The top 100 mediatech companies 2008
I was at Essential Mediatech today, an event run by LibraryHouse showcasing the most interesting Mediatech companies in Europe, here’s a quick summary based on my sketchy notes.
There was a lot going on, lots of interesting people and (at least at the beginning of the day) a surprisingly bullish attitude. I say surprising because the crowd are all (in different ways) dependent on the startup economy. To give you a feel for the crowd, there were almost no t-shirts, lots of suits, a few ties and quite a few cufflinks.
Microsoft were there – as sponsors – wooing the startups with nearly free developer tools. Their Bizspark program provides qualifying startups with free tools, but amazingly they charge $100 when you leave the program, I really wouldn’t want to be the one responsible for collecting that from the debris of a failed startup!
The other surprise was their Azure cloud platform. I’d read about it, but not really taken in quite what a big deal it is. As I understand it they not only supply Amazon style ‘cloud’ hardware but also the next 2 layers up, the OS and the ‘core service’ layers. Again I was stunned to see that Microsoft Dynamics CRM counts as a core service! – SQL I understand, but CRM ?!? Thats a shot at Oracle and/or Salesforce. What next – Accounting ? They seem pretty serious about this, they are building European datacenters so that they can hold EU citizens data without exporting it to the USA.
Next up were Brandwatch. They provide a sort of web-datamining app which tells brand holders what people out in the net are saying about their brand. It also alerts them to any sudden spikes of interest so they can actively manage situations before things get nasty. To do this Brandwatch have created an engine that extracts ‘sentiment’ and ‘tonality’ from millions of web pages. Spookily the presenter said he wasn’t sure how this technology would be applied in future. I can think of quite a few repressive regimes that would (literally) kill for technology like this, assuming it works.
Polar Rose were almost spookier. They have face recognition software that extracts the 3d contours of a face from a 2d image. This means that it can compensate for camera angles and lighting. They demoed a search engine which finds people’s images (irrespective of the quality of textual tags). It has an ‘This person seen with’ mode – check out who our PM is seen with . As the woman next to me quipped – ‘that technology could break up some marriages’ -especially since they can deduce the age and sex of the face too. Blackmail-o-matic ?!?
Shinymedia were comforting by comparison. A kind of halfway house between print journalism and blogging, trying to retain the best of both, whilst earning a living. I did think that the themes of their 30 sites – largely Technology and Fashion – seemed odd bedfellows.
True Knowledge have launched quizbot which is a demonstrator for their knowledge based search engine. I spent a few minutes playing with it and I’m impressed, it seems to give decent answers and avoid trick questions with a charming directness. Q: “Where is Osama bin Laden?” A: “I understood your question but I don’t know the answer. “. Which is better than Donald Rumsfeld ever managed.
MovieStorm were also charming, with their easy-to-use video creation software although they slightly undermined their case by showing a Marillion fan-created video. (Most of the audience have no clue who Marrillion were, and those that did know that they aren’t what they were since Fish left.) What I loved about MovieStorm (apart from their enthusiasm) was the business model. The software is free, but you pay for content packs, which is almost a tax on laziness.
It seemed to me that several startups were almost too ‘clever’, applying complex maths to ‘fuzzy’ problems, rather than zeroing in on a real need. I wondered if this was due to the way V.C.s fund them. If you have protectable IP (ideally a patent) you are much more likely to get funding. This pushes startups into using non-obvious (and therefor patentable) solutions to problems, which might not be the best way to meet the customer’s needs. I was also stunned by how much money some of them had burnt through, which may be a consequence of the complexity of their solutions.
There were also several very interesting panel sessions, I’ll try and blog about them later in the week.