09:00 AM

UberVU: The Romanian Geeks Are Coming...!


I had an excellent morning, drinking coffee at the Apollo cafe, and chatting with the co-founders of uberVU, a London-based startup. Vladimir Oane and Dragos Ilinca are young serial entrepreneurs on their second startup.

I missed them on my trip with the Traveling Geeks last summer to London, so this was a good opportunity to finally meet in person.

They are from Romania, and met at the University of Bucharest. They sold their first company, a web marketing company, and founded uberVU in 2008, winning the 2008 Seedcamp, a UK based funding competition. They have funding from UK investors and are in town this week to lay the foundation for moving their company to San Francisco.

Their service offers "social media monitoring" with a wide variety of tools and reports, monitoring comments, Twitter, social networks, and other sites for any brand or subject.

They offer a freemium model and so far, things are going well. But they are looking for new opportunities for what they have -- which is a large database of social media content going back a couple of years, and which could be mined for trends and other valuable information.

They said they were keen readers of SVW, and they were interested in my position that a lot of tech companies are essentially media companies. They are starting to see themselves as a media company rather than a data company, and they are looking for ways of publishing some of their data, possibly focused on verticals, such as finance.

Here are some notes from our conversation:

- London has a good startup scene but 90 per cent of uberVU traffic and users are in the US, that's why they want to move their company. Their UK investors were against it at first but now understand why it is a good idea.

- They have a 6 person development team in Romania, which means their development costs are low. They use Amazon to host their service.

- The startup scene in Romania is similar to that of Germany - mostly clones of US online businesses but the domestic market is small, it is difficult to succeed. Everyone is a blogger and also a big user of Twitter.

- uberVU has an API but they haven't been pushing it heavily, at least not yet.

- Their service is near real-time, and they don't see many use cases for having true real-time monitoring. They made the point that the recent Citibank incident, when the bank suspended the bank account of Fabulis, was a multi-day event, and that Citibank was able to respond after three days and gather positive publicity. [Fabulis vs Citibank - the numbers behind the story]

- Their service also does automatic sentiment analysis, which they estimate is about 70 per cent accurate. Which isn't bad because people doing sentiment analysis are about 80 per cent accurate.

I like the team and I like the company. They are sitting on a lot of data that could be turned into profitable business services -- social media monitoring is just one aspect of their business. But they do need partners, with an 8 person team there is only so much you can do.

(The above photo is from their business cards, Vladimir Oane (right) and Dragos Ilinca.)