Next big cell phone app: International money transfers

Wire home cash to Gdansk with your cell. Anam, an Irish company, allows residents in Europe to transfer large amounts from a bank account in one country to another.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
2 min read

Think of it as an SMS message with a lot of zeros.

Anam, an Irish company, allows residents in Europe to transfer large amounts from a bank account in one country, let's say the U.K., to Romania, according to John O'Donohue, managing director of Motorola Ventures International, which invested in Anam. Currently, immigrants from eastern Europe to western members of the EU use Western Union to transfer money. With Anam's cell phone service, you can save a lot on commissions.

Immigration is one of the big issues changing the cell phone market on the continent, O'Donohue said during a recent interview with Motorola Ventures executives at CNET News.com. In Ireland alone, there are 250,000 Polish immigrants. They are going to want to send money home, but also get programming and services in their own language.

Another potential big market: IPTV. O'Donohue recently met with one company that has set up a number of IPTV microchannels. One concentrates on trainspotting; one shows programs on knitting; another focuses on fishing.

The fishing channel gets 30,000 viewers. The company is now contemplating bringing its programming to cell phones.

The idea behind Motorola Ventures is to identify promising companies that ultimately help the company grow its own business. Naturally, a lot of the investments revolve around the cell industry. It invested in A123 Systems, the battery maker, and portable computer maker OQO. It also invests in specialty VC funds, such as Paladin, which invests in military technologies.

Like Intel Capital and other "strategic" funds, the group's main goal is not maximizing return on investment, but profit is still important.

"We're not strategic to Motorola if we lose money," O'Donohue said.