News from Web2Expo 2010

Posted on 18. May, 2010 by admin in Uncategorized

I was in San Francisco in the first week of May for Web2Expo. Web2Expo can be an interesting barometer of where Web based business is going. Here’s what I learned, hopefully it will be of use to you.

The other Irish companies at Web2Expo

A number of Irish companies made the trek including 3dIssue, Goshido, Heystacks, Panodo, Revahealth, Sonru, Spam Titan, Spoiltchild & Weedle. Enterprise Ireland had organised a special package which included discounted tickets and flights. As often happens with these things, we learned a lot from each other as we beat the living daylights out of each other’s business models over the odd pint or waffles & maple syrup (not at the same time).

Funding situation improving

I was at Web2Expo last year as part of the Techcrunch UK supported Webmission. Last year the economic turnaround had started. This year it is in full swing. Investment money has started pouring into startups during the last three months in particular. Seed valuations have improved significantly. However, to my eye it looked like the numbers were down at Web2Expo. I am also sorry to say the UK based entrepreneurs hold the edge when it comes to the intensity of their partying.

Lean startups all the rage

Lean startups and the customer development process are de rigeur at the moment. If you’re in a startup and don’t know about Lean/Agile/Customer Development then find out more by reading blogs by Eric Ries, Sean Ellis and Steve Blank. You’ll also find good material at the “Startup Lessons Learned” conference website or the Fergus Burns’ blog post on Web2Ireland. Applying these principles in the last six months has moved Goshido along immeasurably. This year, Web2Expo hosted an “intensive” (a workshop on steroids) covering Lean startups. I didn’t get to San Fran in time but a number of other Irish companies were there. Frank was there from Goshido and he’ll be writing a blog post about it in the near future.

If you’re thinking of setting up an office

If you’re thinking of setting up an office in the Bay Area you’re spoilt for choice at the moment.

  • Mountain View: Enterprise Ireland have moved offices and now have office space for Irish companies.
  • San Jose: the ITLG have recently opened the Irish Innovation Centre which includes office space.
  • San Francisco: The startup neighbourhoods are SOMA or the upper floors of buildings near Union Square. You’d be amazed at the companies you’d find upstairs over Walgreens or a nondescript Vietnamese restaurant.
  • Silicon Valley: The Plug and Play Tech Centers are still going strong.
  • Palo Alto: office space is freeing up downtown now that Facebook have moved out. It’s still hard to get a seat in Coupa Cafe.

Southwest Airlines get loads of mentions

A number of talks mentioned Southwest Airlines for different reasons. Apparently they have the highest customer satisfaction ratings of all the US airlines. They give staff significant autonomy and latitude in deciding what to do when faced with customer issues. Their website is an exemplar of usability without using fancy design. Apparently, they don’t break guitars.


Tim O’Reilly presented a deft analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple in his state of the Internet keynote.

I really liked the keynote by Stewart Butterfield (Tiny Speck, Inc.) and Cal Henderson (Flickr), “A Web Nerd’s Approach to building a massive multiplayer game”.

Steve Blank presented the History of Silicon Valley, some scary bedtime tales for the entrepreneurs out there.


Five companies presented at the launchpad. They were all good but not noticably better than some of the Irish companies I’ve seen pitch in the recent past, in particular the companies who went through iGAP with us. In particular I liked Rhomobile and Pearltrees.

Enterprise Ireland tweetup

Enterprise Ireland hosted a tweetup, a meetup in one of the hotels ajacent to the conference venue. This drew a big crowd and was a good way to meet again with potential customers/investors from the conference itself. In particular, we met Bob Walsh of StartupTodo. They do brilliant step-by-step guides for many of the activities involved in building a company.


Of course, our main focus during the week was meeting Goshido’s customers, future investors and getting a closer look at competitors. We pitched to two VCs, an exhilerating experience and received encouraging feedback. One of them summed up the current economic situation in an interesting way. To paraphrase, “This is the modern equivalent of Renaissance Florence, most people just don’t appreciate it yet.”

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