Aug 31, 2012

All Pirates aboard! European Pirate Summit is coming up next! AAARRR

Founders and funders with a sense of startup adventure (true Pirates, as defined by Michael Arrington) will gather on 10th and 11th September in very "piratesque" location in Cologne for an unconventional tech and entrepreneurship event.

Here are 3 reasons why you should come aboard, if you are not already planning to:

1) The crowd is carefully pre-selected. People can't just buy a ticket, but they have to submit an application for review. This assures a high quality of participants and you can expect to meet there only real pirate entrepreneurs, investors and tech and entrepreneurship journalists.

2) You will be inspired by innovative and disruptive business models, you have plenty of investors around you can pitch to, but most importantly: you will be among like-minded people in a casual and adventurous atmosphere. The program is filled with lots of useful learning, there are also some interesting satellite events, and the list of speakers is impressive. "Last year it was mainly the venue and the atmosphere that helped us become one of the best tech events from the scratch. This time it's two days, 500 participants, even crazier and it will be more hands-on, so people will also learn a lot." says Waldemar Hein, PR @PirateSummit

Here is a sneak peak from last year, so prepare for an even better edition promised for this year:

3) Because you read this blog post, you get some special benefits. Mention in "your message" the name of this blog ("adelinapeltea") and if you submit your application before 1st Sept you get 10% discount, or if you submit it after 1st Sept you will still benefit of the "normal" conditions from before (the early bird ticket price).

And if you are curious how does it feel to be a "captain" of this event, note that they seem to have a great experience with the preparations "It is simply amazing. We got to know people we never thought to be possible, all the thinkers and doers of the European startups scene and beyond. They are very helpful people, so it's good to know them." (Waldemar Hein, PR @PirateSummit) From October they are preparing to launch a new format "Piratize me" to spread the concept in more places. So keep an eye on them if you want to grasp the opportunity.

And if maybe you are also curious about why Cologne for such an international startup event, you might think about the potential of the area from two perspectives: one is talent (as many universities can be found around), and two is good geographical position (really close from Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and London).

So...see you there?

Aug 16, 2012

How DeRevolutione got 1.25M euro funding and why is August a good time for investments in Italian startups

Italian tech startups are set to break some records in investments lately. A Naples-based startup, founded by 26 years old Roberto Esposito, closed a deal a few days ago for an investment of 1.25M euro in DeRevolutione (DeRev)*.

How did the team manage this achievement?

Roberto and his tech co-founders (who actually quit their jobs to dedicate to DeRevolutione) worked on the beta product and the business aspects of it for a year before the first public presentation. Quite perfectionist, he wanted to be totally prepared for all potential criticism when starting to pitch and present DeRevolutione at different events, including at TEDx as speaker. "Especially in Italy where Venture Capitalists are relatively few and know each other, I always tried to earn the esteem of the startup scene and to maintain an excellent reputation." said the founder.

With a good previous track record in business and marketing, Roberto told the investors about the achievements he reached without spending a cent (mainly creating projects with strong impact obtained through unconventional marketing instead of financial investments), adding "Imagine what I can do if you give me one million euro! Because an investment can always accelerate the growth of a startup and open doors to larger markets, besides just being a validation of it."

This determination, previous success stories plus getting 50K users subscribed on the landing page of DeRevolutione in just two months seems to have convinced investors, and the team got 5 offers in the past 8 months, choosing Vertis SGR and closing the deal with them a few days ago. It was not an easy process to review and compare terms and conditions from different investors, and even with Vertis the negotiation process lasted 3 months "of up to 10 hours meetings and 50 emails per day to review and modify lots of conditions of a contract of hundreds of pages" from what the co-founders remember now as "fascinating times".

Now backed by this funding, as well as by a group of internationally experienced business angels from the internet sector that can provide valuable know-how (like Giulio Valiante and Michele Cassucci), Roberto, Fulvio and Antonio are preparing accelerate their growth, first on the Italian market and then on European one.

Why is August a good time for investments in Italian startups?

Usually not much is happening in August in business, as it is more a holiday month. But apparently in Italy there were serious investments going on, like this one and the 300K euro invested in Ploonge, that I previously covered here on my blog. Why is idea though :) I guess just startups never sleep.

*DeRevolutione (DeRev) is a social platform that allows users to turn their ideas into revolutions in order to improve the world we live in. It gives to communities tools to amplify ideas bottom-up, like a crowdfunding tool, a petition creation tool, a system to collect proposals - which can be used in many fields ranging from politcs and research to entrepreneurship and art.

