Today we spent the day at the Techcrunch Europe event, co-hosted by Sun Microsystems at their offices in Munich. Mike Butcher, TechCrunch Europe’s Editor, was on hand to take about 150 attendants through a few presentations and 12 startup pitches.
The breakroom had a tweeter wall with live reaction of the attendance –hashtag #tcm09, check it out.
The first to present was Mathias Roth from iOpus.com. His message was simple: if you’re a startup that wants to get attention, be the first to develop for a new platform, any new platform. The rational: if you are among the first, chances are, that you will stick. Look at the top 50 add-ons to Firefox today: half of them were introduced within the year Firefox made its add-ons development platform available. Mathias’ recommendation: get on Chrome’s bandwagon and develop your add-on now – there are only about 25 Chrome add-ons today. Even though Chrome’s add-ons website will not come before the end of the year, it will pay to be among the first.
Next speaker was Rainer Maerkle from Holtzbrinck Ventures. He gave a great talk about what it takes to launch a startup. I will not do it justice by trying to reduce his talk into a few words, but essentially: do your homework, focus, take risks, focus, execute, focus. Oh, and don’t wait for VC money, or don’t over-specify your product: just do it and get it out, then release often.
Then come the exciting part: 12 startups pitching for 3mn each + 1mn for question. Some did great, some did not do as well, but all show the enthusiasm of the entrepreneur. Disclaimer: I am sharing what I thought of the presentations and of the startup ideas and business models; this is a very subjective digest, go visit these sites and make up your own mind.
- Goutez (food for friends). They provide an on-line market place to buy local food products. Lots of people tried to be on-line food resellers, but only a fraction is still alive. I don’t know whether there is a market large enough to hold a sustainable business here.
- Communote. They propose an enterprise microblogging platform. Basically, a secure place where people can collaborate and share info. It looks pretty slick, and it has already a few customers. But having a Twitter for enterprise might not be enough. They had quite a number of questions regarding their differentiation with respect to other enterprise collaborative platforms. Also, may I ask what if GoogleWave goes enterprise?
- Graph.me. Good presentation on a platform that enables users to build up their own poll, which they ask friends or social network members to answer (Facebook, MySpace). Business model is to sell the resulting data pool to marketing research. Neat idea. Obvious question is the privacy problem.
- CaptchaAd. Propose a video ad CAPTCHA. Instead of your usual textual CAPTCHA, a short ad video is played and the used must answer a simple question (e.g., what was the brand of the car in the video?) to prove she is not a spambot. Clever idea, but will the users enjoy watching 10 seconds of video ad to fill in a form?
- Red Panda. Intentional browsing add-on for Firefox: it instantaneously shows on a side-bar links (news, product reviews, Wikipedia articles, tweets, etc) that are relevant to whatever web page you are currently displaying. Very cool. Business model is targeted ad.
- intelliAd. They have a web platform to optimize SEM campaign, e.g., determine the best bid for a keyword to optimize CPI. Easy setup, nice GUI, these guys are flying with 20 customers and are looking in expanding in the US. Very solid product and business plan, a success in the making.
- Vicommerce.com. They provide a layer on top of video players that is used to define clickable area by the on-line resellers. This results in a very entertaining on-line shopping experience. They already have some major customers, solid business plan.
- Getyourguide.com. A platform to get travelers and local activity providers together. Nice but is that enough differentiation with Yahoo! travel and Tripadvisor, to name only two?
- Directededge.com. They provide a user recommendation plug-in to businesses. Based on the fact that 20% of Amazon’s revenue comes from user recommendation click-throughs, this is definitely a good idea. The product is still in an early stage, stay tuned.
- SnipClip.com. They aim at monetizing brands on social networks (Facebook, MySpace), which are known to have a very low clock-through rate. The idea is to sell branded virtual goods (mostly media). Creative, let’s see whether the social network community will bite.
- Terminii. Propose a web-based appointment services for small and mid-size business. Definitely useful. Disastrous presentation: the presenter stopped his talk because of slides issue. Mike Butcher, the host of the event, did a great job to bring back the speaker and let him explain his business.
- Valuescope. A news aggregator filtered with natural language analysis, targeted at sales and marketing. Extremely good presentation, very focused.
Mike Butcher’s top 5 picks were:
and his top one pick was (drum roll please):
- #1: Graph.me
Overall an interesting day, very well organized, with a great host. It proves that Munich has talents and a good VC structure to produce a dynamic startup environment. Congratulations to the speakers and to those that came to pitch their startups!