Interview With Steven Vaile Chief Executive Officer of H2O New Media

7 Mar, 2009

I had few questions for H20 New Media in light with their first funding round, Steve Vaile – Founder & CEO of H20 New Media answered me, then I followed with some more via email. So I thought to put them all here. Many thanks to Steve for answering them.

AC: who is your competition in the region in each of your product and service?

We have one main product and that’s social media communities, to that basis there are no other companies I am aware of in the region doing what we are doing, globally Kick Apps, Mzinga and a couple of others. We have a number of our own communities that we will be deploying across the region focused on specific functions and vertical market applications, we also offer white label applications that we are building into the H2O partner network.

AC: list of all platforms and services?

Lots, our own Dubai Lime, Clipo, Events Gossip, Promos in our partner network AdNation, Dubaimums Club, Adrenaline Sports Live, Custom-Nation and many more in development with partners – however the funding marks a significant shift to our own vertically focused platforms.

AC: You intended according to your press release to close partnership deals with Mobile operators in the region : partnerships in mobile advertising or Content distribution for your white-label social media platforms? explain please?

More to come on this later, but surface to say we have a large number of social media applications that drive mobile revenue from SMS Services, MMS Services, Mobile Location Based Services, Content Consumption and Application Notification – Our focus is to the VAS (Value Added Service) provider of a mobile operator * Run all of these cool social media applications branded under your mobile brand and share the revenue whilst generation more data traffic and revenues and of course and most importantly providing really super cool applications for your users.

AC: So your white label Social Networking platform is B2C (business to consumer) not E2E?

Its B2B B2C C2C E2E – depending on the client requirement.

AC: In the platforms and services you listed , you said it is done with partners? what does that mean are they joint ventures, or they pay you?

They are customers – our customers are always partners because although they pay for the platform we then introduce them into the network.

AC: Mobile Location Based Services: you will develop mobile location based social network whitelabel platform? or what?

Nope this markets gone – We will integrate into the LBS platform of an operator and use data to trigger actions for a clients service – that’s a future, data correlation for social media is also very interesting – putting the them all together where a company can use standard open source product, plus some of our software, plus some services to for example send a user a message (That they want and have requested) when they walk past a store (that they are interested in) to send them a special offer or provide them with a loyalty benefit is very very interesting – with the large amount of data volume correlation is going to be very critical.

AC: You developed  MINT CMS  in what Language ? PHP 5 MySQL? .Net?  

 Its PHP based LAMP Environment with the CMS based on the popular Joomla CMS – MINT is a fork of Joomla – We are also porting our community engine to.

AC: What about SODA CMS? also i need a link to SODA CMS website.

 Soda we haven’t published information yet – but Soda contains our community engine and database structure which is H2O developed software.

AC: Hosting for both? SaaS? self hosted? or both?  

It’s a SaaS platform – both platforms are SaaS.

AC: Can you send me the list of the key features?

Community Website – SMS Engine – Location Based Services Platform – Plus H2O free fields data structure based on SQL . 

AC: What is your Social Networking platform key advantage to your global competitors? ex: Drupal, SharePoint, Mazinga, Awareness , Socialtext, socialcast?  

We don’t view these as competitors – We are currently working at porting our social engine and data services to Drupal and EZ Publish – The CMS is really independent.

AC: How did you came up with the idea of H20 New Media? Do you have co-founders? if so who? 

We started an open mic in Dubai to provide a place for original music artists to play their music, then we developed a social community for that – then people asked us to develop their social communities – that’s how H2O was started.

AC: When you started H20 new media what type of funding did you use? self, angel? and how much?

 My own personal funding, around 500,000 USD give or take.

AC: What was your biggest challenge when you started?

 Finding the right qualified and committed staff was the biggest challenge – Cashflow Cashflow Cashflow is the next – getting a balance on cashflow is the most important thing to get right.

AC: Where you from originally? UK?

Yes from the UK, been in the region for 5 years this time, spent quite a lot of time in Oman, France and Trinidad before that so I would say more global than British these days 😉

AC: As an English entrepreneur in the Arab world, did/do you face any difficulties? 

No but then I am quite Arabised in the fact that I have been and grown up in the region when I was very young.

AC: H20 is profitable now?  

Yes H2O is profitable on paper – that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to watch it like a hawk to ensure that it stays that way.

AC: What advice do you offer Arab tech entrepreneurs?  

Be very careful of people that say they will help you and then charge high rates for their services, we had a potential Investor turn into a company that just sold is overpriced consultancy – watch cashflow and ensure you implement core systems such as CRM and finance.

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  1. UPDATED (Q&As )-White-label Social Media Startup: H2O New Media Secures First Round of Funding | ArabCrunch  |  March 7th, 2009 at 8:06 PM #

    […] UPDATE 2: full interview here. […]

  2. Amad  |  March 10th, 2009 at 12:04 AM #

    I love his last advice.. it is so true !


  3. Tim Abbott  |  March 11th, 2009 at 10:53 AM #

    Tim of tekSymmetry here and this is great stuff and great to hear about. Good work. I’ll be attending democamp today in Riyadh just to see what other people are doing and how far they’ve come. His advice is spot on but I expected to be.

    I wouldn’t say he has no competitors in the region, just no one he knows of. We consider ourselves competitors (Americans vs. the Brits) :), and our platform is bilingual (arabic/english – see and (beginning of may launch date)).

    At any rate, good to see things moving in a positive direction in the region and competition is good. It means THERE IS A MARKET :).

  4. James Tubler  |  May 28th, 2009 at 3:48 PM #

    This guy really knows his s**t

  5. Mohammad  |  June 10th, 2009 at 1:20 PM #

    This man came to speak to our PR group at Zayed University – his speech was amazing sort of inspired me. He said he was a nerd technical guy – that i think it is the last thing he is ha ha. He is also nice, he spoke to me for a long time after, a dear man.

  6. Mike Shutter  |  April 7th, 2010 at 5:40 PM #

    I just attended an investment seminar looking at H2O New Media as a company it seems they are out to raise more than a substantial sum (20 – 40M) of first round investment in their vertical networks. If you have any feedback on this company please email me at – Any experience in working with this company or if you think they would be a good investment and why? Negative comments or feedback also appreciated.

    I must say the presentation was the best i have seen in a while and for a company looking to generate 20M of working capital for the next 12 months they have very ambitious plans and i would agree that Mr Vaile really is “on the ball” as we say in the UK.

  7. Andrew  |  April 21st, 2010 at 10:20 PM #

    Mike for my two cents – fingers in a lot of media pies and a ruthless businessman. Do not be fooled by the gentleman front – he has a hit list of every company who he had problems with in his office with a lot of black lines through them. Be warned.

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