The British Are Coming… Back Soon

Along with a bunch of other European firms exhibiting at Web 2 Expo this week (including 20 from Ireland) were a group of 21 UK startups selected from over 100 applicants by TechCrunch UK, working in conjunction with the UK government. Announced in March, the trip was dubbed WebMission and most of the firms had never visited the Valley before. So I thought I’d give you a heads-up about the firms, who, after a week of meetings and networking parties here, head back to the UK tomorrow – and will probably be back soon, given the friendly reception in SF and the Valley. All of these companies can be found in CrunchBase. Read about them after the jump (and in no particular order)…

• A service that combines online collaboration, project management and document sharing using social networking principles,Huddle is creeping up on the traditional incumbent in the space, Basecamp. The former says it is “growing like crazy”, adding 50% more users in the last month, while the latter recently dropped its prices to remain competitive. However, at $24-$149 a month, Basecamp remains pricier than Huddle’s $20 to $100 a month price range and is still reminiscent of the original Web design project workflow is was designed for. Wrike is different to both in that it charge per user, rather than per project for $3.99 per person per month. Huddle is also providing file-sharing on its service for free, something Basecamp doesn’t yet do, and is also opening up its network to channel reseller partners for its SaaS service and open API. It has $4m in series A funding from Eden Ventures in London. Meanwhile, CentralDesktop have just taken $7m in funding so the space is getting pretty interesting.

Trampoline Systems: Reviewed in more detail here.

DotHomes, the UK-based real estate search engine which now covers the US, UK and South Africa, says it has doubled its number of nationwide real estate listings in the US, bringing its database up to two million residential properties for sale and rent. By contrast, Yahoo Real Estate, Roost, Trulia and Zillow (and others) get feeds from brokers and MLS services in the US. From a natural language search, DotHomes generates direct links to the original source of information – the listing agent/broker – by sending out Google-like spiders to crawl sites. But DotHomes reckons it is now neck and neck with Trulia. That’s good but it needs more marketing partners if it’s to become better known in the US. DotHomes is funded by three of Europe’s leading early-stage venture capital firms: The Accelerator Group; Arts Alliance; and Samos Investments.

• Skimbit: The social decision-making tool, Skimbit will work a little like You click a ‘Skim this!’ button to collect options for a decision such as choosing a holiday villa or buying a gadget. Skimbit interrogates the page you ‘skim’ to collect the relevant data for the decision making. Today it won agreement with widget distribution network Gigya to include Skimbit in their Wildfire tool. Skimbit says it is also in talks with AddThis, the bookmarking and sharing tool. The Addthis button currently appears 20 billion times per month, but Skimbit would potentially be the first social decision-making tool in its network. Skimbit aims to close a seed round in the next month and hopes to land more publishers for its white-label service, as it did with Wedding TV in December.

HubDub, a ‘fantasy league for news’ designed to monetise content better for publishers (review), recently launched the ability for users to challenge their friends in making predictions. Here is a couple of interesting markets. The feature has tripled registrations. Hubdub’s pitch to publishers is to do a rev-share and monetise their content inside this fantasy league-style environment. HubDub is clearly on to something. It’s most active users average about 400 page impressions per month and monthly uniques average about 66 per month. By contrast the news industry’s average is 8 pages per month per unique user, e.g. the Wall Street Journal‘s figure is 12.

WebJam is a community of personal pages based around aggregating and sharing content, not unlike Ning. Personal pages have modules for blogs, community, media, tools, widgets, etc. However, unlike Ning, Webjam has had $2m in funding, not $107m and after a year of operation have similar levels levels of user engagement on The three key USPs are group and site management, open commmunity for publishers, and active identity management. Two thirds of their traffic is now coming form the US and they convert 15% of their visitors to publishers. Business model is advertising and subscription upgrades. They are raising a second round of funding right now, after seed from I-Source Gestion in France.

WAYN (Where Are You Now?) is a travel-based social network with 11 million members in 193 counteries. WAYN competes with other travel-focused social networks and services like TripUp, HereOrThere, and TravelMuse. However, it is poised to implement an SEO strategy so it looks set to grow again. It’s pupular Trips feature is dopplr-esque, and a number of new features, like carbon footprint monitoring have been added recently. It’s one of the more developed startups on the WebMission tour.

Coull’s video platform enables video owners to identify and tag objects within online videos, and customize user experiences around interacting with those objects to drive consumer engagement with brands. Coull is a technology enabler not a destination site with a CMS and Open API, analytics and a platfrom that also works on set top boxes. They are aiming at online advertising poorly served by encumbents, so signing up clients like Fox/MySpace, Yahoo , Mediacom etc. They deliver 29% better engagement rates for video advertisers and charge clients with a monthly revenue licence. They are raising second round fund right now via PWC (raised $3 million to date) and are looking to expand in the US.

