How We Bootstrapped A SaaS Company To 4 Million Users — And Why Google Owes Us €400,000

IOU At 7 PM on February 7, 2007, MindMeister went live in private beta. Today, we have almost 4 million users worldwide, and have become the market leader in online mind mapping. It’s a story we haven’t told often (too busy working, I guess), but we think it has a few valuable lessons for SaaS founders, especially the ones interested in bootstrapping a profitable business. Read More

Medvedev To Hold A Google Hangout On Russia’s Tech Future

medvedev It’s been five years since Russia began its huge project to literally carve out its own version of Silicon Valley in a huge technology park, being built just outside of Moscow. The project, dubbed Skolkovo, will create a 400-hectare site for up to 30,000 workers and has a budget extending to $15 billion through to 2020. But right now much of it remains a building site and… Read More

Medvedev To Hold A Google Hangout On Russia’s Tech Future

medvedev It’s been five years since Russia began its huge project to literally carve out its own version of Silicon Valley in a huge technology park, being built just outside of Moscow. The project, dubbed Skolkovo, will create a 400-hectare site for up to 30,000 workers and has a budget extending to $15 billion through to 2020. But right now much of it remains a building site and… Read More

A Closer Look At European Investing

Euro Dollar Bill We’re bullish on Europe, and that strikes some folks in the U.S. as a bit strange. It’s not that Europe is all we know — we’re an investor in early venture stage funds (an “LP”) in the US, Europe and Israel. Our portfolio skews towards the U.S.; and within the U.S., to the Bay Area. Over the last 18 months or so, we’ve been crossing and re-crossing… Read More

Cartoon Forum: Animation and video games growing closer than ever

Each year, the Cartoon Forum brings together hundreds of animators to pitch new series to broadcasters.

TOULOUSE, France — The worlds of digital animation and video games have become increasingly popular over the past decade. But the intersection between these two forms is also growing, making it more difficult to tell where one ends at the other begins.

That growing dependency and transformation was on display this month at the annual Cartoon Forum, a prestigious event where animators from all over Europe come to pitch their ideas for TV series to potential buyers.

This was the 26th annual event, and the fourth year in a row it was held in this southwestern French city. It’s the perfect barometer of an animation boom across Europe, much of it driven by the use of digital tools.


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This phenomenon challenges the conventional wisdom that Europe in general and France in particular have been slow to embrace the digital future,

Though it hasn’t gotten loads of attention, yet, Europe is at the center of the digital animation revolution. Publicly, the region tends to be overshadowed by U.S.-based Pixar and DreamWorks, which regularly pump out the big blockblusters.

Indeed, a recent report commissioned by the Europe Union noted that in the categories of animated films, Japan made 110 animated films between 2010 and 2014. The U.S. was next with 109.

But France on its own was third, with 47 animated films over that same period. Throw in the rest of Europe, and the numbers are about even.

In the case of France, that number doesn’t count what are probably its hottest digital animation products: the Despicable Me and Minions movies. Yep, they’re made in Paris by Illumination Mac Guff studios, which was bought a couple of years ago by Universal. Technically, then, they are U.S. productions even though they are made in France.

The Cartoon Forum focuses on TV series, where the growth across Europe has been just as dramatic. At the first Cartoon Forum, there were 43 animators. This year, 900 animators arrived from across Europe to pitch 85 new series.

Within that explosive growth, Cartoon Forum organizers noted that 55 percent of these new series come with some kind of transmedia component, such as a video game or a mobile app. That’s up from 37 percent just last year.

And among the attendees this year were representatives of several gaming companies, including Ubisoft.

Several animators I talked to during the event said the video game component was part of the conversation from the very beginning.

Amaury La Burthe, chief of executive officer of Toulouse-based AudioGaming, said his company had been working from the start with the creators of a new series called, “Ibinou.” In the series, an animated explorer takes pictures of wildlife and teaches young kids about their habitats and biology.

La Burthe said there would be an app and a game to go with the series so kids can continue to explore the content even further.

Another of Europe’s quiet successes has been Ankama, a video-game company with 500 employees that is based in Roubaix near the Belgium border. The company has moved past its video game beginnings to begin producing its own animated series.

Last year, as Netflix was preparing to enter France, the company inked a deal with Ankama to stream its fantasy-action series “WAKFU” around the world. That ability to reach international audiences thanks to streaming has made animation even more attractive, according to Olivier Comte, Ankama’s chief operating officer.

And finally, though it doesn’t have a game or app, it’s also worth noting the winner this year of the Cartoon Forum’s annual Cartoon d’OR award for best animated short film in Europe. The jury selected a short called, “The Bigger Picture,” made in the U.K.:

Aside from its visual inventiveness, which combines digital animation and life-size sets in the real world, the film is also interesting because it was funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign that raised almost $50,000. Not bad for a short animation that was also nominated for an Oscar and BAFTA.

For the moment, it’s quite likely that Europe’s reputation in the world of tech is going to continue to be colored by its clashes with U.S. companies like Uber, Facebook and Google.

But while making animated films, TV shows and Web series may not be as headline-grabbing as billion-dollar IPOs, they are still an example of how the region has embraced the future with enthusiasm and creativity.

 

 










UK Gov’t Leads $56M Round For Daraz, Rocket’s Amazon Clone In Pakistan, Bangladesh And Myanmar

bagan Earlier this month, Rocket Internet announced that it would be stepping up aggressive growth in Asia once more, with one new launch per quarter to expand in emerging markets. Today, the e-commerce giant is following through on that strategy: Daraz — an e-commerce portal modelled on Amazon and serving Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar — is today announcing a $56 million… Read More