Wubud – a mobile socnet on a SIM card

TechCrunch UK & Ireland has learned that Wubud will be the next venture of UK-based entrepreneur, Paul Walsh, who already runs Segala, a usability and certification agency (though he is possibly better known as a blogger and UK Internet scene networker). Wubud – yet to launch – will be a mobile social network pre-installed as an application on a SIM card belonging to an as yet unnamed MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) as well as distributed for download online.

The Wubud mobile social network will most likely hook into location-based services, and details are sketchy at this point – but anyone watching Walsh’s stream of Twitters can’t have failed to notice the idea has been brewing for a while.

The model is an interesting one, according to what I understand Walsh has been saying to colleagues. The MVNO will have some kind of deal to distribute the SIMs (I’m guessing a large retailer or online player?) and will also take care of billing customers. But as an application on the SIM, Wubud will also have access to the billing system and will be able to charge for services without the customer having to input credit card details. That removes a lot of friction and allows Wubud to introduce paid-for services on top of its social network. The only other players able to do this would be another MVNO or mobile carrier, as a normal mobile social network would need to integrate with a separate payments system like Paypal or SMS billing, which incurs extra charges.

The team for Wubud will include (Update: apparently these are just ‘advisors’): Paul Birch (Co-founder, Bebo), Carl Taylor (Director of Applications & Services, Hutchison Whampoa Europe and a member of the Executive Committee at the GSMA); and Ewan Spence, long-time mobile commentator, writer and blogger.

Along with Walsh’s backing I understand that Birch, who recently hit paydirt when his stake in Bebo was realised with its sale to AOL for $850m, is providing seed investment.

Meanwhile, Walsh’s other business, Segala, which specialises in the arcane world of Internet standards compliance certification for web and mobile services, is developing a browser extension. This will classify the content of web sites in a Semantic Web fashion to enable “trust” based on standards and codes of conduct. Angus Banks (Co-founder of Moreover, bought by Verisign) recently became an advisor to Segala, which is looking to raise a $4 million round.