Startups and cloud developers face challenging opportunities while building a business in the cloud. Monetization of apps and how to manage talent in a wireless world are among the most important.To bring us through this, Wired UK editor David Rowan will moderate the BizSpark European Summit on June 7 in London.
By Ruud de Jonge, Audience Marketing Manager, Microsoft Netherlands
I’m delighted to announce that this year’s BizSpark European Summit takes place on June 7th, in London. Now into its 8th year, this event will once again bring together the great and the good in the European entrepreneurial community. As well as top investors, visionaries and guest speakers, the line-up includes 15 of our top BizSpark startups from across the region. You may remember that at last year's European Summit, the winners aligned along a fantastic spectrum of entrepreneurial talent.
Picking the finalists for the event was a tough call, as we have literally thousands to choose from in Europe, but here are the 15 who will present on stage to a panel of judges, as well as the audience:
6wunderkinder (Germany), Autitouch (The Netherlands), Commerce Guys (France), Entertrainer (Finland), Fitting Reality (Russia), Foresight (Israel), Jampot (Ireland), miMedication (Belgium), MobileBits (Germany), Paperlit (Italy), Parking Defenders (Greece), PlaceChallenge (Poland), Red Badger (the UK), The Oblong (UK), and xBrainSoft (France).
Among the people they will be trying to influence are Reshma Sohoni, Partner, Seedcamp, Phil Cox, Head of UK, Europe and Israel, Silicon Valley Bank, Saul Klein, Partner, Index Ventures, and Curtis MacDonald, Investment Manager, High-Tech Gründerfonds.
Speakers and panel sessions
The day is being MC’d by David Rowan, editor of Wired UK, who will oversee a range of keynotes and panel discussions, covering a wide range of topics, including the monetisation of apps, the cloud economy and how to manage talent. Presenters and participants include Bob Dorff (co-author of the Startup Owner’s Manual), world-renowned Professor Jerome S. Engel, last year’s Summit pitch contest winner Alessandro Rizzoli (CEO of Mobapp), plus our very own Dan’l Lewin, Corporate Vice President, Strategic and Emerging Business Development, Microsoft.
The venue is Ravensbourne, next to the 02, close to TechCity and the Old Street area (fast becoming a major hub for startups in the UK) and not far from the Olympic stadium – London is definitely an exciting place to be this summer. In fact, some of you may have spotted that the date is the same week as the British Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations (50 years in the same job is an impressive track record) so we can safely expect London to be buzzing with lots to see and do.
We look forward to finding out who will be crowned our own BizSpark ‘royalty’ on June 7th.
Related content: Here are some case studies of some of Microsoft's work in Europe:
We've had a lot of signups for the 30 to Launch Series for Windows 8 happening at Rocketspace in San Francisco in June. So, we've decided to open another one in Seattle. Here are the details.
Photo courtesy of Ttstam on Flickr under Creative Commons license
Seattle 30 to Launch Windows 8 Series
Come join us at SURF Incubator in Seattle over the course of 4 different Wednesday nights to build great Windows 8 apps. Throughout the course of this four-part series, guests will have a chance to learn from Microsoft experts about the world’s largest opportunity for app developers.
We’ll also have great food and drink each night, and you’ll also have the opportunity to win great prizes! (See Official Rules here)
821 2nd Ave., 8th Floor
Seattle, WA 98104
Wednesdays, June 20, 27, July 11, 18 from 6pm-9pm
June 20 - Week 1: · Business Opportunity for Windows 8 · Designing Apps with Metro Principles and the Windows Personality
JULY 4 – SKIP – HOLIDAY WEEKEND
July 11 - Week 3: · Bring Your App to Life with Live Tiles and Push Notifications · Integrating with key Windows 8 features
June 18 - Week 4: · Applying the finishing touches · The Business Opportunity Continued: Monetizing your app · The Windows Store
Today at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, high-level representatives from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, African Development Bank, Microsoft, Nokia, infoDev, DEMO, and the World Economic Forum launched a new partnership to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa. The Liberalizing Innovation Opportunity Nations (LIONS@FRICA) partnership seeks to mobilize the knowledge, expertise and resources of leading public and private institutions to encourage and enhance Africa’s innovation ecosystem and to spur entrepreneurship across the continent.
You can read live updates all day at the DEMOAfrica Twitter account, @DEMOAfrica. The State Department press release is here.
All the information at DEMO can be found here: DEMOAfrica announcement.
If you would like to contact people regarding the DEMOAfrica launch, you can reach those people here: DEMOAfrica contacts and info.
Children Planning Homework on Mobile Phones
Photo courtesy of mLearning Africa, on Flickr. Creative Commons
Africa in October
When October rolls around, we're going to be heading to Kenya to see this kind of ingenuity firsthand, and to take part in the first ever DEMO Africa, an initiative that is being put together by Microsoft, DEMO, IDG, Nokia, several NGOs, Startup Weekend, and Lions@frica, a coalition created by the State Department that is working in the continent of just over 1 billion people to team up budding entrepreneurs with powerful global players. LIONS@FRICA and DEMO will leverage the Microsoft Innovation Centers, as well the company’s signature BizSpark program, which supports over 600 African startups and has 188 Network Partners.
