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Were in the Institute of Chartered Accountants House in Dublin this evening for the opening night of the Dublin Web Summit where we will be hearing from the founders of Twitter, YouTube and Xing amongst others over the next 28 hours.
Were going to be focusing our attention on the Social Media stream and will be live blogging all the interesting talks and workshops that we come across. If you’re at the summit, please come say hello.
First surprise of the night is that Brent Hoberman, founder of last minute.com is going to speaking this evening. Sounds good!
Our moderator for the evening is John Kennedy, editor of Silicon Republic.
Brite Bill were the winners of the Maples & Calder Spark of Genius new business funding award last year; the company’s technologies power sites that allow centralized web based utility bill payment. The company reduces the volume of paper billing for utility providers hence reducing their billing costs.
John introduces the 5 finalists for this year’s award who all have 3 mins to make a pitch to the audience (poor bstrds!).
1. Moozler.com is a web client that allows you to receive and make calls from and to other computers and mobile phones from one unique interface. It also supports conference calling, messaging etc. PC to PC calls are free, they charge for calls to mobiles. Nice little product but I use a soft phone and Skype and find it works fine.
2. Profitero has developed technology that parses pricing and inventory information from the web that allows retailers access to competitive intelligence on what their competitors are charging and whether they have products in stock. This allows quick and accurate pricing decisions to ensure that you charge the best price at any particular time. The product could be good but unfortunately the presenter hasn’t put his case to the audience very well. He’s still telling us about Dmitry, his buddy. Next!
3. TripEnquiry is talking about Mary’s holiday home…..where is this going? Apparently they’re like TripIt and Paypal (I’m still confused). I think they allow you to source holiday homes but Shane Hayes is struggling to explain this in 3 mins.
4. Geodealio are talking about trying to find a discount on a sandwich in Dublin. They have a smart phone app that lists local deals available in stores or cages or restaurants, ie a phone based chalk board advertising deals to phone users based on their geo location. Sounds pretty simple and cool. Are they not just another deal site like GroupOn? Maybe but what’s the harm? Apparently GroupOn cant cope with the volumes of interest from retailers in the US. The app is free with a freemium version for retailers.
5. DataHug want to talk to Paddy Cosgrave’s mum! Seriously though the company analyses your incoming and outgoing emails to interpret how well you know certain people. They use a “hug ranking” to see who you are interacting with the most, ie what customers are you servicing well and by omission who are you not giving the love to.
They have an alpha product out there and have customers on 3 continents. Looks pretty good, definitely makes me want to hear more. Public beta is launching this November.
My money is on one of the last 2! Well done all.
Next up is a panel including:
Brian Caufield, a VC investor who invests in technology companies.
Sean Seton-Rogers with ProFounders Capital, a relatively new VC fund made up of former entrepreneurs.
Mike Hirshland with Polaris, another VC.
Mike reckons Social Media is a bubble, one he wouldn’t invest in. Sean disagrees and his firm actively invests in this space. Brian believes that the Irish VC community hasn’t a great record in communicating what they are trying to do; this seems to be changing. Internationally he believes the VC community has become increasingly specialized.
Mike has a completely different perspective. It has become much cheaper to start a business and it is easier for a fund to write smaller cheques to help new businesses. There is a whole new dynamic and entrepreneurs have much more power as their is much more competition to fund these cheaper start ups.
Sean reckons that VCs have to be more open and accessible to entrepreneurs, whether that be on Facebook or LinkedIn etc. He also reckons that VCs get 3 out of 10 investments right, which is a healthy figure. Any less and you aren’t looking at enough deals.
Mike suggests that one investor’s great investment is his colleague’s worst investment. Every VC needs to have his own “the one that got away”.
Brian raises the importance of valuing the people in the company. It is so important to get a warm validation of the potential actors in an investment.
John asks the panel whether Ireland can produce the next Google? Brian states that no one knows where the next Skype of Google is going to come from, it could be Ireland or Lithuania, you need to look everywhere.
The Panel are pretty much in agreement that now is a difficult time for funds to attract investment. IPOs and the economy don’t matter; Mike reckons that the bad economy makes it easier for entrepreneurs to attract and hire good talent and large companies like Google are always on the market for acquisitions. The number of start-ups is astronomical and rising; these companies need to look at follow on investment to keep them alive past their initial start-up. In Europe there are very few next stage investors; Ireland has very few Super Angels. Brian has done about 8 such deals in the last few years and he is probably considered one of the pioneers inn such funding here.
The problem in Ireland is not raising your seed 250k but the 2-3m you will need further down the line.
