13 Awesome Startups We Met At The Next Web 2017

Our visit to the The Next Web Conference 2017 wasn’t about talks, it was about the startups that will shape tomorrow.

Last week, part of the Salesflare team headed north for The Next Web Conference in Amsterdam, edition 2017.

It’s one of Europe’s best tech conferences, packed with amazing speakers and startups from all over the world.

When I got back, a lot of my friends wanted to hear about my experience.

“How was TNW 2017, dude?” 😁

“Great!” 👍

“Which talks inspired you the most?” 😏

“I didn’t go to any talks.” 😊

“Huh? What the hell did you do then?” 🙄

I talked to the founders and marketers of the startups in the two exhibition areas. Two days straight. I tried to talk to all 262 of them.

Here’s the thing: I can listen to famous entrepreneurs, founders, CEOs and thought leaders on podcasts in the morning, in the evening, while commuting, while cooking and while dropping a number 2 (excuse me 💩).

I can listen to them any day of the week at any moment I have time to kill. I can listen to them on my time.

Conferences are expensive and TNW is not exactly an exception. Just sitting in a chair amidst a bunch of sweaty people watching some small silhouette on a stage is not worth that money.

Sure, these talks inspire and they motivate. That goes for me too. But talks don’t do anything for our startup and I can them just watch them on YouTube afterwards, laid back on my couch sipping a proper gin and tonic from a cup that is not made from plastic for a lot less than 10 euro.

Spending two days on a chair, listening to some guy telling you what you should do — not with the primary purpose to actually help you, but to market themselves as a thought leader — isn’t good for your startup. It’s a waste of time.

Act rather than follow. Conferences like TNW are a unique opportunity to get a first-row glimpse of the startups that will be ruling tomorrow and build powerful relations with the entrepreneurs and marketers that drive them.

Talking to these guys will get you best practices, industry insights, partnerships, intros, crazy new productivity tools and leads.

That’s a whole lot more than you’d get from listening to talks.

It’s what we got.

Want to know what you missed out on? Here’s 13 startups we thought were cool. Not ranked in a particular order.

#1. Hu:toma — Build your own deep-learning chatbot

From: Barcelona & London

The AI chatbots are coming.

Or are they? 🙄

It’s been about a year since the AI chatbot hype reached its peak at Facebook’s developer conference.

Where you at Google, Facebook and Apple? 🔍

the bots are comingthis epic GIF was created with Guggy (see #13)

Turns out the creation, discovery and monetisation of intelligent chatbots is not exactly a walk in the park. Especially for downright n00bs such as yours truly. How do they work? How trustworthy are they?

👉 Not to mention: how the hell do I make one? 🤔

But what if it doesn’t have to be all that difficult?

Hu:toma wants to take away your pain and remove these entry barriers for the simplest soul out there.

Imagine a place where everyone can build their very own chatbot. Everyone. That includes the I-don’t-know-how-the-fuck-to-code part of the world. That includes you and me.

Hu:toma wants to make building chatbots as easy as playing with Lego. How? By giving you pre-built bots to play around with. You can just handpick the functionalities you’re looking for and hook ‘m up with each other, into your own unique little bot 🤖.

Your very own BB8. One that can book meetings, give you directions and talk to your customers. Maybe at some point it will bring you coffee too.

robot rolling through the desertWhaddup BB8 🤖👋

There’s more: deep learning means you can have your bot learn from data you already have in emails, your CRM or chat channels. No need to build conversation trees yourself.

At some point in time building websites seemed as difficult as creating chatbots today. Hu:toma wants to be for chatbot creation what WordPress is for websites: highly customisable and dead easy for everyone.

Oh, and if you’re one of those crazy people who can actually code chatbots: Hu:toma is the place where you’ll make money 🤑.

#2. Recruitee — Turbocharge your hiring process

From: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Recruitee is some of the most impressive piece of HR tech I’ve seen so far.

Hiring the right people is as tough as it is crucial to the good fortune of your business. This is especially true if you’re a startup and need to scale up your team while still thin in resources. One wrong hire can kill your vibe.

Recruitee gives you everything you need to build the perfect hiring process for your business. It covers every step of the way:

  • put up a beautiful job section on your website
  • quickly spread job ads on both major and niche job boards
  • source candidates from all over the web
  • track and manage candidates (they have a pipeline!)
  • powerful metrics and analytics to learn and optimise

Easy and impressive. Truly 👌.

