Eastern Europe’s Got Web Talent!

Web innovation is global nowadays. It has never been easier for web innovators and entrepreneurs all over the world to get out in the open. I would dare say that nowadays web truly is a global language. However, Eastern Europe’s focus on this area is unexpectedly low and very few EE startups are launched eevery year. Nevertheless, the few international success stories seem to be proving that inspite of this small numbers of daring EE entrepreneurs, Eastern Europe’s got the web talent it needs.

The Slovenian Httpool, the Estonian Skype, the Romanian Interakt and Gecad,  the Czech NetBeans and GoodData are all good examples of Eastern Europe’s web know-how. Zemanta, CodilityErplyUberVU, Brainient are also a wonderful proof of Eastern Europe’s drive and energy.

According to Reshma Sohoni, CEO Seedcamp the EE entrepreneurs are: “Very talented from a technical standpoint. I find Eastern Europe’s entrepreneurs really driven and dream big. Many of them display the sense of urgency that is really critical for a startup entrepreneur to have“.

As a matter of fact this is exactly what the Seedcamp competition is all about. Seedcamp believes that Europe has the talent, the role models, and the capital founders it needs to succeed. That’s why Seedcamp is trying and, based on the success stories, it is also succeeding to empower web entrepreneurs all over Europe, including EE.

So, Eastern Europe has got the energy, the skills and the opportunities to make web things happen. But it no longer has any excuses.

According to Loic Le Meur, founder and CEO of Seesmic.com and LeWeb Europe tech event,  “the fact that the largest investor in Facebook this year is a Russian company says a lot about the Internet industry in eastern europe, I am expecting entrepreneurs from the east to build more international leaders very soon“.

Alex van Someren, UK IT Entrepreneur, states the exactly main idea: “I’ve met a lot of exciting and imaginative entrepreneurs and technology businesses from Eastern Europe recently, and I think How to Web looks like a great opportunity to meet and spend time with even more of them!“.

So… do you speak web? Then, what are you waiting for?

GoodData – $7 mil funding for Czech start-up

GoodData is a data analytics web solution, founded in the Czech Republic in 2007 by the serial entrepreneur Roman Stanek, which raised a total of $7 million funding up to the moment. If GoodData will be successful, this will mean the disruption of a billion dollar market: the data analytics.

Moving business intelligence and data analytics to the cloud

GoodData is a software-as-a-service complete business intelligence application, delivering a reporting tool, an on-demand analytics platform and a place to collaborate around data, all at the same time. In other words, GoodData is meant to be a new way of interacting with business data, helping business owners handle the day by day challenges of reporting and analysing business data.

From the beginning, GoodData has intended to do for dashboarding and data analytics what Amazon Web Services does for storage and compute resources. In other words, Stanek, who previously founded and sold NetBeans Inc. and Systinet Inc., is now aiming at the multi-billion dollar market of data analytics dominated by big players like SAP, IBM and Oracle. In comparison to the expensive solutions that these companies have to offer, GoodData is offered for free for the moment and it will probably come up with a usage fee in the near future, which will anyway be much lower that those of their competitors.

GoodData boasts to keeping their fixed costs down to a mininum as the application is using cloud computing entirely and running on Amazon web services.

Roman’s track record = a guarantee for GoodData’s success

GoodData raised a total of $2 million seed funding in july 2008 from Esther Dyson (chairman of EDVenture Holdings, third time investing in Roman Stanek’s businesses), Tim O’Reilly (CEO of O’Reilly Media) and Windcrest Partners. The business has closed a second round of financing of $2.5 million from Marc Andreessen, Ben Horowitz, OATV and General Catalyst in april 2009 and a Series C funding of another  $2.5 million from Andreessen Horowitz (a $300 million venture fund that was launched on July 2009) General Catalyst Partners and other undisclosed investors in october 2009. The Czech company has now raised a total of $7 million in capital.

The success GoodData has had with investors is in no way a surprise. Roman Stanek is what we could call “highly fundable” due to his serial entrepreneurship track record. Stanek sold NetBeans to Sun for $10 million and Systinet to Mercury Interactive/HP for $105 million.

Zemanta – $2 mil for a smart blogging Seedcamp start-up

Zemanta is the blogging-intelligence platform founded in Slovenia and one of the 6 winners of the 2007 Seecamp Week.  Zemanta won the €50,000 ($67,200) prize in 2007 from Seedcamp and then had about 10 weeks to develop the software from the initial Slovenian prototype. In January 2008, The Accelerator Group, Britain’s Eden Ventures and Union Square Ventures invested around £750,000 ($1.1 million) for an undisclosed stake in the startup. That was followed by a further $650,000 investment in September 2008 by Union Square Ventures.

Zemanta – your personal blogging assistant

Zemanta is a tool that helps bloggers write better articles by suggesting related content from the web. It is meant to be some sort of content suggestion engine that helps users blog easier and smarter. In order to use Zemanta one must install a Firefox extension that will automatically show related images, blog posts and articles from Wikipedia, IMDb, Amazon, Crunchbase, Facebook, MySpace, RottenTomatoes, Twitter, etc. next to the post editor. These suggestions are updated as you write more content.

