Seedcamp Paris – notes from our Gallic cousins

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I popped over to Paris today to get a taster of the startup scene in France, and to draw some comparisons with the UK startup scene. No doubt there are lessons to be learned (on both sides) in terms of the differing experiences a British or French company has in starting up locally country and, perhaps, trying to think internationally. (And on that note, I have a cheeky idea of getting UK startups over to Paris one day to network with their Gallic cousins, so let me know if you are interested). In the meantime, here are my notes from the startups which presented at Seedcamp in Paris, the startup competition which roams Europe and which culminates in a week-long event later this year. (Update: the day’s event was won by won by Squareclock and MyPronostic.com. They are both now qualified for the European Final in London. Here are some photos).

I found that when French startups pitch, they play things as downbeat as a lot of Brit startups – something which they were jokingly harranged for by one VC on stage (“Be more Israeli or American about it! Harass people!).

During a panel debate of VCs and French entrepreneurs, the consensus was that French startups also need to be encouraged to share their ideas more. It’s interesting to hear this, given that France is the home of Loic Le Meur – the man who has made sharing his ideas an integral part of his business model.

Interestingly, French startup founders are rarely as respected as the company CEO in French society. This is the reverse of the UK or US scene, where founders get the respect, and the CEO is generally seen as just a business person brought in to make things run smoothly. In the US the founder is the hero. In France it’s the boss. This means that the French founder tends to want to remain as the CEO for as long as possible, whether this is in the interests of the company or not. French law only allowed for Chairman and CEO to be different roles three years ago, which means the concept of a Chairman to help guide the company is a relatively new one, and once which is bound to improve the culture for startups and founders there.

Also French startups often fall into the same trap as UK firms – they give away too much of the company to an Angel early on so, if or when they need to raise VC they don’t have enough equity to give to the VC to get to the next stage and that effectively kills its potential. Something worth remembering for all.

Here are the statups that presented at Seedcamp Paris:

Lokad.com
This is Web forecasting as a service. Customers upload data and get a forecast back. Think ‘optimising business operations like inventory management. Forecasting is not a new sector – but lokad provides low-cost forecasting for smaller companies. Founded one month ago, with a team of 4. Its young team is unusual for France, where being a young entrepreneur is the exception rather than the rule, where young people tend to get a stable job first, instead of a slightly risky one.

Voisineo.com
You meet our neighbours to exchange goods and services. Special offers from local shops etc. Convert virtual meetings into real-world exchange. 80% of French people would like to meet their neighbours but tend not to (not just a British problem then!). Young team, three, from Lyon business school (what school you went to seems to be even more important in France than in the UK and is constantly mentioned). Launched in Beta last november in Lyon for 500 users. Now launched in Feb across France and now has more than 80,000 users. They are working on their first fundraising of 300k Euro.

Whooknoows.com
Social Network, for local merchants. People sharing what they like do do and visit. You need a dentist, plumber, where do you go? Yelow pagestype search with eBay type ratings. You can search by ratings or map. The team seems strong, ex-Kelkoo, Yahoo etc. Launching Alpha in September. Maybe. (Alas, this is quite a common business model, to put it mildly…).

Winancial.com
Online personal finance manager – Finance 2.0. Need 300k Euros to develop the site. Sounds like it is not unlike Kublax or Mint.com.

Easycity.com
Local search and reviews (again). Hotels bars, etc mapped to GPS co-ordinates. Social network. Have a database of 850,000 places. After 300k investment. Hard to see how this is different from a number of similar sites…

WatZatSong.com
Fun and collaborative online music services. Music quizzes are popular, so this is a music gaming community. You sing the song and the community recognises it. Monetised via traffic, but also white-labeling for music stores. Singstar etc are doing well with virtual Kareoke, so this has an interesting chance.

Square Clock
Sophisticated online 3D modelling to improve the marketing experience of users online and speed up the buying process. Emotion is part of the experience. Mass customisation. Think MyDeco, where you design a room with products. Also there is a B2B play here. There is a lot of serious IP contained in this startup. 3D semantic modelling – in other words the application knows what it is modelling, like a chair or a vase. Can also synchronise what you design with other people designing other rooms in the same house. Seriously slick technology.

