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Posts Tagged ‘digital media’

Riverstone and Interpret the Future team up again with OpenKnowledge at the Social Business Forum 2016

06 Jul

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Now in its ninth year, the Social Business Forum, Europe’s premier speaker and networking event dedicated to social business, will take place in Milan on the 6-7 July 2016. Organised by OpenKnowledge, the management consulting company focused on social and digital transformation, and held once again at the Marriott Hotel in the capital city of fashion and design, SBF16 will bring together features a unique offer of visionary keynote speeches, success stories and discussion panels organized in a Free and Premium Conference. The Free Conference includes the keynote speeches in the mornings of July 6th and 7th delivered by outstanding and internationally-known experts.

The theme of this year’s Social Business Forum is the Platfirm Age: Plug your Business – Play your Future. The focus of many of the keynote presentations will be on how platform-companies, such as Airbnb, Facebook and LinkedIn, have revolutionised traditional business models and developed continuously-evolving structures where value is co-created with users / customers.

All the keynotes will be simultaneously translated by Interpret the Future, the Social Business Forum’s longstanding specialist interpreting partners. This year, the team includes ItF founder members Loredana Nano and Alice Bertinotti. Daniela Negru will also be in the booths helping the team to provide a highly professional conference interpreting service. The project is managed by Robert Dennis, director of Riverstone Language & Communications.

Find out more…

by Robert Dennis

Robert has created an online Business English course on WiziQ. Sign up for the free edition!

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Introducing… the Teachers’ Lounge!

20 May

Staff meetings were never like this: what happened?

The revolution will not be televised, but it may well end up going viral on YouTube: launching later this month, The Teachers’ Lounge will be quite unlike any teachers’ meeting you have ever attended. An evening of great networking in a fabulous setting and the latest edtech ideas and hands-on demos, it’s guaranteed to be a night to remember for the teachers who make their way to the Fiori Oscuri bar on Thursday 29th May at 7:30pm.

Organised by the Milan Business English Network, in association with PearsonThe Teachers’ Lounge will feature a laid back and leisurely look at some of the best teaching materials currently on offer – especially the new apps and online resources that are driving the move towards digitalization in the classroom. The evening will also be a chance to mix and mingle with other colleagues in the elegant surroundings of Fiori’s subterranean lounge.

Russell Lewis, an Education Consultant with Pearson based in Milan, will be on hand with his team to allow teachers to experience first-hand some of the latest innovations in classroom technology (and in fact, mobile tech that goes beyond  the classroom itself). While you may have heard about platforms such as MyEnglishLab or are familiar with some of Pearson’s vast range of titles for all levels of learners, the Teachers’ Lounge will provide the ideal setting in which to see these in action – guided by experts who will be delighted to explain the benefits and efficacy of the products and services.

As well as having the chance to see online learning on an iPad you can discover how to simplify many of your everyday teaching and administrative tasks – and save time and energy – while ensuring that your students’ learning outcomes are improving.

At the same time, attendees will be invited to sign up for some exclusive freebies and offers – plus a few other surprises that will be revealed on the night itself. Milan Business English Network events are always a great way to expand your range of contacts as well as meet up with old friends and have a great night out. The combination of MBEN plus Pearson should give you not only access to ideas and resources, but also help boost your professional teaching career. Running parallel with the live event, The Teachers’ Lounge will provide access to a wealth of tips, links and solutions to make your teaching life both easier and more rewarding.

Teachers who have registered on the Eventbrite site can enjoy free drinks, courtesy of Pearson and for anyone who has never been to Fiori Oscuri before you will be surprised and delighted at this hidden gem of Anglo-Italian chic located right in the heart of the trendy Brera art zone.

There will be a strict limit on numbers at this event, so if you haven’t signed up already, you’d better skates on: we’re filling up rapidly!

For more details and any queries relating to the Teachers’ Lounge, please contact either Robert Dennis of the Milan Business English Network or Russell Lewis at Pearson.

School’s out. The Teachers’ Lounge is in. See you there!

