Blouzar – Specialist of online gaming

In this article, the team at Frog Valley uncovers a little gem of a startup dedicated to online video games.

It is at a Minibar event (I promise to share with you what the Minibar and other essential events for entrepreneurs in London are) that I met Nicolas who told me about Blouzar. Blouzar is an online game business which he co-founded with Chris (now Non-Exec. Director) two years ago. Prior to Blouzar (check out its Facebook page here and its Twitter account here), Nicolas gained some startup experience with Ouza, which he since closed and transferred to Blouzar.

Blouzar specialises in G-coms and has developed five games, the last one being Miss Bimbo. For those of you who don’t know what G-coms are, they are games based on real life and communities. They are becoming more and more popular with teenagers and young adults. Regarding the design, it is difficult to describe it, somewhere between manga and occidental style, but it seems to please the majority of players.

Nicolas, who has a background in computer sciences and Chris, more oriented business and marketing, have built around them a team of three people with rather technical profiles: Piotr Nierobisz (web developer), Joey – « DeathRay » (super geek); Charles Martin (web developer). So far, the company has grown organically, as no funding was required to launch the startup. Nicolas and his team have also kept costs to a minimum. Looking for growth, Nicolas and Chris are now seeking funds to move on to the next stage and be better positioned against competitors such as Stardoll (which has attracted investors like Sequoia Capital in 2006 by raising more than $6m) and Moshi Monster (which raised money from Index Ventures). Blouzar is trying to differentiate from competitors by targeting a different population, slightly older than that of its competitors. Then you also have the games for Facebook which are now the main drivers of growth; Facebook is still marginal in online gaming but not for long. The business model is based on virtual money (Bimbo Dollars) and transactions made by micro payment. In addition, users can take subscriptions, for example to become a VIB (Very Important Bimbo) which gives access to more features.

What are the games available on Blouzar?

In the G-coms category:
Miss Bimbo – Latest game from Blouzar. Everything is in the name; this game engages more the young adults (average age of 19 y.o.). Miss Bimbo is a large g-com of fashion conscious daughters, mothers and grandmothers. Miss Bimbo players enjoy shopping for their virtual ‘bimbo’ as well as entering fashion contests and chatting in the forums about all things female.

Little hooliganz – Little Hooliganz is a newly launched g-com where sons, fathers and grandfathers can enjoy all things football. The game counts more than 83000 members.

Papermint – Destined for girls, it allows you to make your own clothes and more: 3D world and chat live with your friends!

And the ones which should be launched soon:

My Bambino – The game where you have to take care of a cute baby. Destined for the youngest, it is about looking after a baby, a bit like Tamagotchi (do you remember?)

Super Fashion Star. Similar to Papermint but for an audience slightly older and on the model of x-factor.

Blouzar has also in its portfolio two Flash games, based on two famous characters:

DrogBaby: The « Didier Drogba » version of Little Hooliganz

Nosh For Posh: Our national ‘posh’ is the star of this game and she needs to put on weight.

The team at Frog Valley might not be of the right age, but we really loved the originality (and the little touch of irreverence) of Blouzar’s games. We therefore feel confident that Blouzar will be able to grow, with or without private funding. To be continued.

Comufy – another way to communicate via the social media networks and instant messengers

After obtaining a diploma in computer sciences, Sébastien Marion (@sebmarion) decides to continue his studies in the UK and undertakes a degree at Oxford Brookes University, which he obtains with a First. Still not satisfied, he decides to undertake a PhD in computer sciences (Programming, Systems, Languages and Applications) at the University of Kent in Canterbury, which he completes last February.

These years spent at the university will reveal his entrepreneurial mindset and he creates two startups: Whizlogic solutions and Chootta Ltd, which will become Comufy. Whizlogic has a certain success but Sébastien concentrates his efforts exclusively on Chootta. Originally, Chootta was an application intending to modify the way people were communicating on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks in order to be more visible on these platforms. However the founders faced some challenges as it was very complicated to implement and also very expensive, which was definitely not an advantage in a time of financial distress (end 2007 – beginning 2008).

Nevertheless, Sébastien doesn’t give up and he applies for the Mini Seedcamp in February 2009 and also for the Seedcamp week in the same year. These competitions become the trigger for a change in strategy: he focuses on marketing solutions exclusively for businesses. These solutions help companies modify their communication with their customers by using social networks and instant messengers but also allow them to manage their marketing campaigns and communication.

On the financing side, the co-founders have received the help from friends and relatives, which is a good option when you don’t want to lose the control of your business to investors but which gives a different type of responsibility. Since its creation, the company is growing well and it should be profitable at the beginning of next year, which is a strong performance in this sector.

The actual team is based in Greenwich (South-East London) and is composed of 6 members, still with the 3 same co-founders:
Dr. Sébastien Marion – co-founder and COO – Responsible for operations and front-end development.

Dr. Phil Huberthus Mohr – co-founder and CTO – Responsible for Comufy’s business development and sales.

Dr. Pulitha Liyanagama – co-founder and CTO. Puli is responsible for the technical development of Comufy’s back-end systems.

Stuart Gardner – Responsible for Comufy’s business development, sales and marketing strategies.

Dr. Dan Grundy – Responsible for ensuring Comufy’s systems are resilient against intrusion, and that our clients’ data is protected.

Alexis S.H. Lee – Responsible for the design of Comufy’s graphics, and the look of Comufy’s front-end interfaces.
You can learn more about the team on the About page of Comufy.

