What started off as Mike Butcher’s (European Editor for TechCrunch) “little celebration of the technology startup scene in Europe” in 2009, now counts as the continent’s most prestigious tech awards: the Europas. Past recipients include Soundcloud, Nordeus, Spotify and other notable heavy hitters. To be considered, candidates must deliver on these criteria. Leaving London behind as the original venue, this year’s Europas will be held at Berlin’s Postbahnhof.
This year the UK, Germany and Ireland received the most nominations, confirming the reputations of London and Berlin as Europe’s foremost startup hubs. In terms of entrepreneurial performance measured by nominations per capita, however, smaller countries like Latvia are taking the lead after Ireland. As a recent VentureBeat article tells us, “interesting things are happening on the fringes of Europe.”
2012: the year of the visual web
In terms of trends, 2012 was the year of the visual web and the startups nominated in the CEE category embraced this wholeheartedly. All of them place a keen emphasis on beautiful design and superior functionality to draw in the ever-demanding user. The nominees also cater to a healthy abundance of investment themes.
From reshaping the music industry (Oneloudr, Austria) to reinventing the recruitment niche (TjobsRecruit, Romania), CEE players continue to innovate in a variety of fields with a view of staying ahead of the curve. As the rise of digital content and online video grows, companies like Jilion (Switzerland) are carving out the HTML5 space (since Adobe is discontinuing development of Flash for mobile devices serving rich formats will increasingly depend on HTML5 solutions). Data visualisation remains a hot topic and coming up with more sophisticated tools is key – as has been recognised by Latvian Infogr.am. Money is still to be made in the Cloud, and looking at less obvious market opportunities like the animal healthcare industry (VetCloud, Serbia) could make for big wins.
Here’s an overview of the companies that made the shortlist for the Best CEE Startup of 2012
Infogr.am (Latvia) – Infographics made easy
With over 300.000 infographics already created, Infogr.am is well on its way to making data fun. From word clouds to pictorial charts, this easy-to-use web-based data visualisation app offers a simple way of creating, sharing and discovering interactive infographics. Created by Uldis Leiterts and Raimonds Kaže, infogr.am was featured in Startup Sauna in 2012 and is aimed at disrupting the way people work with visual information online.
Jilion (Switzerland) – Spurring the HTML 5 video revolution
Jilion is the creator of SublimeVideo, the world’s first cloud-based HTML5 video player. In 2012, the company launched SublimeVideo Horizon, an HTML5 video application framework that allows for the production of tailor-made video players offering total creative freedom and functionality on a multitude of platforms and devices. Using Jilion’s technology, web publishers can now build their own fully modular players with customised add-ons and options.
Oneloudr (Austria) – “A co-creation platform for musicians”
Whether you want to start making music, join a band, or just listen to and rate the charts, Oneloudr may be the right place for you. This Austrian startup offers a one-stop-shop for the entire process of “social music-making”, from creation to sale. Form a virtual band or collaborate on song recordings online while maintaining 100% copyright ownership of your work.
DeskTime (Latvia) – Who’s a slacker?
Developed by Latvia’s Draugiem Group, DeskTime provides a real-time tracking service for monitoring employee productivity in an open and empowering environment. Targeting small/medium-sized businesses, the automated log system tracks employee activity and time spent on productive, distractive, or neutral applications and can compile the associated data into a variety of useful formats. Employees know when DeskTime is running and have access to their own productivity profile. For motivation, workers can also see how they rank in productivity compared to colleagues. DeskTime supports most systems and browsers and is available for free for both iPhone and Android.
NextStories (Czech Republic/Germany) – “One-click news-discovery tool”
Brought to you by steps2next (now part of the Axel Springer Media AG group), NextStories offers readers a tool for instantaneously finding related online content for a given topic or news article. Currently in Beta and optimised for 1500+ US news sites and blogs, this bookmarklet-based service allows for different sources of recommended reading to be displayed in a grid overlaying the current page in a Pinterest-like layout. Easy to use and requiring no registration, the generation of relevant content leads will only improve as the user base grows.
TjobsRecruit (Romania) – Simplifying recruitment
With access to two thousand professional recruiters and over two million qualified candidates across sectors ranging from healthcare to construction, TjobsRecruit is a promising solution for simplifying the recruitment process. Founded in 2009, this “third-party Human Resources department” offers a full range of recruitment services, including leasing of personnel, permanent hires, and post-recruitment services. The company is growing with a recent new round of funding and claims to be serious competition for international HR heavyweights such as Adecco and Manpower.
