Photo: Le Camping
Le Camping is an accelerator program for Paris startups modelled after Y Combinator. The first crop started three months ago and Le Camping held its first Investor Day yesterday to present the startups to the public. We weren’t invited but managed to crash anyway.In these pages, your writer puts on a happy face and boosts French startups. And while it’s legitimately true that the French startup market is getting hotter and hotter, there are too many stories like this one and this one that could drive one to despair.
So, having not followed Le Camping enough, we were half-expecting a poor crop of too-French startups: long-winded pitches, too much emphasis on making money and too little on product and vision, stunted ambitions, products for the French market only…
Instead what we had was the opposite: a crop of amazing startups that wouldn’t look out of place one bit in Y Combinator’s best crop or in any top VC’s portfolio. And they know it too. Before the event got underway, we asked a couple of investors whether the startups had raised money, and heard back: “They don’t need to, they have revenues”, and “two or three turned down money because they’re getting so much traction they can raise later at a higher valuation.” This for companies started three months ago in a city where you’d normally hear “They’re trying but can’t drum up enough interest.”
A few of us decided to pick #LeWinning as the hashtag for the event and off we were…
Yes, group messaging apps are dime a dozen and so dabla (which pivoted halfway through Le Camping to this idea) isn't very original, but they made two good points: 1- it's early days, so who knows if the big guys like GroupMe will end up winning; 2- none of the big group messaging apps are focusing on the markets outside the US.
So if they execute well they might hit it big. They want to have a million users by December.
PrepMyFuture takes on Kaplan and others with an adaptive learning algorithm to help people prepare for the GMAT, CFA and other professional examinations. They undercut Kaplan on price with a better product, because PrepMyFuture's test interface learns from your progress to give you customised exercises. They even poached someone from Kaplan as a cofounder.
Yes, New York startup Knewton already does it, but so what?
Mesagraph wants to solve 'infobesity' with a semantic search engine to sift through Twitter and Facebook and other social media to find information. They have some really heavy-duty semantic search PhDs on their team, and their product looks polished.
We personally don't think this solves any problem but we might be wrong and the technology is certainly impressive.
P1 is in a big market with big problems to solve. They make a SaaS app that helps mobile network and telecom operators detect and reduce fraud. If the product works as advertised, they can certainly make lots of money.
ITIPIC is a nice product that makes buying stuff online more visual. It's a nice customer destination that makes it easier for people to shop. They make money from affiliate fees.
docTrackr lets you track documents you send, like whether and when they've been opened, and even modify them remotely. It's helpful in a business context to know whether a lead has open the proposal you sent them, but what does this do that Google Docs doesn't?
Kawet is a product that lets anyone make their own mobile app. There are similar solutions out there, but everyone we spoke to was absolutely raving about the product.
Perspecteev is Mint.com for your smartphone: track your bank account, expenses, etc. It's a big challenge to build such a product in Europe. In the US, a company called Yodlee aggregates all of the banks' information and Mint rents out their data to let you access your bank info. In Europe, the company has to build relationships with banks one at a time, and is well on its way with two of the biggest. In any case the product looks great.
StudyKa is in kind of a niche market, but they're crushing it. They already have 100,000 euros in revenues after three months and returning customers.
PurchEase looks like a very useful product: snap a picture of receipts at the grocery store with your cell phone, and PurchEase will recognise it and tell you how to save money, where to buy cheaper and things like that.
An amusing moment during their pitch: after giving projections 2 years out, the founders said: 'I could give you bulls---t 5 year financial forecasts, but I'd rather give you my vision: in 10 years, there's gonna be a billion dollar company handling millions of customers and their purchases---we want to be that company'
That's what we're talking about.
Beansight, previously profiled here, is an interesting concept. They want to aggregate people's predictions about the future. People vote on each other's predictions and over time people get a track record for predicting the future accurately. Think of it as Twitter for the future. It's those out-there ideas that could either absolutely bomb or somehow be huge, and we love those.
ZiFiZ lets you know if goods you want to purchase are available in stores around you. It's modelled after US startup Milo.com, which was recently acquired by eBay for $85 million. They have a huge challenge to be able to plug into retailers computers to be able to aggregate inventory, but if they can do that it's a valuable business.
All in all this is very impressive. Any of these startups has as credible a shot at being huge one day as any other. More important, and refreshing for France, is the ambition: these startups are thinking global from day one, executing, and want to be huge. It's a breath of fresh air. Most of them are raising 1 to 3 million euros, when a seed round in France is closer to 300,000.