You can also use Zemanta to write e-mails more effectively. You get the same features you get on your blog on Gmail and Yahoo! mail as well.

The co-founders are Andraž Tori and Boštjan Špetič. They have since brought in the team Aleš Špetič as Chairman and Marko Mrdjenovič as VP Engineering.

NetBeans – bringing together 800 000 developers

NetBeans, the open-source Java IDE, was started in Prague in 1996 under the guidance of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics at Charles University. It was later on bought by Sun Microsystems for  $10 million and gradually turned into the successful open-source integrated development environment and community.

From Xelfi to NetBeans

NetBeans was originally called Xelfi and it started as a student project in the Czech Republic in 1996. Xelfi was the first Java IDE (Integrated Development Environment) written in Java and it was released in 1997. The serial entrepreneur Roman Stanek discovered Xelfi while he was looking for a good idea to invest in.

In 1999, Sun Microsystems was searching for better Java development tools, became interested in buying NetBeans and bought NetBeans from Stanek for $10 million to Sun.

In June 2000, NetBeans became the current open-source IDE netbeans.org. Today NetBeans IDE is an open-soruce project providing support for several languages (PHP, JavaFX, C/C++, JavaScript, etc.) and frameworks, with over 18 million downloads of the NetBeans IDE to date and a community of over 800 000 participating developers.

Httpool – Slovenia’s 20 mil EUR/year hit

20 million EUR turnover for 2009. 7500+ campaigns for 1000+ referential clients since 2000. 1B+ monthly impressions on 3000+ sites. 35+ partnerships with major international networks. 60+ online media specialists. 10 offices in CEE, Germany and US. In other words, Httpool, a business started in Slovenia in 2000.

Httpool is the leading Central and Eastern European online advertising network with international reach and focus on emerging markets.

The serial entrepreneurs from Slovenia

The co-founders of Httpool are Aljoša Jenko and Andrej Nabergoj. The 2 of them have also co-founded Parsek, the Slovenian e-business solution provider, and Noovo, asocial discovery engine which will change the way people share and discover content online.

Aljoša Jenko has 10 years of experience as an entrepreneur, supervising 9 companies in the fields of software and interactive advertising as a founding partner. Prior to Httpool, Aljoša co-founded and sold 00net, the largest national indoor media network in Slovenia.

Andrej Nabergoj describes himself as a “tireless entrepreneur, start-up guy and angel investor, who started fast-growing companies in software and online media”. During the last 10 years Andrej has indeed proved tireless, co-founding and leading 6 software and internet companies with more than  +$20M in revenues, including Parsek and Parsek Japan. Andrej is also the chairman of the Yes – Young Executives Society, co-curator for the Silicon Valley TEDx and is vice-president for the Young Entrepreneurs of Europe organization. Currently, Andrej is CEO of Noovo.

Andrej’s blog is entitled “Nothing Ever Happens” as a tribute to cult artist and dream teacher, Yoshitomo Nara. This title is one of the beliefs that guided Nabergoj all through his startup founding activity. “Life is boring, so be creative and make it interesting. And also, nothing ever happens- per se. You make it happen”, explains Nabergoj.

Skype – 2.6 bil $ web success made in Estonia

There is no doubt that Skype has managed to make the world a better place. It has infinitely simplified the way we communicate internationally. Nevertheless, very few people know that the foundation of Skype, the software that allows users to make free calls over the internet, has been called by the worldwide tech press ”a real baltic success story”.

Baltic development made Skype happen

The application software Skype was initially developed by Estonian developers Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu and Jaan Tallinn, the same developers that have started the peer-to-peer file sharing software Kazaa. Jaan Tallinn, the main engineer behind Skype, is now a well known worldwide specialist in P2P technologies and is the only one of the 3 initial developers which is still around the company, performing various tech tasks.

Even though the company is based in Luxembourg and most of the management and marketing jobs are done in London, the main development center for Skype is in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, and this is where over 80% of the Skype employees work. Due to this successful team of web developers, Estonia is now the country, which could be called the homeland of 2 technological super achievements Skype and Kazaa. Not to mention that Hotmail is another great Estonian development success.

The sky is the limit for Skype

Skype Limited, the company that operates Skype, was founded in 2003 by the Swedish entrepreneur Niklas Zennstrom and the Danish entrepreneur Janus Friis. The name of Skype comes from the initial idea of „sky peer-to-peer”. The 2 founders have decided to hire the same successful Estonian developers that made Kazaa possible for the development of the new Skype.

eBay acquired Skype Limited in September 2005 for 2.1 billion € (2.6 billion $) and later on, during november 2009 decided to sell a majority stake of 70% to a consortium comprising Silver Lake Partners, CPPIB, Andreessen Horowitz, and the original founders.

Skype recently reached 500 million registered users worldwide and the sky seems to be the limit for the plans that Skype owners have for their business.

From Skype to Erply

For Estonia, Skype’s international success has meant more than just 3 happy Estonian engineers who earned worldwide fame. It has also meant a big push to start new successful tech startups, looking more actively at international markets, something that has been very limited until now. A recent Estonian success, Erply, won the 2009 Seedcamp and is already profitable, proves that we will be hearing more and more great things about Estonian web startups.

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