It's of course not just mobile phone apps, but the cloud apps ecosytem, in general. Nowhere is there more sudden innovation and extrapolation. Developers building cloud apps and web apps make the world easier for anyone doing their business on the go, or in areas of the world where broadband and other telco infrastructure is fragmented. The DEMO Africa and State Department partnership is a way to encourage young entrepreneurs to excel at solving development problems using the kind of technology that many of us use for the sole purpose of checking in on Foursquare.
I found this story the other day when I was reading about Africa and its cell phone / smart phone habits.
My survey underlined a simple fact: Africa has experienced an incredible boom in mobile phone use over the past decade. In 1998, there were fewer than four million mobiles on the continent. Today, there are more than 500 million. In Uganda alone, 10 million people, or about 30% of the population, own a mobile phone, and that number is growing rapidly every year. For Ugandans, these ubiquitous devices are more than just a handy way of communicating on the fly: they are a way of life.
It may seem unlikely, given its track record in technological development, but Africa is at the centre of a mobile revolution. In the west, we have been adapting mobile phones to be more like our computers: the smartphone could be described as a PC for your pocket. In Africa, where a billion people use only 4% of the world's electricity, many cannot afford to charge a computer, let alone buy one. This has led phone users and developers to be more resourceful, and African mobiles are being used to do things that the developed world is only now beginning to pick up on.
Microsoft will be in Africa to support this generation with our partners.
What You Should Know
Q: What is Microsoft’s role in the Lions@frica partnership?
A: LIONS@FRICA will leverage Microsoft’s state of the art technology facilities on the continent (Microsoft Innovation Centers or ‘MICs’), as well the company’s signature BizSpark program, which supports over 600 African startups has 188 Network Partners.
Q: How does it differ from/build on the work you’re already doing in Africa to support start-ups/entrepreneurs?
A: Microsoft’s investment in LIONS@FRICA is a natural extension of our work to help accelerate the success of entrepreneurs and early stage start-ups on the continent, and to provide promising young African developers and innovators access technology tools, skills and resources they need to realise their full potential. Investing in helping others innovate and compete is an important motivation for Microsoft. And we’re focused on helping to create the right infrastructure, provide the right opportunities and build the right partnerships that will give start-ups in Africa a chance to thrive. We’re involved in a number of programs and projects to achieve this end. For example, we’re connecting Microsoft partners and customers with qualified students for entry-level and internship through our Student2Business (S2B) program; and we recently launched our Build Your Business program - an engaging, accessible multimedia MSE training toolkit aimed at providing African micro and small Scale entrepreneurs the skills to lead and grow their businesses, through improved business knowledge and technology know-how.
The TechCrunch Hackathon starts at 12.30 in NYC. We have three companies there.
Aviary, an awesome photo software app, is showcasing at the hackathon. Aviary will help showcase their Windows Phone app and SDK. here is a link that hows how to integrate the SDK into your W7 project.
Objective Logistics, which helps restaurant owners increase sales, will be showing off how they work on the Azure platform.
And Psykosoft, a photo-painting app, allows users to paint their images using a variety of color sampling techniques. They are showcasing a Windows 8 app.
Here's a rundown of the dates and the companies.
And here are some videos of the companies, to whet your appetite.
And Psykosoft in Boston delivering an amazing pitch, in which the CEO tells people they suck at painting... But not anymore!
Here's a live stream of the Business Insider #Startup2012 conference in New York City.
This will give you some great insights on how to run your new startup. Great information here.
An event that offers up to $500,000 in prizes to financial-focused startups has finished running in New York and in Singapore and is accepting applications now for Belfast. That event will run on June 14.
The Innotribe Startup Challenge is a global competition that introduces startups working in FinTech and Financial Services to investors and SWIFT’s community of 9700+ financial institutions and corporations. Startups apply online for feedback, exposure, the opportunity to pitch to qualified investors & customers at regional events and at Innotribe@Sibos, as well as a share of $500,000 in prizes. There’s no cost to startups (or attendees) to participate, except their travel. So far this year, judges have selected 29 semi-finalists from hundreds of applicants to the Innotribe Challenge Showcases in NYC & Singapore. Applications for the last regional semi-final event of 2012 (in Belfast on June 14th) are due by May 21st on http://www.innotribestartup.com.
Here is an event summary from Singapore.
A list of the presenting finalist startups:
There's nothing quite like the smell of the morning air, or hoisting a decaf latte in the hand, and this new blog post that we're throwing up live so that you developers out there can watch TechCrunch Disrupt in its entirety.
Microsoft is there, along with several of our team members, including Lindsay Lindstrom and Darryl McDade. And so are three BizSpark Startups, two of which are from Boston. Who said Boston startup culture had eroded in the face of the monolith that is the new Silicon Alley in NYC?
We didn't say that. We believe the startup revolution is global. Check out the entire thing here.
Broadcasting live with Ustream
After a whole night of hacking, we are onto the Disrupt presentations.
Live stream videos at Ustream
With just two weeks to go until the 8th BizSpark European Summit, I thought I’d give you a sneak preview of the fifteen start-ups who will be pitching to our panels of investors and other VIP judges on June 7th in London.
Post by Ruud de Jonge, Director Developer & Platform Evangelism of Microsoft in the Netherlands
It’s kind of a cliché to say that choosing just fifteen was hard, but believe me, it was. Year-on-year, the calibre of the start-ups who apply to the event just continues to rise. So while Europe may be going through a period of economical turmoil, that doesn’t seem to be stopping entrepreneurs having great ideas. Of course, making sure that they have the support they need to survive is a whole other matter.
