The Brits invaded Plug and Play’s Sunnyvale campus Monday night to introduce a group of promising European tech startups to Silicon Valley. Six young companies showed themselves off to an audience of potential partners.
The event was part of a tour for the winners of Seedcamp Week 2009, a London-based competition for European tech startups that drew more 800 applicants this year. Seedcamp is a private-company incubator, much like YCombinator or the Founder’s Institute here in the States. The organization works closely with UK Trade & Investment, a business development arm of the British government to foster entrepreneurship throughout Europe. The 2009 competition winners were selected back in September.
Seedcamp’s Community and Events Manager Alasdair Bell said that Eastern Europe in particular has plenty of pent up tech talent ripe for entrepreneurial startups. He said they just need a little business acumen, connections and investment from the UK and US.
Here are the companies that presented:
Codility lets any recruiter, including those without IT skills, to quickly verify the skills of a programmer. Coders looking for work are required to write a snippet of source code, which is then automatically tested for correctness and performance. The result is a kind of Crowdflower for programmers.
The model requires some seriously impressive technology. Coders are notoriously smart people, and it can’t be easy to write a system for sizing them up. The founding team is from Poland, with headquarters in London. The executives hope to inspire more entrepreneurial risk-taking among Poland’s tech-savvy scholars. “We believe this might be the first global company of Polish origin in the tech community,” CEO Chris Kowalczyk said. “We want to show Polish programmers that you can conquer the world once you are really good technically and business-wise.” Kowalczyk said that while the University of Warsaw regularly produces some of the best programmers in the world, almost none of those students choose to join startups.
Codility has raised $50,000 from Seedcamp.
Based in Budapest, Hungary, Joobili thinks that travel sites are wrong to ask users their preferred destination first. When going on vacation, the first bit of info users have is a time frame; picking the destination is the hard part. Seasonal events make different locations attractive at different times. Joobili asks users the time frame they plan to travel and then provides information on the most interesting things happening throughout Europe at that time. The company aggregates events from tourism offices — it currently counts 1/3 of all European national tourism offices as “pro members.” Tourism offices can list events for free, or they can pay $100-$1,000 for stronger promotion. Joobili has partnerships with a number of in-flight magazines and plans to build an API to boost distribution.
For frequent European vacationers who prefer cultural activities like jazz festivals and boat shows, the site could be very handy.
The company has angel funding from Esther Dyson among others.
Kukunu is another holiday planning tool and recommendation engine that suggests events, hotels, and restaurants to visit on your vacation. It integrates with Facebook and Twitter to facilitate friend-sourcing your vacation ideas.
Europeans seem to take their vacationing seriously. Not sure I’d need a tool to plan out a holiday, and I’m pretty sure I don’t need my friends’ help for ideas, so it’s hard to tell how useful this will be (the company is still in private beta). The recommendation engine that suggests the best places to visit in a given locale might be useful.
London-based Kukunu is looking to raise $500,000.
France-based Kwaga wants to make email more productive by prioritizing the Inbox. Your Kwaga dashboard tells you which emails are most important, reminds you to respond to ones you have “shelved,” and pushes you to follow up with people you haven’t yet heard back from. It works with Gmail, outlook, iPhone, and other major email services. The company plans to operate with a freemium model for two years and then sell to enterprises. It has raised $1 million and is currently looking for more funding.
The problem the company tackles here is real — email overload is a common complaint, and a service to help prioritize it is in order. The company’s semantic technology could help automate the prioritization process. That technology is the key, because relying on users to tag their emails appropriately is probably a dead-end.
WonderGraphs, based in Leuven, Belgium, wants to make it easy to create, manipulate and share graphs. Users can tweak certain variables or parameters and get visual results in real time. New data sets can be quickly incorporated into old graphs. The company is targeting big enterprise customers.
There will be a lot of competition in collaborative, web-based data visualization, most notably from Microsoft and Google. Adoption hurdles could be formidable, especially if an entire company has to move all its data to the new application to see the benefits.
Fabricly is an online marketplace that connects fashion companies with manufacturers, textile suppliers, and other service providers. Since fashion styles change quickly, apparel companies need the ability to switch suppliers quickly. Any fashion company that is not vertically integrated often ends up scrambling for the right textile and other suppliers each time the season changes. Fabricly’s supplier network aims to take the risk out of finding new sourcing partners.
The London-based company launched a supply-chain software six months ago and will be bringing the data and contacts from that into its marketplace.
If the company does well, it could fuel a long-tail apparel designer market. There are plenty of would-be fashion artists who have the creative talent without the supplier connections.