It’s not just the pipeline that made us think of our own software.

Walking up to Recruitee’s booth for a moment we thought they were demo’ing Salesflare. These guys are totally on the same page as us when it comes to UI design. Their software looks superb.

And get this: existing for barely three years they already count Hotjar, Greenpeace, VICE and Growth Tribe among their customers. Along with about 2000 others.

#3. Spencer — All your workplace tools in one app

From: Antwerp, Belgium

There’s an app for that!

Well yeah, there’s an app for everything, right? 🙄

Apps are the backbones of today’s enterprises. CRM, ERP and HR tools are key for day-to-day business surviving and thriving.

But they have become so big and omnipresent that they’re now undermining employee engagement and productivity rather than empowering it.

As an employee you’re basically spending your days on hopping from tool to tool, keeping up with the fast flow of information and processes they drive, all in different flows and UIs.

These tools are supposed to boost productivity and streamline processes into machine-like efficiency but employees end up working for the apps instead of the other way around.

In comes Spencer — the virtual employee that keeps up with the enterprise app ecosystem and integrates everything into one single mobile app.

This little gem lets you do stuff like submitting POs, requesting holidays, viewing sales numbers, booking meeting rooms and pushing company news. All from the same place and the same interface.

A mobile workplace assistant like Spencer allows employees to reclaim their productivity and creativity. They’ll be better at their jobs and they’ll smile more.

Just a couple of months in their existence, the guys from Spencer already managed to sign three of Belgium’s biggest companies: telecom giants Proximus and Telenet as well as the Dredging, Environmental and Marine Engineering Group, better known as DEME.

#4. Geekbot — Never fu*k up your standup again

From: Thessaloniki, Greece

The typical Salesflare workday starts with a stand-up meeting.

Each team member stands up (we don’t actually stand up — we should 🙄) and fills in the team on what the hell she/he’s been doing yesterday and what she/he’s planning to do today.

So we all know what the hell everyone is doing. Even if no one actually knows what she/he knows what the hell they’re doing 😜.

We do standup meetings to:

  • share understanding of goals — as well as problems and improvements
  • coordinate team efforts
  • identify as a team

One of the main pains about standup meetings is that I often tend to forget what I did the day before. If only I’d have a little minion to keep track of that for me…

this epic GIF was created with Guggy (see #13)

GeekBot 🤖 is a Slackbot that does the heavy standup lifting for you. Every day at a preset time it will ask team members in Slack:

  • what they did yesterday
  • what they want to achieve today
  • what the biggest roadblocks are

Once you’re done, Geekbot will post the session to the broadcast channel.

👉 This brings transparency to the team’s efforts and empowers individual leadership as well as self-management.

You also get to dig back into standup archives to check up on what the team’s been doing over a longer time frame. This extends the value of standup meetings from just one day to longer time frames.

GeekBot is already being used by kickass companies like Nike, Zappos, Salesforce, Sony, Shopify, AIG, Kissmetrics and more.

#5. Pluot. — Move over, Skype & Google Hangouts

From: San Francisco, United States

Pluot. is a video conferencing startup fresh out of Y Combinator.

I can hear you thinking.

Not just another one though.

Pluot’s free version is unlike any other video call software I ever used in terms of audio/video quality, speed and convenience 😯.

👉 One link, one click, one second and you’re sitting in front of each other. No logins, no downloads.

You know when you accidentally switch to your phone’s front camera and all of a sudden you’re staring at your own stupid face? It’s that quick 👇.

Forget about Skype, Slack and Google Hangouts — these guys play in a different league. Sure, Slack is convenient but Pluot also has a Slack integration. It also links with Google Calendars and supports screen sharing.

Pluot. Pro is for full-fledged video meetings. It comes with a nifty camera and mic to turn TVs into powerful conference battleships. Perfect for remote teams and companies with worldwide presence.

#6. Social.co — Cut social media clutter for good

From: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

If you’re doing online marketing like I am, you know how much work it can be to keep up with all of your social media channels. I need about 10 minutes every day when I wake up just to read through my phone’s notifications.

There’s so much clutter. How do you break through the bullshit and stay top of mind with the people that really matter to you?