Our final fifteen represent a wide geography, from Finland to Greece, from Russia to Israel and across all kinds of markets, including games, healthcare, retail and a whole host of productivity tools. Mobile apps and cloud solutions are well-represented too. So, in alphabetical order, a drum-roll please for:
Jordan Crook and Matt Burns walk the line of hackers lined up to get into the NYC TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. Here's a video of their interviews. Part red carpet glitz, half laid back hacker slack-mo, this is a good view into what happens in the lovely, glorious glory that is NYC in summer.
My friend Greg Gopman gets interviewed. Way to go Greg!
Spoonhub, "a Github for recipes" took away the grand prize challenge at today's TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. It's a beautiful looking app, as this video of the team presenting it on the emulator shows.
And then here is the award announcement.
The team also has a web based client with a "recipe feed." You can also "fork" recipes. They may have won the XBox Kinect and Windows Phone prize package for best use of puns embedded into a client.
Here are eight other apps put together by hackers. These guys each won a Nokia Lumia800:
The European BizSpark Summit starts June 7.
We've got a lot going on right now in the run up to the event. There's this People's Choice Awards challenge. We're going to give the People's Choice Award to one of the fifteen companies that gets the most Like votes through Facebook. You can go to this site and make your selections, but we have also written up a summary of what each company does here.
I've gathered all of the Twitter handles of the people who will be at the event. You can follow them live during the event as they tweet out what is going on in these panels. We are also going to live stream the event throughout, but it makes no sense to put that link up now, so just wait and you will be able to stream the panels while you work next week.
Here are the Twitter handles of Microsoft people on the ground, who will keep you informed of the startup activity during the summit (Note: A Microsoft champ is a person working for Microsoft who interacts on a daily basis with entrepreneurs and startups. They are the person who can tell you the most about the BizSpark program as it relates to activities in their particular country. We have four of them going to this event; they range in countries from France, to Netherlands, Portugal and Belgium):
I have met numerous wanna-preneurs over coffee meet-ups where folks have ditched their idea after working on it for long, simply because they found a successful competitor. Really?
Ruchit Garg, CEO of 9Slides, an app which synchronizes speaker tracks with slides -- Photo Credit Yatharth Gupta
Why do you worry about having competitors? I think it’s a reason to celebrate.
Here is why I think so:
If this is your first company, believe me, the above are so valuable that otherwise you would spend tremendous amount of time and money before you are in business.
Instead of worrying about competition, you need to focus on customers. Remember, you are in the business (or trying to be in it) because you have this great idea/product/service you want to serve/sell/provide to your customers and not because you want to beat that competitor.
I personally spend several hours every week talking to our trial and paid users of 9SLIDES in order to understand their motivations and things which would make them happy customers. That contact point will be where new ideas and revenue generation will originate. It won't be happening just sitting in the office, dreaming up something with which nobody can compete. Customers, as it turns out, are just as nimble as you would want to be. You kind of have to learn from them how to adjust your sails.
If you do it right with focus on customers, you can win over customers and change the ball game. But if you sweat about competitor and spend energies on trying to find ways to defeat them, believe me you are more likely to lose it.
Moreover, even if you don’t have competitor today, you would have at least one tomorrow. They could start late and can raise LOT of money and appear to be huge. At that point, what makes more sense -- raising a bigger round than they, or having a cadre of customers who love the product you made for them, and with them? I think it makes sense what the logical conclusion should be.
Ruchit Garg is serial tech entrepreneur working on his next startup called 9SLIDES. He can be followed on twitter @ruchitgarg or can be reached over email at email@example.com
Special Offer from 9Slides for BizSpark members:
Today I am going to visit the Microsoft Accelerator at 320 Westlake Avenue in Seattle. Incidentally, the Azure Accelerator is accepting applications for ten slots to be given to developers who want to build a company, an app or a service on the Azure platform. Microsoft is giving away three months of Azure hosting to help them, and the partner in this, TechStars is helping give $20,000 to each applicant. You have to pay for your own travel and hosting, but hey, $20,000 to build an app in the cloud? Okay! Look into it.
But back to Seattle, entrepreneurs, and coffee. Seattle does coffee.
I've been thinking about how entrepreneurs put things into the market. Everyone talks about Keep Shipping. I keep hearing this and seeing this written on walls and on bathroom stall doors.
But, do entrepreneurs ship things, or serve them? Serve connotes an idea of giving customers exactly what they want. Ship connotes throwing something out the warehouse door. I thnk they might have used it to deliver ideas of bulk and traction and heavy volume. But products "shipped" on the web need a certain individuality to them. They need a customer experience that feels and looks more intimate. So, isn't it actually serving the customer?
I don't make it to Seattle often, but when I do, I like to go to the Starbucks and enjoy a decaf latte, skim. I don't drink caffeine (yes, I know that decaf has a minor amount of caffeine in it).
I come to Startbucks because it got started here, and it makes me feel like I am a pilgrim making a pilgrimage to visit a great idea: coffee served quickly -- though a little burnt tasting -- exactly like the customer asks for it.
No more drip coffee from a filter bag that looks the same for everyone. No more communist coffee!
Coffee places like this do it right. They know what people want. They want coffee. They are prepared to serve that coffee by having on hand baristas who really dig making coffee. These baristas know that people like coffee the way they like it. There is a connection between the barista (a listening agent) and the customer (a demand agent). The baristas are prepared. Baristas serve two functions in this equation.