The Filter is a personalized discovery engine for digital entertainment content. Its aim is to make sense of the overwhelming amount of digital content available on the web, based on the user’s tastes and moods, using artificial intelligence and a social network. Founder Peter Gabriel sees it as a “life jockey”. They are looking to license it to partners and share data. Nokia and MSN are already partners for the beta.

GroupSpaces provides free web-based tools to help clubs, societies, charities and other real-world groups manage themselves. Sounds like it’s been done before I guess, but the idea is to give people all the tools they currently have across distributed places like Yahoo Groups, Eventbrite etc. They’ll monetise by knowing about group members so better target ads and offer premiums services. They raised a seed round in January, and the beta which is running on UK university campuses has attracted about 50 advertisers so far. The founders are ex-Oxford University.

Silobreaker a search service for news and current affairs that presents search results graphically, such as companies and people most related to a topic. The site pulls content on global issues, science, technology and business from blogs, multimedia, etc. So you could look at acts of terrorism and see a heat map of where the hotspots were. Users can design their own pages. They are looking for funding.

Mydeo allows users to upload and distribute video in high quality, original source. It’s not a social network, it’s about subscription-based private video, aiming at prosumers and small businesses. It has a key partneship with Microsoft, Canon, Best Buy, Pinnacle/Avid, and already has 185,000 members. Its foundations are in in Microsoft Movie Maker. Mydeo is the video site which now serves as the architecture for Best Buy’s video sharing service. They plan an API soon. It has angel investors and Best Buy owns a minority share.

• Mainly a mobile play, Rummble‘s users build their social network then review things and the algorithm works out which reviews are relevant based on social network. Rummble currently functions across Web, mobile and Facebook and will hook into GPS or cell id. It’s not so much a mobile social network as an intelligent filter which delivers to the mobile. They’re looking for fundng to take advantage of flat rate broadband mobile data market coming in 2009.

Moviestorm’s digital animated movie software tool is in public and works on Mac or PC to allow users to create films with avatars. The site provides stock sets and digital actors and a user – usually a film enthusiast – can create a movie in 15 mins. They have 7,500 users so far. The model is free to use, but you pay for digital products like new characters with pocket-money cash.

Slicethepie is a web based artist financing engine that raises money for artists to professionally record an album. It turn fans into ‘wisdom of crowds’ scouts and also into investors. After 50 reviews of an artist you get 98% accuracy e.g. that the track is indie-pop, or AOR etc. It’s a little like Sellaband, but more developed in that fans can maintain a portfolio of artists they invest in on a fully fledged trading exchange. Artists keep all of their copyright and publishing rights, paying a royalty to Slicethepie on the first two years of album sales. They are working on partnerships with record labels. They have 50,000 users, 15 artists financed out of 9,000 artists and are n talks with a “major social network”, record labels, mobile operators, among others.

Zogix is a system which measures and tracks a company’s carbon emissions thenturns those into carbon credits which can be automatically traded on the global carbon trading exchanges being set up now. Everything is designed to allow the company to generate more carbon credits. Tools for employees reduce operating costs by promoting sustainable travel and creating a reward program. Zogix is based in London (UK) and recently opened a San Mateo office.

TrustedPlaces is a social network focused on local venue reviews a bit like Yelp. It’s main strategy is to develop into a network to geotarget ads, generate table bookings, affinity cards sales and mobile advertising. The company is based in London, UK with a development office in Tel Aviv, Israel. It provides an API for content syndication and also supports Clickpass and Facebook for registration.

Zebtab is a desktop widget that delivers entertainment content discretely via a browser window designed for publishers to deliver “snackable” content. It’s 32 partners include the wealthiest soccer team in the world, Manchester United. It runs MPUs, banner ads, pre-roll videos, and has a private label model based on rev share for content owners. They’re aiming for 10m desktops looking for $4m next round funding.

edocr is a privately backed Scribd competitor which focuses on just business and government documents, like .doc or .pdf – allowing users to download, share or embed them via a Flash interface on any website. No other forms of document – like images – are allowed. Currently in discussions with etelos, BT, HSBC and the UK Government

Kwiqq has a B2B white-label social networking platform for corporations and entrepreneurs. A little like KickApps, it’s a modular software framework. It originally came out of a Uk web agency who built it for their clients and is profitable already.

TIOTI (Tape It Off The Internet) is a social network around TV shows which links to online TV services such as Apple, Amazon, AOL and Joost, amongst others. You can’t download the shows from Tioti – it just points to the relevant sources. Thus it is attempting to avoid the legal problems which have dogged other ‘download’ sites. TIOTI wraps all these feeds in social tools, allowing users to recommend shows to friends, to discuss and see what their friends are watching. Think Facebook meets TV on-demand.