consumer internet

Plugg 2010 conference in Brussels: March 11, 2010

Plugg2010

Last year, I attended the Plugg conference in Brussels for the first time, and I am happy I'll be going again this year. I found Plugg to be a great way to discover some promising web start-ups from around the world, and listen to venture capitalists and technology gurus talk about business opportunities on the web.

Given SCHMOOZY FOX'S brand and marketing strategy work for web start-ups, an event like Plugg is great chance to check out the fresh web talent out there. I guess this time around, Plugg will be a showcase of advanced technology and web apps. Will the participating start-ups be able to convince us of their commercial and marketing know-how as well? We'll find that out next week.

For those who are not familiar with this annual event, Plugg is a conference that brings together European web and technology start-ups and gives them a chance to pitch their business ideas to a panel of venture capitalists. It’s also an annual celebration of web entrepreneurship in Europe.

Check out the list of all the participating start-ups by visiting the Plugg site.

In order to get a sneak peak at this year's Plugg, I asked Robin Wauters (Plugg organizer, TechCrunch editor, serial

Robin Wauters, organizer of Plugg 2010

entrepreneur and simply an avid user of the web), to talk about the event.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Robin, is it still possible to register for Plugg 2010?

Robin Wauters: Yes, you can register until the day before the event, even. Readers of your blog can register with a 25% discount using the code plugg-25percent here: http://mijnevent.be/en/event/101/plugg-2010.

SCHMOOZY FOX:  How will Plugg 2010 differ from Plugg 2009? Obviously, there will be new start-ups and new speakers, but how else are you going to surprise us this year?

Robin Wauters: To be honest, it will be much of the same as last year. We think the formula works well, and we're really excited about the line-up of speakers and startups for this year. But always happy to receive suggestions from anyone who attends to see how we can improve the conference for next years.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Thanks for organizing this high-level event again this year, and I am looking forward to some schmoozing!

Robin Wauters: Likewise ;)

Smart marketing is key to success on the web

Photo by Jus' fi on Flickr

Let me ask you this question: how many successful web start-ups do you know? In the sense of actually known by sizeable audiences. Selling useful products and services. Providing great user interface. Encouraging people to come back to their sites time and again. And check this one out: p-r-o-f-i-t-a-b-l-e.

Yes, there are a few. But the truth is, thousands of software developers, engineers, web designers and other technically gifted folk spend lots of time and money every year to launch new businesses but are unable to connect with their target audience – or launched a service for which there is no real demand.

Many of these start-ups end up being simply web sites, with no valid business idea associated with them. And even if some do have a sound business model, they still don't make it because they don't have any skills in customer-oriented marketing.

Why does this happen?

Dave McClure, author of the blog "Master of 500 Hats", argues that the main reason for this is this: most web start-ups are designed, implemented and managed by techies and lack marketing talent.

The main arguments he puts forward here are:

-Addictive User Experience (aka Design) & Scalable Distribution Methods (aka Marketing) are the most critical for success in consumer internet startups, not pure Engineering talent

-If investors don't have operational backgrounds in design, development, or marketing from proven consumer internet companies, you probably don't want their money

Photo by jeffwilcox

I fully agree and this is in fact one of the reasons I decided to focus part of my brand strategy business precisely on web startups. Have a look at SCHMOOZY FOX'S thoughts about web and mobile start-ups .

It must be said that interface design and useability do sometimes get attention, as at least "enlightened" techies are aware of their importance. In my experience, though, product design and positioning, brand strategy and promotion are frequently an afterthought, implemented ineptly or forgotten about entirely.

However, it's an area where investments can pay huge dividends.

In fact, given the economics of the Internet, it can make all the difference between an out-and-out success story and complete failure. Some online businesses are figuring this one. But for now it's still very much the exception to the rule.

Technical skills and talent are very important in building an online business, but they are only one element. It takes two to tango: only a combination of technology and marketing can make all the difference and propel your online brand to success!

Photo by Kjunstorm

"When it is ordinary, it is not funky": Founder of BeFunky.com talks to SCHMOOZY FOX

Portrait of Tekin Tatar with the "inkify" effect applied Since SCHMOOZY FOX helps companies with business development and brand building projects aimed at helping them create funky brands, no wonder the site called befunky.com attracted my attention when I was surfing the web.

