 2009, mostly because of the global market and not so much because of the United States. I've seen business activity in the United States that's encouraging. One thing we've been doing well in is financial institutions. It sounds illogical, but they're still buying - they're just buying different things. Now they're buying analytics, because they want to analyze exactly what risk they're taking and what the business information people are telling them. We're also doing well because of mobility. Some companies are spending money on mobility because it's ... a much cheaper channel of outreach to customers and to market to their customer in some cases.

Q: Can you talk about the direction your company has taken in terms of staking its success on mobility?

A: In the early 2000s, when the beginning of the tech bubble burst in the e-business commerce world, we weren't really a big player in that space. At the time, we had a choice to either get into it or get into a new paradigm. We decided more value could be added not only to our business but to our customers by getting into new things. We thought with broadband, e-commerce, cheaper devices, more available bandwidth wirelessly, that has something to do with how business operates in the future. That was seven years ago. When we first started, we didn't do more than $10 million revenue in one year. Next year, we're going to do over $400 million in revenue for mobile.

Q: What is your vision for the mobile worker - how will mobility figure into their work on a daily basis?

A: Our view is there is no need for any connected stations of any sort. It's about anytime, anywhere to anybody. All the enterprise messaging software connectivity should be able to go wireless or wired, it should give you the exact same experience. Are we there yet today? No. But over the years, we will see more and more convergence.

Q: Where are we right now in terms of mobilizing workers, and what do you and other companies need to do to achieve this vision?

A: Enterprise needs to treat (the mobile phone) as a platform that is part of the enterprise stack rather than treat it is as just a communications device, which is profoundly different. You have to change the business application rules. It could be a Research in Motion, iPhone or a Symbian device, and it should not make any difference. There should be no difference in sending your information wirelessly or over wires, except on the security side. What we need to do is continue to expand the capability of software to make it so enterprises can adopt it as a platform.

Q: What kind of effect is the iPhone having on business?

A: Companies are very intrigued by the iPhone. It's created a lot of interesting questions and demands, and it helps me particularly because for first time people start thinking: "I may have some part of my organization on RIM, or some use specialized devices and some may use Symbian or Linux, and some have the iPhone, but I want their experience to be the same and I want to control all of that." In the past I wasn't able to convince customers that heterogeneous connectivity was very important, but now it's completely different. Now you need to accommodate multiple devices.

Q: How do you see smart phones evolving beyond enterprise? Is this a device we'll all be carrying around every day?

A: About 30 percent of phones sold are smart phones; it's the fastest-growing segment of phones today. You will see smart phones get cheaper and soon enough there will be no need, except for giving a kid a phone, for a nonsmart phone. The question is how much you pack into it.

Q: Your company is also pursuing mobile commerce and mobile payments. It's not something Americans do much of right now. How do you see that changing?

A: Yes, it's not common in the U.S., but it's common in other parts of the world. The future is the idea of a credit card embedded to a phone number or device. The ultimate thing is we can pay each other and you would get confirmation that there has been a transfer. It's very early in the market. Symbian's intention is become the plumbing guy. I don't want us ever to become the guy that takes $5 from you and gives it to someone else. We want to provide the platform and plumbing to allow a mobile payment system to come about.

Q: Any thoughts on the new Obama administration and how it can best help the tech sector?

A: The good news is that he's talking about having a chief technology officer, and rumor has it that it's someone that's near Silicon Valley. That's good. I hope the CTO will be someone who is very focused on helping the tech industry grow. I hope they'll be a good voice in Washington talking about the needs for investment, innovation, protection of patents and will be someone who promotes trade. And if Obama carries through with promises to invest in green tech, I think it's all a positive thing. And also with immigration, we need to make sure we have enough skilled laborers in the U.S. to help the tech industry, which is always looking for skilled people. These are all things I hope we'll be able to tackle with a good CTO.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Linden lab Uses 3rd Parties to Sell Lindens (L$'s) Internationally

Strange that Linden Lab cannot do this themselves and save Residents the padded commission costs for 3rd party exchange operators ... or better yet, keep the commissions themselves. Seems to PG this is a way to pass the risk on to 3rd party payment providers and international resellers for local legal compliance and regulation. Clever move short term given the exposure to local laws on money transmission and virtual currency exchange issues. However, it is doubtful this is a viable confidence-in-the-L$-building strategy long term:

"GlobalCollect Partners with DX Exchange for European Online Currency Conversion to Virtual Money
DX Exchange has signed an agreement with GlobalCollect, the world's premier payment service provider of local e-payments, to enable Second Life Residents to exchange European currencies for virtual money

