I must admit I didn’t immediately get Llustre. It looked like another ecommerce play, super-focused on curation and editorial – where was the potential for scale? I looked again. They’d raised £750,000 (just over $1 million) from a host of experienced angel investors, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. There must be more to it than meets the eye? Perhaps it was the latest in a new trend of culture-led startups coming out of London right now in the fields of art, design and music? Clutching a camera, I went along to their new offices in Clerkenwell to find out.
The location is significant. London’s Clerkenwell has long been home to a cluster of designers, artist and artisan communities and is well located between the creative/design companies of the West End and the tech startups of the East.
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The craze of printing Instagram and Facebook photos is slowly but surely hitting Europe. Roughly a month ago, Nantes-based DarQRoom became one of the first European companies to offer high-quality Instagram printing. Prior to that, local Instagram printing services were somewhat limited to London’s StickyGram, which transforms photos into magnets.
Today, it’s Sincerely’s Postagram that is launching its service on this side of the Atlantic, allowing users to send physical postcards made on iPhone and Android devices to addresses in Europe. And just in time for Spring Break.
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Songkick – which allows users to follow music artists, their live music events and book tickets – has raised a $10 million B round of financing from Sequoia Capital. This is Sequoia’s first ever investment in a U.K.-headquartered start-up. The round takes Songkick’s total funding to date to around the $17 million mark. Previous backers include Y Combinator, SoftTech, The Accelerator Group and Index Ventures. Sequoia’s Greg McAdoo joins the board.
The news is interesting because it’s evidence of a general drift of U.S. firms to look abroad for more capital-efficient companies outside of the increasingly high costs of Silicon Valley. Sequoia and General Atlantic have both invested in Klarna out of Sweden. Union Square and Kleiner Perkins have invested in Soundcloud, based in Berlin.
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In recent times we’ve seen the rise of many businesses predicated on the idea that a user subscribes to an ecommerce service instead of buying a la carte. Thus, BirchBox delivers beauty product samples every month. Stylistpick sends fashion, Shoedazzle sends shoes. The list goes on. But what if you had a similar service but there was no need for shipping items in the post, plus it had wider appeal outside of, for instance, fashion?
Launching in London first, Planvine is a new service which, for a monthly subscription, reserves two tickets to events based on your pre-selected interests. This solves a big problem a lot of people have – including myself. You’d like to go to something but never remember to get tickets or just can’t get organised. → Read More
Apple is selling its new Apple TV box for $99 in the U.S., the same price as its predecessor, but in other countries it looks like Apple is taking the opportunity to bring in new users with a discount.
In a selection of online Apple stores across Europe and further afield, the company is marking down the price of Apple TV at the same time that it is introducing the new model, which has a number of new features, including a new 1080p interface (with support for movies at that resolution as well) and iCloud streaming support.
Here are some of the countries where the price is changing, which also underscores how much the price varies from market to market (taking into account each market’s own particular elasticity, and taxes): → Read More
I have a love/hate relationship with CrunchBase. On the one hand, it has great information about startup tech companies. On the other hand, it relies on a wiki-like structure which means it is sometimes not updated as frequently or as accurately as old-style databases which used to employ people go over the data regularly. However, its wikiness means it can be free – pretty useful for the entrepreneur! Perhaps the real unsung hero of CrunchBase is its API which means third party developers can whip up new things with the data. The latest is SeedTable, a new project from Imran Ghory, a founder of CoderStack.
Ghory has built a brand new interface to CrunchBase which exposes a few things CrunchBase itself can’t right now due to the limitation of its interface. And it really is very good. A quick tip: start typing in the name of a city in the search box.
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Telecoms giant Telefonica has unveiled the latest addition to a network of nine startup incubators it’s been busily building in Latin America and Spain. The latest “Wayra Academy” was announced today in London but won’t be opening its doors until May. Here’s how it’s set up: Telefonica takes around a 10% stake in a startup for up to €50,000 in funding, pocket change to a company like Telefonica. Wayra will put about 20 startups into its shiny new London building for six months, after which it will help them pitch for follow-on funding from other sources of venture capital. No VC partners have been announced yet as “the speed of action is crucial and we wanted to open all Wayra Avademies this year,” said José María Álvarez-Pallete, Chairman and CEO, Telefónica Europe at the launch.
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PlayMob, whose product GiverBoard lets charities fundraise via a clever in-game micro-payment mechanic, has secured £500,000 ($787,000) funding from NESTA and Midven alongside angel investors. The team will now expand from 8 to 13 and the product gets a decent shot in the arm.
Founded in 2007, Playmob’s GiverBoard lets charities fundraise by allowing players of social games to buy virtual items linked to a charity. The ideal scenario is that a tractor bought in FarmVille could be linked to a charity which plants crops in Zambia. In a test campaign, a Thanksgiving charity campaign in November 2011 where virtual food hats bought meals for homeless children and families in New York. So it clearly works. But it gets better. → Read More
A German court ruling against Facebook this morning is likely moot because the social network had already made changes to address the court’s mandates.
See, back in 2010 a German consumer organization complained Facebook’s Friend Finder inviter feature didn’t adequately inform users their imported contacts would be used to send invites, according to Friending Facebook Blog. But Facebook has since made numerous changes to Friend Finder, including adding a disclaimer, providing an improved contacts manager, and adding unsubscribe options to email invites. It probably won’t have to make any significant changes in response to this ruling.
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Commerce Guys, which develops the Drupal Commerce product, has secured $5 million in a Series A round led by Paris-based Alven Capital. Finland-based Open Ocean Capital (which backed MySQL) and Paris-based ISAI, the French entrepreneur’s fund, also joined the round. With this Series A round, Commerce Guys has received a total of $6 million in funding (ISAI provided an initial seed round in 2010).
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