THE TEACHERS’ LOUNGE

Thursday 29 May 2014, 19:30 – 22:00

Fiori Oscuri (Sports Bar S.R.L)
Via Fiori Oscuri, 3
Milano

Dress code: smart casual

Click here to register (Eventbrite)

 

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Riverstone: a new approach to learning business English, networking and social media marketing

23 Jan

Integrating language activities in a company helps achieve success.

Traditionally, language learning has been seen as either a service (or duty) provided by companies to their employees, while communications activities such as translation and providing content for the company website have been seen as separate tasks that can either be done in-house by the marketing team or outsourced to an agency.

Riverstone Language & Communications takes a totally different approach.

A dynamic, new organisation for business English, Riverstone believes that all language-related activities in a company should be integrated and harmonised: the way employees answer the phone and write emails; the language used to present the company in sales meetings with customers; the tone and content on the company’s corporate website and social media presence; and even its advertising media – all of these should resonate with one clear voice that is easy to understand, inspires trust and promotes the core brand values of the business.

By raising the quality of the entire company’s language skills and ability to speak directly to customers and clients, Riverstone can help any organisation achieve its business objectives and assist in building strong, lasting relationships.

Riverstone are also active in helping companies and professionals in a wide range of sectors to put their English language skills into practice by attracting new business and extending their network of contacts. With a programme of regular business networking events and specialist language workshops, Riverstone can enable any company or freelancer to give themselves a competitive advantage in the market place – especially in key foreign markets where communicating in English is essential.

Changing the way companies use English

While many companies have embraced the benefits offered by social media, Riverstone also understands that businesses need to be able to tailor and target their message effectively on a variety of social media platforms, such as facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other services. They have developed sophisticated language-based training programmes that help companies focus on the key objectives of communicating effectively via social media: establishing trust; conveying a sense of professionalism and integrity; engaging customers with a clear, compelling message; and building communities based on brands, as well as B2B networks.

Riverstone is owned and managed by Milan Business English Network founder Robert Dennis and entrepreneur Helen Fish. Together they are redefining the role of business English training and communications inside a company. Their model is one of collaboration and discovery: allowing management, employees and customers to speak to each other in a shared, inclusive dialogue that is both natural and productive.

“I would like people in business to think of Riverstone as a single solution for all their language needs: training, internal and external communications, and a stepping-stone towards accessing new markets and customers,” says Helen.

If you would like to discover how Riverstone is shaking up the business English world – and how they can help you business to maximise its potential through an integrated approach to language and communications – please contact either Robert Dennis (Robert@riverlang.com) or Helen Fish (Helen@riverlang.com). They will be delighted to provide you with information about their training programmes, workshops and business networking events.

NEW! The Milan Business English Network in association with Riverstone Language & Communications is holding a business networking event at Fiori Oscuri bar in Milan this Thursday. To find out more about this event, please visit the Milan Business English Network facebook event page or see the Riverstone website for details.

Find out more: http://riverlang.com/

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Blended learning maestro Pete Sharma set to make an impact on Milan at the PSA Symposium

31 Aug

Pete Sharma, one of the world’s leading experts on integrating technology into learning, will be “in the shadow of the Madonnina” this autumn as part of the PSA (Pete Sharma Associates) Symposium. The event on October 4th 2012 in Milan is being hosted by the British Consulate-General and sponsored by SMART Technologies, Richmond ELT and Little Bridge. UK Trade & Investment are also supporting the Symposium.

The title of the Symposium is “L’impatto delle nuove tecnologie sull’insegnamento delle lingue straniere” (“The impact of new technology on foreign language teaching”). This symposium builds on the success of similar events in Spain.

