Web entrepreneurs from around the world gathered today in London for the fourth instalment of Seedcamp Week. It’s arguably the biggest and best event of its kind in Europe and brings together some of the most exciting early-stage startups outside of the US for intensive mentoring, networking and the possibility of winning a €50,000 investment (typically in exchange for a 10 percent equity stake).
This year’s Seedcamp has been the biggest and most international yet. It began with entries from 900 startups, who were subsequently whittled down throughout the year in mini-Seedcamp days as far afield as Johannesburg, Tel Aviv and Zagreb for a chance to make the shortlist of finalists represented in London this week. There are 23 of them in total – hailing from 16 countries, including Germany in one case – and the week ahead promises to be pretty intense.
Seedcamp day 1 – founders‘ day
Proceedings kicked off today with each of the 23 finalists giving a strictly timed 5-minute presentation to the assembled ranks of investors, mentors, journalists and fellow entrepreneurs here at University College London. There were more than a few eye-catching pitches and appreciative roars went up from the audience for a number of the startups on show, including the one German company that made it to Seedcamp Week, uberblic.
Founder Georgi Kobilarov (the name’s Bulgarian, but he’s a Berlin native) gave a confident, impassioned pitch of his innovative data integration technology, which provides a real-time solution for integrating web and enterprise data from disparate providers. In a nutshell, it gives developers a tool for building new and powerful applications at a fraction of the cost of other data integration services. This was one of many ‚disruptive‘ web technologies on show – in fact, ‚disruptive‘ is probably the buzzword for this year’s Seedcamp.
Ones to watch: Garmz, Nuji and Tigerlily
With so many cool startups making it to the final this year, it’s hard to pick favourites this early in the week and difficult to say which are most likely to woo the Seedcamp judges. But here are three that caught the eye:
Garmz – „Enabling fashion talent“
Garmz is on a mission to empower the next generation of fashion designers and to shake up an industry that is so far pretty untouched by the Internet. Sure, fashion sells online. But how those designs come to be created and selected, bought and distributed, has until now been very much in the hands of the fashion establishment. Garmz is hoping to change all that. It lets ambitious young designers submit their designs – as drawings, photos or other media – and the best of them are chosen, produced and then sold through the Garmz web shop and other retail partners.
Not surprisingly, the young startup from Vienna has already attracted a number of early investors, as co-founder and self-confessed ‚Internet fundamentalist‘ Andreas Klinger told me: „We need more money than a typical Internet startup because we are actually making clothing, but we have been lucky in that respect so far. We had funding in the low six figures from a high class team of angels from Austria, Switzerland and Russia, and then a couple of seed rounds.“ The company is about to begin taking pre-orders so is „quite close“ to generating its first revenues and plans to have its debut designs available for purchase in the web shop by mid-November. „The biggest disruption in music or in media didn’t come at the high-end and I think it’s going to be the same in fashion,“ says Klinger. „Most established fashion designers are a little more old school, but young and up and coming designers and fashion students are completely into Garmz as a concept and a tool. It gives them an ideal way to get their first collection made and brought to market.“
Nuji – „Tag it, share it, bag it“
Those who attended the Berlin Mini Seedcamp Day in June will remember Nuji, which aims to change the way we discover, interact with and share information about products when we are shopping. Nuji is a social shopping platform that integrates with your mobile device, letting you scan the barcode of a product you like – or search for it by keywords – to access relevant content and services, share recommendations with your friends or receive real-time feedback on the product you are holding in your hands.
„We’re trying to get away from simple price comparison to something more content-rich and more social,“ says Australian co-founder Dean Fankhauser, who describes Nuji as „a mixture of Twitter and Amazon“. He and French partner Vincent Thome came up with the idea while living in Berlin but have since relocated to London, where they feel the consumer culture is more sophisticated and ready for an app like Nuji. As well as being helpful to users, Nuji will provide a way of measuring the real-time pulse of consumers‘ purchasing intent – which gives a clue to the business model. The young entrepreneurs plan to monetise via targeted advertising and discount coupons, offering group deals on products that individual users and their networks are hot for. „We also want to develop it as a platform for third party apps that are useful and relevant in the real world rather than just online,“ says Fankhauser. „Hopefully developers will come up with uses for the platform that we never dreamed of.“
TigerLily – „The best business accelerator on social media“
With everyone still trying to figure out how to make the most of social media, French startup Tigerlily has ambitious plans to help brands do a better job of managing their customer relationships on social networks. It has developed a set of white label Facebook applications for use on Fan Pages, which essentially provides a toolkit for engaging the community, learning more about them and monetising the traffic.
The young team led by CEO Matthieu Chereau has already signed up a lot of big brands (Sony, Orange and Disney to name a few) and is now developing similar applications for Twitter. Tigerlily won the runners up prize at Le Web in 2009 and looks likely to be a strong contender again at Seedcamp.
Check back at the end of the week when the winners are announced. A full list of this year’s finalists is available on the Seedcamp blog.
About the author:
Michael Hall is editor of the English language Gründerszene, which launched in June 2010. Before moving to Berlin he was a journalist based in London and worked for news organisations including Reuters, Haymarket, the Press Association and The Guardian. More recently he was International Content Manager for the Berlin web startup erento.