More cool startups from Le Web:
Stribe was the winner of the startup competition at Le Web. You may already know them from TechCrunch50, where they presented.
Stribe is a social network for your Web site. Instead of setting up a separate social network for your site or brand on a network like Ning, you can add a line of code to your site and it becomes full-fledged with social functions. People can log in through Facebook Connect (Twitter OAuth soon) and chat, share items, etc. The site is in private beta and will go public soon.
Their charismatic CEO Kamel Zeroual explained that the most popular feature is chat — if you’re logged in Stribe on one site you can chat with someone you know who’s on a different site that also has Stribe. They will operate under a freemium model; with premium accounts users can have deeper analytics about social usage and can push content, which would be very interesting to corporations that want to add social features to their sites.
Hypios calls itself the first social marketplace for solutions.
Companies can post R&D problems that they have to the site, associated with a big cash reward (of which Hypios takes a cut), and get responses from tens of thousand of users, plenty of them graduate students in the hard sciences.
The company got its early users by building an academics-focused social network. Interestingly, they also got users by having their first challenge be a feature of their site that they were having a hard time solving and that was solved by their community in an unexpected way.
This, their CEO told me, is the main advantage of Hypios: companies get their problems solved in unexpected way; for instance, the solution to a bioengineering problem might be found by a computer engineer, or the solution to a computer problem by an economist. Hypios is young and has 8 projects online now.
Perhaps my favourite company of the whole conference is a startup called Yatedo, and I met them on the subway leaving the conference.
There were these two French geeky guys, carrying around huge signs and stuff from their booth in heavy luggage. When I asked them to give me a pitch, they leaped into it enthusiastically, stumbling through English for the benefit of the girl I was riding with, demoing the service on their unfinished iPhone app. Man, these guys were hustling.
Yatedo is a search engine for people, and I was impressed as much by the product as by the founders. It’s really well done, you get full profiles, and without the bunch of garbage and false positives that you find on other people search engines. It looked like a Mahalo or Wikipedia entry, but with more depth — and unlike those, it’s all done through an algorithm instead of human editors (unfortunately the product is in closed beta right now).
All the founders are computer science engineers (normal in Silicon Valley but unusual in Paris, where you almost always have a too-slick business person to give you the pitch), they’ve been doing this as a research project for several years but the startup itself is really young, they’re bootstrapping and they’re looking for funding. A great product with technical depth plus founders who are, as Y Combinator founder Paul Graham put it, “relentlessly resourceful” is a sure winner — or at least a startup after my own heart.
All these companies (except Yatedo) have something in common: they’ve raised angel money, often multimillion amounts. The main thing that was interesting that I got through my conversations with French entrepreneurs and investors was paradoxical: entrepreneurs can relatively easily raise money from angels, but find it really hard to get VC funding.
A few years ago, the complaint was the opposite: too few angels were willing to put money at risk, and there was a funding gap between seed/”friends, family and fools” funding and big, multimillion dollar VC rounds. Now, angels will put money to work, and plenty of startups raised the kind of money that would be a Series A VC round through only angels. But the VCs are fearful.
You would’ve thought that, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, it would be the other way around: angels damaged by the meltdown trying to conserve cash and VCs, with institutional money, filling the gap. This is what is happening in the US, with VCs taking part in smaller and earlier rounds. I don’t know why this phenomenon is, but I think it’s good for the long term because angels are the ferment that gets an entrepreneurial company going.
All in all, I have to say Le Web was a really great experience. As I said before, the conference was really well put together, the venue beautiful. As in all such conferences, the panels tend to be boring and rehash known themes and memes, but the attendees were a wonderful mix of American, European and French entrepreneurs, investors and other members of the tech scene, and that’s the reason why people attend these things — the people you meet.
More Le Web coverage here.
Photo: Robert Scoble
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