Your Startup in Portugal

After the audience suggested that a venture capital firm was necessary in his talk at Take Off 2008, MV started SeedCapital.pt.

SeedCapital has now started to receive submissions and the number of received projects has been quite low.

I know there is a lot of people with potential in Portugal that would like to start their own startup. Here are some things you might not know:

1/ You don’t need to live in Lisbon or even want to live there.

2/ You don’t need to be unemployed ou self-employed. You don’t even need to leave your current job. If you’re working it is very likely you can obtain permission to work on a personal project on your free time, as long as your project doesn’t pose itself as competition.

3/ If you think “I don’t have enough knowledge, if I’m the right person, if I’m bright enough”, join the club, you’re not the only one. In Portugal we suffer a lot from this. No one ever suffered from excess of confidence, so turn yourself to the other extreme. You’ll maybe have more people calling you arrogant, but at least you won’t be insecure anymore. And you can’t do stuff without people talking against you, so get over it. And the most important thing is wanting to do, the will to distend the effort necessary.

4/ You’ll never know unless you try. And even if you’re not selected, it doesn’t mean anything. Ideas can only be tested in the long run and after they are put into practice.

5/ You will need someone else if you’re just one person.

I’ve sent a couple of e-mails to some friends I would like to see them applying. One of the things SeedCapital will probably have is a space where all the startups can be working. It won’t be mandatory to be there of course, but if it works I think it would be great to see that happening.

Also some friends are not applying because they are alone. I wonder how we could solve this. Maybe a startup job board where founders could post a summary of their idea and look for co-founders? I don’t know.

You can still submit your project. Something that might be worth listening to is the talk by MV at Take Off 2008:

http://takeoff.ideias3.com/2008/podcasts/mario_valente.mp3

Supond is Codebits 2009 Winner!

That’s right, the project me and @semmais did at Codebits 2009 got elected the best among almost 50 other projects.

The Idea – “Apple Time Machine”-like interface to your Lifestream

You’ve probably heard about Apple’s Time Machine, the backup software that lets you navigate back in time and restore files and folders from your hard drive. Well, we thought: “Why not backup your life as well?”. At least your online life. All your tweets, facebook updates, flickr photos, youtube videos, blog posts, etc. What today is called a lifestream. Imagine you can check what happened this same day, one year before. What were you doing? What did you blog about? Any tweets? Maybe you’ve posted photos or videos. That’s what we wanted to do, within a 3D interface inspired by Apple’s Time Machine. Here is a screenshot of how it looked*:

supond

How it Works

We get the lifestream from one of the many aggregators on-line these days. We used the recently launched Sapo’s Pond web service, that aggregates Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, Sapo Videos, Sapo Blogs, Sapo Fotos, etc. We get the data via Pond’s API.

The interface was build using Adobe’s Flash and Flex Builder. For the 3D we used the new 3D object manipulation functionality in Flash CS4 and not Papervision3D.

Any service can be easily added as long as there is a RSS feed available. Also it can be used on the web or as a desktop app using Adobe’s Air. Because it is Flash it runs on Windows, Mac and Linux (provided the Flash plugin is installed).

The Prize

1x 13” Apple Macbook Pro notebook, 1x Apple Wireless Keyboard, 1x Apple Magic Mouse, 2x iPod Nano, 1x O’Reilly Book, 3x issues of Make Magazine.

The Story

My project got the first place at Codebits 2009, I was so happy, couldn’t believe it. Especially because of all that happened before, up to that point of our project being announced as the winner. After all I didn’t know the rest of my team until after the programming contest had already started! And they were already doing a project which eventually they put aside to work on “Supond”.

It was the second day of Codebits when the programming contest kicked off and I wasn’t planning on doing any project. I was hanging around with some old friends on the way to some talk when I noticed a couple of guys working with Flex Builder. I had used Flex before so that caught me eye. I approached and started talking about it. They were working on a project already and after a while I commented about an idea I had. Immediately the guys said “hey, that’s a good idea”, and we started prototyping some code. In less than nothing @semmais had some 3D planes lined up for us to use. I started working on the backend to fetch the data via the Pond’s API. @semmais went home at around 20h and I left a bit later, at 22h. We had a nice long night of sleep.

