I am Joannes Vermorel, founder at Lokad. I am also an engineer from the Corps des Mines who initially graduated from the ENS.

I have been passionate about computer science, software matters and data mining for almost two decades. (RSS - ATOM)


Entries in paris (3)


Startup Class '07 and '08 at Telecom ParisTech

In my previous post if been detailing 9 steps to make sure your startup exists. Inspired by an initial idea of Chris Exline, I decided to make a small survey of the startups admitted at the Incubator of Telecom ParisTech in 2007 and 2008 (startups are hosted 18 months by the incubator, and then kicked-out, that's the rule).

To figure out how well the startups of the incubator were doing, I came up with a simple score the startup websites.

Survival test for startup websites:

  • +2 if look & fell is GOOD.

  • +1 if look & fell is just OK (zero if horrid).

  • +2 if benefits of product or service is clear.

  • +1 if I must struggle to figure out the benefits.
    (zero if I am still clueless about benefits after struggling)

  • +1 if there is no happy talk

  • +1 if PageRank is greater than 3 for a B2B company.

  • +1 if PageRank is greater than 5 for a B2C company.

  • +1 if there is an English version.

  • +1 if people can buy or consume right away.

  • +1 if there are news.

  • +1 if there are forums.

The maximal score for this test is 10. One can argue that this test is very subjective. Frankly, after reviewing 50 companies, I rather think otherwise.

Any website with a decent, professional looking is ranked as GOOD with 2 points - no need for flashy graphics, decent is enough. In the other hand, if the website feels amateurish (colors messed-up, random layout) but still functional, then it's OK, you get 1 point. If the website is utterly broken in design or in navigation, then it's zero point.

Same for the benefits. If I can get a rough idea, in less than a minute, of the added-value of your company, then you get 2 points. I mean no need for detailed ideas, big picture is enough. If I have to struggle for 5 mins to finally guess what could be your added value, then it's 1 point. If after 5 mins, I am still utterly clueless, then it's zero point.

Concerning the PageRank, I am putting a much lower threshold for B2B website, because those folks typically need 100x times less customers than B2C companies to be profitable.

Not having a English version is like shooting yourself a bullet in your feet. The French market is small, so small, compared to USA+UK+Canada+India+Australia. To get 1 point here, you don't need to have translated everything in English, any portion that makes sense is enough.

In my opinion:

  • any 6 months old startup should get at least 6/10.

  • any 18 months old startup should get 9/10.

I have collected raw data for 52 startups within a Google Spreadsheet, and here are the results at present date 2009-04-21.

Disclaimer: I have a strong bias toward Lokad since it's my own company so it was removed from the study.

07 class

9 DisMoiOù
9 Lingueo
8 Connecthings
8 Helia
8 La Cartoonerie
8 LivePepper
8 Netineo
8 Teacheo
7 FrenchSet
6 Adminext
6 EtherTrust
6 InovaCours
6 Tellus
5 FamilyBy
5 Adipsys
5 Lixys
4 Needer
3 Connect and Go
3 Patent Organizer Software
3 Nexess
2 MobiNear
1 Alphacode
1 Système Polaire
0 Takys

Average score: 5.5
'08 Class

9 OOdesk
8 Accessif
8 Haploid
8 Hellocoton
8 PlayAdz
7 CapAngel
7 Jaxio
7 OhMyMode
6 Ecce Vino
6 Quelle Energie
6 Actimos
6 Kwaga
5 Ineovation
4 Eyes Triple Shut
4 Hedera Technology
4 Plugnsurf
3 Absysseo
3 Aquilant Technologies
3 Faveod
3 The Metrics Factory
2 FI Technologies
2 Media Mobility
2 nYouLinK
2 SeQureNet

Average score: 5.3

To be honest, those results look rather poor to me.

  • Two thirds of those startups don't offer any chance to their customer to buy or consume the product or service online.

  • Roughly one third of those startups are not able to express the benefits they could bring to their customers.

  • More than half of the startups can't get even a limited English version of their website.

