Which media companies will become the next Facebooks and Twitters, bursting out of nowhere to become household names almost overnight?
It is incredible to imagine how we ever managed without the humble text message, but simple services have the power to permanently change how you – and millions of other consumers – incorporate media into your daily life. "Why didn’t I think of that?" you wonder, as yet another social media or mobile start-up hits the headlines after a multi-million-pound acquisition.
Here, Media Week presents 10 firms set to make waves in the near future – from Playfish (recently snapped up by Electronic Arts), which is adding social experiences to online games, to mobile service Flirtomatic, which has attracted more than 500,000 users in the US just six months since launch.
Crucially, the 10 companies listed as Media Week’s "ones to watch" are all in good financial health, increasing revenue and profits over a period when other, less zeitgeistian, firms have been hit hard by the recession.
So size isn’t everything; what matters more is the newsworthiness or "buzz" surrounding a company. Mobile specialist Velti and retailer Vente Privee were founded in the dotcom boom back in 2000 and 2001 respectively, but they are making their mark now due to new products or rumours of acquisition.
One thing is for sure: the companies listed below are offering unique services or technologies that are shaping the future of the media industry - and if you haven’t already heard of them, you soon will.
Mission statement: "As innovator and industry leader of exclusive online flash sales… Vente-privee.com aims to continue building strong relationships with like-minded brands who want a perfectly tailored solution to protect their product and present it to a captivated customer base."
Key people: Founder and chief executive Jacques-Antoine Granjon, founder and chief executive
Financial performance: Predicted turnover of £763m this year, up from £610m in 2009. UK turnover is forecast to grow from £2.7m in 2009 to £7.2m this year.
Employees: 1,250 (25 in UK)
HQ: Paris, with offices in London since 2008
The buzz: Most online retailers let shoppers come and go anonymously, but Vente-privee.com started out by insisting users must be members of its exclusive club in order to get discounts on designer fashion brands.
Members are given previews of sales with an invitation email and sales last between two to four days, with discounts of 50% to 70%. The site has 11 million members in Europe (350,000 in the UK) and has sparked a number of imitators. Persistent rumours of acquisition by Amazon remain unconfirmed.
Mission statement: "To reach and engage mass audiences through progressive sports media."
Key people: Group chief executive Oliver Slipper
Financial performance: Turnover grew from £31m in 2008 to £64m in 2009.
HQ: Feltham, Middlesex
The buzz: Formed from the merger of Premium TV and Inform Group, Perform has cornered the market in digital sports media, specialising in video on-demand.
As well as working with the Premier League and Chelsea FC to provide live streaming of matches, Perform has a thriving ad sales business.
The group is expanding internationally and 60% of turnover now comes from outside the UK. A US launch is planned for later this year.
Mission statement: To make social media more powerful
Key people: Iain Dodsworth, chief executive~
Financial performance: Revenues undisclosed, but the firm recently received a reported US$2m in funding and expects to become profitable this year.
HQ: Offices in London and New York
Founded: January 2009
The buzz: Social media users have taken this British start-up to their hearts just 18 months after it launched as a client for Twitter. TweetDeck allows users to browse social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare and MySpace on the same "dashboard", with apps for devices such as the iPhone. TweetDeck also taps into the social media psyche – for example, allowing users to see who has mentioned them on Twitter.
Dodsworth claims: "We have the most engaged, active and influential users on the web. In essence, the top people in social media use TweetDeck."
Mission statement: "To build the largest and most respected kids’ entertainment property in the world."
Key people: Founder Michael Smith
Financial performance: Profitable since May 09. Smith says revenue for 2010 will be five times that of 2009, running into "tens of millions of dollars".
The buzz: Described by The Sun as "Facebook for kids", Mind Candy’s phenomenally successful property Moshi Monsters is one of the biggest sites for children in the world.
Players log on to adopt and care for a virtual monster, which can interact with other creatures in their own virtual world. Future plans include expanding the brand to new platforms including the iPhone, and branching out into trading cards, books, video games, music albums and live shows.
Mind Candy also recently signed a multi-book publishing deal with Penguin.
Mission statement: "The creative live video streaming logistics agency that specialises in the consultancy, creation, training and digital delivery of brand-specific live events, including the contingent on-demand products and services."
