Archive for the ‘Cool Companies’ category

Cellulosic Ethanol taking off in USA

December 20, 2006

Cellulosic ethanol, the production of ethanol from a number of biomass products i.e. paper sludge, wood chips, switch grass and corn stover, is taking off in the US! Often referred to as the “holy grail” in biomass-to-ethanol, this new approach would allow to use various input sources, not just expensive corn or crops.

One of our Cleantech portfolio companies, Mascoma, operates in this exciting new market. The company (I have written about this new Atlas investment in the past) recently got a contract for $15m from the New York State to build and operate a demonstration facility. Thumbs up on this amazing achievement!

Takeaway: I am confident that European start-ups, entrepreneurs as well as venture capitalists will also embrace the huge opportunity around cellulosic ethanol!

Recommendation: If you are interested in the biomass market in general, you should definitely check out the Biomass Europe in Berlin 2007.

Lilliputian Systems and MicroOptical get recognised as WEF Tech Pioneers 2007

December 14, 2006

Congratulations to two of our portfolio companies, who were nominated recently for the World Economic Forum Tech Pioneer Award 2007:

Lilliputian Systems, one of our Cleantech investments, developing micro-fuel cells for portable devices, Interview with Ken Lazarus, and

MicroOptical, providing a new “viewing” experience for digital content, Interview with Kip Kokinakis – No wonder, Paris Hilton love this product!

Congrats and well deserved to both companies!

Datango – Expansion Financing Round to fuel international growth

December 13, 2006

As Valerie has pointed out nicely on her blog, Datango, one of our portfolio companies from the early internet days, has completed a financing round with HassoPlattnerVenture and Extorel. Datango is an interesting turn-around story, which initially started in 1999 providing “web-rides” to consumers. After the burst of the bubble the company transitioned from the B2C space into the B2B space focusing on eLearning.

After the successful acquisition of a distributor in 2004, the company has continued its turn-around and has been on a steady growth path since, primarily focusing on large roll-out projects and applications support systems (a market to be estimated to be worth a few hundred million Euros).

The new investment round signals a continued interest from investors into Datango and this emerging market space. The international market is still untapped and will provide a great opportunity for Datango to grow in the future.

OpenBC to go public on Frankfurt Stock-Exchange

November 9, 2006

OpenBC, one of the top Web 2.0 companies in Germany, has revealed plans to go Public in 2007. Below are a few facts:
– From 1.7.2005 to 30.6.2006, almost €6M revenues have been achieved.

– Per September 2006, 1.45 Mio members have registered at OpenBC

– About 13% of these members are paying members.

– The company plans to offer additional services in 2007 and plans to expand to the USA.

There are a lot of speculations in the air about timing (as soon as within the next few weeks), possible valuation (some estimate €200M) or exit proceeds.

Congratulations to Lars for building up such an amazing Web 2.0 company here in Germany and good luck for the closely watched IPO!

Congratulations also to BrainsToVenture for seeding OpenBC / XING, when few people have even heard the word “social networking”.

Local advertising – next generation!

July 24, 2006

Local advertising has been around for quite some time now, especially around internet and Web 2.0. The success of this model still seems to take more time than expected, as local SMEs are still hesitent to consider local internet advertising. This “delay” in internet local ad uptake has been anticipate by a few interesting start-ups, which are trying to uncover the next (or the) big thing for local advertising and SMBs

Start-ups such as spotrunner Spot Runner(advertising / video for local cable operators), MerchantCircle (directory assistance) or Jingle Networks (also directory assistance) are doing some cool things with local advertisers.

Takeways: I wonder if this is a trend we will be seeing here in Europe as well. At the moment, the US start-ups seem to have a quick-start over their European peers.

Recommendation: I am sure Google wouldn’t mind acquiring one of these trendy start-ups, which leverage new technology and new trends around SMB / local advertising.

Pageflakes receives funding! Heating up AJAX-Desktop Battle!

May 31, 2006

After Netvibes received some funding from Index and well-connected business angels, Michael Arrington revealed that Pageflakes will announce a funding round from Benchmark. This obviously will heat up the still early-days of customizable, personalized home-pages.

Takeaway: The funding of these two additional competitors of Microsoft, Google and Yahoo will definitely heat up things in this space, which ultimately will benefit the users / consumers of these services. The major question is, how the ultimate business model of these services will look like. Will it primarily be an ad-financed business model? Are users accepting advertisements on their personal home pages? Are users willing to pay for premium services and if yes, what is the % share the home-page provider can get from this pie? What other ways of monetarization are possible with such a service?

Recommendation: Knowing both Tariq and Christoph personally, I am sure that these two smart guys, might find answers to these questions. Watch Netvibes and Pagesflakes closely as they will be decent contenders of GYM in this space.