Last update: 4:16 a.m. EST Nov. 17, 2008
AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands, Nov 17, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- DX Exchange, a Dutch 3D media company and Virtual Service Provider, has teamed up with GlobalCollect to allow Residents of Second Life(R), the popular 3D online virtual world created by Linden Lab(R), to exchange Euros for Linden Dollars, the currency used to pay for goods and services offered in Second Life. The local e-payment methods offered via GlobalCollect's single-interface platform WebCollect will initially be direct debits plus Giropay, Paysafecard, Ukash, and Wallie in Germany as well as iDeal, Paysafecard, Ukash, and Wallie in the Netherlands. Future plans entail expanding this service to the UK, France, Belgium, and other European countries.
Via GlobalCollect's online payment platform WebCollect, the Second Life community already had the ability to buy Linden Dollars by means of credit card payment in US Dollars since 2007. The newly formed cooperation between DX Exchange and GlobalCollect enables European Second Life Residents now to acquire Linden Dollars by paying in Euros and soon British Pounds. Plus, they can select from a choice of preferred local payment options while receiving local language support.
Bart Bockhoudt, CEO of DX Exchange said: "Teaming up with GlobalCollect gives us the opportunity to expand into the rest of Europe faster and on an even more professional level. Meaning, we can focus on our core business of providing local support."
Jan Manten, CEO of GlobalCollect, continued "We've already been servicing credit card transactions in US Dollars for Second Life since April 2007. Thanks to the collaboration with DX Exchange we can now expand this service to include European currencies and a wide choice of popular local payment methods. In addition, we offer a comprehensive Fraud Screening Service to minimize the risk of fraudulent transactions within the online environment."

The even resell SL land al la Anshe Chung.

E-Gold Sleasebags Convicted & Sentenced

Three directors of E-Gold, in addition to its Gold & Silver Reserve parent company, indicted in April 2007 of running a platform that have become a haven for criminal activities like processing investment scams and payments for child pornography on Thursday, 20 November, received their sentences. However, a United States of America federal judge decided last Thursday not to impose a prison sentence on the senior directors of E-Gold. Instead each of them was sentenced to three years of probation and 300 hours of community service with some fees to be paid.

Gold & Silver Reserve CEO, Douglas Jackson, who faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine was spared the heavy fine because, according to his attorney, he’s deeply in debt. Thus he was sentenced to pay only $200 fine with 300 hours of community service time of supervision.

Reid Jackson, Douglas Jackson’s brother, and E-Gold director Barry Downey were each sentenced to three years of probation, 300 hours of community and ordered to pay a $2,500 fine and a $100 assessment fee each. Online sources say the maximum fine E-Gold and Gold & Silver Reserve faced could have been $3.7 million, but because neither company could pay that much, they were fined $300,000 with the condition that $10,000 be paid on Monday, with further monthly payments to start in May 2009.

E-Gold and its corporate affiliate, Gold & Silver Reserve Inc. had, each, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in money laundering and conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business. The principal director of E-Gold and CEO of Gold & Silver Reserve Inc. (Gold & Silver Reserve), Dr. Douglas Jackson, 51, of Melbourne, Fla., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in money laundering and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. E-Gold’s other two senior directors, Barry Downey, 48, of Baltimore, and Reid Jackson, 45, of Melbourne, each pleaded guilty to felony violations of District of Columbia law relating to operating a money transmitting business without a license. E-Gold, Gold & Silver Reserve and the three company directors were charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury on April 24, 2007.

Interestingly, when Douglas Jackson acknowledged the company was under investigation in 2004, the illegal activity still went on with E-Gold, the company during trial ascribed this to bad legal counsel, which convinced them the site does not have to be licensed as a money transmitting business. The court accepted the argument of Downey that he was unaware of the company’s need for a license, even though he is a practicing lawyer.

The defendants argued they made every effort to cooperate with investigators while the prosecutors questioned the use of E-Gold’s cooperation as the directors’ tried to circumspect government investigation.