The speakers will include Pete and representatives from the sponsors. The exact topics and content are still to be confirmed, but here is a preview of the programme:

Keynote Presentation

Pete Sharma, Pete Sharma Associates Ltd
“New developments in Language Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age”

Pete speaking at a recent ICT Conference
(Photo: British Council)

Technology has changed the teaching and learning of languages. However, technology changes quickly and it is sometimes difficult for teachers to follow new developments. It is not always easy to use new  technology well inside and beyond the classroom. In his talk, Pete Sharma will describe some of the most important recent advances in new technology including m-learning, commercially produced digital materials, the interactive whiteboard and the virtual learning environment in the 21st century

Pete started his EFL career as a business English teacher in Madrid, moving to Finland before returning to the UK. He worked as teacher trainer, Director of Studies and school manager before becoming the Group teacher training and development manager for Linguarama, a business English organisation which is now part of the Marcus Evans group. In his capacity as a member of the Group Pedagogical Unit he inspected schools, taught writing seminars in the Middle and Far East, and helped create and run trainer training courses. He has written extensively about technology in language teaching. Pete recently changed from ESP to EAP, and currently divides his time between lecturing at Oxford Brookes University and on the Warwick University pre-sessional courses, and writing. He keeps a blog on using technology in ELT with co-author Barney Barrett. See: www.te4be.com

 

Luke Baxter & Cathy Smith
Richmond ELT
“Convergence”

This is a term that encompasses many of the most important trends in the “digital world” today. Important examples include how tools, entertainment and work have converged onto a single device, so a person can have, say, a compass, a radio and a spreadsheet on their iPad. Another example and one which is very much at the forefront of digital predictions is “the cloud”, where content and computing converge and become accessible “anytime, anywhere and on any device”.

Using examples from Richmond’s Digital Books and Learning Platforms, this presentation will aim to show how convergence is already affecting ELT publishing. Luke and Cathy will show how many of the traditional components of a publisher’s course offering have already converged in a Digital Book that includes the Student’s Book, Teacher’s Book, Workbook and Class Audio. They will also look at how students can access the Learning Platforms to play games, comment on blogs and communicate with their teacher, who in turn can assign trackable tests and homework activities.

Finally, they will attempt to look forward and hazard some guesses as to how convergence will continue to affect ELT publishing. Can every course component converge onto a single device? Will the divide between paper and digital make any sense in the future? Will this mean the end of the printed book? Should ELT publishers view themselves solely as content providers and thus endeavour to provide this content in whatever way best suits the needs and situations of each individual customer?

 

Valeria Mordenti
Marketing Manager Italy & South East Europe at SMART Technologies
The Interactive Whiteboard and Language Teaching”

SMART created the world’s first interactive whiteboard in 1991 and they remain the world’s leading provider of interactive whiteboards. Incorporated in 1987, SMART has been committed to innovation and excellence for more than 25 years and has provided solutions for the education, higher education, business, government and military communities. More than two million SMART Board interactive whiteboards are used by over 40 million students and their teachers, and SMART products are used in more than 175 countries.

 

Paul Rogers
Little Bridge
“Making English Irresistible to Young Learners!”

Paul is an award-winning author of over forty books for children, as well as of many well-known materials for the teaching of languages, including for teaching English. He’s an experienced linguist and has been both a primary and secondary teacher, as well as a lecturer in Education (at Goldsmiths College, University of London). Taking examples from Little Bridge, Paul will show how an innovative digital resource can:

1.       build a bridge between the learner and the English speaking world, setting the language in context through 3D animations and virtual reality

2.       build a bridge between traditional teaching methods and the latest computer technology, dealing with grammar, for example, in a painless, natural way.

3.       bridge the gap between work and play by making learning fun through a wide variety of motivating games, songs and activity types.

4.       build a bridge between home and school by providing activities that children will do for pleasure, whilst allowing the school to keep track of everyone’s progress.

 

Registration and Contact Details

Entry to the Symposium will be free but by invitation only. Delegates will also need to register with the British Consulate-General. If you would like to attend this event, please contact Byron Russell at PSA:

byron.russell@psa.eu.com

Check the Events page on the PSA website for further details and updates about the Symposium: http://www.psa.eu.com/event/psa-symposium-milan

You can find out more about Pete Sharma and PSA on their website: http://www.psa.eu.com/

 

About PSA

Pete Sharma Associates Ltd was founded in October 2008. PSA is an educational consultancy and training organisation for language teachers. PSA runs courses worldwide for teachers of English as a Foreign Language, teacher trainers and academic managers on how to successfully integrate educational technology into their language courses. PSA also advises institutions on hardware and software for language teaching.

