Hotxt - When do we get to meet Doug?
Seems that Mr Doug Richards of Dragon's Den fame has been meeting with the great and the good of the mobile technology blogging world (see Mr Hume, The Mobhappy folk and SMSTextNews - BTW read the comments on this one, they are brilliant) but no invite for myself and Raddedas :-( Our great sadness aside (we actually prefer the wannabe Simon Cowell that is Peter Jones) Hotxt is something that we've been looking at for a while.
The business model is nothing new, there was actually a German company doing this back in 2001 or such when GPRS was in its infancy and application development was even younger. There are also a crop current competitors including the likes of Simtext and MobiSMS (and even Reporo seem to have added messaging to their shopping application – if the biz model isn’t floating throw in the kitchen sink eh lads!) although what they all lack is user-base, or indeed the ability to generate one.
This is where Hotxt would seem to have a distinct advantage, £4million quid in the bank and the nice Mr Richards to front things. Securing such funding is impressive, and was no doubt tied in no small part to the publicity draw of the kindly Doug and lots of mentions of "the mobile Skype" (as a complete aside has anyone else noticed the number of mobile application businesses currently describing themselves as either the mobile Skype, the mobile Flickr or the mobile Google? Nothing seems to have VCs reaching for their chequebooks faster - but I digress). I’d imagine that the aim for the business plan is probably to build up a sizable user base, and then flog the outfit.
However they need a better app than the one which I downloaded the other day. On my Samsung D600, it downloaded ok, but on loading looked hideously amateur (no full screen, badly sized and laid out icons) and then asked permission to send Socket information and then when that didn't work it tried to connect via Http (a far more sensible suggestion) and I got it working. However the load screen simply hadn't prepared me for the actual UI. It was shocking. Using only basic on phone components, it looked like a first year computer science student's pet project. I showed it to some programmers and they actually laughed out loud. Did Doug write it himself?
And this is where, for me, the whole thing sort of falls down. Whilst they are doing a commedable-ish job of promoting the app and will no doubt end up getting some ok user numbers. Technically the client app looks so amateurish that for a company with their level of funding its embarrassing and certainly isn't going to get your average consumer rushing to use it more than once.
And that’s why I won’t be investing today.