In addition to the fines and prison sentences, each of the defendants agreed that E-Gold and Gold & Silver Reserve will move to fully comply with all applicable federal and state laws relating to operating as a licensed money transmitting business and the prevention of money laundering which includes registering as money service businesses. Also, as part of the plea agreement, the businesses will create a comprehensive money laundering detection programme that will require verified customer identification, suspicious activity reporting and regular supervision by the Internal Revenue Services’ (IRS) Bank Secrecy Act Division, to which the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network delegated authority according to federal regulations. E-Gold and Gold & Silver Reserve will hire a consultant to ensure their compliance with applicable law and hire an auditor to verify the companies’ claims that all transactions are fully backed by gold bullion. Under federal law and District of Columbia law, in addition to other jurisdictions, the E-Gold operation was required to be licensed and registered as a money transmitting business. However, according to information in plea materials, the E-Gold operation functioned as a money transmitting business without registering with the federal government and without a license in the District of Columbia. Because these businesses and individuals illegally failed to register and follow applicable regulations under federal and District of Columbia laws, the resulting lack of oversight and required procedures created an atmosphere where criminals could use “e-gold”, or digital currency, essentially anonymously to further their illegal activities. Specifically, according to information contained in plea materials, the E-Gold operation provided digital currency services over the Internet through two sites: and “By failing to comply with money laundering laws and regulations, the E-Gold operation created an environment ripe for exploitation by criminals seeking anonymity in conducting online transactions,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich. “This case demonstrates that online payment systems must operate according to the applicable rules and regulations created to ensure lawful monetary transactions.” “The operations of E-Gold Ltd. and the other defendants undermined the laws designed to maintain the integrity of our financial system and created opportunities for criminal activity,” said U.S. Attorney Taylor. “Because of the successful prosecution of these defendants, digital currency providers everywhere are now on notice that they must comply with federal banking laws or they will be subject to prosecution.” The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service, IRS Criminal Investigation and the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Haray of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, Senior Counsel Kimberly Kiefer Peretti of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Laurel Loomis Rimon, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, with assistance from the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. William Cowden of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Asset Forfeiture Unit assisted with forfeiture issues involved in the case.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New Style

These are dark times. Thus the new background and colour scheme. In today's recessionary global economy, payment has never been so important. You simply must contact to improve your cash flow and bottom line asap. Satisfaction guaranteed. Or your money back.



The Growing Ex-Amazon Club and Why It’s a Good Thing
Om Malik | Friday, November 21, 2008 | 5:30 PM PT | 2 comments

Call it a coincidence, but over the past few days I have spent a lot of time with folks who used to work for Amazon but are now out doing new things. It all started with Jason Kilar, the CEO of Hulu, who was a keynote speaker at our NewTeeVee Live conference. Then last night I met with Dave Schapell, founder and CEO of TeachStreet, an e-marketplace for teachers. And this morning I had coffee with Jeff Lawson, co-founder of Twilo.

My buddy Dave McClure was the one who pointed out that they are all part of the Ex-Amazon club. Just like the rising number of ex-Google entrepreneurs I wrote about last year, these guys are leaving top jobs at one of the best technology companies in the U.S. Here is a list of just some of those names, their current companies and their previous positions at the e-tailer:

Jeff Holden, CEO and co-founder, Pelago (Amazon consumer web sites)
Michael Sha, co-founder, WikInvest (Amazon Payments)
Dave Schappell, CEO and founder, TeachStreet (Misc.)
Vikas Gupta, co-founder, Jambool (Amazon Flexible Payment Systems)
Reza Hussein, co-founder, Jambool (Mechanical Turk)
Jeff Lawson, co-founder, Twilio (Amazon Web Services)
Keith Schorsch, CEO and founder, Trusera (Misc.)
Plus Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu (Amazon Marketplace)

Now this isn’t even a comprehensive list, and slowly and surely, it is expanding. The easy availability of capital in Seattle certainly helps, but more importantly it speaks to the amount of top-quality talent that Amazon has been able to attract over the years. Lawson, who stopped by for a cup of tea this morning to pitch his company, Twilio, said that one of Amazon’s biggest strengths has always been its ability to recruit and hire great minds. It is because of this hiring policy that the company has not only stayed ahead of the technology curve, but established itself as the leader in Web 2.0 innovation. That’s in stark contrast to other tech giants such as Yahoo and Google, which have instead taken their cues from small startups. For talented people, the allure of working with Jeff Bezos can be what clinches the deal, according to Schappell of TeachStreet, which counts Bezos Expeditions as one of its investors. His company has essentially developed a place where you can go to find things like a French teacher, or someone to give you trombone lessons. I like to call it the Yellow Pages with brains, and it’s the kind of service a company like eBay should have launched instead of mucking around with things like Skype.