Aug 13, 2012

Italian tech startup, Ploonge, got 300K euro investment to develop social platform

Two ambitious Italian co-founders tackle the social networks business and gain confidence of investors with their determination.

I have met Alessandro and Giorgio over a social dinning tonight in Berlin, where apparently they came to take the pulse of the city and to check what it has to offer to entrepreneurs (maybe establish office here?), as well as to promote their platform: Ploonge.

Very passionate and yet modest, they satisfied my curiosity about how they made it and what are their plans. And oh, by the way, they just signed a few days ago an investment of 300K euro from a VC fund, after another previous investment of 30K from a business angel. That is quite something for an Italian tech startup. Especially since they were not trying too hard (it was the first VC they got in contact for this matter, a VC that actually never invested before in internet startups, and they also received another offer from 3 business angels).

But for them that is not the biggest achievement and did not make a big fuss around it (so this is the first media coverage). They are so determined to do it that they think this would have come anyway sooner or later. After all, they did bootstrapped for a year already, living and working from their own savings and dedicating themselves 100% for several months to build the beta platform that was launched in May this year during Milan Food Week. And the whole story started in San Francisco where the two have met for a startup course. One of them already had a startup running (, one just quit a good job to start working on what he believes in.

Now their plans are to rework on the product, improving its design and user experience, and afterwards starting to promote it. The first niche they are targeting is social dinning, but after a while some other niches will be approached, building slowly a social network useful for offline situations when people want to expand their network (either when traveling to new cities, either in their own space when they want to meet new people).

They are really keen on building a great product, through customer development, while making profit doesn't seem to be a pressure (although they estimate the moment will come in about 3 years).

Was a real pleasure to meet so relaxed and yet determined entrepreneurs and I wish them all the best. Was a great dinner too, a great mix between good Italian food and a bunch of interesting international people.

Aug 12, 2012

Open Berlin

Living for two weeks in Berlin is already more than enough to explore the city and the startup scene here in depth. And that is because there are so many opportunities to interact with the startups over all sorts of meetups.

So welcoming and friendly, the city itself has the ingredients of a good startup: fast scaling, acting global, bootstrapping, great team spirit, uniting different talents and attracting investors.

Below some facts and opinions that might be of interest for entrepreneurs and investors that either have an interest or curiosity in Berlin (check all the points below), either would like to develop their local communities or startups (check Great Team Spirit and Uniting Different Talents).

(picture taken at Betahaus)

Fast Scaling

Berlin Chamber of Commerce announced that around 1300 internet startups have been founded in the city since 2008, of which 500 were established in 2011.

Deskwanted counts 70+ co-working spaces to accommodate entrepreneurs in Berlin at beginning of 2012.

With all the media attention lately and the startup stars that are already in town (like SoundCloud, Wooga, Gidsy, Amen, 6Wunderkinder), most probably this number will grow. I actually keep on meeting around entrepreneurs that came to Berlin to check the pulse of the startup city, thinking already to establish here.

Acting Global

"Berlin is the most un-German of German cities" says Om Malik from GigaOm after a visit here. That is for its unique history, geography (the border between West and East) and culture, but also for being so international.

So many nationalities here, that the most encountered language is actually the international well-known English. Ich spreche kein Deutsch and is really not a problem for working and living here (which is really good for startups that need to tap into talent pools of other countries). There are lots of entrepreneurs who came from different lands here (like Swedish and Dutch founders of SoundCloud and Gidsy).

And most of the new startups address the global market from the beginning (example: 6Wunderkinder has about 30% of the its market in US).


Berlin is (still) cheap. Known for being cheaper to live here compared to other Western cities and especially capitals, I would add that is as cheap if not even cheaper compared to Eastern capitals as well - I am comparing living expenses here with those in Bucharest, and I tend to say Berlin is actually cheaper.

However, it might not be so easy for a new-in-town entrepreneur to rent a house. It is already a big competition in some areas and landlords check incomes and stability before accepting tenants. It is really easy though to rent for short terms as many people have to travel for business here, as it is not much of it in Berlin yet.

Work expenses for entrepreneurs are also low: renting office space varies from about 15 euro per square meter in the famous The Factory (where I've been at a housewarming bbq of a startup last week) to about half of that in West Berlin (which seems to start developing as well, but nothing compares yet with Eastern Silicon Allee). And hey, salaries to be paid are not too high (yet).

