19 April 2010

MEF Executive Questionnaire #10: Claire Boonstra, co-founder of Layar

MEF continues to seek new ways to profile its members and promote the thought-leadership of the senior executives within these companies. We are pleased to launch the MEF Executive Questionnaire to reveal the real people behind the industry in an informal and entertaining manner.

This will be a regular feature of the MEF blog, so make sure you subscribe via email or RSS. If you are a senior executive from one of our member companies and would like to be featured then please contact MEF Marketing Director, Stephen Jenkins.

The tenth in the series is from Claire Boonstra, co-founder of Layar.
1. Please describe briefly your main company activities and your role within that organisation
Layar is an open Augmented Reality (AR) platform and browser on which every company can create their own AR experiences. Digital information, like houses for sale, 3D models of ancient constructions or games (all called 'layers') are displayed on top of reality via the camera of the mobile phone. Nearly 500 layers are already live, 2000 layers in development and already 3000 companies and organizations worldwide are creating layers; 1.3 million people have already installed and used the browser (numbers per April 1st 2010). The Layar Reality browser is available for all Android phones, the iPhone 3GS and soon also on Symbian devices and other mobile platforms equipped with a GPS and compass. I am one of the co-founders and VP Content and Community.

2. Without necessarily revealing any confidential information, please outline the principal business models your company uses
Layar is now focused on building distribution through handset manufacturers like LG and Samsung and mobile carriers which is different per country. By the end of 2010 Layar will run on tens of millions of mobile phones. As of April 2010, we start offering paid layers. This means that publishers and game developers or any one who has valueable content and wants to monetize it via Layar, can do so. This is next to the already existing free layers. Also we have the Pay for Prominence program with which publishers can ensure to get the attention of the users resulting in traffic.

3. What has been your company’s greatest achievement to-date?
We started the company 10 months ago, on June 16th 2009, with 3 founders and a developer. We have seen tremendous growth, leading to VC funding of 2,5 million euro, 32 employees and 3000 companies worldwide who are using Layar, making money and turning into an industry itself. Layar gets a lot of attention from the international press; ranging from CNN, Business Week, the New York Times to Fast Company and Wired Magazine. Both on and offline. We are extremely proud of the prestigious awards we've won so far, including the MEF award for 'best startup in mobile entertainment'.

We consider our biggest achievement the distribution deals we have closed. Samsung pre-installs Layar globally on tens of millions of devices and advertises Layar on TV and in other media. Verizon and Sprint in the USA show off their devices with Layar on it and advertise as well. This brings Augmented Reality directly to the masses and enables brands and agencies to reach their users and customers.

4. What is your company currently working on that is going to move the industry forward?
Our mission is to provide people a 360 degree vision of their context, resulting in discovery, serendipity and fun experiences. Layar is bridging the gap between the online (internet) and offline world (your reality) - by showing you things you normally can't see. With Layar you can see how for example Rome used to look like 2000 years ago, or see a future builing in 3D displayed on top of its construction site. Our open platform is accessible to everybody with great content or ideas. For free.

5. What is exciting you most in 2010 (either personally or professionally)?
2010 is the year when Augmented Reality becomes mainstream. After over 40 years of development in R&D labs, today's mobile phones make it possible for everybody to experience AR. What's exciting me most, personally, is that we as a Layar team have the tools in our hands to help open this new medium. We are only at the very first stages of its development, but it is going to be big. Huge.

6. What is the most important piece of technology in your life?
My mobile phone. By far. I get extremely nervous when my phone is too far away from me - or when I'm not sure if I actually took it with me. Taking a look at 'what's new' through my mobile phone is the last thing I do before I go to sleep and the first thing I do when I wake up - that is, after having kissed my Love goodnight or goodmorning.

7. What mobile device(s) do you use?
I currently use a Motorola Milestone (Droid), awaiting the Nexus One and Samsung Galaxy S. Often also use an iPhone 3GS.

8. What’s your favourite application?
Apps or mobile sites I use most are Gmail, Twitdroid (twitter client), several news sites, a Sudoku game and Layar. Most fun app is on the iPhone: "Talking Carl". A cartoon Robot who repeats everything you say in a high pitched Robot voice. Fun and laughter guaranteed and a great showoff...

9. What’s your ringtone?
I have no idea - but I usually put my ringtone on low volume or silent or 'vibrate' only. I'm more and more using 'a-synchronous' communication: when I decide it's a good moment to talk. I love Skype or other VOIP systems for that - you can first see if someones available/ check if it's a good moment to talk. And then talk. Or I chat/ message/ tweet.

10. Which mobile industry blogs do you regularly read and why?
My regular round of industry blogs includes Techmeme, Techcrunch, ReadWriteWeb, Gizmodo, Fastcompany, Springwise, etc - for the general stuff. In mobile space there are a good amount of Dutch blogs, including iPhoneclub.nl and Mobilecowboys.nl. And I read a lot of Augmented Reality blogs: GamesAlfresco, UgoTrade, AugmentedPlanet. But most of all, I use Twitter to be updated. I have standard searches on 'Layar' and 'Augmented Reality' which I check multiple times a day; including my own @ replies and those of colleagues and friends.

11. What is the biggest mobile content issue that is likely to affect the industry within the next 12 months?
Most organizations going Mobile have Web experience and will have to start to understand this new medium, which has completely different characteristics from web and TV. On mobile, 'viewing time' and 'amount of clicks' is not always a success indicator. Mobile is also about 'helping people out quickly', 'snacking' and 'waiting softeners'. Mobile usage is short yet intense. And yes, mobile is a 'personal' medium but this doesn't mean that it is always effective to target 'personally'. I am for example a businesswoman, a young mother, skifreak and a dancer. But please do NOT address me in my 'young mother role' when I'm in a business context! And 'location': are you close to the Wembley stadium because you're going to see a football match, a rock concert, just passing by in daily commuting traffic or on a nice stroll around the neighbourhood? Most 'mobile' usage is by the way simply at home...

In mobile, it is all about context: where are you, with whom, in what atmosphere, for which occasion. All requiring completely different (mobile) services or entertainment. Many mobile content developers still have to get used to this. But we will all learn...

12. Which other MEF member organisation do you most admire?
I recently found out that another Dutch young company recently joined the MEF: Distimo. They started their company not long before ours - and we've known the founders already from their past jobs. These guys are only in their 20's but have founded a very solid company, addressing the huge demand in reliable mobile usage data. I expect them to become the "Gartner or Forrester of mobile".

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