Spent the day at the 6th Microsoft BizSpark European Summit on Growth and Entrepreneurship in Paris. There has not been much time for sightseeing although the taxi did drive me past the Eiffel Tower which is actually quite tall. Over the years this has become a must attend for early stage software businesses building on the plethora of Microsoft platforms. It also attracts an impressive array of venture capital from across Europe.
Compered by a relaxed and laid back Guy Kawasaki, who confessed to trying whale sushi in Oslo (very good apparently), there has been some interesting content, and some corporate marketing mostly presented in an entertaining way. The highlight of the content however for me has been the company presentations which left me with an overwhelmingly positive feeling about the state of entrepreneurship in Europe.
European entrepreneurs seem to be really getting their stuff together. The presentations, when I look back to the presentations that have been given over past years have really demonstrated how far the game has moved on. Entrepreneurs are learning the game. They are (mostly) learning how to pitch. Many of them are doing really interesting things on relatively low budgets.
Kobojo, a maker of social games and pioneer of the concept of Games as a Service has attracted 41 million users since it was founded in 2008. Kobojo has just 11 employees. It will probably be viewed as one of the crowd’s favourites as people tend to like consumer propositions. CaptainDash, founded by a serial entrepreneur with a previous $ 149 million exit is definitely interesting although it looked like it needed a lot of integration work with existing system to make it really scalable.
There are four UK based presenters at the event:
- Siondo – Small Business ERP from the cloud
- Sharpcloud – beautiful UI for business process road mapping seeking the right business model for them
- Moneydashboard – Mint for Britain, then the world (or a tool to manage all of your money from multiple accounts, credit cards etc in one place)
- Artesian Solutions – Sales intelligence on steroids.
I would highlight Artesian as being exceptional. They target business-t0-business markets so are not as sexy as some of the consumer targeted businesses but they are relentlessly focused on making money by solving a real problem for their customers. Having considered venture investment a year or so ago they decided to focus on their business rather than raising money and have delivered over $1 million of revenue in the past year with a very interesting pipeline of new deals in prospect.
I was particularly amused in the break today to hear a VC seek their CEO, Andrew Yates, out in the networking break this morning to ‘introduce’ himself and suggest they get together to talk about the business. I was amused largely because I had made a point of putting them together at a discussion dinner we organised in February 2008. As Andrew commented, ‘It is nice to be ‘Hot’ at last, but it is interesting how herd-like the investment community is’. Another entrepreneurial lesson learned.
The message coming back across all of the day is that, far from being an entrepreneurial desert as an American I spoke to on the way in had complained, the European ecosystem is evolving rapidly. On the evidence presented today, the UK is probably leading the field but there is some great stuff going on across the continent.
Thanks Microsoft and Bizspark, well worth getting up at 3.00 am for. You really are, and have, made a big difference to the European entrepreneurial ecosystem.