A volcano in Iceland – European startup hell, or opportunity?

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So like everyone else in Europe right now, I am fascinated by the impact of the volcano in Iceland, which is spreading ash all over northern Europe and shutting down the airlines. Eyjafjallajokull is now the new in vogue swear word in Europe, if you can say it.

Yesterday my Twitter stream was full of entrepreneurs suddenly saying their travel plans were being thrown into chaos. It seems that Europe’s startup economy has been running partly on the spread low-cost airlines for the past 5 years, and without airlines the startups, along with the whole of the general business sector, are going to be badly affected.

As I have long said, the quintessential startup in Europe is: CEO from anywhere, money from a pan European investor (often based in London, the biggest financial centre) and developers/engineers often in Central Europe. That implies plenty of travel. After all, by plane we are all, at the most, two or three hours away from eachother. With planes grounded, that is going to have a huge effect.

Look at how big this cloud will be tomorrow at 6am, across Europe.

So, I would love to hear from you in the comments below, a) How is this situation affecting you, and how can TechCrunch Europe help? and b) what do you think the startup opportunities are from this crap situation?

Maybe if you are driving somewhere and have room, maybe you could offer other startups a lift? Claire Boonstra of Layar is already taking 40 people on a bus from Cannes/MIPTV back to Amsterdam.

For instance, what happens if the volcano continues to erupt for months? Or even years? Large numbers of European events will be disrupted. Will we be all be traveling by train in future? Is that a startup opportunity – unifying data from Europe’s train providers? Or will cheap telepresence suddenly become a big opportunity?

Leave us your comments below.

Meanwhile, I leave you with a genuine, but strange image of this mischievous volcano. Remind you of anything?

  • http://crowdscanner.com Ellen Dudley

    Stupid Volcano – we have won our first ever competition as a start up – the DotOpen App Circus for creative and innovative apps.

    We have 3 minutes to present CrowdScanner on stage at the amazing eComm conference in San Francisco on Tuesday and this damn volcano is ruining our plans!

    Our flight is supposed to leave Dublin tomorrow morning, and we are just so stressed that it wont be able to leave and all other flights are booked up except some Delta flights on Monday morning, but we have already spent ALL our savings on flights, and we have no cash left to book more.

    Just praying right now to the volcano gods that Dublins flights will leave tomorrow!!!

    • http://www.techme2.eu bcurdy

      If you flight directly from Dublin to the US, you won’t be affected by Eyjafjallajokull ashes… It’s another story if you planned travelling via London.

      I’m also based in Dublin and the impact of the volcano is impressive. You realize how many people travel daily once everybody is grounded…

    • Abusethem

      Some one has abuse this volcano in my site ..

      They should be sic. for abusing an volcano


    • http://securityweek.com/ Mike

      Interesting Site – http://www.flightradar.com/ — Shows live aircraft traffic above Europe. Notice none around iceland or crossing the atlantic! Pretty Interesting. Mother Nature is in Control here! :)

      • Mike

        Sorry, posted the wrong link first time..Corrected link is in my second comment

    • http://securityweek.com/ Mike

      Interesting Site – http://www.flightradar24.com/ — Shows live aircraft traffic above Europe. Notice none around iceland or crossing the atlantic! Pretty Interesting. Mother Nature is in Control here! :)

  • http://www.superscout.com Stefan

    We are being affected because we keenly await Gn R on Tuesday and are unsure whether Wizz Air will be flying from Prague to London – so formulating a plan B which does indeed involve train travel or driving over for the event. You are spot on with the lack of European train data, planning and costing the the train trip has proven to be a bit of a nightmare. But who needs trains when you’ve got a plain! Lets hope this Volcano stop erupting soon.

    I might add that even if I do manage to fly – it will certainly not be the most relaxed flight I’ve ever taken! Colin Brown explains the effects of volcanic ash on plane engines [video]: http://bit.ly/c72UKl

  • http://boo.ly Nick

    Have a look at this animation of the eruptions, you can see what the next few days is going to be like


    • http://boo.ly Nick

      *are going to be like

  • http://firsttimedriver.info David Whitewood

    A friend of mine suggested starting a dating/fling service , a kind of “Just Lunch” for the volcanic fall-out that can’t get home. Could call it – “Dust Lust”

    • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher


    • http://www.superscout.com Stefan

      You could also start a fling website for people in departure lounges at airports which sometimes takes hours and hours and is very boring. Call it flyingtogether or should i say flingingtogether =D

    • http://twitter.com/lima1cubico Rafael V.