Those who know Bezos well say that he isn’t afraid of losing and wants to win big — and that means making big bets. This “nothing-in-the-middle” attitude is particularly attractive to folks with an entrepreneurial gene. Of course, it also has its downside. Bezos’ big-play approach frustrates those who want to unleash small ideas, and nurture them over a period of time. Eventually some great people couldn’t live within the corporate structure of Amazon and went on to do their own thing. Like Lawson, who until recently was the CTO of Stubhub before starting Twilio, a company that has developed an easy way for web application developers to add voice capabilities to their offerings using standard web-programming techniques. Should Amazon be worried about this brain drain? Absolutely not, for the company continues to attract talent the way lights attracts moths. I’ve often wondered what Amazon would do next, and I have a few ideas as to where I think they’re going. Someday I’ll blog about that, too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Eric Krangel Formerly Eric Reuters Disses Second Life

The only surprise is it took him a year and a half to figure this out? Or was "playing SL" for a living just too good a gig for Eric Krangel ala Eric Reuters to squelch. It seems he would be happy to continue running the Reuters Virtual News Desk from Second Life but unfortunately Reuters Management asked the obvious "What the hell is the point of this charade?" and pulled the plug on this virtual news experiment ala Wagner James Au.

After 18 months of predominantly positive press from ER inworld, most surprising was this comment from Krangel reporting from the Real World; "For all its bugs, Second Life is tolerable as a playground, but enterprise users will never and should never use it for business." What an ungrateful prick! Just PG's opinion... Anyway, here is Eric Reuters, I mean Eric Kaegen's advice to Linden Management. Wonder if they will listen? Cheers!

The Register is reporting the Reuters Second Life bureau has closed, and adds about the embedded reporter there:

Reports of a marketing evac team swooping in a virtual huey to snatch Eric Reuters from the firm's Sadville bureau - while harried by squadrons of flying penises and pursued by crazed locals bent on acts of bestial sexual brutality - could not be confirmed.

I can add details: For a year and a half, I reported under the byline "Eric Reuters" in Second Life, before settling in at my new home here at SAI.

So what happened? Is Second Life dying? No, but the buzz is gone. For all the sound and fury over recent price hikes and layoffs at Linden Lab, Second Life has a community of fanatically loyal users. Since Linden Lab derives its revenue from user fees, not advertisements, Second Life is much more likely to survive the Web 2.0 shakeout than most other startups.

It's hard to say what, if anything, Linden Lab can do to make Second Life appeal to a general audience. The very things that most appeal to Second Life's hardcore enthusiasts are either boring or creepy for most people: Spending hundreds of hours of effort to make insignificant amounts of money selling virtual clothes, experimenting with changing your gender or species, getting into random conversations with strangers from around the world, or having pseudo-nonymous sex (and let's not kid ourselves, sex is a huge draw into Second Life). As part of walking my "beat," I'd get invited by sources to virtual nightclubs, where I'd right-click the dancefloor to send my avatar gyrating as I sat at home at my computer. It was about as fun as watching paint dry.

But here's how Linden Lab can make Second Life more fun and a better business:

1. Build good newbie-oriented content. Linden has always taken the position they're in the 3D platform business, and can't be expected to build anything with their own tools or even know what others are doing in Second Life. That argument didn't fly when the gambling scandal broke and it doesn't work now. Second Life has a monster learning curve, and Linden Lab needs to hold new users' hands through every step of their first five or six hours. A big content push isn't even that expensive: the company has proven it can pay Second Lifers $10/hr to do these things and have skilled content creators begging for the job.
2. Acknowledge that Second Life's reputation is now a liability. This isn't the worst thing in the world, but it does mean Second Life can't sit back and hope word-of-mouth brings in hordes of new users like it did back in 2006. Second Life needs to advertise, and the ads need to be hip. New CEO Mark Kingdon has an ad background and should have the right résumé to pull off a makeover.
3. Radically simplify the user interface. The Second Life UI is a mess, and there's been no major changes to it in Second Life's 5+ years. Making the Second Life experience easy-to-use, even graceful, isn't a nice-to-have, it's a business imperative.
4. Abandon the idea that Second Life is a business app. I wasn't in Second Life to play, I was there on assignment for Reuters. The login server would crash. I'd try to reach sources, but Second Life's IM window would hang on "waiting" all day when trying to figure out who was online. "Teleports" -- the ability to move from point to point anywhere in Second Life -- would stop working and I'd get locked out of my own office. These weren't one-offs, they were my daily, first-hand, happens-all-the-time experiences. For all its bugs, Second Life is tolerable as a playground, but enterprise users will never and should never use it for business. Re-focus on the core mission: Keeping the hobbyists happy and converting potential recruits into hardcore (read: fees-paying) users. None of these things will make Second Life palatable to the general public, but it will draw new traffic and keep a lot more potential users with the right temperment for Second Life from quitting in frustration on their first day. That might be enough for the next year or two. There's an incredible depth, passion, and camaraderie to the Second Life community that more popular online experiences like MySpace or World of Warcraft can't match. And while I didn't find it compelling, there really is something awesome about buying be able to "buy" a grid of blank 3D space, mold it like clay into an elven forest, a futuristic space station, or a bdsm dungeon, and then invite your friends to hang out.