Moreover, startups do not improve much over time. Considering 2007 vs 2008, if feel like if there were two categories of startups:

  • the ones that got a good website right from the start.

  • the ones that will never get a good one.

Yet, my own experience told me it's so obviously not true. Just have a look at the first version of the Lokad website and compare with the current one. Granted, I am still far from what Branding Geniuses could produce, but still.

I would be interested to see how other incubators are doing on their own.


My startup at the Incubator of Telecom Paris

For over a year, I have been working on The project has been growing nicely, and last week, Lokad has been accepted at the Incubator of Telecom Paris. The incubator of Telecom Paris is the largest incubator in France with some nice success stories (such as Netvibes).

Thus, for the next 18 months, Lokad will have nice offices in Paris (in the 14th arrondissement).

For a young company, an incubator is probably the nicest way to smooth all the mundane details (yet critical) that become unavoidable as soon your company grows beyond the stage of the 1-man company. Details include getting an office, a phone, a network connection, a lawyer, a copy machine, a coffee machine, an accountant, a meeting room, ...

Since we have a couple of investors too, Lokad is now hiring. In particular, I am looking for top notch developers. Do not hesitate to apply or to forward the link.


Velib's from a software engineer viewpoint

The Velib's are becoming insanely popular in Paris because of the strikes (strikes in public transportations is a national sport in France, a bit like baseball is in the US). Thus, I have been taking my first Velib ride yesterday, a few months after their initial launch.

Velib picture

The Velib both the name of a public bike renting system in Paris but also the name of the bike itself. There are now 10.000 Velib's in Paris (the figure will increase up to 20.000 at the beginning of 2008). The key idea is that take a Velib from any Velib station and put it back into any other Velib station (it does not have to be the same station).

Velib's are a bit bulky (17kg), but in overall they are quite nicely designed.

In my opinion, there are two main weaknesses in the current Velib's system

  • the Velib traffic regulation

  • the software interface of the Velib renting system

The idea of taking/letting the Velib wherever you want is quite nice. Yet, in practice, there are very important daily migrations of Velib's within Paris. Basically, in the morning you observe that all the Velib are taken (by the people) toward the inner center of Paris. Then, at the end of the day, there is the opposite flux, and the Velib's get massively migrated to the outer part of Paris again.

For the average user, strong migrations means that that you are having hard-time to actually find a free Velib in your starting area; but also that you are having hard-time again to find a free slot to park your Velib in your arrival. In order to overcome such a situation, the deal with JCDecaux (the company in charge of the Velib system) include some Velib traffic regulation to organize counter-migration of the Velib's (through special trucks). Yet, I suspect that the initial deal was massively under-estimating the strength in the migrations in Paris.

At this point, I can hope for two things: Paris re-negotiates with JCDecaux another agreement to increase the Velib traffic regulation; and/or JCDecaux upgrades its traffic regular software to anticipate the migration and respond more pro-actively to them.

Also, the software interface to rent your Velib is a pain. The first mistake comes from the fact that there is not one but two display devices: a big color digital screen that displays the main interface and below, a small alphanumeric display that displays some informations related to the credit card processing. Together those two display devices are a real pain, because you are never sure were to look at while waiting for the next instruction.

Then, the total number of keys that have to pressed iteratively on the numeric pad to do a rent-for-the-day operation is completely insane. I have quickly lost the track, but it must be around 50 key operations or so; which takes 10 mins no matter how much familiarity you have with the system (I was yesterday assisted by somehow who did dictate to me the instructions in order to speed-up the process).

Among the things that are plain nuts with the current UI, I think the password management is a design truly born in Hell. You have to choose a password, then confirm your password, then re-enter again your password. Now, you are asked to enter your credit card password; don't mix the two of them or your going to block your credit card (and get sent back to the starting point). Actually, the whole password thing is completely useless. The credit card should be the default way to perform authentication for those who do not have an RFID pass (the RFID pass comes with the 1-year subscription). That would save half of the operations.

Not sure that the Velib UI would have succeeded against any hallway testing; yet, during the strikes you got the perfect excuse to be late anyway. You can perfectly afford some 20min struggle to rent your Velib.