Since Seedcamp, the business model has changed and the companies are more and more confident in the solutions provided by Comufy. For instance, a large German company in the video game industry is using their bespoke solutions for their chatting and instant messengers services targeted at gamers. Comufy’s solution works as « Software as a Service » or SaaS, the client being charged a monthly cost per user. And the market has strong potential in the UK and Europe but also in the US where video games is a multi-billion dollar market. There are other opportunities by implementing platforms for alerts via instant messengers and also advertisement.

To conclude, it shows that creating a startup requires perseverance, having a flexible business model and the ability to change direction depending on opportunities. Sébastien also insists on building a strong network because « if you don’t know anybody, you are nobody ».

PS: Comufy is also behind Tweetswitch, an application that allows people to communicate on Twitter directly from instant messengers and emails. But Tweetswitch is more a way to show what Comufy’s technology can do.

Comufy’s profile is also available on Crunchbase (which btw would require an update)

Finance your projects with Sponsume, the first viral funding site in the uk

In beta version since the end of April, the website Sponsume is henceforth officially live and has a new design.

Launched by Grégory Vincent, ex-financial analyst in the City, the principle of Sponsume is to allow artists, entrepreneurs, charities, inventors or anyone bringing new projects to raise funds for their ideas, in return for vouchers which – if the project goes live – will be redeemed under different forms (determined by the project owner). It cannot, however, be redeemed with equities or any other intellectual property rights. The contract is made between the user and the project owner but not with Sponsume, which is only an intermediary. The video below tells you more about the principle of the platform:

Sponsume – How it works. from Joel Somerfield on Vimeo.

Innovative concept, Sponsume had a warm welcome from the online tech world with an article on the well-known Techcrunch Europe, and on PSFK in the US.

Regarding competitors, Sponsume gets closer to other existing projects in the US, such as Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, even if Sponsume is in many ways different from its competitors thanks to its innovative concept.

In Europe, we can think of mymajorcompany but Sponsume (www.sponsume.com) doesn’t stop at the music market. Sponsume is targeted at a larger audience than artists and this is what differentiates Sponsume to other crowdfunding platforms.

Also worth noting, the branding of Sponsume has been made by Violaine of « Salade Folle« , a French woman based in London who has extensive experience in branding and graphic design, and who worked for a global leading advertising and communication group.

You can follow the news of Sponsume on Twitter, Facebook and find its profile on Crunchbase.

We will have the opportunity to follow regularly the news of Sponsume on Frog Valley because we will follow very closely the progress of the project in a series of interviews done to understand the challenges that entrepreneurs face during the creation of an innovative start-up in the UK.

We wish good luck to Grégory because it is only the beginning of the adventure.

Mamans à Londres: the toolbox for all the french mums in london

The Idea
The concept is pretty simple but really effective as the objective is to make the life easier for a number of mums (and maybe dads) who are moving from France to London to follow their husband (or wife) to pursue an international career, or for any other reason. The website gives lots of practical advice to make life easier and facilitate adaptation, whilst enjoy the city and avoiding spending hours on the internet looking for information.

Why Mamans à Londres?
It started from a simple fact: there is no website exclusively dedicated to French-speaking mums expatriated in the UK. Actually, it is quite complicated to find on one single site all the information you need. Mamans à Londres has been launched at the right moment to answer to this growing demand. Also, not all French mums are lucky enough to be part of the close circle of parents whose children are at the French lycée Charles de Gaulle. Some mums can feel isolated and distraught when facing a change in their environment, even if England is not a faraway country. The website allows them to exchange their ideas with other people in the same situation.

Who do we find in the backstage of Mamans à Londres?
Catherine Déliot is the founder of the site. She is in charge of the project, accompanied by a well-structured team, which includes three writers and six columnists, not to mention an illustrator and a photographer among other members. We feel some sympathy for David who is the only male member of the team.

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Discover a different London with London Incognito

Frequent travellers or first time visitors to London, London Incognito will allow you to enjoy the British capital in a different way with original walks and activities, all thought up by Julie « globe-trotter » who finally decided to settle down in London. She has been discovering secret places and other unusual museums of the British capital and the idea came to her to share these places with occasional visitors in London by adding her personal touch.

London Incognito is proposing various packages, all very original in their themes. If you have ever wanted to experience being in the shoes of either a detective or an artist, Julie has thought about you, with wonderful routes and a selection of her favourite addresses. Still not satisfied with the offer, Julie can also work with you on a « à la carte » trip according to the length of your trip and your choice of activities. These excursions can also be a good idea for a present and it will be a pleasure for Julie to prepare for you the perfect visit that matches your taste and character.

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Ohmygift attacks the online gift market in the UK

Met during a Minibar event at the heart of London, Stefan (stefan at ohmygift.co.uk) is the Country Manager of Ohmygift, which will be officially launched next September. Ohmygift is « surfing » on the success of websites which allow users to offer presents and that have flourishing on the Internet over the last few years. Stefan is accompanied by Pierre (perfan at ohmygift.co.uk), who is the marketing assistant of Ohmygift.

Part of the Group Kadocom, Ohmygift works only with british suppliers. Ohmygift is has a broad range of products, we can find personalised calendars and diaries, wines and Champagne, magazines and for all type of occasions (wedding, anniversaries, fathers’ day, etc.). In any case, there are thousands of gifts available for your friends or family or simply to treat yourself.

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