July 15, 2009

Seedcamp winners meet the Geeks


JD LasicaOne of the real highlights of the Traveling Geeks trip to the United Kingdom last week came when we were treated to “speed dating” session with the top start-ups of Seedcamp.

seedcampThis, after all, is one of the chief goals of the Traveling Geeks: to suss out young or little-known start-ups hear their stories, and throw a spotlight on the ones that resonate with us.

So we were thrilled when Sherry Coutu and Reshma Sohoni of London-based Seedcamp (Twitter: @seedcamp) arranged for us to meet their top start-ups, both collectively and one on one. Every one had a compelling consumer-facing service. Here are the ones that particularly struck a chord:


Twitter: @huddle
Email: [email protected]
Site: huddle.net

huddleHuddle.net offers a collaboration, sharing and project tools platform for getting stuff done. Specifically, Huddle provides secure online workspaces where users can share files, collaborate on ideas, manage projects and organize virtual meetings. P&G, Toshiba, Panasonic, Nokia and Unicef are among the customers using Huddle.

In February, Huddle partnered with InterCall, the world’s largest conferencing provider, to provide services to their 1 million-plus customers. And last month BusinessWeek named Huddle one of their “50 most promising startups” around the globe.

Heady stuff for founders Andy McLoughlin and Alistair Mitchell, who gave me a five-minute rundown of the site’s services. While I’ve been impressed by Basecamp‘s recent improvements, I saw enough in my session with Andy and Alistair that persuaded me to try out Huddle in an upcoming project with one of my clients or co-conspirators.


Twitter: @zemanta
Email: [email protected]
Site: zemanta.com

zemantaAndraz Tori (pictured at top), CTO of Slovenia-based Zemanta, sat down and gave the company’s six-word pitch: “Zemanta is an author’s best friend.” Turns out that it’s not just a marketing pitch.

zemanta siderI just started using Zemanta today and can see why it’s so addictive. As a blogger on WordPress who uses the Firefox browser, I’m perfectly suited for Zemanta’s services. I had previously come across Zemanta only on other bloggers’ posts and didn’t pay much attention to the link at the bottom of blog posts that would summon up related posts.

But Zemanta offers a slick and convenient way to spruce up your blog posts.It looks over your shoulder while you’re crafting a post (or even an email) and suggests images, related articles, links and tags to use. A simple click and the image or link now becomes part of your post. Zemanta draws from a large pool of available images, many of them carrying Creative Commons licenses. That’s one of the coolest features — mouse over the image and you’ll see its terms of use (generally free).

“I just love Zemanta,” said fellow Geek Meghan Asha. “It’s just cool to be able to have those images right there, all free and legal to use.”

Well put. I’m a believer now .


Twitter: @spotify
Email: [email protected]
Site: spotify.com

spotifyIn my book “Darknet” I wrote about the ongoing clash between the music companies and music fans who just want easy access to digital music. Spotify is one of the first companies to come along with an answer.

Through its simple-to-use interface and licensing deals with the major music labels, Spotify offers music fans instant access to their favorite music. The service enables on-demand streaming of tons of audio content through a free, ad-supported model and a premium paid model. London-based Lastfm and US-based Pandora are two similar music listening services, and SoundCloud is a great way to share music and audio files (see Robert Scoble’s video interview with One of Europe’s brightest startups: SoundCloud).

Scoble has been a big fan of Spotify, and I can see why.


Twitter: @overheardatmoo
Email: [email protected]
Site: moo.com

mooI’ve been a fan of Moo cards for years — they’re a staple at Silicon Valley events — but didn’t realize, until founder-CEO Richard Moross laid it out for me, just how many kinds of business cards and stickers Moo offers.

A lot: the company prints of cards a month for customers in 180 countries. Their customer base consists of 40 percent North Americans, 30 percent from the UK and 30 percent from the rest of the world, chiefly Europe. The best part: The cards are completely personalized. In the past, I’ve uploaded 50 different images for a stack of 100 business cards at a cost of about $20. Crazy-cheap.

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March 9, 2009

Parisian investors share valuable tips with startups

Ayelet NoffBack in January, when I attended Seedcamp Tel Aviv, I wrote about some of the priceless tips that investors shared with the startups there.  In a similar panel discussion at Seedcamp Paris, Parisian investors and VCs shared more valuable tips.  Among the investors in the panel discussion, which was moderated by Index Ventures’  Saul Klein, were Anne Gousset of Paris Développement (an incubator), Chipper Boulas of Boulas Ventures, Luis Courtot of Courtot Ventures, Xavier Lazarus of Elaia Partners and Philippe Colombel of Partech VC. It was interesting to hear what they all had to say.

The investors in Tel Aviv spoke a little bit about the current economic crisis. However, in Paris last month this crisis seemed to be a focal point of the investors’ discussion. Xavier of Elaia Partners brought up the point, right off the bat, that many companies that would have easily been funded a couple of years ago are now dealing with a much higher hurdle. Startups now not only need to show that they have a great product but also that it is sustainable, because nobody knows how much time it will take for the economy to improve.

Luis expanded on this, saying that now it is important for startups to demonstrate “proof of concept.” He said that a couple of years ago, as an investor you could simply fall in love with a product or service. However, he said, “today there is still love in the air but you need to demonstrate proof.”

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