TechCrunch Euro Tour
Impression from some of the pitches at the Belgian TechCrunch event.
MoMo Amsterdam on Monday, TechCrunch meetup in Ghent on Thursday and November just started, me likes! Robin Wauters and Mike Butcher from TechCrunch already started by the time we got there. The concept: 15 sales pitches, 5 minutes each. Not much time to ask questions but it keeps you focused. I will not repeat everything I saw: some concepts I did not understand, some weren’t that interesting, and others slipped out of my memory after the long weekend.
Toon Vanagt (wearing a hard hat) presented Casius, a website that connects builders to professional construction workers online. Apparently, it’s hard to find a good craftsman in Belgium, there may be a real need for this. The website doesn’t look professional now, let’s hope they update that soon.
Koen Delvaux from City Live presented their concept to sell free data subscriptions to students for their mobiles. This would allow universities and colleges to build their own ‘mobile intranet’ based on the Glowe widget system. I would have loved to check my schedule on my phone when I was a student. I hope he can pull this off. Wouldn’t it be better to include a data plan for their laptops as well (or are there still students without laptops these days)?
Patrick De Schutter showed ContactOffice, an office solution in the cloud. I still don’t see why companies want their data in the cloud - it’s stupid - but it seems most companies don’t agree with me. There may be a need for this kind of web app but why do you want to compete with Google Apps, Zimbra (acquired by Yahoo!) or MobileMe?
Sam Desimpel presented IntroNiche, an eBay like service for businesses. For example: you need visitors and are willing to give away x free subscriptions for your service. Another site has tons of visitors but is looking for a price for a small competition on their website. IntroNiche could be the platform for those two to meet. Your site gives away a few subscriptions and gets traffic from the other site. As with lots of these ideas it will need ‘critical mass’ to take off but I like the idea.
If someone like Dries Buytaert takes the stage, you know it has potential. He showed Mollom: a spam filtering system for comments. Mollem shows a captcha when it’s not sure if the comment is spam or ham. Why didn’t Akismet think about this? He explained only 4% of the commenters should see the captcha. Mollem is free up to a certain daily volume.
Niko Nelissen presented Oxynade which aggregates event information from all over Europe. They have an iPhone app which can show events close to your current location. Nice but I don’t think they are the only ones doing this and I didn’t really understand what differentiates them from others like Upcoming. Mobile web apps like this one are especially useful when abroad and that’s exactly where things are going wrong in my opinion. I keep my phone in my pocket if telecom operators charge these ridiculous prices for data roaming. What we really need for these kinds of services is a reasonably priced Europe-wide data subscription (like AT&T is doing in the USA?).
Anthony Belpaire demoed tikitag, an Alcatel-Lucent venture that aims to build the Internet of Things with RFID technology. They sell an RFID reader and a few RFID tags that link to online applications. Fun to play with as a geek (not sure if they have an API) but not ready for mainstream yet. It will be more useful when most mobile phones have RFID readers built in. Violet is doing something similar with their Mir:ror, nice to see some pioneers developing in this market segment.
Overall, it was nice to see the enthusiasm of startups in Belgium, even in this tough economic climate.
Mike Butcher wrote his impressions down in a TechCrunch article.