March 12, 2009

Plugg: startup time

One of most interesting sessions at Plugg put 20 European (and Israeli) startups face-to-face for 2 minute elevator pitches. Some were - let's be diplomatic - confusing and hardly convincing, but quite a few speakers managed to present themselves very well in such a short time. You can find the complete list here. Three of them went on to the final (after voting by the jury and the audience): Jinni, Mendeley and Myngle.

After lunch, I had the opportunity to talk to two of them:

Myngle

Myngle Amsterdam based Myngle offers web-based language courses. They bring together teachers and students for one-on-one lessons within a proprietary web interface. Most lessons are 30 minutes long, ideal for busy businessmen that don't have time for evening classes but want to learn a new language during their lunch breaks.

Mingle's business model is based on that of eBay: teachers are free to set their prices, with Myngle taking 18 procent of the revenue. The company launched about a year ago and is focusing it's energy on the European market so far, but with teachers from all corners of the world. So far, word of mouth is doing it's job with new teachers being added regularely. "But of course we check them first, after all people do pat money for their services," explains CEO Egbert van Keulen. On top of that, Myngle uses another eBay idea and lets students grade their teacher.

Mendeley

Logo-mendeley You know a company is onto something when theit business is smart, yet easy to explain. That's certainly the case for Mendeley. This London based company has launched "the Last.fm of the academic world". Through the combination of desktop software and a web app, they share information about academic papers between researchers. Local pdf-documents get tagged with metadata and added to the Mendeley database. After that, it's up to the users to decide how social they want to be. If they're really "open" about their research, they can share their reading lists, recommendations and annotations with friend, colleagues or the whole web.

Mendeley wants to develop a freemium model and make money from their database and the trends it can show. "It's very important for publishers to gather information about the reach and the influence of their papers. Right now, this is a lengthy and expensive process. But once our database has grown to a certain point, we can do this cheaper and better," explains Jan Reichelt, one of the two founders. Right now, Mendeley has about 6.000 users and has managed to complete a financing round of 2 million dollars.

Raphael Cockx

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Hi Raphael, interesting read. Similar to your analysis, I tried to map out Mendeley's broker business model and Mingle's freemium business model on boardofinnovation.com, using a number of generic building blocks. Philippe

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