Exceed 2013: Recap

exceed2013After a long-expected shop launch, I managed to pull myself away from the project scene and fly over to Berlin to catch at least one day of the infamous Exceed conference, organised by Jochen Krisch and his crew. While my ecomPunk buddies Nadine and Kai had already been able to catch the first day in images (day two here), I’d like to add a bit of text as well.

Day one – as I was told – was dominated by two main subjects: the money guys and the girls. Money guys a.k.a. VCs hit the stage and talked about how bravely they would support startups in the seed phase. (The startups I talked to, by the way, unanimously told me that getting money from those very people would be a pain in the arse, and the promise of „easy“ seed capital and investing in teams and visions pure nonsense).

Commerce for/by girls?

Over to the girls. If you head over to excitingcommerce.de once in a while and read the articles there, you will notice one recurring theme: which projects do adresss women’s need when it comes to online shopping? And, on the business side: Where are the female founders, where are the girl startups? One year ago, at Exceed 2012, we also talked about this in-depth – remember „digital prosecco“? It’s not – as most men and male developers/founders would have it – to see shopping as mere transactions. Rather, it’s about inspiration and entertainment.

Why do I recap last year’s event? Easy answer: Not much has changed since then. Quite logically, the issue of the so-called „shecommerce“ was brought up again this year. Providing a platform for this topic over and over again might sound like a tiresome mantra to some, however, the simple truth is: Female ecommerce business doesn’t take place – and here we are right in the middle of things already:

On the second day there were nine startups which had the chance to pitch their business cases. There was not a single woman on stage, and the proposed ideas were mostly, well, boy things – except maybe for the first one. And since this is my post:, I’ll be as brutally subjective as possible :)

Pitches

The first project which was presented was called Ella & Paul. The idea: transform your children’s drawings into cuddly toys. Customers would send in their little artists’ pieces of art and pay about EUR 90,00, and busy needlewomen in Lithuania would turn the drawings into custom-made puppets. As attractive as this may seem to parents, it would scare the big Jesus out of me if our son’s attempts would lead to one-eyed and three-legged monster dolls. Anyway, we are talking about a niche here which is very hard to scale, but I reckon the positive media echo the founder talked about will lead to considerable customer attention.

Next up: Navinum. A triple of three smart and obviously successful male founders with MBA background come up with a service that perfectly fits the mindset of three MBA-backgrounded males. A stylish and potentially luxurous product (=wine) is brought to potential customers via a recommendation mechanism. One fills in a form about one’s personal taste in wine and the Navinum algorithm will find whatever suits you best. With enough marketing money to „buy traffic“ (I always cringe when I hear this term), wine lovers should be turned into wine buyers.

Five startups were as exciting to me as Hannover in autumn – sorry guys ;) – because they were very techy B2B companies. Catalogmakr have lost their final vowel and create catalogues on an eBook basis, data virtuality and minubo do clever business intelligence robots-algorithms-what-have-you. Admineo enhances product data transfers between products and their merchants and KRYD tracks order cancellations in webshops and triggers counter-measures such as sending emails to customers asking why the heck. Thinking about it – Hannover is not so bad after all ;)

A startup named Stagefisher had me back on the hook again – pun intended. What they do is provide information about what fashion items actors are wearing in certain TV shows. If you always wanted to dress like character from Gossip Girl, this site would be the place to go to. Apparently, they have their own fashion experts monitoring the episodes and finding the respective pieces. But what I found the most interesting is that they were trying to get in touch with producers of German TV shows in order to get information on the apparel worn in front of the cameras. In other words, they are activating content that would probably get lost and that people do not seem to have use for. Whenever this kind of sourcing happens, cool new businesses can happen – so looking forward to seeing where this is going.

Finally, Simplora strung a chord in me because it fits into my idea of laziness as a motivator for commerce. Two guys (surprise!) presented their idea of a price list that would shop itself as it were. You put products (mostly toiletries and everyday kind-of-things) into this list, and the algorithm will find the best shop for you and order the stuff there. I haven’t been able to access the Beta yet, and I have the slight feeling that much of the idea and usefulness will be killed by German legislation, but if they make buying shower gel easier – full on!

So what now?

Even for being there only one day, Exceed is worth the trip to Berlin. It’s the choice of people, it’s the presentation style on stage (less banal marketing talk, more matter-of-fact discussions in panels) and it’s the perfect organisation. In hindsight, however, I wonder  how far we’ve come since last year – subject-wise. If I think about it, it feels like having travelled in a time capsule from 2012 to 2013. Still it’s a male oriented business, still seed investors in Germany seem to be lacking vision and readiness to assume risks. Nobody seriously expected jaw-dropping innovations on stage – but the startups that pitched last week could have pitched in 2012. As I already said in an interview, for ecommerce, 2012 was quite a boring year. This year’s Exceed discussions proved I wasn’t entirely wrong.

(Image by our very own Kai, produced with the finest camera equipment, carried around in a back-breaking heavy backpack. You rock my friend :))

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