This is getting really scary. First caught Nokia’s latest acquisition via Martin’s post: Nokia buys Plum. Actually that headline is not really true though as once again Nokia is buying certain assets from Plum, as visible in Nokia’s press release on the Plum acquisition. To quote:
Nokia and Plum today announced that Nokia has acquired certain assets of Plum Ventures, Inc, a privately held company which employed approximately 10 people with main offices in Boston, Massachusetts. Plum will complement Nokia’s Social Location services.
So Nokia only buys certain assets and the company employed (past tense) 10 people. As Martin notes already at least the Founder will move to Berlin. Plum themselves note that their entire team will be part of Nokia’s Social Location Unit.
The part that links several things together is that people are moving to Berlin. In 2006 they bought gate5, who sit in Berlin, and then in 2007 bought Navteq for $8.1 billion to further complete their mapping solution. Then came the acquisition of substantially all assets of Plazes in 2008, followed by bit-side beginning 2009 and completed recently with the acquisition of certain assets of cellity. All those were either in Berlin or are moving to Berlin.
So what do we have. A company that has decided that location and social is a big part of their future. This is deeply routed in the fact that Nokia has always believed and learned that a mobile phone is something very personal. That in itself makes it social and makes location important. If you then need to move fast, have 50 billion USD in revenues and 5 billion USDs in profit in 2008, and a down economy, the moves are plain brilliant.
Plazes never really took off but had a huge geek following with most every self respecting geek world wide having an account. You see the follow up of Plazes now in Foursquare, which just raised $1.35 million from Union Square Ventures, the venture company that is slowly moving up the ranks to become one of the most respected VCs in the social revolution out there. This just proves that Stefan and Felix from Plazes knew what they were doing and Nokia has them on board now, next to some developers that were doing some very good early RoRs work if I remember correctly, as this was the Basis of the new Plazes. Bit-side I don’t know, but it seems to have been a 39 people development shop. For cellity they again had this interesting “parts of the assets” type of thing they also had with Plum. For me that sounds like a Team, buy which is really what Nokia needs. And cellity was again an all star founders team with deep knowledge in the social space.
They need the people and the learnings they did in location aware applications (Plazes), Social Messaging and Networking over existing Networks (cellity) and now connecting intimate relationships (Plum). They need to not repeat the non-obvious but painful errors that these people did getting to where they are now and allow them to get a fresh start with a real budget. Remember Nokia sold 103 million mobile phones in the second quarter of 2009. That’s almost 13 mobile devices every second if I calculated that correctly. The firepower Nokia is putting together in Berlin is very credible and I just hope that they have good management, mentors, facilitators and others to bound them together as a team quickly.
As Tom Peters said, you need to destroy and start over sometimes. So now a group of people is starting over in something location aware, that connects you with your friends, via a device that is the most personal thing you carry around with yourself. They are attacking Facebook from the other side. Users using Facebook via their mobile phone are more engaged, and this is where Nokia is starting at.
One tip: The best explanation I have up till now on the success of the iPhone is that it’s the first phone that I will pull out when waiting in a short line somewhere. I wouldn’t have done that previously. So that should be the focus. No feature has any importance if it is not used.
I am really looking forward to see this unfold, with first products and/or new acquisitions. It’s a good time of acquisitions if you have the money and it’s good to see Nokia building up its software development chops.
Update 20090923: And now Dopplr.