Is there start-up life in the UK outside London? There certainly are internet start-ups all over the country but are they worth investing in?
At The Next Web we want to find out so we regularly attend the Northern Start-up 2.0 event in Manchester. The most recent event on 16 December was a pitching special, with eight start-ups presenting their wares.
Although there was no investment directly on offer, Jon Bradford of new incubator programme The Difference Engine (which we’ve previously covered here) was on hand to give an experienced VC’s perspective on their ideas. Prizes were on offer for the best pitch and the most investable prospect, as judged by Jon.
Here are the eight start-ups, showing how diverse start-up life outside London is…
Joel Gascoigne’s Onepage aims to get something right that has so far eluded others – online business cards.
Built and launched into private beta within a two month timeframe, Onepage gives users a way to create, manage, store and exchange business cards online.
In practice this results in a page containing contact details with the addition of an aggregated activity stream from services like Twitter, LinkedIn and Flickr.
Gascoigne admits that he is not alone in attempting this idea and that the key to success lies in its execution. He is aiming to introduce a freemium business model with features like analytics and the ability to self-host your Onepage being made available to paying customers.
MakeUrMove aims to become a one-stop-shop for landlords letting their properties.
The site provides a suite of tools allowing landlords to promote their properties to all the major real estate portals, manage all paperwork and tenancy agreements and more.
Despite a relatively small customerbase, MakeUrMove has seen revenue grow to £200,ooo in the past year. The site makes money by upselling customers to additional services as they need them, and being cheaper than traditional letting agents this could be a model that works.
MakeUrMove is currently seeking investment to improve the amount of the service that is automated, reducing the need for the overheads of a physical workforce.
Thingymail is a web-based ’email broadcast platform’ competing with major mailing management services like Mailchimp.
The service’s developers, LAMP Digital, use the it themselves and it is already profitable. The company’s Craig Taylor was pitching for investment to continue the development of the service and to fund marketing and PR. So far, the service has gained customers purely by word of mouth. There are also plans to build a content management system to allow users greater control over their campaigns.
Thingymail sets itself apart from its competitors by concentrating on providing simple, streamlined, traceable opt-in email marketing and nothing more. Taylor describes his competitors as being overly complicated.
You know those 3D visualisations of new buildings that architects create? VisiDeck aims to take these to the next level by using a videogame rendering engine.
While still in development (VisiDeck’s Andy Yelland couldn’t tell us which game engines they were in talks to license), this tool will allow architects to create a slick presentation in a fully explorable 3D world. This should be a vast improvement to the ‘on-rails’ presentations often used at present. Thanks to the use of a game engine, VisiDeck will be able to offer their service at a fraction of the cost of its rivals.
At first the company will produce bespoke presentations for clients. In future it will be a tool architects can use themselves.
This online document publishing start-up is the work of Manoj Ranaweera, the man behind Northern Start-up 2.0. Edocr realises it can’t compete with the funding its biggest competitor Scribd so it is trying to carve out a niche in this emerging market.
Edocr aims to improve the ‘return’ on any document a business publishes by maximising the chance of getting sales leads from it. The service offers document hosting with built in social sharing and distribution services and SEO. It has an API which has been used to integrate the Tweetdoc Twitter search saving app with have reviewed previously.
Building on the idea of OpenID’s transferable login details, DistinctIDwants to allow you to carry much more data between sites and services. This protocol is still at the proposal stage but aims to make all your profile data and personal media transferable.
In the future sites will be able to sign up to support DistinctID, allowing users to import and export profile data, photos and the like. This will make it easy for users to keep a ‘briefcase’ of personal data they carry around from site to site as needed. This can be managed by a browser plug-in. Ahead of services signing up to integrate with DistinctID, the plan is to allow users to grab data from sites by hijacking HTML from individual sites. This is an approach that led to a whole heap of trouble for Power.com, so we’ll see how that progresses.
DistinctID gave a truly slick presentation, although with no developers currently working on making it a reality this remains in the ‘pipedream’ category for now.
Aiming to sit somewhere between traditional marketing analytics services and social media monitoring tools like Radian6, Canddi allows marketers to track return on investment across the web.
In addition to tracking clickthroughs from mailshots to a company website, Canddi aims to track whether the people who receive the mailshot are discussing the promoted product via social platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Using a business’ existing mailing list, Canddi can identify the best potential customers to target in future based on their actions online.
Little World Gifts
They’re aiming to expand onto Symbian and Android in 2010 and they have a number of big-name brand tie-ups planned for the next few months, the first of which will be announced in January.
The virtual gift market is fast-expanding and Little World Gift hopes that its 3D, mobile items will set it apart from the traditional 2D gifts offered through portals like Facebook.
Jon Bradford’s choices for winners were DistinctID for ‘Best Presentation’ and MakeUrMove for ‘Most Investable Proposition’. DistinctID impressed with a super-slick presentation while MakeUrMove was deemed the best prospect thanks to the fact that it already had a solid revenue stream.
While London may have a more solid ecosystem for internet start-ups, the rest of the UK is starting to get its act together. Look out for coverage of more start-ups from outside London in 2010.