What else should VCs be doing for their investments? They should be introducing entrepreneurs to people who can help grow their business, using their business connections.
And that, rather abruptly is the end of that panel discussion! Very interesting chat.
Dylan Collins from Gruupy is up next. He describes himself as the warm up act for Chad Hurdley of Youtube. Off to a good start Dylan, this should be interesting.
His first company was a TCD company called Phorest which made it easy for businesses to use SMS. It was acquired in 2002. He then started DemonWare, a company that made it easy for developers to make online games. It was acquired in 2007. He started Jolt online gaming in 2007 which was acquired in 2009 as one of the worlds largest developers of online games. Lesson is not to give up your dreams, you just might know more than the VC guys etc. The Games industry is now bigger than the movie and music industry, the nerds won!
Lessons: Fail fast. If you can get money, take it. Enterprise Ireland are great, they give you free money and are worth the paperwork.
Communicate with your investors, don’t not tell them your bad news.
Spend time in the office.
Control your consultants, it’s your business, your idea.
Make sure you interview well.
Don’t be too proud to copy other people. Just do it better.
Don’t go to the wrong conferences. There are loads, don’t waste your money on the wrong ones.
Take time off to think about what you are doing. Find the time to sit done and think about what you are doing.
So, getting around to Gruupy.com of which Dylan is Chairman. Ireland has most of the biggest online gaming companies based here, people see Ireland as being mythical, they love the Guinness, don’t be afraid to play up your irishness. We are small therefore we are all really well connected to each other. This is a really good virtue.
Most importantly we really are quite charming! Gruupy sells you stuff you probably don’t need like iPads cheaper than the iStore. Dylan doesn’t go into detail but the interest is sown.
Few questions from the audience; try not to give away more than 30% of your company to VCs. That’s it, great presentation!
And now the star of the show, Chad Hurley, founder of YouTube.
Chad and Steve started the business above a pizza shop; they wanted to share some personal videos online and created the business to do this. Broadband was on the rise, video capture devices were going mainstream, they were at the right place at the right time. More than that though, they made the service simple.
Chad was a Fine arts student, not an engineer. There is no formula to be an entrepreneur, you need a product that people can relate to.
The company was only 18 months old when google came a knocking. Before that they had had multiple offers that they turned down. They had come from a background of having sold Paypal to eBay so they could afford to continue to fund this new business but eventually they became starved for funding in order to keep developing and growing. The combination seemed right, Google could monetize their ad model and provide them with the funding to continue to develop.
Nonetheless, being lean and mean at the start really helps you become efficient.
If pictures are worth a thousand words, video is worth a million.
We still have a long way to go in getting people to develop their own content as it requires skill and time, it’s not as easy as a status update.
Some of the challenges for video is making it easier to search, making it more relevant, making it easier for people to produce their own content. YouTube can become a unified distribution platform for all video media including tv etc.
Chad is really talking up his vision of YouTube being the platform for all video content including tv shows and is talking about how content providers will come up with an ad model that shares revenues and works for everyone.
When asked about copyright protection he points to how YouTube’s technology allowed the record labels the option to allow users to upload copyright protected content but enabled them to integrate advertising onto such content rather than just pulling them.
Chads advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to be prepared to change your business in response to your customers needs and preferences; adaptability is key.
Dylan Collins of Gruupy and Brent Hoberman of lastminute.com join Chad for a panel discussion.
In response to a question from the audience Chad cites the site’s decision to use Flash as the player for all their videos as one of their key ingredients for success as 98% of all browsers had Flash. Also, they didn’t filter the content that was uploaded, allowing viewers to decide what rises to the top through sharing videos and the number of videos.
So what excites the panelists? Brent loves the concept of daily deals (aka Gruupy) and platform plays. Chad still thinks there are tremendous opportunities in the media world for people to capture and serialize content. There is an opportunity for traditional media to teach the non educated in how to produce engaging content.
Chad is comparing Facebooks controlled growth, ie college by college, whereby YouTube just exploded, this didn’t allow them to stay independent as they couldn’t fund the explosive growth organically.
Paddy is back on stage after two and a half hours to wrap up the hugely enjoyable first evening, despite some ridiculously long questions and blatant business plugs from certain audience members. Roll on the main event tomorrow!
We’ll be back blogging live from tomorrow, subscribe to our blog to read more!
About the author:
Jonathan Campbell is a Director of Select People, a specialist headhunting firm and also the co-founder of social media consultancy Social BPO/ Social Talent, which grows and manages talent communities on social media sites for recruiters. Check out our Facebook Page: Facebook.com/socialbpo for more information.