PaymentGuy's Hero of the Week - Barclays' Roger Jenkins

Mr. Jenkins is this week's winner of the coveted PG Hero of the Week Award, awarded to the dude best able to get paid in this recessionary global economy! And his wife is hot, smart and connected. Better yet, he is 51 and she is 36, a perfect age gap between uber-payment-dude husband and global-glamor-babe-socialite-business-Goddess wife. They have 2 young boys also. What a role model! Mr. Jenkins, kind Sir., will you be my mentor please, pretty please? You may contact me at My calls to your Wife's fax machine went unanswered for some strange reason ... here is what NYT reports on his latest triumph: "Mr. Jenkins will not discuss his compensation and the bank discloses pay details only of its four executive directors. But his looming reward, perhaps more than £30 million (almost $45 million), underscores how much cash-constrained institutions must reward the deal makers crucial to their survival — even at a time of austerity and caution in international banking."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sulake North American GM Quits HABBO & Joins OutSpark

A great hire for Outspark! Another key loss for Sulake ...

Former ClickandBuy CTO Launches Stock Alert Service

And he uses the former ClickandBuy PR agent, Stuart Ginsberg for the PR. Good luck!

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today Strateer, a financial services startup, announced the launch of Alerts4all (, an easy-to-use stock market alert tool that brings institution grade investment technology to individual investors. With Alerts4all investors benefit from advanced investment alerts that can be easily setup in minutes to automatically monitor the stock market and protect investors’ portfolios. Individual investors often miss the right time to buy or to sell because they are too busy to actively monitor the stock market. This leads to frustration and bad investment performance. Alerts4all was created to solve this problem and help individual investors to find the right time to buy and sell. In today’s economic climate individual investors keep being hit in the current markets, and ultimately will need better tools and methods to get on their feet again. Alerts4all was created by successful entrepreneur Fabian Siegel, who co-founded the world’s 2nd largest Internet Payment Service ClickandBuy, and Matthieu Labour, a Wall Street technology veteran.

10 of My Favourite Payment Partners

1. Onebip

Marko Maras and his team at Onebip are doing amazing things making it easy for merchants like virtual world operators, mmo's ... to quickly deploy, scale and manage an international payment infrastructure. Onebip is simply the fastest, easiest, most economical and thus best way PG knows to start offering mobile payments. Their customers include: Ijji, Aeriagames, Habbo Hotel, Gameforge, Bigpoint, Travian, Roliana…. So if you want to start making mobile money, contact Marko at Onebip!

2. Fast£rpay - This is likely the best online banking payment method currently offered in the UK. It is awesome in that it allows customers to pay online via all the major British banks If you currently have customers in the UK or want paying customers in the UK for your MMO or Virtual World but do not offer FasterPay, you should ASAP. Otherwise, you are losing money! Contact Paul Fargus, Managing Director

3. Netgiro -
Netgiro is great and was recently aquired by Digital River. Good knowledge of online and internet bank payments and nice guys.

4. GlobalCollect - VP Shane Happach knows the needs of virtual world operators and can keep even Linden Lab's CFO happy:

5. Ericsson IPX - excellent people, excellent service, excellent technology

and backed by SonyEricsson unlike the other start-up and small cap SMS billing companies.

6. Adyen -
With transparent pricing, this is a breath of fresh air.

7. UKash - Excellent coverage for this prepaid (cash to virtual credits / subscriptions) retail-based payment solutions vendor

Currently issued in the UK, Ireland, Spain and Germany, Ukash is now available for the millions of consumers in 16 additional countries across Europe who don't have or don't wish to use credit or debit cards online. Now cash consumers in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Slovakia and Sweden can get Ukash at their nearest bank branch by completing a simple paying-in slip. They will then receive an email or SMS message with their unique and secure 19-digit Ukash voucher number. This voucher number is used when they are asked to pay at any of the hundreds of web sites that accept Ukash.