Key people: Co-founders James Wilkinson and Chris Dabbs
Financial performance: Profitable, with revenues forecast to increase by more than 40% this year. The firm expects to achieve revenues of more than £5m within three years.
Employees: 15 (plus freelancers)
HQ: London, with offices in Venice and New York
The buzz: To quote Pete Townshend of The Who: "When it comes to video streaming, these guys are the business."
As the go-to agency for live streaming and branded online events, the company achievements include live streaming of every concert on a world tour for The Who, and the much-awarded Love project for Starbucks and charity Red, which involved people from 156 countries singing All You Need is Love live to raise awareness of Aids.
In February 2010, the firm organised live streaming of every show from London Fashion Week.
Mission statement: "To be the leading global provider of mobile marketing and advertising solutions across multiple media."
Key people: Chief executive Alex Moukas and chief operating officer Chris Kaskavelis
Financial performance: Revenues increased 82% between 2008 and 2009, up from US$49.5m to $90m.
HQ: Dublin, with offices in London, Europe, India, China and the US
The buzz: Velti has been around for a while as a mobile marketing specialist, but brands looking to do more with mobile are particularly excited by its mGage portal, which launched in January.
The portal is designed to act as a one-stop-shop where advertisers can plan marketing and advertising campaigns across mobile and traditional media, but mGage can also be used for managing media buys, tracking performance and creating mobile applications. It will also provide case studies to help clients make the most of mobile.
Mission statement: "To create, develop and lead the experience tracking market globally."
Key people: Chief experience officer Fiona Blades and founding partner Stephen Phillips
Financial performance: Sales for the first six months of 2010 are almost double those for the 12 months of 2009. Mesh is part of the 38th Floor Group of three research agencies, whose turnover increased from £1.9m in 2008 to £2.3m in 2009.
The buzz: Described by industry observers as "fascinatingly different" and "Millward-Brown orthodoxy busting", boutique research agency Mesh specialises in experience tracking, using a tool called Troi (Touchpoints Return on Investment).
The tool is designed to evaluate marketing activity using a multimedia approach centred on mobile.
Mesh has several awards under its belt and has attracted high-calibre clients including Unilever, Vodafone and Coca-Cola, as well as media agencies OMD and Havas.
Mission statement: "Changing the way people play games by creating more social and connected experiences."
Key people: Co-founders Sebastien de Halleux and Kristian Segerstrale
Financial performance: Acquired for $275m last November by Electronic Arts. Revenues undisclosed but were estimated at $75m at the time of the deal.
HQ: London, with offices in San Francisco, Beijing and Tromso, Norway
The buzz: Just two years after it was founded, London-based social gaming company Playfish was snapped up by Electronic Arts last year after creating popular online gaming properties such as Pet Society, Restaurant City and Who Has the Biggest Brain?, which was one of the first major games to take off on Facebook.
EA hopes the company will prove a strong rival to the likes of Farmville-maker Zynga, and claimed recently that Playfish’s user base is continuing to grow thanks to games such as FIFA Superstars, while other games are losing players on Facebook.
Mission statement: "Connecting advertisers with audiences through fantastic online video content."
Key people: Co-founder and managing director Wil Harris
Financial performance: On course to achieve "six-figure profit and seven-figure turnover" for 2009-10, according to Harris.
Founded: May 2008
The buzz: ChannelFlip claims to answer the question of how independent TV producers can use online video outside repurposed broadcast content.
One recent project created the online video show David Mitchell’s SoapBox as a branded content partnership with men's grooming brand Bulldog, starring the comedian.
It was the most successful show of 2009 on Apple iTunes and has racked up more than six million views on YouTube. Other clients include Volvo, Pepsi and Oil of Olay.
Flirtomatic (operated by Handmade Mobile Entertainment)
Mission statement: "To operate the most successful mobile social network."
Key people: Chief executive Mark Curtis
Financial performance: The company’s turnover of £2m in 2009 is forecast to double to £4m this year, with a profit expected next year.
The buzz: One of the first brands to successfully crack the market for social media on mobiles, Flirtomatic not only allows users to "flirt" (anonymously) with each other, they can also use its own currency FlirtPoints to buy virtual goods online.
The service's two million members flirt with new people based on their preferences, interests, location or other profile information – making it distinct from Facebook, which connects people who already know each other.
Flirtomatic is already the biggest mobile social network in Europe and is rapidly taking off in the US, attracting more than 500,000 users just six months since launch.