Befunky.com is a web application that allows create great effects for your photos – in a funky way. Today, SCHMOOZY FOX is happy to publish the first interview of the new year with the founder of befunky.com from Istanbul Tekin Tatar and learn about his plans for this project.

SCHMOOZYFOX: Tekin, in a couple of sentences, what's befunky.com all about?

Tekin Tatar: BeFunky is an easy-to-use web application that allows anyone to create amazingly rich, professional-quality artwork from digital photos with a single click.

SCHMOOZYFOX: There are other photo editing sites out there, how does befunky.com differ from them?

Tekin Tatar: First of all, we look at photo editing from a different perspective. Our perspective is “One-Click Creative Photo Edting.” At BeFunky.com, anyone can create great-looking artwork from photos simply by uploading images, clicking on the desired photo effect and letting BeFunky take care of the rest. On the other side, traditional photo editing sites or software take a lot of time to achieve the same result and you need photo editing experience/talent to complete all those steps.

Second, some photo effects like cartoonizer, impressionist, oil painting use very sophisticated state-of-the-art image processing and computer vision engine techniques developed entirely by BeFunky. It is nearly impossible to reproduce these effects on other photo editing sites. We are certainly ahead  of them in terms of quality.

SCHMOOZYFOX: Do you earn money based on subscriptions? The free option of your site is nice, but it's accompanied by banner ads. Do you have to pay to get rid of them?

A befunky.com screenshot

Tekin Tatar: It’s been only 3 months since we started to charge for premium features. We call this service BeFunky Plus. BeFunky Plus service makes it easy for individuals and businesses to benefit from high-end, professional looking photo creativity with minimal impact on their bottom line. The service includes features like higher resolution editing, commercial rights usage, outputs without watermarks, and yes, an ad-free experience.

Yes, we are making money. We are not cash flow positive yet but we know we can be.

SCHMOOZYFOX: And what's your personal funky story? What prompted you to create this business?

Tekin Tatar: I previously spent 3 years at McCann Relationship Marketing as a business development  director at Istanbul office.

We first started with the idea of drawing people’s cartoons manually and selling them through a website. Think about a street corner artist opening a web based shop. The artist was Mehmet Ozkanoglu - although he was not actually working in the street :) ! He is one of our co-founders and Creative Director of BeFunky.

An image from the befunky.com site edited using the "old photo" effect

We received positive feedback to this idea and then decided to build this business in a totally automated version. The challenge was, “How can we give the power of the talented person to an ordinary person?” We met with Tolga Birdal, who is our other co-founder and Chief Engineer of BeFunky. Tolga’s engineering talent, Mehmet’s creative vision and my business mind came together to form BeFunky.

BeFunky has achieved tremendous growth very quickly. To date, nearly 100 million digital artwork pieces have been created using the instant online service at BeFunky.com. We attract more than 1 million unique visitors a month.

SCHMOOZYFOX: As someone with passion for funky brands, I want to know what makes your brand funky, apart from its name?

Tekin Tatar: There are a lot of facts but the most important part is this: people love BeFunky, because they feel creative with their photos and have fun with their experience. This in a way goes against conventional wisdom telling us that an individual can’t be creative unless he/she has the talent and experience!

BeFunky shows that this is not true. We are changing the way people perceive photo editing.  We are empowering people to be funky and feel funky – that’s what it means! SCHMOOZYFOX: Finally, what would be your advice to all entrepreneurs thinking of building funky brands?

Tekin Tatar: Find good people who will be your soul-mates through the journey. Every founder and employee should be passionate about the product. If there is no passion it becomes ordinary. When it is ordinary it is not funky.

Don’t underestimate details. People love details. Every funky brand is obsessively designed to be perfect in detail.

Marketing is not all about spending money on PR or creating campaigns. Marketing starts from the very beginning. Spend time on your logo, colors, mantra etc. Make sure that it sounds fun and/or makes people happy.

SCHMOOZY FOX: thanks for sharing your passions with SCHMOOZY FOX, and I wish you a lot of success with your funky venture in 2010!

Photo of yours truly with befunky.com effects applied