Startup Feature: Teambox

We recently had the chance to talk with Pablo Villalba from Teambox about how he got started and what advice he has to pass onto new and budding entrepreneurs, better yet, Teambox is now inBloon’s project management solution. The trickle effects of Next Top Startup, but I digress.

So without further ado, the startup feature of : Teambox

How did you come up with the idea for your company?

On one hand, I was looking for something that would tie our team together as a group. We tried some online solutions, excel spreadsheets, blogs and Gantt planning, but nothing worked.

When a client asked to deploy a solution in his own server, I started some real research for a quality open-source project manager. There was not such a thing. So, with a little seed funding, we got started.

The first versions were merely proofs of concept, and were only available on Spanish. However, they taught us important lessons on software development and clients’ needs. All this made a difference for Teambox 2.

Any milestones that you’d like to share?

When Teambox 2 was launched, it was one of a kind. It was the first Twitter-style collaboration tool that grouped team communication and task management.

After exiting the beta period, we set up some pricing plans for users who needed more of what we were doing. So far, we have over 100 paid accounts for the online version and we’re starting to have our first corporate clients. This means a lot of new lessons to learn, and the need to adapt quickly.

We recently acquired an online group chat application in our space, and we have plans to integrate its functionality in Teambox while expanding its offerings. We’re very excited about the possibilities.

Can you tell us a bit about the team?

At the heart of Teambox, we’re very technically minded people with a passion for design.

We had endless discussions over little details, because we care about usability. You can spend months developing the coolest feature on Earth, but unless you make it simple nobody is going to use it.We’re currently 5 programmers and 3 mixed profiles for sales and marketing. We expect to keep things small and simple, scaling our service without a significant increase on staff.

For that, we only work with the best. Our open-source community has been a great talent pool, where people can learn our working style before joining the company.

Any difficulties you’ve experienced in the startup process of your company?

It’s been extremely hard to get funded during the hard times economy has been through. Nevertheless, we were lucky to find the right investors who trusted the startup and team and made it possible.

It has also been very disappointing to see how public grants have more to do with political reasons than real innovation and supporting research and development. Lessons learned from this: Private money is reasonable, and it’s always better to survive with your own money or customers than looking for money from others.

Any advice to pass on to budding entrepreneurs?

Just get started. Entrepreneurship is like a George Lucas film, where you meet your friends during a long journey to an uncertain destination

Startup Feature: InBloon

Back in May we asked Jose Mariano of In Bloon five questions about his startup, being that he entered the Next Top Startup competition we felt it unfair to feature him and not the others, however now with the first edition of the competition well behind us we feel it’s time to publish his answers to our 6 questions.

What is bloon?

It’s an experience by which you will see the Earth shining round and blue on the eyes of the person you love. All in a safe, clean, not requiring strenuous training manner. A flight beyond the blue skies into the starry blackness of the cosmos. And with zero emissions.

Here’s the official definition:

bloon |bəˈloōn|
noun

1. a sustainable, cost-effective, inspirational and elevating device that enables out of this world experiences to her passengers, including unparalleled views of their planet while helping preserve it in the process; to be enjoyed by individuals, families, and other groups worldwide: inside the bloon we were one with the Planet.

2. zero2infinity first project.
verb [ intrans. ]

1. to feel elevated, to raise to a new level, to transform yourdreams into reality: We are about to bloon… ORIGIN Barcelona, early 2009 (originally denoting a previous concept from 2000): from French ballon ‘large ball.’

How did you come up with the idea for bloon?

I grew up surrounded by rockets, telescopes, astronomy and balloons because of my dad’s job. After graduation in 2000 I started to think about the possibilities of Space Tourism and it seemed obvious to me that the view is the core element of the experience and that balloons are the safest means to achieve the altitudes where the view can be enjoyed. I made a publication, then a business plan, technical design, patent and finally a company.

Any milestones that you’d like to share?

We are happy we just received our first piece of investment from Ultramagic, the world’s second largest producer of hot air ballons. Their qualified endorsement along with their expertise in the ballooning market, certification rules and technical acumen bring us closer to our goal.

Can you tell us a bit about the team?

Full time there are 4 Aerospace Engineers (Master’s level), there are many part time collaborators and interns. We are looking for a Chief Technology Officer and a Chief Marketing Officer. Our adivsory board is highly committed and comprises senior leaders in key sectors for our business.

Any difficulties you’ve experienced in the startup process of your company?

The fact that I had worked on the concept for 9 years prior to incorporating the company had me well prepared. One important skill that I wish I had before, and only now I am starting to grasp is the ability to tell the people that just find your concept cool from the ones that can really help you. Generally in the EU there is a lot of talk about innovation and entrepreneurship as the best thing since bread came sliced, however there is very little real action in this topic. I think politics has distorted so much the landscape that it’s hard to find people driven by pure entrepreneurial spirit.

Any advice to pass on to budding entrepreneurs?

Be open minded and get as much high-quality advice as possible but don’t forget you know more about your business than anybody else.

If you have a startup and would like to have it featured, please write to info [at] f3fundit.com

SCORE – and why Europe needs to

While there are days of the entrepreneur, various government backed incubators initiatives and some absurdly difficult to find money from the EU, the one thing – and possibly the most important thing that is missing Europe-side, are readily accessible mentors. Those seasoned entrepreneurs who are willing to donate their free time to help the future generations of younger ones who lack that experience which sometimes means the difference between success and failure. Well and to keep them away from the failure.

In the U.S., that is SCORE or known by its longer name the Senior Corps of Retied Executives who typically council America’s small businesses, and set them on the road to success and profitability. On average retired individuals who have a passion for entrepreneurship and years upon years of experience in setting up companies. More so, this is probably the most prevalent of all U.S. entrepreneurship initiatives – and is non-for-profit.

On the other hand, Europe has what sometimes seems like countless initiatives dedicated to helping the entrepreneur. Information sessions, workshops conducted in conference halls, packets, subsidized space, financial assistance, etc… etc… etc… and best of all they are all typically backed by taxpayer money.

But the rub is that there is no necessity to subsidize businesses, in fact subsidized companies will be more likely to fail due to the preconceived conception that access to capital is easier to acquire, or simply that to gain that capital one needs to adhere to a set of absurd government guidelines.

What the business needs is contacts, clients and a strategy on how to acquire them – this capital does not provide, nor do information sessions on why it’s great to be an entrepreneur or institutions whose “vision” is to help the entrepreneur focusing more on their own prevalence in any geographic area.

There’s just too much mess out there, too many signals, not enough simple guidance and “proper & effective” entrepreneurial education. Academia is great and teaching people how to be entrepreneurs is fantastic, but there are no better ways to learn that to just do it.

For all the people in the EU, SCORE is accessible form outside the U.S. and the information in there, i.e. business toolbox can be helpful to non business oriented entrepreneurs, and even some business oriented ones.