Baristas make the coffee the way the customer likes the coffee.
But before they do that, they listen to what they customer wants. They serve the very important function of listening.
I'm going to this accelerator to see how startups listen. What are they doing in the industry they occupy? How do they listen to the market needs and adapt to those needs? This is a very important function. Is it hard to do? I don't think it's hard to do.
It takes practice.
The practice of listening is a lot like the practice of delivering great coffee. Done countless times, with failures and do-overs, you get to a point where you kind of just get it. I think that Accelerators help entrepreneurs get this practice in. We surround them with really good practitioners and mentors. Those mentors are hands-on, when they need to be. We give them access to technology to help them reach out to the customer and test their theories and develop the market they want.
Everyone talks about "Keep Shipping" as a mantra for product delivery to customer needs.
It might be more accurate to phrase it as "Keep Serving." Serve up what the customer needs.
Listen to what baristas say, "I have that grande decaf mocha for you, when you're ready."
"Tall skim cappucinno on the bar, just for you."
A little extra touch. On the web, this is so meta. You can talk about the customer that you serve the product to, and in talking with the customer you learn about the customer. You make the product fit her needs. It begins to look a little like the customer. It's the customer's better half.
If you've ever really needed a coffee, real bad, then you know how nicely that coffee fits in your hand. It's the extension of your self. It's what you need.
Don't forget about the Azure Accelerator. For real.
Sam Rosenbalm, BizSpark Managing Director, has been mentoring and visiting with entrepreneurs at the Kinect Accelerator class in Seattle since April. He’s also helped dozens of startups around the world figure out how to leverage Windows technology to build supported sustainable apps and companies in the cloud. We’re combining the best learning from those startups, mentors from TechStars, and direct access to Windows Azure executives and engineers to bring you the Cloud class at the Microsoft Accelerator Powered by TechStars. Startups will move to Seattle for three months, August 27 to November 29, and will receive funding, free cloud services and training.
Who should apply? Startups can have just an idea or an established application that leverages the cloud. That could be a mobile, client or web app and doesn’t have to leverage existing Microsoft technology. Some of our existing startups use Windows Azure for gaming, high performance computing, big data, ticket sales, event management, video distribution, and web services. We even have one scaling up online casting sites for Hollywood! So what are you waiting for? Visit http://bit.ly/JcvY3v to get registration information and apply by June 29th.
TechCrunch Disrupt will be here this weekend, and if you are a developer and a builder of apps, you might like the two little contests we are doing. In fact, you might like these contests regardless of whether you are a hacker, a developer or a phone lover.
We'll be covering some of this live on the blog. In addition to all the exciting coverage, we are giving away a lot of Lumia Phones. And we are giving away one huge Xbox 360 Kinect bundle with a token to the Windows phone app hub.
Photo Courtesy: Douglas Crets, Microsoft BizSpark
1. Microsoft will run a raffle for giving out 20 Lumia 800s. Anyone who demos a prototype on the Windows Phone is eligible
2. In addition, we will have 1 grand prize of a Nokia Lumia 800+Xbox 360 250GB+ Kinect bundle +Windows Phone app hub token for most innovative use of Windows Phone platform.
So, get on it.
Here are the details of the Hackathon.
Hackathon Location: Pier 94755 12th Avenue (W 55th Street & 12th)New York, NY 10019
Date & Time:Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 12:30PM – Sunday, May 20 at 2:00PM ET
Resources for Hackers: For up-to-the-minute details on Twitter, follow @hackdisrupt
Shelby.tv recently won the The Next Web Conference in Amsterdam. It's a video web app that puts all your social shared videos in one place.
Mark Voermans, BizSpark champ in The Netherlands, was at the conference, and he reports on why the judges chose Shelby.tv above all the others.
Judges and startups went through a couple of rounds of judging during this conference, over two days. When it was all said and done, Shelby.tv, which announced a new version of itself, called Shelby GT, turned out the winner, outclassing GPS apps, mobile apps for sharing snowboarding and skiing activity, and apps that help couples stay connected, though distance keeps them apart.
I admit that Shelby.tv is a BizSpark member but I can’t be accused of bias, because my fellow judges also agreed they were the winner of this session. Shelby is your place for video. It's all the video your friends share, in one place... then Shelby gets smart, to give you personalized video on web, mobile, and smart TV. Clever stuff.
They were also the only startup representing New York City to be at the conference. That got them some kudos in this interview they did with TNW TV.
Judging the Swarm of Startups at The Next Web
Last week, I was delighted to be involved in The Next Web Conference in Amsterdam, where I met with a very influential audience from all over Europe….startups, vendors, investors, press, bloggers, analysts….you name it, and they were there. As well as sponsoring the event, we also organized a pitch prep day with our partner Rockstart for the startups presenting at the event, to help them make the most of this exciting opportunity.
And it certainly made a difference – all the startups who took part in the prep day worked very hard and I could see the results when they went on stage! It was a good reminder that while a lot of startups don’t prepare properly, the ones that do will see the benefit.
But, back to the main event. I missed most of the keynote presentations because I was so busy judging and mentoring startups, so I’m going to focus on them (and for me, they are always the most interesting aspect of these events anyway).
