Mubaloo_Office_image_2What do the Met Office weather app , Alamy’s photo sourcing app and Trovi’s local business search app all have in common? They were all developed by Mubaloo, one of the most successful tech companies in the South West.

Mubaloo is Europe’s largest independent app development agency and mobile strategist, employs 55 people and has offices in Bristol, London, Berlin and New York. We spoke to their founder, Mark Mason, about the company, apps and tech companies in the region.

TechSPARK: When was Mubaloo founded?

Mark Mason: Mubaloo opened its doors in 2009, but was several months in the planning. Next April will mark our sixth anniversary.

TS: What inspired you to found Mubaloo?

MM: It was 2008, I’d sold my last company, a digital B2B technology marketing agency, Mason Zimbler, to Harte Hanks and I was looking for the next opportunity.

I’d bought an iPhone and the App Store launched. Seeing what apps could do to help make people’s lives better interested me. I spoke to various companies who were getting into the space, but wound up looking for a talented developer. I was introduced to Ben Trewhella and started Mubaloo.

The first app we launched was Fuel Prices that used Experian data to find the cheapest fuel based on your location. It had a price of £4.99 and sold 4,500 copies. But the business model was not sustainable so we started developing apps directly for companies. We ended up selling the Fuel Prices app to the AA!

TS: What sort of companies and organisations does Mubaloo work with?

MM: Typically, Mubaloo works with FTSE 500 companies across a variety of different industries. This cross-sector experience means that we can bring learning from one sector to another, helping to provide a unique approach to dealing with business problems.

Clients include The Met Office, Scania, Aviva, HP, Unite Students, Schroders, EE, Haymarket, Eircom and many others. Mubaloo has created over 200 apps over the past six years spanning everything from insurance, finance, logistics, technology, telecoms, construction, retail, gaming, healthcare and media.

TS: How do you think apps for smartphones and tablets will develop and change over the next few years?

MM: One trend is for apps to get smarter, rather than just pulling in data, such as transport times. Apps are now being developed to provide contextual data that helps users plan their days better, or provide them with what they need. Services like Google Now, or apps like Tempo, show the power of such intelligence. Contextual computing is the next big leap for technology, period.

A second trend is apps acting as the remote control for the world around us. Both Apple and Google have introduced new developer tools designed to help create secure frameworks for interacting with buildings and cars. We are rarely without our devices in our hands or pockets, but as wearables rise, they will be physically attached to us at all times. This intense intimacy makes mobile devices the best possible way to control our immediate surroundings.

“Bristol’s got a brilliant talent pool with great designers, developers and digital skills”


A third trend will be the continued rise of apps in the workplace to help employees with their jobs. Whilst a tablet or phone isn’t necessarily going to replace a dedicated laptop or computer for a large number of office-based job roles, these devices are having a huge impact helping mobile employees. These are employees who don’t work at a desk – retail staff, field engineers, maintenance people and a large number of other roles.

TS: Why did Mubaloo decide to locate an office in Bristol?

MM: It’s where we’re based! I’ve been in Bristol for a long time now. It’s got a brilliant talent pool with great designers, developers and digital skills and it’s only an hour and a half from London.


Time to chill: The Mubaloo picnic bench 

TS: When Mubaloo are commissioned to produce an app is there a long lead-in or can some projects be turned around rapidly in response to the client’s needs

MM: Typically, apps take an average of three to five months to develop from start to finish. There are a huge number of variables that can affect how long it takes to develop an app. These include whether required web services are available or need to be built; the size and complexity of the app; the level of security required; whether the app needs to have a custom content management system built and many others.

TS: What apps are you especially proud of?

MM: We are especially proud of the apps that have had a big impact improving the way employees work, or the ways in which they engage with their customers. Our work with Hargreaves Lansdown over the past three years is one example of this. In 2011, we created HL Live for iPhone and Android, the first share and fund trading app on mobile. There were questions as to whether customers would trust managing their portfolios via an app; but the app was really successful as many of HL’s clients embraced the convenience the app offered.

