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It’s Movember : Day One

So it’s day one and still no great big handlebar moustache. Looks like this might be a bit more difficult than I thought.

Yes, I’m doing Movember. Growing a silly moustache for the whole month to help raise money and awareness about Prostate Cancer.

If you need a bit of persuasion that that is a good thing to support, read this by Jeff Jarvis. Then go to my Mo page at the easy to remember link http://mobro.co/gilbertw and donate, Like or Tweet the link to show your support.

Thanks

Quick Progress update.

This is how the mo was doing on 27 November.

You can support 4 of the tech community involved in Movember at http://bit.ly/3mobros

 

 

Tech Brew Interview Prezly

Chimay TripelOne vocally challenged host and one very tired host still coming down from Startup Weekend make for a nice short episode this week.

Gilbert give a quick overview of the plans for the podcast then cracks open a few Chimay Tripel and goes straight into the interview with Frederik and Gijs from Prezly.com

They are 2/3 of the Prezly team based in Leuven ( the design and programming brains ) who have managed to build a successful PR application with paying customers while holding down a day job. Find out how they do it by hitting the play button. And sign up for email notifications of new posts to make sure you have the opportunity to take part in our listener survey and shape the future of this podcast.

 

 

 

Startup Weekend Brussels – An Inside Perspective

OR,  How many arm chair commentators does it take to completely and utterly miss the point?

A common response to a lot of high profile contemporary art is, “My eight year old kid could have done that.” or “I’ve got a camera, if I had the time I could take better pictures than that.”

Yeah. But you didn’t.

But I would encourage you to give it a go. You might find you’ve got a real talent. Or, you might find it’s harder than you think. Either way, you’ll discover something new.

I’ve heard similar things said about the projects that came out of Startup Weekend Brussels II.  They’re no good, they won’t go anywhere, there’s nothing innovative there.

This isn’t a defence of the outcomes, it’s a clarification of what we can realistically expect from such a weekend.

From my perspective, Startup Weekend isn’t about creating highly polished, robust businesses that can be launched the following week. It’s about the process, not the outcome. It’s about working with others, listening, learning and rapidly making decisions to get to the Sunday night pitch. It’s about getting the damn idea out of your head and onto the table where it can grow, change and become more plausible thanks to the input of the other people that have also been crazy enough to turn up and spend 54 hours with you.

This is my second Startup Weekend Brussels. The first time I just helped out a bit, trying to hone the pitches of anyone that needed some help on the Sunday afternoon. This time I was a co-organiser.

If there was one marked difference between the February and the October events, it was how much people have taken on board that you have to start speaking to your potential customers as soon as possible so that you can actually figure out what they want. This may have been due to the fact that we had Lean Startup advocate, Ash Maurya here with us all weekend, but I think it’s also due to the fact more and more entrepreneurs are adopting Lean practices and not building their products in isolation.

Yes, there were a lot of surveys created in the February edition to find out who the customer really is, but look at how many more people really “got out of the building” this time. One team conducted video interviews in the street, another went to Brussels airport to conduct questionnaires. Others found potential customers in their local Saturday morning market,while another team actually set up a dedicated call centre in a separate office making outbound calls to do market research. So we are developing best practices here. These are lessons and skills that people can use in the future businesses they develop or take back with them to their existing jobs.

There are plenty of incubators and more structured programmes such as Founder Institute and MIC Boostcamp that will take you through the painstaking details of setting up your company and validating your business model in 3-4 months. SWBRU is a sandbox where everyone is welcome, everyone has a role and everyone had damn well better make their mistakes in a safe environment before committing thousands of euros and time into setting up a business selling stuff nobody wants. It doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes in the real world. If you don’t make mistakes, you’re doing something wrong. But it does mean your chances of survival are much higher.

So here are my big three takes from the weekend:

  1. people came after a full week in 9 to 5 officeville and worked their asses off all weekend. 99% of the time I saw nothing but smiles and enthusiasm the whole weekend. When I didn’t it was usually a look of complete frustration. Not because they wanted to leave, but because the participant was struggling with a business problem for which they so wanted to find a solution. They were being challenged, but they were stepping up.
  2. people learned and “got out of the building”
  3. the Judges surprised us, but that’s why we use them. They have insight. They’ve built successful businesses many times before and can spot the holes in a business pitch immediately.

And finally, if you’re still reading this, here are some of my favourite pictures from the weekend. Enjoy.

Pictures by fellow co-organiser,  Leo Exter of Westartup and Natalie Hill, official photographer

 

 

Tech Brew Interview The Belgian Webmission

Do we need another global navigation system? Do we need another web programming language?

In this episode Andrew and Gilbert pontificate about the launch of the Galileo satellites, the launch of Google’s new language, DART and both wonder if they will be able to get some Westvleteren down at the local Colruyt.

All this and the usual round up of Belgian tech events is discussed in the latest episode while sipping on a Hommelbier from Poperinge.

