Connecting Digital Start Ups between the UK & Netherlands was the second in a series of events produced by CIKTN and the UK Science & Innovation Network, in this instance with the fantastic support of Picnic and the Waag Society in Amsterdam.
Staged in the spectacular Theatrum Anatomicum at De Waag over the course of two days nearly 40 attendees dissected the opportunities for collaboration and commerce, with presentations and insight from entrepreneurs, media heavyweights and financiers bringing insight, experience and opinions on the future.
After CIKTN and Waag Society had set the context of the scale of the creative industries in both countries and existing connections at political and economic level, Jeff Coghlan from Matmi then set the ball rolling in fine style. The journey from digital agency to games IP owner, via a philosophy of getting good people to do brilliant work, turning down clients who they didn’t like and “not sticking to the knitting” (i.e. never stop innovating) was told with great gusto. They’ve never lost a member of staff, how is that possible? Optathlon, for United Airlines, combined two simple drivers: airports are boring and we’d all like an upgrade, is a great example of their award winning output. It returned over a million users and massive revenues to the client… But Jeff dropped the first bombshell, looking shocked when he admitted that TV may be the future – but a connected, app based internet delivered version of TV.
Moving onto finance Jenny Tooth from Angel Venture Capital (and London Business Angels) gave a clear exposition of the decision making process for angel financiers and the tax incentives now available for investors in the UK. She was joined by Dutch serial entrepreneur, and founder of NextWeb, Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten who identified a problem, not in early stage finance, but in active “exits” recycling investments back into the market. Despite the hard edged finance there was a clear recognition that in early stage investments in particular the business plan “is cosmetic” – it’s about gut feel and belief in a team.
Over dinner Jurian van der Meer, MD of Endemol Games echoed Jeff’s picture of a connected TV experience and highlighted Endemol’s production in this area – from Million Pound Drop being played simultaneously online by 12% of its viewers and trending #1on twitter, to Mr Bean having 19M facebook followers. For Endemol the model remains the same, create content and re-purpose for multiple platforms and international territories – they have no vested interest in channel or technology.
Day 2 began with the statement that “paper is the future” from Raimo van der Klein of Amsterdam super-start up Layar – but paper as active trigger for an AR intervention, as “clickable”. The story of Layar was highly instructive, driven by a desire to move from a service model to IP owners (as with Matmi) they generated 5 ideas – one of which was Layar. From the generation of Layar as an active narrative to a New York Times feature took 3 days and they began an incredible ascent of angel finance and first round VC at great speed. The service business was ditched but the Layar model was, and in the short term still remains, to give away the product in order to generate an ecosystem of users and not revenues. And yet halfway through the development, and having raised c.$10M of finance, they decided to ditch their geo-location technology and build an alternative computer vision model. All in all an amazing story of highly confident but not immediately logical steps to a major opportunity business.
Joined by Guido van Nispen of V Ventures we talked through the next wave of innovation. For V Ventures it is about looking for simple solutions which drive forward innovation in the media space, related to their parent company a major news agency. But his advice to start ups to “be transparent and be charming” was a reflection of the event – intelligent and enthusiastic people sharing their knowledge and passions in order to progress.
The networking never stopped and discussions went on long into the night and the next day – a sign of a good event. Feedback from attendees has been positive – they’ve found new ideas, new partners and exciting opportunities to follow – we wait with interest for the results.
More detail to come as the week’s progress – and more information on some future plans with Picnic Festival later in the year