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Mozes: Let My People SMS

Palo Alto-based startup Mozes Inc. proposes to give mobile users new reasons for using their text messaging service -- an idea that surely appeals to wireless operators.

The Mozes service, which targets a young, mobile-friendly crowd, enables users to connect with specific content using text messaging. They do this by sending a "keyword" in a text message to the Mozes platform. In return they they get information or content back at their cellphone and in their account, which they can log onto at the Mozes Website.

Example: You are at a concert and you dig the opening band. Between songs, the singer announces the band’s Mozes keyword and says anybody who texts it to 66937 (MOZES) during the show gets a free MP3 sent to their Mozes account. You have your cellphone in your pocket and, Mozes hopes, you'll use it to connect immediately.

From an advertiser's point of view (in this case a band), Mozes is a way to immediately reach out to a highly targeted audience.

Mozes can also be used in random social situations where people are looking to make new friends or business contacts. Mozes CEO Dorrian Porter says the experience is like giving someone a business card, but far more dynamic and expressive. (See Roamware Intros Voice SMS.)

Mozes can also be used to conduct polls, contests, and other promotional gimmicks. In fact, many Americans first used their cellphones in this way by voting for their favorite cheeseballs on American Idol.

Mozes gets its start as wireless carriers are looking for new ways to expand mobile usage and revenues. "Nobody is trying to make people talk more," Porter says. But, he believes, there is room for growth in add-on services like text messaging. The nation's top three wireless carriers each reported that data services (of which text messaging is the largest part) made up around 10 percent of per user revenue for the first quarter of 2005. (See Quote of the Week, Sprint Nextel Revenues Up, Profits Down, and Verizon: Wireless Funds Fiber.)

JupiterResearch says about half of all mobile phone users now use text messaging. The firm estimates that text message traffic was 43 billion in 2005, garnering about $4.3 billion in revenue for the wireless carriers (text messages cost about 10 cents apiece to send). Jupiter believes text message traffic will increase to 68 billion, or $6.8 billion in revenue, in 2010. (See Sevis Offers SMS Offload.)

Jupiter wireless analyst Julie Ask says small "mobile interactive marketing" companies are popping up all over. Many remain at the "experimental" stage while U.S. users get used to text messaging. But, unlike many others, Mozes mixes in a social networking aspect -- a concept that has been very popular with VCs in the last year or so. (See Verizon Wireless to Give SMS a Voice.)

Porter says his company has already been in casual discussion with several wireless carriers, but he believes Mozes will have to prove its concept before any serious engagements occur. “Everybody is coming in saying that they have the next big approach to mobile, so that approach for them is completely reasonable," Porter says.

Mozes was founded last June and raised a single $750,000 round of angel funding in May. It will likely need more cash as it seeks to perfect its product in the absence of help from a wireless provider.

For now, the company is making money from advertisers that are designing youth-focused campaigns around the Mozes text messaging platform. The company says it will launch five such campaigns over the next month.

And the ideas keep coming. Mozes says users will soon be able to use its service to find the name of a song playing on the radio. The user texts the station’s keyword (e.g., “kfog”) to Mozes while the song is on; in return the user gets the name of the song and a link to it on iTunes.

Porter was a high-tech attorney before he helped found his first company in 2000. That company was sold off to the enterprise software company SciQuest Inc. in 2002. Porter served as CEO there until 2005 when he left to found Mozes.

Mozes VP of development Andy Stack in 2000 co-founded Stata Labs, which developed a desktop search-based email program called Bloomba. That company and the product were sold to Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) in 2004. Marketing VP Irv Remedios came to Mozes from Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE), where he led development of that company's Internet-based applications.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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