Yesterday I had the chance to watch half of the startup competition pitches at LeWeb. I really don’t want people to get offended but some of the presentations where rather weak. Having judges like David Hornik from August Capital and failing to talk about your business model or what problem you are solving isn’t acceptable. To be honest, I’m not into the whole SOLOMO thing (Social-Local-Mobile). I thing its just the fud word. I really care about startups fixing real problems, the bigger the better. That being said, this are the startups we saw yesterday:
- 23minutes: They are building a mobile app to allow you to share ideas or events with your friends and get them involved with a time constrain of 23 minutes. While the idea seems interesting, I told them after the pitching that their main issue is that they are very vague about what their target is. When someone can’t compare you with anything, it’s, generally, a bad sign. A sign that you’re being very broad about what you’re trying to solve. That being said, the app looked really polished. As I told them, I’m neutral about this project cause I don’t see it failing but I have a hard time believing they’re gonna get the traction they need as they are right now.
- Flagfriend: These guys where ok. They wanted to mix localization with casual gaming which is pretty huge. Not only that, they had already run a beta version of the mobile app and had some traction. They have an iPhone app and they’re working on the Android version of it. If you like gaming this is an interesting startup. I think they still need to probe they can go beyond Paris and make it work large scale without driving high acquisition costs.
- HeyCrowd: It’s a mobile app to ask questions online and get feedback in real time. They have some interesting twists like allowing you to push the questions to specific targeted groups like LeWeb audience, travelers, news readers, etc. While I like the idea, it rings very similar to Aarvark or even a recent Spanish startup named Feebbo (yeah worst name ever!). One of the questions from the jury was about their barriers of entry against players like SurveyMonkey and to be honest, I really think their allegation that they bring communities apart from a tools isn’t strong enough. Not because it’s not true but because they need to prove they’re able to pull that off. I love when a startup says: “people will…”. You really need to validate those hypothesis before pitching it.
- Geokiwi: They just released their mobile app beta at LeWeb. Their idea is to allow the user to communicate with other local users. Something like Craigslist but on steroids. They don’t use maps but dynamic lists that can be ordered based on different criteria. The idea is really nice, I think it’s such a simple concept it’s elegant but, as someone pointed out, they have a real issue when it comes to compete for mind share. It seem to me, they still haven’t tested their plan to acquire more users. Plus, the have very low entry barriers which nowadays isn’t very good.
- Bableverse: They started their pitch with a demo. I have to say, I don’t like that. First you introduce your team, then the elevator pitch and then, only then, you showcase your demo. They did get better and better after that (in the end they introduced the pitch before starting the demo, but after saying they were going to run the demo). Their app is a really cool one. They provide remote language interpreters in real time. You just go to their mobile app, request an interpreter and you’ll get connected so any medium (Skype, email, browser, etc.). They charge per interpreter, splitting revenues 30/70 (for interpreters). Already did a demo during the Japan earthquake and got 150 bilingual users during their beta testing. So far, the best startup of the first part of the competition hands down for me. Not surprised they got accepted into Startup Chile either.
- InZair: They want to build richer SMS experience called ZMS. While the idea is interesting, specially the geolocalization of sms with time triggers (which they have a patent for), I’m not convinced they can pull it off. Their major competitor is Whatsup which is rather massive plus while it’s a cool feature to have, it doesn’t solves a pain point for the users so I doubt they’ll get enough traction at all, with or without a patent. Also, the presentation was kind of weak. I was expecting a lot more energy from the founders…
- ARNav: This is an interesting case because I mentor them some months ago as part as the Gamma Rebels batch. As I’ve told the founder a couple of times. The demo has a great WOW effect, but they still miss what the end product is going to be about. While they talk about providing an Augmented Reality engine for companies and partners, I still don’t see what would the end product for any of those customers will be. Interesting tech but lacking a clear product usefulness so far. I believe they’ll eventually get there as the tech rocks.
- Compath.me: This app really looked like a Japanese clone of Foursquare. That being said, they have some good traction numbers and I have to give them credit for coming to Paris all the way from Japan. Big brass balls! So they allow you to search for places, restaurants, cafes, etc. based on your friend’s preferences. Interesting concept, but hard to battle with the big boys. Nevertheless, I know Japan and Asia in general is a totally different beast that Europe or the US so it will be interesting to see how it goes.
So that was all for the day. All in all, some interesting startups but not impressed at all. I was expecting a lot more from the Startup competition. I’m still missing real groundbreaking startups. We seriously need to start thinking big in the startup world. I’m not the only one saying this and I’m sure I won’t be the last one.
As I promised on of my collegues at the LeWeb official bloggers delegation, yesterday’s picks would be Bableverse (hands down) and Flagfriend if they probe to know how to acquire big chunks of users. I do like compath.me too, but it really escapes my market knowledge. ust to support my point, I just got this Twitter analysis and it seems I’m dead on who was yesterday’s winner.
So, lets see how it fares for the reminding startups and lets see if I manage to pick the winners before the jury does it 😉