Tawkon, SnowCiety, ZapStreak, PlayerDuel and AppMotion made up the First Round on Day One and you can see a theme here -- snowboarding, radiation spotting and gaming on the mobile device. Overall, mobile apps were huge at TNW. Tawkon helps people minimize exposure to radiation, while Snowciety connects ski-ing and snowboarding friends on the slopes.
ZapStreak offers a mobile SDK for pushing content to Web-connected TVs(no extra hardware needed) and Playerduel can turn any single-player game into a multi-user game, with minimal effort. Last but not least, Appmotion builds a framework that streams motion-based content to your smartphone, effectively turning into a games controller. How cool is that! SnowCiety took winning position (the giant video screen showing ski-ing and snowboarding was definitely a crowd-pleaser).
Round two brought BellaDati, Tripl, Waytag, Babelverse and Shelby.tv on stage.
Shelby.tv took home the overall winner, but my other favorite startup was Waytag. Waytag is to GPS coordinates what DNS to IP addresses. It is so much easier to share your waytag than trying to share a street address or GPS co-ordinate. You name it, your control it and you choose who to share it with. I love it.
Day Two: It Kept Getting Better
First up on day two was Robin, also a BizSpark member. Consumers are looking for trust when shopping online and Robin is today’s retailer’s sidekick for delivering that trust, helping to ensure great service, both online and offline. Other startups who presented on day two included Between, Six3, Hojoki and Nuji. Again, what a diversity of ideas! In brief: Between provides a secret online service for lovers to communicate intimately. Six3 makes it incredibly easy & fun to create and reply to video messages on any device. I liked the idea behind Hojoki, which is to make all cloud apps work as one, by building one newsfeed that basically creates a productivity dashboard. Nuji is doing well for itself: with over 250,000 stores and 300,000 products, it is creating a new type of social retail platform (it bills itself as ‘your social wishlist).
A full list is on the TNW website, with winners of the individual categories being:
I’m happy to have been involved in an event that shows what a great collection of startups there are in Europe today. I’m looking forward to “The Next Web - The Next Year”.
Most entrepreneurs are familiar with the term Other People’s Money. In fact, some believe Other People’s Money is the simplest definition of doing business. There is another OPM that is in many ways just as important, and that is Other People’s Marketing.
Adam Peterson, CEO of Vipecloud writes about new marketing strategies for startups in social, as part of our guest blogging series at BizSpark.
New companies are popping up at hyper-speed making it challenging to stand out to potential users. So how do you capture the attention of your market?
Answer: The same way you operate your personal social media.
Build relationships with your customers by re-using other people’s content. Why reinvent the wheel when you can simply be the contributing source of interesting content to your audience?
90% of the content on sites like Twitter, YouTube, and other similar services are created by 10% of the users (GigaOm). Even President Obama at the 2012 White House Correspondent dinner joked that the Huffington Post has done a fantastic job of providing news by linking to real news articles.
So roll with it. The simple secret to building a loyal following is to regularly stay in front of your users. That presence can come via emails, Twitter conversations, Facebook pages, blogs, and your product itself. Most every major social network sends out weekly update emails showcasing top content created by others. You can too.
What content is the best to share with your customers through these various channels? The following can all be found in blogs, on Twitter, and for the most engaging content, on YouTube (there is an enormous amount of business relevant videos on YouTube that are not being utilized effectively).
Being the source of interesting content by taking a few minutes to find relevant information on a regular basis will help you build a following so you can focus on building a beautiful product.
About the Author
CEO, VipeCloud (www.vipecloud.com, @VipeCloud)
EIR, StartX (http://startx.stanford.edu, @StartX)
#video, #videomarketing, #businessvideo, #youtube, #startup, #startups, #bizspark, #entrepreneur, #entrepreneurs, #sales, #marketing
Bindi Karia interviews Seedcamp co-founder Reshma Sohoni
The BizSpark European Summit always attracts a stellar line-up of judges and guest speakers and 2012’s event in London on June 7th is no exception! I asked one of the judges, Reshma Sohoni, a founder and manager of Seedcamp, a BizSpark Plus Network Partner, why she supports the startup ecosystem.
You can watch Reshma and her fellow judges listen to presentations from the 15 finalists on June 7th via the event live-stream [link?] on the BizSpark global site and Microsoft Europe site.
BK: For the uninitiated, what is Seedcamp?
RS: Seedcamp is an early stage mentoring and investment program that engages with startups through our monthly Seedcamp Events, where entrepreneurs present their companies, network, receive mentoring, and compete for investment by Seedcamp. Yearly, we invest in about 20 companies this way. Our standard investment is 50,000 Euros in return for a 8-10 percent stake in the business. We bring companies to the next level through hands-on support, our network of awesome mentors and partnerships.
BK: What do you look for in a start-up?
RS: I look for startups that offer something unique or different and which is defensible. Of course, I look for startups with ‘the big idea’, but it’s important to note that doesn’t always exist from ‘day one’, it often evolves. A strong leadership team is vital, so I also look at how team members execute their ideas and how they interact with us, each other and partners.
BK: If you had to give start-ups one piece of advice, what would it be?
RS: “Think global!”
BK: Was this part of the reason Seedcamp wanted to be involved in this year’s BizSpark European Summit?
RS: Part of the Seedcamp culture is to support projects that enhance the startup ecosystem. The BizSpark program definitely does that, so it is a natural partnership for us and we are delighted to support events like this.
BK: What do you think the impact of BizSpark has been here in Europe?
