Thursday, January 29, 2009

Innovate! Europe

Innovate!Europe is a three-part program designed to identify Europe’s most promising startups and accelerate their drive into the global technology market.

The first step in Innovate!Europe’s unique six-month accelerator program is to apply to participate in one of the complimentary Going Global Workshops. Dates have already been announced for Workshops in Zaragoza, London, Dublin, Paris and Berlin, and they are in the process of identifying other cities to add to the Calendar.

Every company who applies will receive feedback from Guidewire Group’s seasoned team of analysts. In addition, regardless of acceptance into the Innovate!Europe program, all applicants will be listed on the Innovate!Europe site. So, just by applying, you will raise your company’s profile with potential partners, customers, investors and media who are part of the Innovate!Europe community.

Innovate!Europe is run by Chris Shipley and Mike Sigal of The Guidewire Group who is a global market intelligence firm focussing on technology entrepreneurship.

Like Seedcamp, Innovate!Europe's focus is mentoring, advice and support. Seedcamp's investment is an added bonus but not the 'main thing'.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tweetdeck organises Twitter

Techcrunch announced Tweetdeck's funding round of $500K on Thursday 22nd.

TweetDeck is a desktop application that aims to evolve the existing functionality of Twitter by taking loads of information i.e twitter feeds, and breaking it down into more manageable bite sized pieces.

TweetDeck enables users to split their main feed (All Tweets) into topic or group specific columns allowing a broader overview of tweets. To do this All Tweets are saved to a local database. One column will always contain All Tweets. The GROUP, SEARCH and REPLIES buttons then allow the user to make up additional columns populated from the database. Once created these additional columns will automatically update allowing the user to easily keep track of a twitter threads.

Being database driven TweetDeck allows the user to continue twittering even when offline. Tweets and direct messages are queued and then sent automatically when back online.

Twitter itself is growing spectacularly. Techcrunch UK pointed out its UK growth in a recent post.

The recent funding round in which TAG participated was led by our good friends Andy Wiseman and John Borthwick of Betaworks, New York. Songkick, Lookery and Snaptalent are other investments we have in common.

Betaworks was also a seed investor in Twitter.

Friday, January 23, 2009

LoveFilm hits 1m subscribers

As hoped for, the credit crunch has given a boost to home entertainment.
LoveFilm already had significant momentum having added 100,000 new subscribers during 2008, but January has continued this trend.
In addition to announcing the 1m subscriber number, LoveFilm also announced an injection of £10.5m in Bank Debt which it plans to invest in new on-demand technology as well as repay existing debts. [Who says banks aren't lending?]

Lovefilm became profitable last year having achieved revenue growth of around 50%.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Zoopla raises £3.75m

If you have surreptitiously checked the value of your neighbour/friend/colleague/father-in-law/uncle's house recently, don't be embarrassed - you are not alone.
has been growing like topsy. It is now the UK's fastest growing property website and since it launched 12 months ago has been visited 5 million times.
It is ranked the 4th busiest property website in the UK according to the latest traffic stats.

Today, Zoopla is announcing a further funding round of £3.75m from existing investor Atlas Venture and Octopus Ventures. Their funding does demonstrate that despite the significant tightening of the venture funding market, really strong businesses with talented and experienced teams will attract capital.
[See Techcrunch]

Zoopla provides house prices and value data and is already the most comprehensive source of residential property market information with the UK's most active community. In 2008 it had over 1 million user contributions to its website from users.

With its imminent and innovative launch of estate agent listings on a pay-for-performance basis, Zoopla expects to become the website of choice for anyone interested in the property market – whether buying, selling or just looking to stay informed about market activity. Zoopla addresses all 27m homes in the UK - not just the 1m or so that are for sale.

They are now also focussed on using their traffic and levels of consumer engagement in helping estate agents make the most of their marketing spend.

Fred Destin and Atlas have been outstanding backers of Zoopla demonstrating clearly the value that VC's are capable of by acting decisively and fairly throughout.

Octopus Ventures have a long standing relationship with Alex Chesterman (founder, CEO), Simon Kain (CTO) and angel backers William Reeve and Simon Murdoch.

TAG's relationship too goes back to the Video Island/Screenselect/LoveFilm days.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kiva - an amazing success

Most of us involved in the tech start-up world will have noticed Kiva getting publicised quite widely. See the rhs of this blog for example. What is not that widely understood is just how Kiva works and how powerful it is. The well constructed video below tells the story.Kiva Microfunds

A Fistful Of Dollars: The Story of a Kiva.org Loan from Kieran Ball on Vimeo.

Some of the numbers speak for themselves: Kiva is only 39 months old. It has raised loans totalling $55,521,085 for low-income entrepreneurs in the developing world. Its repayment rate todate is 97% It has funded 125,496 entrepreneurs to date. There are over 400,000 Kiva users from 156 countries.

Wonga, unsecured small loans company - featured in a previous post - became a backer of Kiva.
Wonga is lending £1 interest-free, via Kiva, for every Wonga loan they process. To date Wonga has lent $14,475.

Many corporates are setting up similar schemes. What a great illustration of how the web enables previously impossible ideas!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Strong Momentum for Fizzback

I featured Fizzback in a post about 2 months ago.
At the time we were postulating that in a shrinking market, retailers and other service providers would need to gain market share to keep growing or maintain profitability.
Gaining market share usually means giving customers what they want. This in turn requires very careful listening to customer's requirements.
Fizzback does this in a sophisticated but automated way, enabling large numbers of customers to engage in 'dialogue' at relatively low cost.

The Xmas sales data currently being announced show that not all retailers have been caned to the same extent by the market. Clearly those who have been listening hardest and implementing effectively have done better than others.

Fizzback continues to win high profile accounts.

For example, last month,
The Carphone Warehouse selected the Fizzback Engagement Platform to assess their customer experience, improve advocacy and drive superior employee performance.
Ashley Cook, The Carphone Warehouse’s Business Operations Director said: “We’re committed to offering the best customer service on the high street. Fizzback gives us a new level of visibility into the in-store customer experience and provides actionable insight into areas for improvement.”

Carphone joins the list of household names now using Fizzback. They include: T-Mobile, Phones 4U, National Express, Virgin Trains, Sky, HMV, M&S, William Hill and others.

Positive customer service experiences happen all the time, but the feelings they evoke have a shorter half-life than very negative experiences. Therefore the key is to capture experiences as they happen, not days, weeks or even months after the event.
Positive comments help companies to reinforce areas that they are succeeding in, passing these best practices across the organisation, and are a great way to motivate and reward staff.

In summary, making it easy for consumers to tell you how they feel during (not after) their experience with the brand yields large volumes of high quality feedback. This approach taps into a previously 'silent majority' of consumers, ensuring an accurate representation of sentiment and giving brands the opportunity to begin a constructive dialogue with a large portion of their customer base.

In December, Fizzback received just short of 2m customer contacts. This channel split is reflected below.

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