      Hey! I tried to sell a business plan for a kind of Match.com+GPS app, so you could use that to interact and get know people around you and also to share business interests…

    • http://twitter.com/lima1cubico Rafael V.

      Well, if the Volcano keeps erupting It’s not the end of aviation in Europe, It’s an opportunity to RR and GE to develop ash-proof turbines and make a lot of money!

    • http://www.everbread.com Ashley Raiteri

      http://www.flydini.com Registered Users can see 200 options to get from here to there (schedules only, sorry no Seat Availability data or Fares) I’d skip down to the middle, select 2 stops and 200 results, you might find that Dublin to Barcelona can be achieved via Istanbul and Sofia.

    • http://www.everbread.com Ashley Raiteri

      http://www.flydini.com Registered Users can see 200 options to get from here to there (schedules only, sorry no Seat Availability data or Fares) I’d skip down to the middle, select 2 stops and 200 results, you might find that Dublin to Barcelona can be achieved via Istanbul and Sofia.

    • http://www.uiredesign.com/ Pooja


  • http://www.superscout.com Stefan

    Here is the transcript

    Stefan Debattista: how much is a train from prague to london?

    william debattista: let me see

    william debattista: http://wizzair.com/useful_information/delay_information/

    william debattista: http://jizdnirady.idnes.cz/vlakyautobusy/spojeni/

    william debattista: i cant get a price.. :@

    william debattista: still noprice i just can leave the page with a price

  • http://www.thestartup.eu Stefano Bernardi

    I just hope with all my heart that this will be settled by monday/tuesday in order for all of us to attend Geek’n’Rolla.

  • http://tobiascai.origidea.com/2010/04/demon-seen-in-volcano-in-iceland/ Demon seen in volcano in Iceland  | TC

    […] // April 16th, 2010 // Uncategorized via eu.techcrunch.com […]

  • http://jacobian.biz jacobian

    how long will the volcanic ash last anyway?

    • http://www.thestartup.eu Stefano Bernardi

      Nobody seems to have a clue. Most people say 24h, but the thing is that there’s another volcano that may erupt in the coming weeks.

      • http://www.superscout.com Stefan

        Another problem that is arising is the long term effect the ash has on Temperatures because the dust particles will stay in the atmosphere, block the sun. What a ball ache.

      • http://www.superscout.com Stefan

        Are you traveling from central Europe to London? Please reply to this thread, maybe we can drive together or figure out train routes via Germany, ferries maybe?

      • http://www.thestartup.eu Stefano Bernardi

        From Milan. I don’t have my car here.
        Train seems awfully expensive..

      • http://www.superscout.com Stefan

        Hey Stefano I am trying to get you on skype – the clock is ticking and I need to make some decisions (drive, train or risk) – add me to yours please stefan.debattista or on twitter @superscout_stef. Cheers.

  • Dennis
    • Pete Austin

      Each image has 4 maps, corresponding to different times.

      The big numbers on each map have the following meaning:
      * Top Left: e.g. “20100416/1200Z” means 2010 April 16th at 1200 hours
      * Other three: e.g. “16/1800Z” means 16th at 1800 hours.

      The different coloured borders are for different altitudes.

  • Hakushi

    If you plan to travel in europe, train is a good failover solution, specially if you plan to do to London, from France it’s nothing more than 3 or 4h depending on where your starting, and it’s not that expensive.

    But yeah, it’s affecting some business, i got one of my developer grounded in France until Tuesday at least, was supposed to be back yesterday, affecting our deadlines. But luckily, client are smart enough to understand that.

    I read that this might happen again in the upcoming 6month as this volcano (and an other) have high chances of erupting again…

  • http://favit.com/infographs Marfi

    This volcano thing is Huge. I am not that concerned if we can make it to NYC for the TCDisrupt because till then there is a lot of time and we can go East instead of West and take a day or two in Japan.

    However last time this volcano errupted 200 years ago it caused the French Revolution and famine all over Europe.

    Now we see a huge industry grounded and loosing thousands of dollars every minute a plane is not buzzing, which is affecting everything else we do – from travel to deliveries.

    So, lets suppose this volcano goes for 1,2, 5 years. Huge hubs like London, Frankfurt, Brussels, can easily go out of business – depending of the wind direction.