RS: It has the most incredible reach geographically – any other organization would be hard-pushed to match that. This means that start-ups all over the world – including Europe – have access to BizSpark. I hear that in Europe, there are currently around 14,000 startups in the BizSpark program. I also love the nature of BizSpark – it has a very open, collaborative approach, both in the way it works with partners and startups themselves. For Seedcamp, partnership is key to our scalability and to help startups launch globally.
BK: There are a lot of events that startups get invited to – what’s your advice to them when selecting which ones to invest their time in attending?
RS: It’s true that there is a large volume of events, so startups need to choose the ones that are most relevant and which will give them good networking opportunities. Winning prizes is just part of the benefit of attending these events.
JamPot have developed a Software as a Service (SaaS) product (TheAppBuilder) that enables anyone to create a mobile phone “app” for a fraction of the current developer fees. TheAppBuilder is a game-changing product as no technical skills are required. It’s a global market that’s growing exponentially. There is significant, growing early sales traction, with recurring revenue model, and highly scalable business. Recognized by Microsoft, Engadget, Fast Company & BBC as revolutionary!
Autitouch develops intuitive software to speedup diagnostics of autism. Autitouch was founded in 2010 by Freena Eijffinger, after she witnessed the long diagnostic evaluation trials for autism her younger brother went through. These trials are currently done by hand, which is labor intensive, error prone and subjective. A normal computer with upstanding monitor, a mouse and keyboard can’t be used, as this setup interferes with social interaction. Autitouch found a way using Microsoft Surface technology to work around these obstacles and offers 4 soon to be validated diagnostic tools that will change the diagnosis of autism forever.
Commerce Guys empowers e-Retailers through Drupal Commerce, a completely configurable open-source eCommerce solution offering unprecedented flexibility, scalability, and security. Nine months after the initial release, Drupal Commerce already empowers more than 14,000 eCommerce websites, like the Royal Mail and McDonalds and has received recognition from Gartner (Cool Vendor 2012).
Entetrainer develops mobile applications for sports brands helping ball sport players to realize their best potential by making training a fun and social experience. The first product is a speed radar app for hockey, which has been licensed to the NHL. The product is scalable for all major ball sports e.g. football and tennis. It also provides an innovative experience for sports leagues and equipment manufacturers to connect with their customers.
Fitting Reality brings innovation to the retail experience on a global scale through developing a virtual fitting room VIPodium. Its unique approach leverages technologies like Microsoft Kinect and Windows Azure to address the most critical issues the fashion industry faces today. For customers this means a unique controllable and interactive shopping experience solving their FIT/SUIT pain. For fashion brands and retailers this means an opportunity to boost profit margins, and challenge the very basics of retail industry through creating new standards and rules for fashion retail.
Foresight provides an innovative and unique cloud based solution for one-click cyber continuity. Using the Foresight solution, web site owners can now ensure cyber continuity with no interruption to the web site availability. In addition, Foresight offers an immediate response to website downtime, disaster recovery, peak-time load, distributed denial-of-service and cyber-attacks – using one integrated and cost effective solution.
miMedication is a web tool that enhances self-management for chronically ill people with a focus on asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). A key ingredient is the personal electronic health record, combined with patient education to inform patients about their medical condition. miMedication aims to provide early warning signals when patients are at risk, using data in their personal health record. By recording cough sounds, algorithms will identify variations in the acoustic parameters, which can be related to lung conditions. It is only by combining patient education with a personal health record, that patients can progress to self-management.
MobileBits is an independent developer for every platform with an AppStore (Windows 8, iOS, Android, WP7...). The 25-people-strong-team is based in Hamburg and Hannover, Germany and has been previously developing games for more than 15 years for PC, XBox360 and the PS3. MobileBits now fully concentrates on its own cross-platform technology Delta Engine and the games created with this technology.
theOblong takes complicated technology problems and delivers elegant, cost effective, easy to use software tools to the everyday user. We focus on conceiving, building and delivering disruptive software products: MapCite - an innovative set of web mapping tools that enable our clients to gather, visualize and interrogate location based data, generating extremely elegant and complex mapping quickly and efficiently. MatchCite - a highly innovative tool that brings Master Data Management and Data De-Duplication capability to the masses, enabling enterprises to significantly improve efficiency and reduce costs by creating a 'single version of truth' for customer data.
The multiplatform digital publishing solution. Paperlit is the easiest mobile and web publishing solution for traditional newspapers, magazines or catalogues. A beautiful and easy to use reading experience for readers and a great targeted platform for publishers. It provides publishers’ branded apps for Windows8, iOS, Android, Facebook and Web with easy integration of multimedia content, rss feeds, html5 content. The publisher can also easily integrate payment/billing and advertising system to monetize the content distributed via the branded apps.
Parking Defenders connects your smartphone with your car by providing access to a marketplace of parking spots, so that next time you are looking for one you don’t have to waste time and gas!
PlaceChallenge is location-based platform for outdoor games. The platform provides API for game developers and marketing agencies to create their own engaging scenarios. On top of that the PlaceChallenge company created two games: - RunAway – people run around the city looking for a person with virtual coin. Everybody can take the coin from other players near to them and run away. To win you have to have the coin at the end of game. - Tail – people run around a city creating a tail behind them. They need to block the road of the player competing against them. All games are connected with social networks.