Melty.fr / Eeple.fr
Melty is a new web site aimed at youth. 30,000 members so far. It wraps a social networks around the news. It’s going to be launching a new feature called The Board, which is based on Microsoft Silverlight, where kids drop their media, like a virtual scrapbook, onto something that looks like a board that might hang in their room. I took some video, below, as the demo was seriously impressive.

Beeblox
A Mobile “Wallet 2.0″. Turns your mobile phone into a virtual wallet containing loyalty cards, coupons, shopping lists, etc. This provides direct access to the consumer. You use the wallet at a Point of Sale. The wallet is shareable and is monetised on a performance based model. Addressing 20% of a 180m Euro market. Couple of international competitors but not many in this space in Europe. Looking for €500k.

Stupeflix
This team is coming out of DailyMotion and Exalead.com (which means serious street cred in the French startup community). Stupeflix automatically generates professional looking videos out of pictures, music and videos. If that sounds like Animoto, then you are right, but they say they are around twice as fast as Animoto at processing video and unlike the latter they are developing the API before the site. You upload, use templates (also customisable) on the site, then it generates a new video which can then be shared on other video sites like Daily Motion. The service is direct or via an API. Worth a look when it launches in September. Here’s a demo.

Noovolution
Personalised start page which makes RSS more accessible to ordinary users. Real time screen shots of your favourite sites. Instead of using NetVibes of iGoogle, you use Noovoution start page which has visual look and feel. You create one ID which makes it easier to access. Business model, targetted ads based on user preferences depending on the sites they select to track. Private Alpha so far, want to launch in Sept 08.

DoYouBuzz
A sort of “CV 2.0″ take on reputation management and professional social networking. In partcular they have noted that the idea of being introduced via LinkedIn doesn’t work in France where the idea is culturally an anathema, seriously.

EKOZ
Turning corporate data into more usable information. Currently they use huge relational databases, with terrabytes of data. EKOZ address these issues with a new process. They already have a client for the product, and are looking for investment.

Chugulu Games
Casual online gaming. They have a game which is a stockmarket for celebrities – buy and sell shares in Paris Hilton etc. Working on a multiplayer web platform with Flash games and quizzes.

Media No Mad
Marseille-based. Have a travel social Be-noot.com dedicated to creating a multimedia travel diary linked with a virtual network for travellers offering its members financial benefits. Monetised by ads, sponsors, sponsors put inside user videos etc

Six Squared
Geneva-based startup focused on “build and test” networks. Testing and deploying things in a reliable way does not really exist. They automate this proccess and make it seamless. Team is very experienced in grid and cloud computing.

MyPronostic
This is a predictive game on all subjects. Not just experts doing it, but everyone. If you make a pronostic about a football game and get 80% right answers then someone will want to know what you say about the next game – so the whole idea is that the betting industry does not have a similar service. Signed a deal with the Metro newspaper a white-label page for a game about the Euro 2008. Just had a 500k round of financing to develop a white-label model for large media companies. No dissimilar to HubDub, but closer to HubDub’s recently launched PunditWatch.

Progonline
An ‘Ebay of services’ where service providers meet and collaborate online. B2B trading platform with project management collaboartion tools. Service buyers pay for the tools, with 15% going to the site. Have 10,000 service French providers and 3,000 companies (SMEs). Just secured 200k investment.

BabyGo
Tools for protecting kids online. Working on a secure search engine for kids and teens. Now claims to have 500k page views a day (14m a month).

Visit Me
Virtual real estate engine online. Sold direct to real state agents. Allows people to upload video of their home from a mobile.

OutWit Hub
Released last week as a Firefox extension in Beta. Information collection environment for the web. You find with Google – for example – and get it with OutWit. Simple, aimed at broad audience. experienced team, with one of the best Mozilla developers in Europe. The idea is to monetise the community of users, not the tech itslef. Looking for a second round of funding.

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