    So here is an idea – a ticket service that also checks the wind prognose for that current day and makes a query to check available trains too. And it delivers not only the available transportation but also how likely or not it is for this particular flight to take off.

    There are a lot of carpool sites already, so I guess they just have to be made more popular. And the general mood from this volcano lesson should be – do not take anything for granted. Entire continent can be paralyzed overnight so always think of plan B, C and the rest…

  • http://loco2travel.com Jamie

    I run a start-up that helps people find alternatives to flights… Check out http://loco2travel.com/journeyplanner

    Price and full booking info coming soon. Thanks Iceland volcano for helping us to prove the market for alternatives to flying!

  • Techthusiast

    I don’t know what everyone’s getting upset about — it’s just another ash-hole dumping on Europe…

  • http://www.cloudaspect.com Martin

    One of the big opportunities should be fixing the simple things – making sure that a joined-up plan of action is there to deal with the stranded – how to handle flight rebookings, cancellations, hotel accommodation, alternative transportation.

    For example – in Sweden the train company will honor tickets booked for one day on another provided that evidence of a cancelled flight can be produced. The airlines could adjust their booking system to make all non-flexible tickets flexible – which would allow many pasengers to rebook flights themselves and clear an almighty backlog of manual/phone queries that seems to be the current modus operandi.

    So again – the opportunity is to act as a disaster management company and set-up “dark systems” that kick-in the minute one of these major situations arises. I’m surprised that these action plans do not exist already (maybe they do?) since there is often weather/strike/major cultural event related chaos.

  • Cail

    Welcome to reality! What about using a video conferencing solution instead of flying?

    Really, the least I’m worrying about is startups. They’re usually lean, flexible and agile. If a startup can’t handle this situation, they won’t be able to handle any other unexpected situations with far more impact on their businesses (like new competitors, new legislation, hardware breakdowns, server outages, buggy software, hacker attacks, data loss etc.). And those things will come for sure.

    Don’t be that whiny!

    • http://www.superscout.com Stefan

      There is nothing like a face to face meeting though. And hey this is TC Europe event we’re talking of, not a board meeting! The determination to get there is what makes us entrepreneurs, booking overnight trains and trying to get there at all costs. And obviously while still trying to figure out the cheapest way too.

      Giving up and watching it on our screens is not where its at =)

      • Harry

        …right – but it’s only been 2 days! Jesus you can live without a face to face meeting for 2 days surely?

      • http://www.superscout.com Stefan

        There’s a TC conference in London on Tuesday which some of us want to get to. We use Skype to collaborate within our team every day.

  • Markus

    If only more companies would adopt video conferencing, most business flights would become superfluous… (well, actually, most of them are right now, there ain’t much you can’t discuss via telephone and/or desktop sharing).

    If only videoconferencing solutions between more than 2 or 3 parties would be more affordable…

    If only…

    • Lauren

      @Markus You can video conference with up to 20 people for free on TokBox. There is also a larger scale solution that allows you to Broadcast a 12 person video chat to a 200 person audience from $12.99 (http://bit.ly/7HgMMo)

  • http://www.mobnotes.com Gino Micacchi

    I’m back from the seedcamp paris, my flight was canceled and now I’m on a very crowded TGV train from paris to milan… a lot of people like me are by foot, I’m wondering if they are everybody involved in some startup… ;)


  • You don't need to travel

    You can just use skype & co for doing most of your work. Travelling is expensive and time consuming. It should be required only for special events and not as a routine.

  • Que

    This just shows people should always have a backup plan.

    What taking the train until the ash problem is resolved; it will take longer to get to places but at least you will get there.

  • http://zimride.com Dylan Fried

    Check out http://www.zimride.com/p for some good carpooling!

  • Tom Hunter

    “CEO from anywhere, money from a pan European investor (often based in London, the biggest financial centre) and developers/engineers often in Central Europe. ”

    Don’t you mean Dublin Ireland for both? Dublin is Europe’s leading tech / development hub by a long way.

  • mrvco

    Planes, Trains & Automobiles 2010

  • Phil

    Perhaps “Move bits, not atoms” will become better appreciated.

  • http://sheynkman.com Gary Sheynkman

    We had people from our Prague HQ and London office here at NAB in Las Vegas …. stuck in the US now having to do conf calls in the middle of the night.

  • sk

    europe and europeans in general, its entrepreneurs, and its startup ideas are all so lame

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