8. Todito Card - this prepaid card is simply a must for the Hispanic demo

9. Cyclelogic - best connectivity pan Latin America with CEO Miguel Ordonez a great guy to work with and truly one of the most knowledgeable experts in the mobile payment industry and knows the Latin American / Hispanic internet business landscape inside out;

10. PayByCash UGC - Hardworking Kevin Higgins has finally struck gold with his prepaid card concept. The Ultimate Game Card™ is all across the USA and also now available in Canadian stores

Nokia Foundation Awards the Founders of Habbo Virtual World

Congrats Aapo and Sampo!

HELSINKI, November 18 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Nokia Foundation (NYSE:NOK) has granted its 2008 award to Aapo Kyrola and Sampo Karjalainen, thefounders of Sulake Corporation Inc., which is best known for its Habbovirtual world and online community.

The EUR 10 000 award was presented at the foundation's scholarship awards ceremony on November 18, 2008, an event at which the foundation also celebrated its 14th anniversary. "Aapo Kyrola and Sampo Karjalainen have been chosen for this award because of their contributions to collaborative media and social networking.The Habbo virtual world is loved by teenagers all over the world as an easy way to meet new people and keep in touch with friends. The design of the virtual characters is unique, and the constantly evolving features of the collaborative game have driven innovation in an area where competition is tough," said Henry Tirri, Head of Nokia Research Center. Since Sulake was founded in May 2000, over 100 million users have registered with the Habbo service. The Habbo virtual world and online community attracts close to 10 million unique visitors each month. Sulake has offices in 18 countries across five continents and employs over 300 people.

Is Sulake Planning HABBO 3D?

This guy already did it!

Sulake's General Manager North America Quits HABBO

Recently, one of PG's contacts got an auto reply mail after emailing the SUlake North American General Manager Paul Thind; "“Hey All, My last day at Sulake Inc. was October 31st, 2008 ….Blah blah blah….” PG just confirmed this.

Anyone now what is up? Where oh where has the real brains of Sulake USA gone? Thind was typically known as the hardworking practical no-nonsense manager who kept the HABBO USA ship floating while the other ex-pat Finnish EVP's, SVP's, etc... enjoyed LA. Thind is still profiled on the Sulake Careers page - typically Sulake-PR-weird
Paul Thind, General Manager, Sulake USA
“ Sulake is energetic, creative and fast paced!”

“Sulake is one of those special companies that continues to innovate at breakneck speed, yet maintains a great deal of attention to our users' experience. We continuously learn a lot about working in different countries with different business cultures and business situations. If it hasn't been implemented yet, it will be. That's what we do!

Running the operations in North America is incredibly challenging and equally as rewarding. I like working on expanding the business and building the brand through strategic partnerships and new relationships. I also enjoy working with the 'rapid fire' teams in our Headquarters who passionately care about our business and want to help the country offices succeed as much as possible.

Due to Sulake’s extensive international presence, unique and forward thinking billing systems, and Habbo – one of the best community oriented websites on the planet, I can strongly recommend Sulake as a working place! Sulake is global and local at the same time. The company has identified a way to produce a safe and fun experience in the bleeding edge social networking and casual gaming space and have done it the 'Sulake way'. Best practices are implemented through to the countries where local management can integrate them. The smaller country offices have the entrepreneurial vibe to make quick decisions and are trusted to do so.

Sulake is for those who are looking for a company that listens, that acts, and executes. Sulake continues to innovate because the people who make the company genuinely care and are passionate about it. It's a great feeling to be around that kind of energy!”

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Juniper Research: Promotional coupons sent via mobile phones to exceed 200 million users by 2013

According to a new Juniper Research’s study, coupons delivered and redeemed via mobile phones are forecast to be used by some 200 million mobile subscribers globally by 2013. At the moment, mobile coupons market is most advanced in Japan and Korea, but USA and Europe are slowly catching up and mobile coupons have started appearing at all the main retail sectors including restaurants, entertainment, shopping and grocery. The developed nations of the Far East, North America and Western Europe are forecast to account for the major part of the market by 2013. Report author Howard Wilcox argues that even though today the overwhelming majority of coupons are paper-based, the mobile phone is the ultimate individual marketing device and mobile coupon pilots have shown greatly increased redemption rates - often double digit percentages. On the downside, though, Juniper identified some significant hurdles, including the lack of suitable point of sale (POS) infrastructure at the supermarket checkout allowing for the quick and easy redemption of coupons, which is critical to the consumer shopping experience. Technology is also a factor, with most mobile coupons today delivered by a (bar) code and SMS. In future, NFC will become popular in this application. More information about Juniper Research’s study “Mobile Coupons: Strategies & Forecasts 2008-2013″ is available from their website.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

PaymentGuy's Top 10 Virtual Worlds

1. WebKinz World - Still the place to be for kids and families. Extremely profitable and well run Canadian family-owned business. Innovative merchandise and licensing tie in to virtual world with massive retail distribution and sales network in North America. Smart and methodical approach to internationalization. Howard Ganz is a kiddie virtual world God.