Belgian Web Mission 2012Then, for those of you involved in a startup, we hear from representatives of the Belgian Web Mission and hear why they think you and your team should join them at SXSW in Texas next March.

All event mentioned in this episode are listed on the Events Calendar page along with other events in the Belgian tech scene.

Tech Brew Interview Chris Demeyere from MobileVikings

On ‘tap’ this week for our interview, as we sip a Leffe Brune, is Chris Demeyere from MobileVikings. He talks about the meteoric rise of MobileVikings and their latest product, VikingTalk. It’s been a busy few weeks for the folks at MobileVikings, so when Chris was able to give us 30 minutes of his time, we jumped at the chance. And boy was it worth it, we really love Chris’s “just do it” attitude. The interview starts around the 7 minute mark.

If you haven’t heard about MobileVikings, they are a virtual network operator in Belgium, meaning their services run over another operator’s network, in this case KPN Belgium. Unlike traditional mobile operators, MobileVikings’ offer is built around cheap mobile internet… so cheap in fact they give it away! In exchange for topping up a minimum of 15 euros a month, you get 2GB of free internet,  2000 SMSes and calls from €0.14/minute. Since their launch 18 months ago, over 50,000 people in Belgium have signed up to be ‘Vikings’. Quite an accomplishment! Continue reading

Belgian Webmission Plans a “Relooking”

Webmission 2012The folks from Webmission.be were hard at work today on a hackathon to get ready for next year’s Mission to SXSW in Austin, Texas.

Looks like they’ll have to get some new t-shirts though.

So I grabbed them for an interview to find out more. That’ll be in episode 007 ( coolest episode number ever! ).

Now back to editing episode 006 with Chris Demeyere from Mobile Vikings. That’ll be out this weekend.

 

This is where the magic happens

If you’re wondering how we managed to get that wonderfully echo Albert Hall type sound on our podcasts so that you can go out and buy the Garage Band effect don’t bother.

Our “unique” sound comes courtesy of one of the rooms at the Betagroup Co-Working Space.

Some people call it the dalek, some people the submarine. Every two weeks we climb the stairs, shut the door, open a beer and press Record.

Picture of the recording space for Tech Brew

And while we’re sharing pictures, here’s one that we took just after episode 5.

Mobilosoft Interview

From left to right. Andrew Matheson, Georges-Alexandre Hanin, Gilbert West and Jef Waumans

Centric Belgium Brews Their Own Beer

Centric Blond label (from Datanews article)

Here at Tech Brew we love tech and beer. Each week we look at the latest tech news, interview early stage tech companies, and drink a different beer. So when I saw that Centric Belgium (a branch of a Dutch IT services company) had started to brew their own beer, well… I thought it was brilliant!

Called ‘Centric Blond’, the beer is brewed by a brewery in Brakel (maybe Brouwerij De Graal?). According to the article in the Datanews, Centric selected a beer and then tweaked it to produce their own flavour. They then created a label using the woman from their previous ad campaign and the slogan: ‘Drink IT!’

Unfortunately they don’t plan on mass producing it for sale, but it is a fun way to market your brand and boost morale. However, if anyone at Centric Belgium is reading, we’d love to have a few bottles to sample here at Tech Brew!

Tech Brew Interview Mobilosoft

This week, while we sip our St. Bernardus 8, we discuss mobile internet and e-commerce with Georges-Alexandre Hanin and Jef Waumans from Mobilosoft.

Mobilosoft was founded on the idea that brick-and-mortar stores need an affordable mobile presence. The reason they need this is because mobile devices account for half of the local searches (Infographic of statistics) and if the customers can’t find you, they don’t shop with you.

Architecturally, the service provides a management interface and API to build an HTML5 front-end. HTML5 makes a lot of sense for this type of application because it can be indexed by the search engines. Not everyone needs to have a native app, nor does it make sense. The mobile interface also includes geolocation and a map feature that shows you to find the nearest store.

Listen in as we talk more about the pricing structure, the architecture, and the background of some of their choices. We also talk about MobileVikings recent announcement about VikingTalk, Twitter’s launch of Analytics, and share upcoming events in Belgium.

Useful Links

Also, be sure to check out our Events Calendar for upcoming meetups, conferences, and more!

Tech Brew Interview Ramón Suárez from the Founder Institute

In episode #4 of Tech Brew, we drink Chimay Bleu, one of the six Belgian Trappist beers, and Gilbert chats with Ramón Suárez about the Founder Institute.

The Founder Institute is an intensive 4 month program designed to help someone with a business idea turn it into a reality. The goal is to provide a “network of startups and mentors that helps entrepreneurs launch meaningful and enduring technology companies.” This is not just a series of workshops, but is a hands-on, practical course which expects each participant to build their company. As Ramon says, it is a “reality check” for a lot of would-be entrepreneurs.

Helping the participants along the way are experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders, brought in from all over the world to share their knowledge and provide guidance. Participants themselves are motivated to help each other through the program’s ‘Bonus Pool’. In order to join the Founder Institute, each participant must give up a small percentage of their business which goes into this pool. As each new company succeeds, everyone gets a share of the success.