Great Team Spirit

The collaborative spirit and the knowledge exchange amount here is absolutely fantastic. Daily there are meetups in the startup scene, ranging from pitch competitions to breakfasts, barbecues and parties.

(bbq at The Factory, organized by MentorApp, 10th Aug)

(EyeEm meetup, 10th Aug)

(Pitchslam at Yaam, 1st Aug)

It is amazingly easy to network here and to meet lots of people from startups in a very short time. So if you want to come by and feel the pulse, I would say two weeks would do it (at least from my own experience). People are really open and share without concerns their experiences and knowledge.

And the best proof of this great team spirit of Berlin startups is actually the project I came here to work for: Tech Open Air Berlin -  a festival made by the community for the community, co-initiated by two of the best Evangelist of Berlin as an interactive community, Nikolas Woischnik and Lutz Villalba.

At first, it was successfully backed by local startups to achieve the crowdfunding goal (We would say Tech Open Air Berlin is the first crowdfunded European conference, if no one else can claim it. At least a google search supports this theory.)

Secondly, local startups really got involved in the organization, coming up with ideas and organizing their own "showtime" in the shape of satellite events all over Berlin for 24th August, and even elements for the first day of the festival, on 23rd August (like klashes).

Another cool proof of this team spirit is The Factory, a huge place bringing together many startups in order to foster collaboration between them.

Uniting Different Talents

Berlin is well-known for its artists, that makes the entire city very unconventional.

Tech Open Air Berlin celebrates tech, music and art and aims to show how the borders between these fields are fading. Plus it is itself an unconventional festival (if you look at things like the crazy location, Kater Holzig, the way it is organized and sponsored etc.)

And how does this artistic touch translate in the startup scene?

Well, it seems that Berlin startups are world wide famous for their design and user experience. That is because they really focus on this from the beginning, while most other startups leave this for later and firstly they focus on the algorithms behind.

6wunderkinder's best initial marketing was simply building an easy to use and great looking product (which popped out from a discussion with Simon Chan, who works on their Community and Marketing, and that is also proven by their previous intern, Ricardo Sousa, in this article)

Another interesting discussion on this topic was with Peter Sikking, a 19 years experienced Interaction Architect consultant in Berlin. We both shared the importance of hiring designers and UX experts from the first days of a startup if you really want your first customers to love your product and evangelize it.

Yes, not all the startups do it, but Berlin seems to be one of the places where startups seem to get this right from day one.

A good wrap up article on this matter was written last year by Martin Bryant from The Next Web on why Berlin is home to a new generation of beautiful apps.

Attracting Investors

Yeah, Berlin still has a lot to improve on the investments side in order to be the Silicon Valley of Europe, but things started to look good in this arena as well (as Mike Butcher said a few months ago: "Berlin is still sexy, but no longer poor").

You have here an eye peek from Union Square Ventures (invested in SoundCloud), Atomico (invested in 6wunderkinder), Index Ventures (invested in Amen), JMES Investments (building The Factory), Point Nine Capital (a Berlin-based spin off from Team Europe, created by the entrepreneur and business angel Gadowski after successfully building Spreadshirt, StudiVZ and Brands4Friends), Atlantic Ventures (through Maire, who lives in Berlin since 1993, who invested in SoundCloud, Readmill, EyeEm, txtr), EarlyBird (who moved HQ to Berlin recently). Even Ashton Kutcher keeps an eye on Berlin-based startups (investing in Gidsy and SoundCloud). And there are many more visiting the city from time to time.

I will be in Berlin just until end of August and I will take all opportunities to explore even more the city and the startup scene here. Meanwhile, I can say I found my dream place and I am looking forward to come back here, either for working on a great project/ startup or with a media (so give me a ping if you are looking for an editor/ communicator/ marketeer for customer development and community management), either for building my next startup on this new-born entrepreneurial land.

Aug 7, 2012

Disrupt or die

There is a new accelerator for tech startups in town looking for disruptive potential. Which town? Well, it could even be yours.

Vlad Stan (well known entrepreneur and business angel),  together with Catalina Rusu and Sabin Dima (a team that has previously worked on a number of educational, investment and community facilities aimed at supporting  tech entrepreneurs addressing global markets) founded recently Geekcelerator to help startups with disruptive potential and with great geeks in the team to boost their business through an innovative framework with clear milestones and  experienced entrepreneurs or experts in various fields that work together with the teams as "limited co-founders".