2. Second Life - Still the place to be for adults, as unlike practically every other virtual world it is nearly all user-generated content. Innovative with virtual land sales and virual currency exchange. Despite obvious well-publicized downsides like lag, UI, churn, crashes too often and stagnating community of active users, remains profitable and virtually owns the educator space. Simply the best communication tool (online visual conversations with spatial VOIP for multiple customizable avatars all completely free!) available on the planet.

3. Twinity - Not yet formally launched so sparsely populated, but takes virtuality to a new level with realistic reproductions of cities and user-friendly links to other media. Downside: no community spirit or user-generated content. Will challenge Second Life if they figure out how to market it.

4. Entropia Universe - The place for aficionados. Hi-tech escapism, flourishing $400m economy enabling fortunes to be made which can be extracted from real-life ATMs. Downside: notoriously difficult and time-consuming to learn the rules.

5. Runescape - Wildly successful virtual world with hardly any publicity, proving you don't have to be cutting edge to succeed.

6. Football Superstars - Great idea enabling people around the world to play football in teams, each with their own avatar ... and then retire to a virtual pub. But it is not yet formally launched, so not proved to be bug-free. The game's developers promise players will be matched according to skill, and will even get the chance to graduate into management. Sure to crush Swedish Powerchallenge soccer.

7. Cool Camels - Made by Naofolt KFT of Hungary offering the first opportunity to franchise a wildly successful teen virtual world. Has 2D and 3D versions and universal translator engine. Extremely innovative cartoon generator, game portfolio of 300+ stand alone and multiplayer games, in-world movie theater and successful merchandise and licensing operations. Profitable well-managed business looking for international franchise partners.

8. UB Funkeys - Designed by Radica and now owned and operated by Mattel. Technically and creatively brilliant with excellent innovation on the real toy tie in and USB plug in angle.

9. CluPenguin - 2.5D pixel mediocrity but excellently managed and run with the creative class keeping control until squeezing the corporate suits at Disney Interactive for $100's of millions for the property. The Penguin Trio achieved the golden goose exit strategy all virtual world operators dream of.

10. World of Warcraft - the best of the best hands down King of all Virtual Worlds. Simply awesome technically and a license to print money making machine.

BEEMME the Mobile Money Scotty!

Beem seems quite cool But needs a network of merchants to support its use;

"The idea that your mobile phone could become a digital wallet has been around for a long time. Here's an object that we carry with us wherever we go. If it could be loaded up with digital cash wouldn't that make life easier - for the users, for retailers who wouldn't need to handle cash, and for the network operators who might eventually become players in the banking industry? But, in the UK at least, mobile money has been a long time coming - in fact, we're making less progress in this area than at least one African country. In Kenya, a system for transferring money between people with mobiles, Mpesa, has been a big success. It enables migrant workers, for instance, to send money home without the trouble of a long bus journey carrying cash.

Now today comes news of another attempt to create a mobile currency. It's called Beem and the press release describes it as "making mobile payments a reality today". Well, almost. I went through a lengthy and quite complex sign-up process to try Beem out - understandably that involves a number of security hurdles - and eventually managed to load £10 from my bank account onto my phone. The idea is that you can then pay for various goods and services simply by sending an SMS. So now I'd like to "beem" a payment somewhere. The only trouble is, there appears to be nothing to buy. Beem says a number of companies have signed up - including pizza restaurants and a taxi service. But when I clicked on my area on their website it showed only the pizza firm and that was marked "coming soon". What Beem - or any other digital money service - needs is a network effect. Once lots of retailers are signed up it becomes more worthwhile for customers to adopt the system and that then encourages more retailers to sign up. Mobile money has proved its worth in countries where many people don't use - or don't trust - the banking system. But we're not quite in that situation here yet. Meanwhile, there is £10 trapped in my phone and looking for a way out.

Friday, November 14, 2008

FRUUGO Blows Off Keynote at SIME

Fruugo is quickly shaping up to be a colossal FUBAR. For those of you needing clarity on what a F.U.B.A.R is! The Fruugo's were full of hot air and puffery bragging before the show with an afternoon keynote at SIME (the Scandinavian Interactive Marketing & Entertainment Awards) modestly titled “Meet the most ambitious start up on the planet”. Fruugo was to explain where the company is coming from, what markets and product categories they were after and next steps
But guess what? They didn't even show up! And their CEO is history.

