Brussels sprouts

Entrepreneurship is alive and well in Europe. I've spent the last few days in Brussels attending the Benelux Venture Forum.

There is certainly no shortage of great technology start-ups and venture capital in the region from what I witnessed.

Investors were various and numerous - I was on a panel with Cees-Jan Koomen from Point-One and Herman De Latte who set up Big Bang Ventures and previously Solid Ventures both of whom have invested seed capital in several of the high-growth companies. Patrick Polak from Newion moderated a lively session.

I also spent time with Jenny Tooth who represents GLE in London, who in turn are involved in EASY (supported by PRO INNO) and part of EBAN. Jean-Bernard Schmidt from Sofinnova and Rene Savelsburg opened the morning session discussing where they reckon the hottest investment opportunities are.

William Stevens from the organisers Europe Unlimited presented the latest Ernst & Young statistics - European investment is flat at just over €1bn last quarter, the #1 investment sector is Biotech and Software is #2 (then IT services/Internet at #3 and Mediatech #5).

In terms of geo's, the UK represented 25% of the €1.2bn invested following by FR and GER. Then Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden and Spain. Venture One stats show there were 353 deals in Q2/2002 as compared to 217 deals in Q4/07.

Paul Webber from Europe Unlimited released the Benelux Venture top 50 companies list.

Companies who pitched innovative propositions in the ICT track included David Schrieberg from Cinelan who have a platform for short films targeting online publishers; and online e-lending company Boober.

Scense from Rotterdam, backed by Solid Ventures, and Mirror42 also in the Netherlands, have solutions to make enterprise investment in IT more effective. Koen from Scense - an impossibly well-educated and successful serial entrepreneur and all-round nice guy - won the award for a great presentation.

myngleMarina Tognetti showed a new online language platform and was also selected for an award.

Myngle will go forward for the European finals in December.

In the mobile / social networking space we saw Teydo with Location Based Services which is useful for tracking (in the US apparently the most popular application of this technology is 'spouse tracking'), for 'buddy finding' and for other 'peace of mind' applications e.g. child safety. In the future it will have a lot more uptake by operators as the mobile platform evolves beyond navigation. iNewit also presented as did the very entertaining ex-VP of Real Networks, Marco Menato, CEO of 24access solutions.

Cellixx launched their B2B travel application last year and already have Jumeirah and Hertz as customers. Wheras cameramanager allows you to keep an eye on things while traveling.

On the subject of asset tracking, Ambient Systems are doing some interesting stuff in the field of active RFID (or Real Time Location Systems as it is also known). Apparently investment in this technology was accelerated after the the Pentagon realised they had a use for active tracking of stuff after the US Army lost the equipment en route to Kuwait during the second Gulf War. Fascinating day............