Red Badger is a creative software company. The company is passionate about helping others to solve their complex problems using technology in innovative ways. Its strength is in rapid prototyping to “fail fast” and “fail cheaply” and the ability to convert prototypes to robust, scalable production products. Red Badger employs the best tools, best practices and agile methodologies to deliver the right solution. Its UCD approach to everything showcases great UX and design coupled with a meticulous approach to technical quality and attention to detail.
The Berlin-based 6Wunderkinder created Wunderlist and Wunderkit to build productivity software for everyone. Both products are growing exponentially worldwide and have attracted millions of users in 18 months. Wunderlist has been named App of the Year in Japan and both apps have been downloaded in over 100 countries around the globe. 6 Wunderkinder is supported by an experienced group of investors including Niklas Zennström’s Atomico.
xBrainSoft is a software editor born in 2006 in the incubator of Usilink Group, a leading ambient intelligence actor. xBrainSoft publishes the IAS development platform (Intelligent Agent Server), allowing all operators and application developers to create their own personal assistant like the Siri Apple solution on all mobiles and appliances (Cars, Homes, Enterprise Offices). xBrainSoft launched Angie in February, a personal assistant, for the Window Phone marketplace in France.
Across different countries in Europe, more needs to be done to give start-ups tax reductions during their early years. We are creating new jobs, so it is in the interest of the European economy to help us, because we are the employers of the future. Governments need to take a longer term view. --Alessandro Rizzoli, founder and CEO of Mopapp. You can follow him on Twitter here.
Photo Courtesy of Alessandro Rizzoli, via Twitter
Interview by Bindi Kharia, Platform Strategy Advisor, Microsoft EU
A year is a long time in the start-up world: in this fast-paced environment, a lot can change and quickly. A company may get acquired for a billion dollars. Boards change. Great hacks turn into stellar businesses.
That’s kind of why I wanted to catch up with Alessandro Rizzoli, founder and CEO of Mopapp, to hear how the company has evolved since winning the pitch competition at 2011’s BizSpark European Summit. The next EU Summit is taking registrations.
BK: What does Mopapp do and what was the big idea that led you to win the startup pitch competition?
AR: We aggregate information from all major app-stores, giving mobile application developers current information about their latest sales. Until Mopapp came along, systems for tracking sales were focused on different appstores and didn’t address the growing sales channel of online ad networks.
BK: What’s happened in a year’s time?
AR: It’s been amazing. We secured substantial investment from Italian company CRIF in February 2012, which should fund us for at least the next year. We’ve grown the team to 14 people across the UK and Italy and we have paying customers, including well-known names such as Autodesk, Intuit and one of Europe’s biggest publishers. At the moment, we’re working on the next version of the Mopapp service – I can’t say too much at the moment, but we plan to launch later this year and it will definitely help our clients increase their marketshare. We’ve also recently completed cloud migration to the Windows Azure platform.
BK: You’ve also physically moved offices, I think you relocated Mopapp to London recently right? Why?
AR: London is a real hub for global start-ups and investors, so it gives us a real international presence. Plus, it is still close enough to Italy so that the management team can work closely with the developer team back in Italy. We’re sharing Seedcamp’s offices in Tech City but plan to get our own premises soon. London is a great place for start-ups to be right now, there’s a great buzz here.
BK: While the past 12 months have been good for Mopapp, economic conditions have been tough for start-ups across the region. What do you think can be done to help start-ups more?
AR: Across different countries in Europe, more needs to be done to give start-ups tax reductions during their early years. We are creating new jobs, so it is in the interest of the European economy to help us, because we are the employers of the future. Governments need to take a longer term view.
Alessandro actually spoke at a joint event between the US Embassy and the Italian government, and he had the same things to say, on a global level. To wit, entrepreneurs create jobs in the digital economy, and that economy is global, pervasive and accelerating. Incidentally, the company is hiring interns this summer to work in sunny Italy. Now, who would not want that kind of thing?
On June 7th, fifteen of Europe's best startups are going to be competing for the top prize in front of a panel of investors and influencers, not to mention an audience consisting of a couple of hundred peers and others from the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We’ve created the People’s Choice Award, an extra prize that ANYONE can cast their vote for – so this is YOUR CHANCE to influence who the winner is! All you have to do is cast your vote between now and midnight BST June 6th. Check out these fifteen finalists and the start-up you think has the greatest potential to succeed.
Visit the page to see all of the potential award winners, and to cast your vote.
We will also be blogging about the candidates this whole week, starting tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.
It's been a heavy media day around here. Some reporters from Endgadget and Bloomberg just got back from their trip to see the Microsoft Accelerator in Seattle.
Photo courtesy Bloomberg
The Endgadget piece focuses on several of the startup accelerator participants, like Freak'nGenius:
Freak'n Genius co-founder Kyle Kesteron is a former illustrator and toy developer and current entrepreneur. The genesis of his company dates back to November of last year, when he participated in a Seattle Startup Weekend and emerged with a couple of partners and an idea for a platform that lets people create their own high-quality cartoons. You see, animation is a difficult, labor intensive process that requires a unique set of skills, but with a bit of software and a Kinect sensor bar, most anyone can create South Park-style animations.
And GestSure Technologies:
Enter Jamie Tremaine, a mechanical engineer, whose mind began to reel with the potential provided by Kinect back in November of 2010. The week of Kinect's release, Tremaine was out running with his buddies, general surgeon Dr. Matt Strickland and software engineer Greg Brigley, and the idea to leverage Kinect's gesture controls for use in operating rooms was hatched. GestSure Technologies was the result of that jogging epiphany, and within three weeks the first prototype was built.
