Europe's Seedcamp winners announced

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The winners of Seedcamp, the new incubator-style event for European startups, have been announced. In an extraordinary decision the 36 judges (made up of Seedcamp investors including nine of Europe’s top VCs, mentors and Seedcamp board) have decided to fund not five but six of the companies out of the original 20. They are (in no particular order):

“Project Playfair”

Currently still in development, Project Playfair – coming out of Scotland in the UK – is about “hypernumbers”. What hypertext did to text, they want to do to numbers. It’s a bold and fascinating idea, one application of which could be collaborative spreadsheet working were each cell talks to another cell on another spreadsheet held elsewhere. Chair of the judges and Seedcamp founder, Saul Klein said: “This team had a night and day improvement from Monday to Thursday. Its almost a classic seed investment. It’s a massive leap of faith, but you have got to want to encourage people who want to do for numbers what happened to text. It’s Excel 2.0. This is an extremely technical team who have solved tough technical issues in their space.”

Zemanta

picture-13.pngZemanta (from Slovenia) has created a ‘content intelligence’ platform to automatically enhance content, making it web-ready. The upshot? Paste in some text and Zemanta looks at it and then starts to add the most likely links to the text, which you can then edit (something a lot of bloggers would kill for no doubt). This kind of application exists a lot in academic and enterprise content management systems but hasn’t appeared on the Web very much to date as these tend to be very CPU/resource intense technologies. It’s a web service API not unlike Akismet in its ability to look intelligently at content and decide what to do with it. Saul Klein said: “We loved the founders, these are passionate, smart guys. They have even got a working application and a customer (albiet in Slovenia, where they are based). This is a great value proposition for publishers. And how many bloggers would like this tool? We also liked the fact that they were coming out of Slovenia [where Seedcamp had lot of applications] and Seedcamp really is about getting to all corners of Europe.”

Kublax

(site in development, but it has a working application)

Kublax syncs with all your bank accounts, utilities, even loyalty schemes like Air Miles and presents all the information in a user friendly format so that you can track your incoming and outgoing cashflow and start to really analysise your personal finances. All the key information (log-ins etc) stays on the desktop in hyper-encrypted files, they claim. It also creates a social network around your personal finances where key information is not revealed but the “crowd” can source intelligence on investments, savings accounts, mortgages, you name it. Saul Klein said: “The consumer proposition is killer. I would love to see with one click all my spending information in one place and visually graphed. We have not had a desktop publishing revolution in the personal finance space. Now personal finance handling doesn’t have to be a desktop application but live and networked. You can even benchmark your spending habits against other people. Sites like Mint are venture backed in the US but this business is very local and can be integrated with local markets. Even though there is a US model the US sites have not been out long. The team has done a lot with nothing. Plus, they are Open Coffee alumni who have really gone all out to get into the entrepreneurial space.”

Tablefinder

Coming out of Sweden Tablefinders’ mission is to aggregate the world’s online bookable restaurants. It’s a marketing platforms for restaurants, but more than that. Normally restaurants use one of two global booking systems, OpenTable or LiveBookings. Tablefinder will aggregate those systems, allowing them to compete on a level playing field. The payment goes from the restaurant to one of the systems and Tablefinder is a partner, so will make an unspecified commission on the restaurant booking. Funding to date has been via a small VC in Sweden. The aim is to partner with LiveBookings and OpenTable, so expect an announcement on this soon. Eventually restaurants could place bids for table bookings in a similar manner as one would bid for Google Adwords and even – eventually – creating a sort of Last.FM style network which learns your preferences for restaurants. Saul Klein said: “They mad a massive improvement over the week. They started off as not a standout idea. But now it’s a search engine and booking engine. We really like the entrepreneurs, they are very focused and passionate. When they weren’t pitching to us they weren’t sightseeing in London – they had a business meeting instead. They had local funding in Sweden but decided that the investment of 50,000 Euro for the 10% was worth it for the Seedcamp experience. Scandinavian entrepreneurs tend to think big, are ambitious and serious, but not arrogant. They are cut from the same cloth as the Skype founders, it’s an amazing zone of innovation.”

Buildersite

Buildersite is designed to be a web-marketplace for construction services, providing homeowners and tradesmen with a trusted venue for transacting business. The domestic construction market in the UK is worth £10bn. Competitor sites tend to be about lead generation but Buildersite instead charges a success fee which is 5% of the project fee. This means the whole service can be free to the homeowner, and it can track bad builders and bar them from the system. Buildersite launched in mid-2006 and now has 3,000 tradesmen on the site. Saul Klein said: “This is a superb proposition, brilliantly communicated. The founder, Ryan Notz, has domain expertise having been a builder himself. It’s a solid idea. This is a market where, when you are told how big the market is, you say I can’t believe it’s that big. And it’s hard to believe how big just the addressable market – alone – is worth. He presented the business well and has already signed a lot of tradesmen. He’s a brilliant bootstrap entrepreneur and is also one of those who has taken advantage of Open Coffee meetings.”

Rentmineonline

This site connects owners and renters, through an online market place providing goods for the renter and capital for the owner. The idea resembles eBay but instead of purchasing, the model is based on renting. Saul Klein said: “Ed Spiegel, the founder, started his first business at university. He went from there to Silicon Valley to be in business development which shows his tenacity. He went from Silicon Valley to be a senior associate in venture funds. He’s seen startups from the inside as an investor and employee. He’s been doing all this so he could do his own thing. He left, went to business school and used his time to find the right software firm in Bulgaria. He moved to Amsterdam to set up the business and bought a boat to run it from. He launched his site this week based on the advice here at Seedcamp. Although it’s a proposition that some might describe as ‘Web 1.0′ we’ve all seen that there have been business opportunities that tried to launch in the late 90s but the market wasn’t there. But if you get the timing right it can really take off. Ed is tapping into trust networks and by integrating with Facebook he has a trust network of 37m people. He’s tapping into a big trend. This notion that it has to be a novel idea is nonsense, it’s the right idea at the right time with the right people.”

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