My Top 5 startups for 2013 – Nina Fowler, VentureVillage News Editor


VentureVillage’s Nina Fowler shares the bold, the useful and the gloriously geeky new companies at the top of her list this year.


The startups that make my heart race are the ones on the fringes – the enormous, risky, world-improving ideas, especially if it’s a topic hardly anyone else is interested in. Like, you know, currency exchange fees.

What else? New media. I’m obsessed with new ways to display and pay for stories, and measure how they go down with readers. Also, energy and the environment – one of my first and favourite rounds as a reporter.

Fun and great design matter, too. Simple, beautiful mobile apps are like tiny miracles. And if my colleagues can put up with a souped-up lightbulb that flashes whenever we get a tweet, I just might do it.



The one-line pitch: “Doing for currency exchange what Skype did for voice calling”

The story: I earn euros but need pounds? You earn pounds but need euros? Great. I can put some of what I earn into your account and you can do the same for me. TransferWise co-founders Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann started out doing that for each other then turned it into an online platform for everyone else. It’s €1 to transfer up to €300 and guarantees a world’s best rate for all transfers above that.

Why I’m backing it: I’m from New Zealand. I work in Germany. This is incredibly useful – or it will be, once they support NZD.



The one-line pitch: “Tracks what you read, not what you click”

The story: Scoopinion tracks what we’re actually reading online, not just what we’re clicking, liking and sharing. It takes articles from a whitelist of publications, measures how users are reading them (based on scrolling speed, behaviour and whether you get to the end) then pops the best on the website and into a personalised newsletter.

Why I’m backing it: It’s not so much the tools for readers. It’s the tools for journalists. The world needs new, better, digital media analytics and, in Scoopinion, I see the start of something good. Bonus points for great media fingerprint graphics.


Versus IO

The one-line pitch: “Compare anything”

The story: VERSUS IO is really, really good at turning the results of comparisons into natural language. Plug in Berlin versus London, for example, and discover such data gems as ““sizeably lower murder rates” and “considerably cheaper Big Macs”. So far, the platform mostly works for gadgets – smartphones, projectors, cameras – but there are plans to expand to include food, banks, plastic surgeons, you name it.

Why I’m backing it: The need for this kind of service will only grow as more devices hit the market. Which “smart” fridge should I get? Ask VERSUS IO. I’m looking forward to more personalised, social features this year, too.


DingDongThe one-line pitch: “Say more with less”

The story: If Foursquare, WhatsApp and Instagram had a lovechild, it would look like DingDong – and I’m picking it as the startup most likely to win a spot beside them in 2013.

DingDong lets you send instant messages made up of nothing more than name, time, location and optional photo. In other words, say “I’m late” or “this made me think of you” with the push of a button, and without words.

Why I’m backing it: Beautifully simple. DingDong – like Snapchat – is a break from the text that dominates the rest of our online communication, and it’s subtle and fun.


The one-line pitch: “Put the internet to work for you”

The story: IFTTT – If This, Then That – lets users combine ingredients, triggers and actions to create “recipes” (simple commands) for various channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc). So if you want to send every Facebook photo you’re tagged in to Dropbox, or do what Quartz did and make the newsroom light up every time you get a tweet, this is the tool for you.

Why I’m backing it: Not so much of a hidden wonder, this one, with Andreessen Horowitz getting behind it with $7million in Series A funding last month. But it’s my nod to the making, hacking and general geekery that’s moving beyond the fringes and into the mainstream. IFTTT makes it easy for even the non-geeks among us to do things with the internet, not just consume it. Bring on more of that!


Image credit: lightbulb photo by Jackie Snow, via Quartz


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