Startup of the week – German upstarts Hojoki bring zen to your cloud apps

Hojoki
Hojoki

The Chemnitz-based team behind Hojoki want to build the cloud app to rule them all and they just might get there, if the big players stay cool and don’t block off their APIs first.

Hojoki

Hojoki is a newsfeed for updates from all your favorite cloud-based productivity apps, including Box, Delicious, Dropbox, Evernote, Github, the Google suite (Calendar, Reader and Drive), Twitter and Zendesk, with Yammer among the others coming soon.

If that list of apps sounded all too familiar, Hojoki might be the newcomer for you – no more spammy email updates or need to constantly check different apps, just one that you can leave running in the background. You can make workspace feeds to share your updates selectively with different groups (it’s more like making a private group on Facebook than running a dedicated co-working platform such as Asana).

Pitching to the all-stars at LeWeb London

Martin BöhringerHojoki, a “team of eight geeks from three countries based in the middle of nowhere”, is staunchly based out of east-German worker city Chemnitz and committed to keeping the basic app free of charge. The team raised seed capital last year from Kizoo Technology Ventures and plan to close a Series A funding round by the end of this year. The app is still in public beta (it launched in December 2011) and is currently available for web, iOS and Android, with user numbers sitting at about 32,000.

It’s been a big week – Hojoki came in second at LeWeb London’s startup competition, with CEO and co-founder Martin Böhringer (above and on stage at LeWeb, below) batting away concerns raised by an all-star judging panel (Facebook’s Ethan Beard, Digg founder and Google Ventures partner Kevin Rose, Evernote’s Phil Libin, Instagram’s Kevin Systrom).

There seemed to be a bit of touchiness about a third party coming in and doing interesting and possibly profitable things with other companies’ APIs. Facebook director of platform partnerships Ethan Beard, for example, wanted to know why other companies would want to partner up with Hojoki, when it effectively blocks their direct relationship with users (Facebook is notably absent from Hojoki’s list of integrated apps). Böhringer pointed out that most of the apps they work with have open APIs so there’s no permission required. “We think it’s unlikely people will change their APIs just to be not nice to us.”

That will depend on just how big Hojoki gets – but there’s a good case to be made for Hojoki adding value to the apps it integrates by increasing reach, and encouraging habitual use in much the same way Google Reader encourages you to read more of certain sites.

LeWeb London Hojoki

The business plan so far is to cash in by charging for premium accounts. Data mining looks like another option. Hojoki recently released interesting estimates for the total user numbers of integrated apps (and not just by Hojoki users), using Dropbox’s 50 million users as a reference then comparing it back to user stats on Hojoki. The winners of Hojoki’s “Cloud Olympics”, using that method, were Google Drive with an estimated 82 million uses, Google Calendar with 77 million and Dropbox with 50 million.

So Hojoki’s moving to Berlin at some point, right?

Don’t bet on it, Hojoki mobile lead Patrick Rudolph told me via Skype. “From a personal perspective, within the next year, I definitely see Hojoki having another office, somewhere international, but I think main development will stay in Chemnitz.”

No surprises there – check out Böhringer’s recent guest post for us on the pros and cons of setting up shop in the capital.

FOR RELATED READING, CHECK OUT

“A few crazy guys like us can pull it off”: Simon Schaefer on new Berlin tech hub The Factory

The LeWeb London 2012 diaries – Snipes and apps and Diet Cokes

Startup of the week – Picpack: your Instagram photos as magnets