PSA has a core team of four directors who are responsible for ensuring that all PSA courses meet the highest standards of quality. The directors keep abreast of educational technology and liaise with the major hardware and software manufacturers and publishers. They use a number of associate trainers, specialised in integrating technology into language courses. Their activities are supported by many associate organisations including The Pyramid Group.

 

Interested in blended learning? Robert Dennis attended the recent “Digital Transformation in the English Teaching World” event co-hosted by Pearson Longman and the British Council. Read the full  report on the Milan English blog:

The perfect blend? Pearson and the British Council team up for “Digital Transformation in the English Teaching World” 

 

 

 

 

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Nothing ventured, nothing gained: Danielle Dalkie finds the rules for raising startup capital are (gradually) changing

01 Aug

Fuelling the digital economy: options for startups (Image: Stock.xchang)

I have first-hand experience of raising capital; pounding the pavement and listening to people tell you that something you have put your heart and soul into doesn’t really interest them: sorry. Then, just when it seems you are about to give up , when you have spoken to every investor – twice – you suddenly stumble across someone who is actually willing to invest.

In the current economic climate it seems this process is even more arduous as people are less willing than usual to part with their hard-earned cash.  When it comes to venture capital, the conventional wisdom has been that if you want money the Americans are pretty much giving it away. Finding investment in Europe, however, while far from impossible, isn’t exactly easy either (particularly in Italy). Take for example the Italian startup wunderkind, Mashape, an API marketplace for cloud-based services: they spoke with every VC and investor in Italy – all without success. And then (miraculously) after just 19 days in the USA they found funding in San Francisco.

According to Marco Palladino, one of the founders of Mashape (along with Augusto Marietti and Michele Zonca) it’s entirely cultural. He told TechCrunch: ‘in Italy, the investor community is smaller and has less money than in Silicon Valley. Therefore, they don’t want to take a risk by investing in a new and innovative model – they want to invest in something proven and secure. Thus, they fund models that already exist, which ends up slowing down local innovation as a consequence’.

However, you can find venture capital if you’re in the right industry.  A recent report states that there has been a 37 per cent increase in investments in the US this quarter. Not surprisingly companies in the mobile sector have been the main beneficiaries, including seed funding for startups. In fact, 22 per cent of all deals have been at the seed stage this quarter.

Even though the Italian investments market still trails its main European counterparts it has been growing and an increasing number of opportunities are available.  In the past three years, 183 startups have received financing, according to a survey by “Startup Numbers”. The combined investment capacity of the funds for 2012-13 is about 320 million euros, aimed at supporting around 160 new businesses. The average lead time between the issuing of the business plan and the actual investment is about 6 months. Some firms can manage it in 3 months, while others need up to 10 months. The average share of capital controlled by investors is 30%.

There is also growing interest in the Italian startup sector, attracting not only homegrown VC funds, but also foreign money. Government support in the form of a Task Force to propose new laws more favourable to startups has also helped to spur optimism, as we reported on NetworkMilan recently.

Kickstarter: the world's largest funding platform for creative projects

However, while the traditional funding route for startups remains hard just about everywhere there is a new trend in the form of online funding networks.  Depending on which site they use a startup can raise whatever amount they need to get their business off the ground.  Whether you’re a one-man-band with a brilliant idea, or a small company seeking further development funds, this seems to be where most people are getting angel funding. Kickstarter is the one most people have heard about, creating a community for people with money to invest: anything from $10 up to $1 million, as was the case for Nano Wristbands (which convert an iPod Nano into a watch).

I also came across Payable.com as well, which takes a slightly different approach.  You share your idea on the site, which then gets funded by the ‘investor/s’.  Payable’s own developers step in to get you up and running and the software is sold via their online store, which is how the investors make their money back.  One disadvantage with this model is that you don’t own the IP.

