By Duncan Tucker
With his triumphant ‘Money Menttor’ app, which enables users to safely input personal information, such as their age, civil status, income and budget, with the data secure under the data protection law, Angel Sahagun Fernandez booked his place in next year’s Mobile World Congress final in Barcelona, having previously come runner-up in the Mexico City AppCircus.
A “global traveling showcase of innovative apps” for smartphones, AppCircus has taken in dozens of major cities around the world, including Mexico’s Federal District, Monterrey, Queretaro and Tabasco. The Guadalajara congress was sponsored by Telcel, the cell phone network owned by Carlos Slim, a Mexican native and the world’s wealthiest man.
Aside from the exposure it will afford the winner, the event also offered local students an insight into the world of software.
“I’m really interested in technology and smartphone apps have really caught my eye,” said Jonathan Jimenez, one of the attendees. A human resources student at the Pan-American University, whose favorite apps include ‘Shazam,’ ‘Guitar Machine,’ ‘Magic Sleep’ and ‘Angry Birds,’ Jimenez added, “I like computers and I would like to learn how to make apps. It could be an alternative career path for me.”
In the private university’s sleek, heavily air-conditioned auditorium, nine entrants each gave a three-minute pitch before answering questions from the four-man jury. Their applications could be compatible with any major smartphone operating system, such as BlackBerry, Android or Apple’s iOS, and would be judged on innovation, usability and the proposed business model.
The competitors were looking to emulate the local success story of Guadalajara-based software company Kaxan Games, whose ‘Taco Master’ has been one of the year’s most popular apps in Mexico. Developed over six months at a cost of one million pesos (around $75,000 USD), the iOS-compatible video game allows users to try their hand at cooking virtual tacos for the download price of $1 USD.
Of the nine apps on show, three (‘Bike Map MX,’ ‘Bikla GDL’ and ‘EnBike’) focused on locating public bicycles and checking the availability of stations in free public bike schemes, whether in Guadalajara, Mexico City or even worldwide. While there is clearly enthusiasm and a market for the public bike app, the three teams are considering? pooling their resources and ideas to create one superior app.
After Money Menttor, second place went to ‘Xplora,’ an iOS app which serves as a city guide, helping users find restaurants, hotels, transportation and tourist attractions, as well as providing photos and searching for discounts. Other entrants included ‘Rage Big Fish Attack,’ a game which, in the words of one judge, suffered from trying too hard to “be the next Angry Birds.”
In the interlude after the presentations a quick check revealed ‘Money Menttor’ was the app of choice among spectators and local journalists. The judges did not disagree and it was awarded first prize.
Currently only available on BlackBerry, ‘Money Menttor’ will be out on iOS from January 15. It has already amassed an impressive 70,000 downloads in over 100 countries, despite only having been on the market for two months.
With a patent pending in the United States and Mexico, where most of its users are located, ‘Money Menttor’ includes a calendar and calculator, and uses sophisticated algorithms to analyze the user’s financial information and spending, and offers advice on how to best manage their money.
Developed over nine months by a ten-person team from the southern state of Campeche, ‘Money Menttor’ is available to download for free, while a premium version is also on the market for $9.99 USD.
Having won his place in the Mobile World Congress, Angel Sahagun will now have to master his pitch in English before he joins the twenty finalists in Barcelona next year.
“We are very happy and I think it will be a big challenge to present our app in Barcelona,” he said after the event. “Of course we would love to win in Barcelona, but I think our main task is to bring our product closer to the people.”