The tour

At the moment, Geekcelerator is on tour, going through different cities from different countries to look for startups to accelerate. Disrupt or Die is a series of local events of two days of intensive hands-on working sessions plus great networking opportunities, offering a great learning experience, feedback and new ideas to the teams.

The aim of the tour is discovery of technical startup teams with potential to disrupt markets, as well as checking the match between them and the accelerator team. It is a great way for teams to test if the accelerator can really bring them value and if there are compatibilities before getting officially involved and sharing their equity.

At the moment, startups can receive invitations to attend Disrupt or Die only after being recommended by the local community and being carefully pre-selected through interviews. Soon, when the official website will be launched, there will be also the possibility to apply online.

Disrupt or Die Cluj

The tour started from Cluj-Napoca, at CoWork Cluj in the last weekend of July 2012. I had the opportunity to attend it as well and I had a great experience - people were really high-quality and there was plenty of food for thought for my own projects.

Five teams that already have a prototype were invited to Disrupt or Die Cluj (out of 20 recommended and reviewed):

Mira - aiming to disrupt medical rehabilitation services by using Kinect technologies and custom video games designed with the support of doctors to make physical recoveries simple, fast, fun and interactive.
Squirrly - aiming to disrupt publishing  by offering bloggers virtual assistance with a technical tool and gamified approach to make blogging easier and more rewarding.
Askem - aiming to disrupt charity by using biddings to help fans get their questions answered by  VIPs  while supporting financially NGOs favorited by them.
Seedbit - aiming to disrupt events sponsorships by using a matching algorithm between sponsors and event organizers to make sponsoring more transparent, easier and cheaper.
Risktronics - aiming to disrupt the credit market by building a platform with trusted circles of friends that lend and borrow money between themselves in order to have easier access to money and no interest rate.

Some of these founders  are students turning their school competition project into real startups, some are already experienced tech entrepreneurs. Keep an eye on them, as their estimated markets are hundreds and thousands millions euro and they want to be real change makers.

Besides Geekcelerator team, there were also different local and international experts invited to work with the teams on the framework, like Till Ohrmann (co-founder Pirates Summit), Lucian Todea (Founder and CEO, Sergiu Biris (Founder, Sergiu Bizau (software geek moving between China, Cambodia, Germany and Romania ).

Participant geeks appreciated:

- working with experts instead of receiving mentoring from an outside point of view ("At other working sessions I attended of accelerators, mentors come and give advice to all the teams from an outside point of view, while at Geekcelerator they actually got engaged first with what each team develops and worked all the time with only one team, being able to give highly valuable feedback and inputs." Squirrly team)

- learning how to turn their technical product into a real business, by following a roadmap and being challenged with constructive questions ("We got a better vision of our business. Before we were doing what we felt, now we have on paper what we think, much more clear. We worked for over a year technically and we were reluctant to get into the business part so deep. These two intensive working days  gave me more confidence and opened my eyes to the entire process. " Mira team, "We learned to focus, before we were getting lost in features" SeedBit team, "We have a very technical solution, at this event we really had to think more in depth and validate our previous steps" Risktronics team)

- the networking activities, especially after 7 pm at Drinkcelerator :)

Technical skills of selected teams were impressive: "Technical skills in Eastern Europe are always surprising me. Most of the teams I met here are real pirates, so it was a very good selection process." Till Ohrmann, co-founder of European Pirates Summit. "In Romania we have people with great technical skills that need help to develop the business skills, which usually lack " Lucian Todea "I really see a huge potential here in Cluj for technical startups. Hopefully some of you will be billionairs. Imagine how this city will be if these teams succeed." Vlad Stan, co-founder Geekcelerator.

Disrupt or Die Cluj on Storify here and infographic here.

Next steps

Future events of Disrupt or Die are planned for Timisoara, Iasi, Bucuresti, Cologne. If you would like Geekcelerator to come to your city as well, the team is open to suggestions. Oh and if you are a local blogger interested to attend one of these next events, please get in touch with me.

After the tour, some startups get invited to a few weeks  of pre-accelerator for customized interactions (of which you can think of as "dating" before both parts commit to a "relationship")and in the end 10 teams are invited into the accelerator, working for 3 months in Bucharest and then being taken to Silicon Valley to raise funding.