In the next morning we got together again and I had the lifestream data all nicely put in an array for him to populate the interface. He had the nice interface ready to populate and some nice particles in the background with the galaxy picture @jvarandas had done the day before for us. We started integrating. We hacked, hacked, hacked. Integrated support to watch videos and full-sized flickr photos. And we were ready by the time the organization call in the teams for testing the laptops on stage. Great run, great fun. While it was my initial idea I think what worked nicely was that both me, @semmais and @jvarandas fitted nicely as a team and the result came from that. Here’s a photo we took to upload and test the flickr service on Supond:

suponds_team

Thanks

To Paulo Andrade for helping out with the Pond API. It was so good to, when having a problem with the API, just stand up and walk over to the guys that made the thing in the first place.

This year’s competition was largely decided by votes from the audience. We couldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for all the people there that voted on our project. Thanks to all of you.

To Sapo, because I have to, for organizing this cool hacker conference in Portugal.

The Other Projects

Some other teams had really nice projects as well. I particulary liked the “Time-based OTPs” by Paulo Andrade, the  “Simple MBNet” by Pedro Sousa and BlinkBrick, a “lego” like led arduino device by Sergio Veiga. I hope they can finish their projects because they are really cool.

What Now

We are thinking in further developing this idea. If you have suggestions drop us a direct message on Twitter or email. One of the ideas people suggested was to allow saving the data to the hard disk.

* – we’re thinking in posting a live demo for people to play with.

Update: There is now a video demo published.

European Web Startups Founded in Germany

It isn’t Silicon Valley but old Europe still has a few interesting things going on in the startup world. I went around to search for startups in Germany and around. I looked particularly for companies doing Software as a Service.

It features where the companies are based and what service they provide. It is by no means comprehensive, just enough to tease those pessimists that say nothing is going on in Europe. Here is the list I came up with, feel free to comment about other interesting startups you know about:

  • Babbel – by Lesson Nine GmbH, in Berlin – online platform for teaching languages.
  • Jimdo – by Jimdo GmbH, in Hamburg – online platform for website creation.
  • ScaleUp – by ScaleUp Technologies GmbH, in Hamburg – online cloud computing platform.
  • TripWolf – by tripwolf GmbH, in Vienna – travel tips from professional travel writers.
  • fatfoogoo – by fatfoogoo AG, in Vienna – in-game commerce ecosystems for the monetization of online games and virtual worlds via microtransactions.
  • yigg – by YiGG GmbH, in Munich – social news website with features such as discussion boards, map integration, bookmarking and geotagging.
  • papermint – by Avaloop IT Solutions GmbH, in Vienna – virtual world with casual gaming and social networking.
  • wooga – by wooga GmbH, in Berlin – social games for networks like Facebook.
  • absolventa – by Absolventa GmbH, in Berlin – online platform that allows companies/recruiter to view the resumes and contact graduating students.
  • Venyoo – by venyoo GmbH, in Hamburg – one of the leading event calendars in Germany.
  • Communipedia – by ekaabo GmbH, in Weinheim – service developed to help people build a social identity to take on the web.
  • Xing – by XING AG, in Hamburg – social software platform for enabling a small-world network for professionals.
  • Studivz – by VZnet Netzwerke Ltd., in Berlin – social network platform. Studivz.net is very similar to Facebook, but primarily focuses on the German speaking market. The company was sold to Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH, a German publishing group, for €85 million [1] in January 2007.
  • Opportuno – by Opportuno GmbH, in Munich – job search engine that specializes in finding jobs directly on employers’ web sites.
  • FriendCaller – by C2Call GmbH, in Werl, near Cologne – browser based Java VoIP service. Which has recently received funding from High-Tech Gründerfonds [2].

[1] – http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/01/03/german-facebook-clone-sells-for-e100-million
[2] – http://www.high-tech-gruenderfonds.de/htgf/