The 3 most promising mobile startups for marketers

Smartphones and tablets have penetrated the market at an overwhelming rate, creating a major challenge for marketers: keeping up with on-the-go consumers. Naturally, today's connected consumer is sparking the growth of mobile advertising, with industry experts predicting that spending will mushroom from $5 billion to $18 billion by 2015. Consequently, companies within the mobile marketing realm are springing up to help marketers spend their dollars wisely.

The 3 most promising mobile startups for marketers

As part of the 2nd Annual iMedia Next Wave Start-Up Challenge and Showcase, which culminated at iMedia's Breakthrough Summit, 11 innovative mobile startups pitched to an impressive gathering of top digital marketers over the course of two days. Each company was given five minutes to wow the audience by detailing their product or service and explaining how marketers can partner with them to tap mobile marketing's full potential. The 11 finalists fell into three categories: mobile campaign management and analysis, mobile entertainment, and mobile shopping and commerce.

During Tuesday night's dinner, after the on-site mobile vote by attendees, innovation experts, and top advisors, the 2012 Next Wave winners were revealed within each category. As you read about these companies, keep in mind that winners of last year's inaugural Next Wave competition included Viddy -- a company that went on to secure $30 million in funding and is being called the "Instagram of video."

Here's a look at the three winning startups from this year's competition. It would be wise to keep a close eye on them.

Placed

Within the category of mobile campaign management and analysis, Placed reigned supreme. The goal of the Seattle-based company is to "connect the digital and physical worlds to deliver location insights to the masses." Achieving this goal, Placed shows advertisers where individuals are engaging with their mobile content. By analyzing location data and distilling the most valuable information in a clear, actionable format, this winning startup allows advertisers, publishers, and developers to thoroughly understand and engage with their target audience in extremely relevant ways.

David Shim, the company's founder and CEO, discussed the possibilities of using Placed Analytics: "In less than four clicks, Placed enables marketers to understand that 14 percent of site visits occurred while a user was nearby a Starbucks, 23 percent of app sessions occurred nearby electronic retailers, and 38 percent of mobile coupons were accessed at either Walmart or Target." With this information, marketers are able to custom-tailor their mobile offerings. For instance, an app found to be used while a consumer is driving can be enhanced to enable safer access while behind the wheel. 

SeeMail

The photo-sharing application SeeMail came out on top of the mobile entertainment category of the Next Wave competition. If you have not already heard the buzz about this exciting startup, SeeMail introduces a truly unique offering to the image-sharing arena: voice. As the company's founder, CEO, and postmaster Ward Chandler explains, the app was inspired by the short notes written on the back of old photos. SeeMail was created to add personalization and context to digital images, allowing the story behind the photo to travel along with it in digital. The company is "the first and only app to combine images, voice, captions, and location in a mobile peer-to-peer photo-sharing experience."

Part of SeeMail's success must be accredited to the greater level of emotion and feeling voice adds to digital picture sharing, which is something that can be lost as pictures are sent without context. SeeMail provides brands with the unique opportunity to personalize their images with voice -- an extremely valuable service as consumers are embracing image sharing at an increasing rate. By allowing brands to personalize the story behind their photos, SeeMail enables companies to communicate with consumers on a much deeper level -- something that thoroughly impressed Breakthrough Summit attendees.

Pogoseat

Within the mobile shopping and commerce category, Pogoseat proved the most impressive to iMedia Summit attendees and judges. The mobile app provides an extremely unique service that concert goers and sports fans should run to embrace. Have you ever snuck down to better seats at a football game only to be escorted back by an usher? Well, this top mobile app allows fans to upgrade their seats at sporting events or concerts from their smartphones -- without any of the risk.

This victorious startup provides users with a detailed map of the venue or stadium, locates unfilled seats, and allows users to purchase upgrades, which are priced according to the original seat location and time left in the game or event.

According to Pogoseat's co-founder Abel Cuskelly, the company is currently working with several brands to offer free or discounted upgrades at events. For a brand, Pogoseat can provide a valuable service to its customer base. As Cuskelly said, "Imagine, for example, a wireless service that wants to offer its customers a free seat upgrade at the next football game they attend. Pogoseat can identify every fan in the stadium who's a customer of that wireless service and automatically offer a free upgrade that fans and customers can redeem at any time during the game."

The 11 finalists of this year's Next Wave Startup Challenge and Showcase all offer something of unique value to the mobile marketing realm. At the iMedia Breakthrough Summit, a crucial point clearly emerged: Understand the always-on consumer and offer a product or service to match their evolving expectations. The three winners of this year's competition embrace this important idea and, at the same time, help marketers to keep pace in this turbulent industry.

Kyle Montero is an associate editor at iMedia Connection.

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