And there’s Kabbage.com, which, according to its website can ‘provide working capital to online sellers to help their business grow in less than 10 minutes‘.

I like the idea of startups funding startups.  It makes sense; they understand the risks involved and are generally more in tune with the way entrepreneurs think.  And it is these companies that have been the driving force behind the growth in seed investment, as I mentioned above.

Certainly, the times they are a-changin’ for the investment sector. I personally do not believe you can say one location or market is better or worse than any other, especially since the dire economic outlook affects everyone equally (at least in the West, still languishing in recession). (According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, U.S. government spending relative to GDP is 36%, which is very close to that of Spain. And the US debt-to-GDP ratio is 103% whereas Spain’s is 68%.)

But while times remain tough, the growing diversity of funding sources for startups is one of the factors helping to get new high-tech businesses through these tough times.

By Danielle Dalkie, Social Media / PR Consultant and Co-founder of mobile payments startup Waspit.

BREAKING NEWS: Danielle has recently founded Network Roma, a sister group of the Milan Business English Network. You can become part of Network Roma by joining their group on LinkedIn.

Racing ahead: venture capital is available for startups with real potential that explore every funding route (Image: Formula One by Mark McArdle via Wikimedia Commons)

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Growing Italy’s startup sector: private investment and timely government intervention combine to create fertile ground for growth in difficult times

30 Jul

Nurturing tomorrow's successful companies (Image: Theornamentalist via Wikimedia Commons)

With each day bringing ever-gloomier financial and economic news for the Eurozone and especially for Greece, Spain and Italy – bailouts, euro meltdown and the dreaded “spread” – this would not seem like the best time to start a company. Certainly not in a highly-speculative sector with few established precedents and even fewer proven business models. And yet the Italian startup scene is showing signs not only of life – but even of optimism and an excitement that flies in the face of the impending doom nearly everyone assumes is about to befall the Bel Paese (the Beautiful Country, Italy – not the cheese, of course).

Special report by Robert Dennis of the Milan Business English Network

Last month’s issue of Italian business magazine Capital featured on its cover Federico Marchetti, the founder and CEO of Yoox, the innovative online fashion retailer and the headline “Invent the future: How to become an e-commerce leader and beat the crisis”. Yoox is one of a crop of successful Italian startups that are bucking the downward trend in adverse business conditions – and providing an alternative vision for an economy in crisis.

In an upbeat feature article the magazine also described the recent visit of Corrado Passera, Mario Monti’s Minister for Economic Development and former CEO of banking group Intesa Sanpaolo to H-Farm, the Venture Incubator whose headquarters is located near Treviso in the lush countryside of northern Italy’s wealthy Veneto region. With an atmosphere that was ‘almost a happening, with an air of optimism and so much positive energy that it felt surreal, considering the times we are in’, the minister listened to the ideas and concerns of the audience of 200 mainly young entrepreneurs. The purpose of the event at the countryside retreat and embryonic tech hub, founded by Riccardo Donadon and Maurizio Rossi, was to send out the message that the Italian government is serious about its plans to support and incentivize startups. It aims to do this by working closely with industry figures who can bring their knowledge and passion to help foster the right environment for young businesses (especially high-tech ones) to grow.

Passera and Donadon at StartUp Italia Open Day (Image: italiastartup.it)

The visit was the highlight of the Open Day (May 26) organised by StartUp Italia, an independent association formed by six leading players from the startup sector to promote innovation in Italy’s digital economy. The founders of StartUp Italia – Riccardo Donadon, Giorgio Carcano, Paolo Barberis, Luca De Biase,  Enrico Pozzi and Mario Mariani – are also part of the 12-strong Startup Task Force assembled by Passera to identify the practical measures needed to create a favourable environment for startups in Italy. (The Task Force, whose other members are Selene Biffi, Annibale D’Elia, Alessandro Di Camillo, Massimiliano Magrini, Giuseppe Ragusa and Donatella Solda-Kutzmann is co-ordinated by Alessandro Fusacchia, Adviser to Minister Passera for European Affairs, Youth, Merit and Innovation.)