Toshl (Slovenia) – Making finance fun
Know your finances, save money and worry less. Or, if you prefer things in rhyme, “don’t squeeze, budget with ease.” This smartphone app (available for iPhone, Android, Symbian, and Windows Phone) allows you to track and analyze your expenditures, create budgets, and switch between currencies, all the while using fun, shareable visuals. First launched in 2010 by the Slovenian mobile and web studio 3fs, Toshl is steadily growing its user base and could become for the continent what Mint is for the UK.
VetCloud (Serbia) – Animal healthcare on the Cloud
One of the 20 teams selected at Seedcamp Budapest in October 2012 and a finalist in the regional WebFest.me, VetCloud is a unique new platform set on introducing the cloud to the animal healthcare industry. The services to be offered will range from mobile notifications and analytics to smart inventory and lab reports. In late 2012, VetCloud received €25K in seed funding from Bulgarian seed fund and accelerator Eleven.
GovFaces – “Meet your politicians”
The origin of GovFaces remains a mystery, but we are hoping to find out more about this platform, which is currently operating in the US and Mexico (as CarasPoliticas) and is shortlisted among the nominees for Best CEE startup, soon. GovFaces allows you to directly message your politicians or community leaders, comment and rate them, and obtain political news from multiple sources in one place. With these and other features, GovFaces is a rather unique participatory tool for improving government accountability. The team is now developing a new version of the code that will be tested at the beginning of 2013 by the 754 members of the European Parliament.
Additional CEE startups shortlisted in other categories
Busuu.com (Austria/Liechtenstein) – The social network for learning foreign languages
Named after a language spoken by only eight people in Cameroon, Busuu.com is an interactive online platform that provides users with “a fun and engaging” tool of learning new languages. Nominated in the category “Best Education Startup”, the network created by Adrian Hilti and Bernhard Niesner currently offers courses in 12 different languages, including Business English and Business Spanish. Users enjoy a two-way approach, in which they can learn a foreign language directly from native speakers while also teaching others their own mother tongue.
Lernstift (Austria/Germany) – Never make a typo again!
Competing in the category “Best Education Startup”, Lernstift is an educational tool created to help schoolchildren improve their spelling. The pen, developed by Falk Wolskyand Daniel Kaesmacher, is designed to recognise misspellings and alert the user with a vibration. The technology behind it is deemed “easy to use” and transferrable onto PCs and other devices.
Mercury Puzzle (Austria) – Discovering talents
Evaluate your skills, enter an online talent competition with people from around the world, and find the job that suits you best. These are the three main steps that the founders of Mercury Puzzle, Nicolas Vorsteher and Constantin Wintoniak, see as crucial for companies to efficiently employ human capital. Nominated “Best Recruitment and Jobs Startup,” the career network identifies talents and matches them with suitable job positions.
Intellitix (Czech Republic) – Cuts waiting lines
Nominated as “Best Entertainment Startup”, Intellitix securely manages access control as well as cashless payment systems for live events with its RFID tool. The global provider’s system is aimed at eliminating waiting lines and ticket fraud. Established in 2011, the startup has activated over 2.5 million RFID tags at music festivals and live events, and has also staged the largest ever integration of an event with Facebook (at Bonnaroo in June 2012). Besides offering solutions to the issues of long queues, ticket fraud and illegal resale, Intellitix’ social media tools promise to connect promoters and brands with their audience more closely.
Socialbakers (Czech Republic) – Analysing social media
Founded by Jan Rezab in 2009, Socialbakers presents itself a user friendly social media analytics platform, which promises to provide “a leading global solution that allows brands to measure, compare, and contrast the success of their social media campaigns with competitive intelligence.” With over 160 employees, the company currently caters to 1000+ clients in more than 75 countries. Connecting to the key social media channels and digital companies, Socialbakers has been awarded 3 Preferred Marketing Developer badges by Facebook. At this year’s Europas, the Czech company is shortlisted as “Best Advertising and Marketing Tech Startup”.
Is “tech” synonymous with “web”?
What is interesting about the Europas’ shortlist is that out of 12 tech startups originating in CEE (in the Europas’ definition, this includes Switzerland) 11 are web-based with Lernstift as the only exception. Focusing on areas as diverse as healthcare, education, recruitment and financial assistance, these nominees show that there are still niches to find on the web. We at inventures.eu hope to report more about innovative CEE startups beyond the web and welcome your suggestions!
The 2012 Europas will be handed out tomorrow, 22 January and on Wednesday, 23 January. Check their website for more information: http://www.theeuropas.com/