Last year, we created HL Live for iPad, that has remained in the top 10 free finance apps all year. In its first week alone, 2.3% of trades took place via the app. It’s a stunning example of what an app can do.

Another recent app that’s quite interesting is Stockimo, created for Alamy, the world’s largest website for picture buyers. Stockimo is a free app that turns iPhone photos into cash. Stockimo was built from the ground-up for iOS 7, designed to make use of the design language and features introduced with the new OS. Compared to similar apps, users can make more money out of their photos by using Stockimo, because it plugs into Alamy’s existing sales and distribution network.

Between February and July, over 140,000 images got submitted to Stockimo. Through the review process, 70,000 were approved and feature on Alamy’s network. By June 2014, Stockimo became the fourth most searched term on Alamy, indicating the demand from Alamy’s customers for mobile photography. The app is interesting because it’s helping to attract new users to Alamy and helping Alamy to adapt to the changing paradigms of photography.

It provides Alamy with a way to separate professional photography, which needs to be updated via the Alamy website, and mobile photography.

“We are especially proud of the apps that have had a big impact improving the way employees work, or the ways in which they engage with their customers”


A further project we’ve been proud to be part of is i:Wild, an interactive zoo experience which uses innovative mobile technology to combine live animal encounters with high-quality natural history films, to promote interest in wildlife and conservation. An expert consortium was involved, including BBC R&D, University of Bristol, Toshiba and Mubaloo.

The project, funded by the Technology Strategy Board, aimed to help enhance the experience of visiting wildlife centres and zoos. Mubaloo was heavily involved, helping to bring together the ideas of the consortium, design and develop the app. The app was trialed this year at Slimbridge Wetlands Centre and recently at Bristol Zoo. It provides users with an interactive map and activates different content, such as video of animals as users move around, in addition to being able to record videos and create a custom experience of their visit.

Many of the apps we’ve created for sales teams have also had a big impact on businesses. The iPad and other tablets provide a brilliant way to create an engaging and interacting experience. The data that companies can gather in terms of popular products, the ways in which people navigate around apps and other variables can provide real value to firms.

TS: What do you and the team like about being based in the South West?

MM: Bristol is ranked 2nd out of the top 9 cities outside of London, that’s one thing. Aside from that, there’s a great start-up scene, plenty of entrepreneurs, great universities, lots of shared learning in the tech community and its home to Wallace & Gromit. Bristol has a huge amount to offer and is a great place to live, what’s not to love?

TS: Are there any plans for Mubaloo to increase its workforce?

MM: Of course, there are always plans for continued growth

TS: Are there any markets Mubaloo are looking to move into?

MM: Earlier this year we launched our MiBeacons division. Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons are used to trigger content or an action within an app, based on a user’s proximity to the beacon. Location and the Internet of Things is a huge area of interest for many companies at the moment. We are increasingly seeing products around us featuring technology that enables us to turn on the heating when we’re 20 minutes away from home, or lights that adapt to your mood (that can be detected by a wearable health monitor).

We recognised that apps are central to interacting with the connected world, made possible by hyper location technologies such as beacons. This is an area that is of high interest to a number of companies throughout the world, and one in which we have invested significant time and resource to understand. This means that companies are coming to us to help them understand what they can do and how they can make further improvements to their operations and product roadmaps.

TS: What other companies in the region do you rate?

MM: Bristol is such a hub of innovative technology companies that it’s hard to refine it down, but we’ve always thought Kudan is an interesting one. Kudan has been involved in a number of highly interesting campaigns that really demonstrate what is possible with mobile technology and augmented reality. The campaigns they work on tend to combine mobile with print campaigns to help bring to life products or create engaging experiences.

CreditCall is also a really interesting company that has really embraced mobile for payments. It was great to see CreditCall included with us on Mobile Entertainment’s Top 50 Mobile Innovators list.

Many thanks to Mark for taking the time to talk to us. You can find out more about Mubaloo hereAnd for their latest updates follow them on Twitter @Mubaloo