The recommendations of the Task Force will feed into a proposed package of legislative measures also to be called Startup Italia. This package of new laws will complement the existing government  “decrees” of Save Italy, Grow Italy and Simplify Italy (Salva Italia, Cresci Italia and Semplifica Italia). However, it should be noted that Italians will be choosing a new government in 2013, which could have an impact on the existing legislative framework.

Capital’s article also focuses on how Italy’s main Venture Capital funds are continuing to invest in startups despite of – or even because of – a generally unfavourable outlook in the wider economy:

• Startups that are not yet ready for investment can be nurtured by incubators such as I3P, Innovation Factory, Toscana Life Science, TechNest (University of Calabria), Polo Tecnolgico di Navacchio, Consorzio Arca (University of Palermo), Acceleratore d’impresa del Politecnico di Milano and the Technopolis (University of Bari).

• Budding startups that require seed capital of less than 1 million euros can then approach investors such as dPixel, Working Capital, Italian Angels for Growth, Annapurna Ventures, Enlabs, Digital Magics, Club degli Investitori and H-Farm itself.

• Early stage venture capital of more than 1 million euros is provided by funds that include Principia SGR, Innogest, 360 Capital Partners, Vertis, TT Venture/Fondamenta, Next Fund Lifescience, Atlante Ventures and Aladin Venture/Friulia.

Italian banking groups UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo (via its StartUp Iniziative) also invest in startups.

Another sign that Italy is being taken seriously as a good location for startup companies is the arrival of TechCrunch in Rome this autumn. A one-day conference on September 27th will bring together the leading lights of Italy’s digital media and technology sectors. The event will throw a spotlight on some of the country’s highly innovative and dynamic startups.

So, while the outlook for the economy as a whole may be grim at least there is a ray of hope in the form of some exciting and creative new ventures that could kick-start growth as well as provide a significant return on investment for those with a longer-term vision.

Startups could yield a good return on investment (Image: Sunflowers via Wikimedia Commons)

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Money in motion: how mobile payments technology is changing the face of retail

18 Jul

Danielle Dalkie is a Co-founder and Director of Social Commerce & PR at Waspit, the groundbreaking mobile payments service. In this series of blog posts for NetworkMilan she will be writing about  mobile payments technology, social commerce and trends in the tech startup sector with a focus on the Italian/European market. To kick off the series she Danielle starts by looking at the big picture of what the mobile payments environment looks like from her uniquely well-informed perspective!

Danielle Dalkie

Payments and mobile technology in Europe have always been ahead of the American market. I am not sure when the idea started that the US is better known for adopting technologies at an early stage: stateside mobile networks are about 10 years behind those of Europe – and their payment methods also lag those of the “Old World” by a decade, too.

US society still seems to be largely cash-based. Compare that with Europe, where today 6 out of 7 transactions are made using a card. But the difference goes even deeper. The technocrat government of Italy, in particular, has declared a war on cash: Prime Minister Mario Monti wants the country’s vast army of self-employed entrepreneurs, including landlords, plumbers, electricians and small businesses to stop making large transactions in cash, which critics say simply facilitates tax evasion. On 4 December 2011, the Italian government reduced the maximum limit for cash payment from 2,500 euros to 1,000 euros. The rationale for this reduced limit on movements of cash is that Italy desperately needs to increase its tax revenues and views its anti-cash measures as a means of cracking down on tax evasion, which “costs” the government an estimated €150 billion annually. However, with an eye-watering €1.9 trillion of public debt to its name, some commentators have described this kind of punitive measure as “too little too late”.

Against the backdrop of a general tendency towards the “cashless society”, the recent announcement by American Express that they have just released their roadmap for Europay MasterCard Visa (EMV) got me thinking about the state of the payments environment and how this technology could develop in the coming months and years.

