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28 March, 2006 - 09:50 By Staff Reporter

'Dragon's' Doug in mobile texting coup

Cambridge-based entrepreneur, Doug Richard, has launched a new mobile texting service that plans to take on SMS and revolutionise how users pay for messaging.Cambridge-based entrepreneur, Doug Richard, has launched a new mobile texting service that plans to take on SMS and revolutionise how users pay for messaging.

Hotxt will use the internet to send messages and significantly undercut the current cost of texting, offering unlimited messages between subscribers for a flat rate of £1 a week.

Richard, star of TV's Dragon's Den and founder of Library House and Cambridge Angels, wants the service to replicate the enormous success of Skype, which offers telephony over the internet. It will initially target text-messaging’s most frequent users, the 16 to 25 year-old age group.

Hotxt currently works on most Java™ enabled phones across all UK networks apart from pre-pay 02 and 3. Between them, 16 to 25 year-olds own 4.5 million Java handsets, a figure that is predicted to rise to 8 million by 2008 (mobileYouth 2005 Survey).

The service is designed to encourage optimum subscription by keeping the big saving flat-fee charge exclusively between them. Messaging to non-subscribers – Hotxt Out – will cost 6 pence per message.

A further data charge will be made to all Hotxt users of between 0.1 and 2 pence. This is charged by the networks and covers the cost of transferring the small amounts of data across the internet.

Hotxt co-founder and chairman, Richard, said: "Hotxt will change the way UK mobile phone users text in much the same way that Internet use has changed since it moved from a pay as you use to an unlimited model – net use changed dramatically as consumers weren’t shackled to a usage limit or worried about over use.

"Already, in countries such as Japan and Korea where unlimited texting has been around for a few years, SMS is not just a way of sending messages but used as part of online shopping, marketing and instant communication. There the average 16-25 year old sends over 30 texts a day, compared to about seven here in the UK."

Richard admits that the take-up of the service is "indescribably difficult to quantify", but if it becomes as successful as expected, he will take the service abroad.

"There is an absolute desire to broaden the reach of Hotxt," said Richard. "Western Europe has a strong case, but that is equally true for the larger emerging economies, like India."

Work on the project, the brainchild of co-founder and managing director David Whitewood, began at the end of 2003. Richard provided initial finance with further funding of almost £1m provided by Cambridge Angels and Bridges Community Ventures.

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