There are a lot of smart people with good ideas in Belgium, but turning an idea into a business is not a skill you learn in public school. Take some time, listen to our interview with Ramon, and then check out the Founder Institute. If you sign up before September 11th, the test fee (€40) will be waived.

http://www.founderinstitute.com/apply/brussels

News

Events

 

Twickets is now TwitSpark

The very first episode of Tech Brew featured an interview with the Founder of what was then called Twickets, a new tool for managing your twitter stream as support tickets.

Davy Kestens cross browser testing

Davy Kestens shows real commitment to his art by leaving his beloved MacBook to test his app in Internet Explorer on a faded Ferrari red laptop

Well there’s been some progress since that inaugural episode and some news to report. Twickets is now called TwitSpark and it is currently operational in a closed beta.

What’s more, it’s being used by some pretty heavyweight clients already. Tribal DDB, the global advertising agency are using it to manage a campaign on behalf of Volkswagen. Not bad for day one of the beta launch.

I’ve been sitting next to Davy the past few days at the co-working centre and I’ve seen that app up and running and it looks great and I know there are plenty more enterprise level clients lining up to try it out. It also gave me the opportunity to take this picture of him taking time out from his MacBook, hard at work ironing out those Internet Explorer bugs.

 

Tech Brew Interview WooRank

picture of la rulles triple

La Rulles Triple

Vacation season may be in full swing, but the number of events for the autumn are increasing, so get ready for a busy season! In this episode of Tech Brew, we drink a bottle of La Rulles Triple and Gilbert sits down with Jean Derely to discuss Woorank, an SEO Website Analysis Tool.

Jean is probably best known as the founder of Betagroup Belgium, but his background is in internet marketing and SEO for websites. While working on improving websites for others, Jean needed to automate the SEO analysis. Realizing that his tool had broader appeal, Woorank was born.

The Woorank website is pretty straight forward. Submit your website URL on the front page and Woorank will execute an extensive set of automated tests, scoring your website out of 100. The accompanying report includes tips on improving your score as well as links to additional information. The best part is that the basic report is free. Where Jean and his team make money is through white labeling of the services. If you are a website developer, you can have a version of Woorank that uses your brand and that you can offer to your customers.

Jean explains more about how the business evolved and some of the latest changes to the site in the podcast.

 

Recent News

Google’s acquisition of Motorola inspires some speculation. Is it good news or bad? Andrew shares a few thoughts in the podcast.

 

Upcoming Events

 

Event Reminders

  • HealthStartup.eu is a conference taking place in Brussels on 5 October, BUT, they are looking for disruptive startups in the healthcare sector that want the opportunity to pitch. If that’s you, you need to apply by 1 September.

 

We hope you enjoy the podcast and find the site useful. If you have an event or technology you’d like to share, drop us a note and let us know about it.

 

Tech Brew Interview CrowdFundingEurope.com

Saison Silly

In our second podcast, we drink a Saison from Silly and sit down with Leo Exter to discuss his latest project, CrowdFundingEurope.com. Many may know Leo from his work at westartup.eu and Startup Weekend Brussels where he is very supportive of local startups. CrowdFundingEurope.com continues on that theme by addressing a critical issue for a lot of startups: capital.

Leo’s vision is not that of a typical venture capitalist. He’s not looking to build a VC firm that will take big risks and invest in the likes of Facebook (although he admits, it would be great if one of the companies would grow like that!). He is aiming to link individual investors with smaller, early-stage companies that have a viable business but lack appeal for venture capitalists. If an investor is interested in a particular company, they will have an opportunity to invest anything from 500 to 10,000 euros in exchange for equity.

It’s an interesting concept because its goal is to provide funding opportunities for companies that _ought_ to exist, but may never experience the exponential growth that VCs expect (the hockey stick curve).  Ultimately it will be up to the crowd to decide which companies get the essential lifeblood of all startups – cash! The exciting part will be to see which companies make it into each investor’s portfolio.

Take a moment to check out the CrowdFundingEurope.com website and vote on the polls.

News

Events

HealthStartup.eu is a conference taking place in Brussels on 5 October, BUT, they are looking for disruptive startups in the healthcare sector that want the opportunity to pitch. If that’s you, you need to apply by 1 September.

We hope you enjoy the podcast and find the site useful. If you have an event or technology you’d like to share, drop us a note and let us know about it.

Tech Brew Interview Davy Kestens from Twickets.net

This week, our inaugural podcast, we share our first impressions of Google+, Google’s latest foray into the the world of social networks; drink a bottle of Ciney; and chat with Davy Kestens about his latest project, Twickets.net.

Ciney Blonde Beer

Some of the sites mentioned in episode 001 are:

News

Events

Sites to help keep track of events

Davy Kestens Interview

We hope you enjoy the podcast and find the site useful. If you have an event or technology you’d like to share, drop us a note and let us know about it.