Now, let me stick my neck out and say that I for one didn’t actually think the US should have made the switch over to EMV, since it has been used in Europe for the past six years and the technology itself – at over 10 years old – is well past its sell-by date. It would have made much more sense for the US to bypass EMV altogether and move straight to near field communication (NFC), which allows consumers to make electronic payments by simply waving their NFC-enabled phone near a payments terminal . Yes, EMV has security benefits, and it has helped to substantially decrease fraudulent transactions throughout Europe, but this should have been apparent to the US retailers and federal authorities 6 years ago. Why wait until now when more flexible and innovative technologies have superseded it?

One saving grace is that at least this switchover will force merchants to upgrade their terminals. Each of these upgraded system devices will also accept NFC and mobile transactions, which is a fantastic opportunity for companies operating in this space, especially startups and smaller, independent companies who (unlike the credit card giants) do not have the funds or capacity to influence terminal and Point of Sale (POS) technology or upgrades.

Waspit: social banking for students

The innovative startup company I have been involved with over the last 18 months, Waspit, uses MasterCard PayPass technology and will be accepted by card-capable merchants in the US by 2017, by which time the proposed switch-over will be completed. This is clearly great news not only for consumers but for mobile payment startups, such as Waspit, generally. With merchants on board, socially-oriented financial services like ours will be able to focus on winning new customers and offering a wider range of related services and benefits

However, not all mobile / NFC payments technology are problem-free. PayPass, for example, and other card networks for mobile and micro payments, charge merchants 0.15% plus 0.025 Euro in the interchange every time a transaction is made. This means that if you’re buying a relatively low-value item , such as a 2 Euro ice-cream, the merchant is not actually making a profit. These increased costs may force small businesses to raise prices, or face margins being squeezed as they are unable to compete with larger retailers who enjoy greater economies of scale. (The European situation could also be affected by the recent $7.25 billion settlement by Visa and MasterCard of a class action brought by retailers in the US over interchange fees.)

From the merchant’s point of view it makes sense to bypass the credit card networks completely and go with the closed loop solution. The market has woken up to this fact with every tech company and startup offering some sort of mobile wallet, or mobile payment solution. You can now buy a latte with your Starbucks app , and even use your PayPal account in selected stores. But here’s the irony: all of this cashless technology is supposed to be making life simpler – except it’s not!

Behind the scenes, the situation is even more complicated, with the reliance on technologies such as those of the Trusted Service Manager (TSM) and over-the-air personalisation. When NFC handsets go mainstream and there is no longer a need for plastic at all, that is the moment when we will truly be in the era of mobile payments. But at present TSM is also in a state of flux. The mobile networks themselves are going to be the main players, but will Vodafone, Three, Orange (3 of the main UK operators) and the others be more flexible than the credit card companies, who currently control the scene? And the system will still rely on the infrastructure of the credit card companies, so interchange is still a factor. It is going to take a lot of hard bargaining, regulation and hammering out standards the key players in the industry can all agree on. No-one can say for sure how the situation will pan out – or how smaller players are going to get access to the chips that are vital for mobile payments to become the norm.

Mobile payments

Consumers want to use electronic and mobile payments – and when the technology is fully rolled out I don’t think it will be hard getting them on board. However, in the industry we have been talking about this for a while. The flip side is that this is not good for merchants , especially small ones. Either the credit card companies need to come to the party or something needs to shake up the whole space. There needs to be more unity and maybe regulation, but this should not be dictated by the giants who dominate this space.

Consumers are clearly voting with their smart-phones: there is increasing demand and enthusiasm for making mobile payments more widespread and easier. Retailers – especially smaller, independent ones – could stand to benefit; and even government revenue-collecting agencies governments would welcome the introduction and greater use of this type of technology (with concerns over privacy being taken seriously, of course). There is also an urgent need for business itself, trade and consumer bodies, as well as national governments and the EU to co-ordinate their efforts to ensure that the consumer has a choice of easily accessible, safe and efficient payment methods to choose from. And, of course, there needs to be a level playing-field for innovative creative startups such as Waspit to develop services that give consumers the flexibility and freedom that this revolutionary technology could bring to people’s lives.