The box itself is essentially a computer that serves USB bridge to connects the Kinect to existing hospital PCs used to interact with CT and MRI data. Its secret sauce maps gestures to mouse commands to allow surgeons to navigate through the images in the OR hands-free -- which means they no longer have to scrub out or wait for a nurse to obtain the info they need, saving valuable time in the process. It works using an embedded image processor to interpolate the Kinect data and shoot commands to the PC over USB 2.0, so it's a plug-and-play solution that requires no new drivers be installed on existing hospital computers. The device has already been tested in operating rooms, and FDA registration of the device is expected to be complete in less than two weeks. After that, the devices can be sold implemented in medical facilities all over the US.
They are all startups using Kinect technologies, but the point is, they are getting months of hands-on experience with Microsoft technical teams and TechStars mentors, in Seattle, three floors up from a coffee shop.
Bloomberg shows how hands-on they are getting:
Microsoft already has several hundred companies writing applications for Kinect for Windows, but the company wanted an accelerator program that harnessed the imagination of the startup world, which is often more daring in its endeavors.
“They’ll look at problems that are bigger risks than regular companies,” said Craig Eisler, general manager of Kinect for Windows.
Developers are key to Microsoft’s ambition of making Kinect more than a gaming device. In order for Kinect to play a central role in the future of computing, Microsoft needs startups tobuild applications that make gesture-based controls and 3-D scanning important to non-gamers.
Microsoft isn’t alone. San Francisco-based Leap Motion today announced a $70 3-D motion control device and is seeking developers to build applications around its technology.
For a company that lacks the app developer appeal of an Apple, Kinect has been a bright spot for Microsoft. Nearly 500 startups applied for the accelerator program, which is co-hosted by TechStars, a program that nurtures young companies. Whether or not venture capitalists and customers will also flock to this technology remains to be seen.
And we would be remiss if we didn't share this link to a great post about a company that was down to its last .72 cents before they got their funding round, brought to us by our network partner, Founder Dating.
We're running a few blog posts over the next week to celebrate the BizSpark EU Summit being hosted in the UK.
Fitting Reality, one of the contestants from Russia, uses augmented reality to help women and men find clothes that fit them, in the styles they want. You can follow them on Twitter @FittingReality.
Founded: June 2011
Status: Launching June 2012
Funding: angel investment, seeking more
Find at: Fitting Reality, and on their Facebook page.
But the video of this is really cool and worth watching. Wave your arms around the air and pick out dresses you would like to wear out to dinner.
A virtual fitting room that finds the clothes that fit and suits you – and are available!
The big idea
Fitting Reality’s own market research sums up what shoppers want: they want to know what fits them and what suits them. We’ve all that had experience of buying something online to only find that when it arrives, it does not look the way we had hoped. While there are other attempts at virtual fitting rooms around, Fitting Reality’s VIPodium is the first that addresses both those questions, while also making it very easy for both online retailers to offer this augmented-reality based service. Online customers will be able to sort through literally thousands of garments using Fitting Reality. There is also an offline version being launched for in-store use.
To start using the system, a person creates his own personal profile ShapeID. It takes less than 5 minutes and only needs to be done once. After the measuring process done with Kinect, the customer can save these dimensions and then use these data every time he/she shops.
Fitting Reality’s expert system then connects to the retailer’s inventory to find and suggest only those pieces of clothing that actually fit the customer. These are then ‘tried on’ by the user, who can even move around and the item will follow. Both in-store systems and a home system (which connects to the customer’s own Kinect) are available and a mobile app is planned too. With launch planned for summer 2012, the initial target markets are Europe and the US.
Founder, CEO and the public face of Fitting Reality is Inga Nakhmnason, who previously founded AR Door, another augmented reality company, following stints at Publicis Modern and RBS-Soft, where she honed her abilities to run major projects. The team of 23 employees, mainly focused on R&D, are based in Moscow. The company is angel-funded.
Fitting Reality uses Microsoft Kinect technology and the mobile application will be released for Windows Phone. The company also intends to move to the cloud. Says Inga Nakhmanson, CEO, “Cloud is the only option for the future.” She continues, “We’ve had a wonderful experience working with Microsoft, particularly from the local team in Russia.” Fitting Reality is a BizSpark One company.
By Brett Laffel
Come join us at RocketSpace in San Francisco every Monday night throughout the month of June to build great Windows 8 apps. Throughout the course of this four-part series, guests will have a chance to learn from Microsoft experts about the world’s largest opportunity for app developers.
We’ll also have great food and drink every Monday, and you’ll also have the opportunity to win great prizes! (See Official Rules here)
Register now! https://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032514381&Culture=en-US
RocketSpace181 Fremont StreetSan Francisco, CA 94105Mondays, June 4, 11, 18, 25 from 6pm-9pm
June 4 - Week 1:· Business Opportunity for Windows 8· Designing Apps with Metro Principles and the Windows Personality
June 18 - Week 3:· Bring Your App to Life with Live Tiles and Push Notifications· Integrating with key Windows 8 features
June 25 - Week 4:· Applying the finishing touches· The Business Opportunity Continued: Monetizing your app· The Windows Store
Questions? Contact Brett at Brett.Laffel@Microsoft.com
We look forward to seeing you there!