PleaseCycle winner of Techpitch 4.5
Cycling scheme PleaseCycle were the judges favourite at the last Techpitch 4.5 of the year. The runners up were games based educational tool Zondle and “Moonpig but with video” start-up MrMash. The audience favourites were Zondle, with PleaseCycle, fashion network RainBeau and Openbrand, a dropbox for creatives, in shared second place.
Energetic co-founder Ry Morgan bounced up on stage and delivered a quick presentation that made the judges sit up and pay attention. PleaseCycle is a software and social platform targeted at companies who want to encourage their employees to cycle. The tool tracks progress, comes up with the best cycle routes to work, allows you to talk about your cycling journeys with co-workers and incentivises its users by giving them vouchers depending on how much they cycle (like airmiles, according to the PleaseCycle website).
Currently the company aims to charge around £15 000/year for a client to use their software. Although the priceband is dependent on how many of the workers in a company actually use the PleaseCycle.
VC Ivan Farneti suggested that Ry and PleaseCycle should focus on building a network for cyclists in London instead of going after corporate clients. Saying “If you own the community you can do anything.”
Techpitch 4.5 chair and Danvers Baillieu wondered if the product is scalable, will companies actually pay for the product? James Sweeting of Pinset Masons and Bootlaw also wondered why the HR department in a company would chose this product when there are a lot of schemes vying for their attention.
All of the judges seemed to like game based learning platform Zondle, set up by serial entrepreneur Ben Barton. Zondle allows users to build their own educational content. The company was founded in 2010 and currently has 133 000 regular users. Teachers and educators can create “expert” content, which the company charges for. And according to Barton “Teachers and parents will pay for tools that will help their children.”
The company is looking for £500k of investment to scale the platform, roll out new revenue models and build their team.
According to Mat Woolf, formerly of social-network Badoo, Zondle have stepped into a very busy marketplace. Ivan Farneti offered similar feedback, saying he’s been mentoring seven similar Korean start-ups, suggesting that a strong visual style might help Zondle differentiate themselves from the competitors.
Pip Williams of MrMash also made an impression on the judges, starting his presentation suggesting that we’re all boring when it comes to leaving birthday messages on our friends’ Facebook pages. His solution is creating funny bespoke videos or re-calibrating video content that is already online, allowing users can add their own content. MrMash has developed and are currently patenting this way of creating interactive videos. They’re hoping that revenue will come from advertising and people paying for their products and are currently developing partnerships with content producers.
Mat Woolf also wondered where the money would come from and suggested the product as it is now will only work with a large user-base.
Danvers Baillieu suggested that there might be a more corporate way of using the product and James Sweeting suggested that pitching it as a “moonpig for videos” wasn’t great, as it could be seen as copyright infringement, but also because the product had potential to do even more, “don’t sell yourself short” was the advice.
OpenBrand is a sharing tool for creatives, allowing users to send information like colour codes with their design and show what the final design would look like at its final stage (i.e. a poster placed in an artificial street). After a year the company has 900 brands and 50 agencies as clients. Most of their paying customers are brands. The judges wondered why the company didn’t go after agencies instead of brands, as the agencies seem like more natural clients. Founder Mirek Burkon explained that the agencies they work with normally charge their fee to their clients. Ivan Farneti thought the idea was good, but warned Burkon that creating a standard is difficult, but if they succeed they’ll make a lot of money.
RainBeau is a social network where fashion professionals can keep in touch with potential employers and employees and showcase their work. According to co-founder Kiri Ward many working in the fashion industry aren’t using LinkedIn, so it’s easy to lose touch with contacts. The judges questioned if there is a need for another social network and suggested the founders make RainBeau more exclusive.
Bagservant, a one stop shop for handbags online, allowing designers to sell directly through their site and charging a commission on the sale. Co-founder Lenka Gourdie is looking for an investment of £250k for development and marketing. The plan is to sell the company on within five years. According to the judges online retail is a tough market. Will it be enough to just focus on bags and if the company branches out how will it compete with all the other online retailers out there?
Branchbot, a GPS based iPhone app that showcases the independent shops around you. According to founder Omar Francis there is nothing like it on the market at the moment, the hight street is in decline and a mobile shopping window would be a useful tool for both shoppers and retailers. The judges thought it was a good idea, but wondered how the company would get shops on board.
Utelly wants you to be able to use your smartphone as an intelligent remote control. The company uses an algorithm that finds the right content for you. According to founder, Dario D’aprile, we spend 23 percent of our time just looking for something to watch on TV (which sounds like quite a lot, especially if you don’t own a TV). The judges were worried that TV is a very closed market for smaller operators, saying that it might be difficult to work with the Networks and the big players as they are probably trying to come up with similar solutions themselves.
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