Yesterday I attended the LeWeb Startup Competition Day 1, today we finished with all the startup pitches. I have to say I was surprise by a couple of startups, but all in all, I underline what I said yesterday, the quality was so-so. Most of the startups don’t seem to solve real life problems, others are just in such a super early stage they seem they just got out of a StartupWeekend. In most cases, the issue isn’t with the startup itself but with the way they present it. As I said many times, startup presentations are the key to success. It’s the door to investors, customers, advisers, etc. If you don’t do a good job with it, if you don’t work your message, your startup won’t succeed. No matter how cool your tech is, no one will notice. The worst thing is that, presentations aren’t only for events like LeWeb but for all type of scenarios including investor meetings, commercial events, competitions, board meetings, etc.
So this morning we had the final 8 startups:
- Apila: I actually missed this presentation due to the nice morning traffic jams in Paris. Either way, as far as a friend told me, the initial video they projected was very good, but the idea is a little flacky. It basically consists of a mobile notification system for free parking spots. While I love the idea, I feel (and so did my friend) that it’s hard to implement this. While the user looking for a parking spot gets a lot of value, it requires the one unparking to wait for the user to come and take his free spot (that’s what the Apila team said). I don’t see many crazy drivers in Madrid waiting for someone to come so they can leave their spot to them.
- Staround: I arrived half way their presentation but from what I got, they’re similar to Oink, a mobile app where you capture a moment, geolocalize it, give your opinion and then rate it and share it with your friends. You then get all the opinions from your friends and businesses get real-time feedback. Not sure this could scale massively, to be honest. The app looks very slick, but the market seems tiny. plus the fact that Oink is already in there makes it even harder. Language was a big issue for the team. English wasn’t definitely their native tongue and you could tell that their way of explaining it was very basic. While I get why, this is one of the things that make you loose a competition or an investor. The reason is, you won’t be able to clearly explain the value your startup brings. That’s why, it’s very important to practice the pitch in English before getting to a competition.
- Gauss: This presentation was fantastic, full of energy. They’re building a mobile app to discover new relevant people and create lasting connections in an easy and fun way. Problem with it was that there are many people in this space, including Loopt. I had several friends that startup similar projects and ended up closing shop because it requires a very active user base. Something that right now is hard to acquire within the noise storm we live in. One thing that was very distracting was having one cofounder narrate the demo while another did it live on the main screen. Lots of sync problems between both that were really distracting and detracted from the fantastic start they did.
- Beintoo: This was by far my favorite startup. They provide an SDK to add Gamification features to any mobile application. Not only they have a sound business model, a great idea and $400k in angel money, but they have amazing numbers too (25M users and 3M active users reach). The presentation was pretty good too, but what was amazing was that they’re only 8 months old and they’re way more advanced than many other startups.
- Commerces & Co: These guys want to enhance the buying experience by allowing you to check your favorite local commerce profile page. It’s like a Facebook for local commerce. To be honest, this wasn’t specially innovative plus it’s very hard to create the necessary critical mass needed for this to work. That being said, I won’t be the one saying this can’t work. I’m always amazed how non-sexy ideas actually end up doing a lot of money.
- Echo Labs: This guys have a very cool product. They developed a very neat visual app where you can check what people are thinking at an specific location. It’s a better way of getting feedback for a talk, company, class, etc. In a very visual and powerful way. I have to give them kudos because I talked with them 2 days ago, gave them some advice about their pitch and they took it and fixed their pitch. So kudos to the guys for being so receptive!
- Clear Karma: These guys have a great business proposition: What to eat? They will show you what to eat. They’re like the food Foursquare. Want veggie products? They’ll tell you where. Healthy? Sugar Free? They’ll let you know. Food alerts? They do that too! The presentation was ok. Again, lots of communication issues because of the language barriers. They’re tackling an interesting problem, but as a couple of the jury members put it, gathering local information while teaching new healthier habits might be too much for a startup. They should focus on one problem at a time.
- Beetmobile: This guys are the geeks of the group. Highly technical solution for a very real problem: expensive roaming fees. They want to enable a massive network of devices you can tap into and use tethering features to get connection. It reminds me a lot of Meraki or even Fon to some extend. The presented the project at Techcrunch Disrupt this year and they’re moving fast. I did like the presentation but I don’t think they covered all their bases. There are huge issues when deploying something like this and all of the previous or similar projects are failing so I wonder what is going to make this startup successful than the rest haven’t done.
All in all, the competition was kind of week, but I think it had more to do with the enforcement of the SOLOMO criteria than anything else. So, what are our picks? I would say, Beintoo is my winner hands down, followed by Babelverse with a second close. It’s funny to see that Twitter is also echoing the same feelings: