Here are today’s pitches. When I’ve finished writing about them, I think I will spend a few hours tracking down the companies I wrote about in previous posts back to 2006 and see how they fared. That might reveal some interesting trends and information on startups.
Sorted – market for casual jobs. Brave enough to launch, crazy enough to turn down money with only 2,000 users, smart enough to make technical hires and do a lot of quick iterations “under the radar”, bonkers enough to get coverage from Huffpo when still in pre-seed stage. Available on iOS and Android. Seems like a good idea, perhaps UK employment will get a boost from them in a couple of years?
Tough questions from the VCs:
- How do they get ‘runners’ to fulfil the job orders?
- Where did seed money come from?
- Can they grow outside student community?
- How do they compete with US startups like TaskRabbit and Zaarly ?
- How do they deal with security, vetting and performance failures?
- How do fees flow safely to the platform once the requirement has met the first fulfilment?
- What about coverage (can I get my flat cleaned if I live in Tenby?)
Bridebook – matches brides to wedding services. Lots of value, people go totally silly and spend far more money than they need to, all normal cognitive functions get suspended and Giffen Goods are the rule of the day. Easily global, as weddings are … weddings. Surely it must be possible to milk this white, lace, market? They give help, profiles, guides and a matching service. The sauce is in not being a listing style catalog service, but in adding relevance and intelligence in the matching. With some small conversation tests and a demo, this has shown a market exists. Working on pricing models, retention of suppliers and monetization.
- clotted market space, so how to penetrate it?
- one off sales, so how do you drive more customers without bleeding out through advertising expenses?
- how can you defend against massively funded US entrants crossing the pond?
- is service availability an issue, given small businesses and the short season for ‘big wedding’ in the English Spring/Summer?
Malinko – job scheduling and CRM tool for companies with large numbers of mobile fieldworkers. Downloadable app, mapping, scheduling, whiteboarding, CRM, and all the back-end to manage a large workforce that you never see. With an estimated market of about £150m (UK and US), this may fall under the normal VC threshold of “$1bn market”. Nice touch is they use almost anyone’s smartphone, to reduce hardware costs for the company, while encouraging BYOD . They have keystone customers, and those customers seem to like it. A brave little bootstrap tackling an interesting problem.
- can they cross the pond?
- how can it be defended from someone with a massive CRM already installed?
- what is charging and pricing model, and how might it evolve?
- how do you cross the barriers of SME owners (who are notoriously hard to sell to)?
- is it scaleable – that is: can you sign someone up ‘zero touch’ – yet?
- can it penetrate one huge vertical, and if so, how and who?
Dream Agility – a tool to build mega-page web platforms with really awesome CMS built on MS .NET with App Support and real content creation ability. Fully mobile. Complete integration of business logic, apps, mobile, data, gaming, content, SEO, Social Media. All monitored from one system, all structured around a common platform, all designed for speed, lots of analytics. It is clear that they really feel the enterprise tools available from everyone else are “pants”. Can they deliver? Their test customers and trials appear to say so. $bn++ market space, and they want to dominate it.
(Today’s prize for most pregnant and gasping for air presenter clearly has to go to Elizabeth for her performance on stage! bravo!)
- how can a small company sell to huge companies, like Tier 1 retailers?
- is their enough money in Tier 2 companies to launch from?
- can you scale, given the need to customise service to each customer (or can you design that out?)
- is the paradigm shift from web to app to gamification a serious barrier?
- will making it easier to build more stuff lead to decline in perceived quality and user desertion?
Toy of the day – the improved version of edocr looks like it is growing some decent enterprise level functions, and it would be fun to see if that is a way to get contracts, handbooks, expenses forms and guides out to all our employees and know that they had, at last, been read?
Takeaway Point: it is getting harder to innovate in some key areas of web services, and there are powerful forces that are creating “me too” clones very fast now, not least the ease of obtaining the tools to build new apps and web services. To me, at least, it appears that there is a real value in having some physical goods, real human service, or manufacture in a startup, as that at least can slow down the locust hordes of imitation.