Read Danielle Dalkie’s next blog post on NetworkMilan – coming soon!

UPDATE (AUGUST 2012): Danielle has recently founded Network Roma, a sister group of the Milan Business English Network. You can become part of Network Roma by joining their group on LinkedIn.

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NetworkMilan welcomes Danielle Dalkie, mobile entrepreneur and PR /Social Media expert

12 Jul

We are delighted to introduce our first guest blogger, Danielle Dalkie, who has a fascinating background as a mobile payments entrepreneur and is currently planning a strategic move to Rome. In this article she talks about her experience in setting up Waspit, a social banking service, and how she plans to use her PR and social media skills in her new life in Italy.

Danielle on the Digital Mission Stand at ad:tech NYC Conference and Expo 2010

Ciao! I am really pleased to be writing for NetworkMilan.com – and I am looking forward to sharing some of my ideas and business experiences with you. I’m also really excited about coming to Italy! I am an Australian who grew up in New Zealand and for the past two years I have been living between London and New York. And now I am moving to Rome!

I am Co-Founder of a startup called Waspit, a social banking platform for students. More specifically, it combines traditional banking features with social platforms to create a more intuitive and enriched experience for users. In essence, Waspit is “Banking 2.0”, and I have been involved in product development (right from the conception of the company) and more recently realigning the product to suit the target market: I have also been doing some business development and I aided the company in raising its first round of venture funding in New York.Waspit is designed not only to provide all the latest banking capabilities including mobile payments, but to enable for the first time a dynamic communication between users, their friends and the merchant on how and where they choose to spend their money.

Waspit lets you plug in all your social media platforms into one place so that you no longer have to manually check-in on Facebook and foursquare or post separate reviews to Yelp, Twitter and your other networks.

Social banking for students

For the more traditional ‘bank-like’ transactions Waspit is accepted in-store and online anywhere MasterCard is accepted; cash can be withdrawn from most ATMs; and students can pay their bills using ACH (Automated Clearing House) or Billpay. The FDIC* insured account also has a traditional routing and account number so students can receive their wages and allowances.

In the social world, students can easily, securely and instantly send and receive money between friends via Facebook, Twitter or mobile phone. Making quick payments in store is as simple as tapping your mobile phone over any MasterCard PayPass terminal. Students can even use the iOS, Android or Facebook apps to split restaurant bills or request money from their parents.

My own background is in public relations and social media, however. I have been involved in developing and implementing customer acquisition strategies in the tech, digital and social sectors. My skills include traditional PR such as managing press releases, publicity, social media, online content, corporate events, conferences and creating brand awareness.

I also specialise in social marketing and developing viral strategies (including guerrilla marketing efforts), as well as many successful viral and online campaigns in the both the US and UK. In addition, I develop comprehensive campaigns which rely heavily on social media and social marketing.

Rome calling (Image: Trevi Fountain by Fod via Wikimedia Commons)

But the big news is… I am relocating to Rome this year and I am currently looking for a suitable position and some cool social media projects to work on (so please get in touch with me if you have something I might be interested in!)

I am also involved in setting up the Rome Business English Network – the first sister group of the Milan Business English Network to be based in another Italian city. (Visit Network Roma for all the latest news about events and networking for people speaking, learning and doing business in English in the eternal city.)

NetworkMilan.com have invited me to write a series of blog posts on how mobile commerce is changing the way we interact with companies and its wider implications for the digital economy. I hope you enjoy these articles and find them useful, too!Read Danielle Dalkie’s next guest post, coming soon on NetworkMilan.com:
Money in motion: how mobile payments technology is changing the face of retailClick here to find out more about Waspit and social banking.

*Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation: A US federal agency that insures deposits in member banks.

UPDATE (AUGUST 2012): Danielle has recently founded Network Roma, a sister group of the Milan Business English Network. You can become part of Network Roma by joining their group on LinkedIn.

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