Check this out;
According to sources (in finnish), Fruugo didn't launch it's service yesterday at SIME, as it was supposed to. Kauppalehti (also in finnish) writes that the CEO Reijo Syrjäläinen has left the company, and the new CEO is Juha Usva. They are now in talks with VC:s about new funding. Their biggest investor so far is Queensway Developments LLC..."

Is FRUUGO Finnish for FUBAR?

Fight Fraud With Vindicia

These folks are smart, hardworking and know what they are doing. If you want to reduce fraud and chargebacks, Vindicia is a great resource. Call them up and tell them PG sent you. Please note, none of the PaymentGuys or Girl are in any way affiliated or receive anything for this referral. This is a gratuitous freebie tip for all our Dear Readers. From their site "Billing and Fraud Management for Virtual Worlds":

Virtual worlds are rapidly becoming online destinations where individuals from all over the globe go to express themselves and interact with one another. Virtual world providers have focused on creating an immersive experience and a robust online community, however the monetization of these worlds is still in the early stages. As companies build out their vision, billing is the last thing they want their customers to worry about. Since the business models around virtual worlds are quickly evolving, it is critical for companies to have a billing system that is powerful yet flexible. Vindicia’s success in the online gaming and dating markets gives us a unique understanding of how users interact in online communities, and which business models and targeted promotions are best suited to building a robust online community while maximizing revenues. Virtual worlds are particularly vulnerable to fraudulent activity such as stolen credit cards (and related chargebacks), money laundering via digital goods, in-world currency transactions and friendly fraud chargebacks. Some experts estimate in high fraud risk areas, online merchants may be losing up to 10% of revenues due to chargebacks alone. Any comprehensive solution must provide tools to control fraud management. Vindicia supports the most popular online business models such as digital goods, recurring billing and token management, yet remains flexible to allow for experimentation and innovative new models like granting credit for user generated content. Vindicia is also inherently global and supports payments and communication in nearly any currency or language. With Vindicia, virtual world creators can optimize their business to monetize effectively, provide a flawless experience and take control of fraudulent activities to let users all across the globe keep exploring and interacting.

CoolCamels is Coming to Finland! Virtual World Developer Napfolt KFT of Budpest will partner with New Media Studio Nefele of Tampere Finland to bring one of the leading kiddie virtual world sites to Finland and Estonia! If you want to launch a kiddie virtual world you should check out this unique opportunity.
As blogged previously, PG recently spoke to Balazs, Juhasz, Founder of Hungary's largest social networking site and kiddie virtual world, CoolCamels. Cool Camels is published by new media company Napfolt KFT in Budapest. You may find more information at the corporate site and facts here The Napfolt Team can also send you a company and product presentation if you like. Cool Camels, or "Teve Club" in Hungarian, is the most popular virtual world / social networking site for youth (kids, tweens and teens) in Hungary. There are 3 language versions, Hungarian, German and English with Cool Camels currently completed extensive development and feature enhancement with a coming mobile version to help speed international expansion and registration.

Cool Camels is perhaps the internet's 1st "virtual pet virtual world". It was conceived and launched in 1999 and has been developed completely in-house. Its international development team is located in Budapest and has some of the finest developer and technical resources in the country.

The Cool Camels team, has created unique and innovative technology including a 3D chat, comic strip generator (with 50,000+ user generated comics and proprietary game portfolio. Napfolt has also successfully extended the Cool Camel's brand into merchandise, animation and print media. It has its own retail operations and publishing arm ala WebKinz.

Napfolt's current aim is to spread the CoolCamels project all around the world, basically as a franchise system on a revenue share basis to have as many language
translations as they can. The new 3D site ( is much more easier to translate as the old version ( - and is much more expandable (easy to
insert new environments, rooms, items, advertisers, etc) So they have to
spread the new version to many languages and countries as possible.

The current old version English ( and German ( websites will be modified and upgraded to the new version as soon we'll find a local partner.

What does Napfolt offer to a local partner?
1. Napfolt provides the engine
2. Napfolt will host the webiste on it's server
3. Napfolt will provide all the new developments they make - to keep all the language versions up to date
4. Napfolt will make all the special appearance requested by paying advertisers
5. Revenue share on all incomes generated on the local site

What does Napfolt expect from a local partner?
1. Local marketing - as they need local users
2. Translation
3. User support

Good deal in PG's opinion. Contact Balazs at