Disconnecting is not an option. Social media is where you do market research, it’s where you find leads, it’s where you nurture relationships and it’s where you connect with customers

You can’t afford to not show up every day.

For a while I’ve been thinking about ways to lessen the quantity of social media while upping quality and ROI.

I was just checking up on a new load of notifications at TNW when Omer comes up to me and tells me he is going to solve my pains with Social.co.

Sure, but… how? His pitch blew me away.

Okay dude… But how? 🤔

It’s quite simple. With Social.co you’ll only get the notifications that matter to you. It will bother you with nothing but notifications related to targeted accounts and keywords you select.

Notifications can be set to appear both immediately and periodically — whatever floats your boat. Minimum disturbance for maximum social impact on customer engagement, business relations and influencer marketing 😍.

At the moment Social.co works for Twitter and Instagram, Facebook will be next.

The platform is currently in alpha which means a huge opportunity for you. Sign up and help these guys perfect a product so many marketers out there need.

#7. WordLift — Have AI take control of your content

From: Rome, Italy

I don’t particularly like SEO.

I prefer to write content for humans rather than for machines. Problem is, if you’re not pleasing the machine, your written-for-humans content may barely get noticed — no matter how awesome it is.

There’s no way around SEO. We all need to suck up and do it.

WordLift wants to take that out of your hands.

Meet an AI-powered WordPress plugin that will help you grow organic traffic by transforming your articles into machine-friendly gems search crawlers, chatbots and personal assistants like Google Assistant, Siri and Alexa just love.

The idea is that you can just focus on writing epic content while WordLift does the heavy SEO lifting for you 💪.

WordLift’s magic is driven by Natural Language Processing technology. It analyses articles and transforms text into metadata. That metadata will be automatically published and made available to web crawlers as Five-Star Linked Open Data. If you have no clue what that is, check it out — it’s pretty cool.

👉 This will get you a bunch of content-enriching opportunities like semantic content recommendations, automatic interlinking, data visualisations and free images.

So in a nutshell: WordLift will help you create content that both humans and machines love. Without you having to lift an extra finger 😎.

#8. Chestnote — The slow-messaging revolution

From: Antwerp, Belgium

Remember the days when you got excited when seeing your phone flash and say ‘You have one new message’? 😍

Things have sped up since then. Snapchat showed up and messaging has become fast and meaningless. Sure, self-destructing messages are fun to fool around with but some experiences and some people deserve more than five seconds.

this epic GIF was created with Guggy (see #13)

Back when I was rocking a Nokia 3310, I kept a secret map of messages that were dear to me. I’d pop them up and read them again at the right time. Can you imagine doing that today?

I mean, do you actually remember what was on the last iMessage, WhatsApp Message, Slack Message, Facebook Message, LinkedIn Message, Twitter Message or Whatever Message you got? 🤔

Chestnote wants to bring back that warm, fuzzy feeling from back in the days by making your messages matter again.

Other than the content itself (text, photo or video) you can set both place and time for your message to reveal itself. The special someone you send it to will only be able to open the message at that place and that time, turning it into an experience she/he will have a hard time forgetting.

It’s a great way to relive old memories that shaped connections with your loved ones. Imagine luring your loved one to the place you had your first date, have them open up a message saying ‘Look up’ and they see you descending from an air balloon with a ring ready to pop the question. (Yes, guilty of being a helpless romantic ✋)

Chestnote is not just for romance. Companies can use it to engage and activate customers. Just last month, Chestnote partnered up with Belgian network provider Mobile Vikings to send users on a hunt for special Easter prizes.

#9. Kontentino — When Buffer doesn’t cut it

From: Bratislava, Slovakia

Kontentino is a social media management and scheduling tool.

Soooo, another Hootsuite or Buffer? 🤔

Not quite ☝️.

Kontentino is all about optimising creativity and productivity workflows across multiple professionals and teams. They focus on bigger social media and marketing agencies rather than the sole freelancers, small teams and personal users Hootsuite and Buffer are helping out.

Here’s the problem: the bigger your agency and the bigger the clients you work for, the complexer it gets to collaborate on great content and plan distribution across the social media ecosystem.

For social media to pay off you have to get right the content, format, channel and timing just right — every time again.

Social media planning workflow without (left) and with Kontentino (right)

Kontentino is designed to make social media content collaboration, planning and approval a piece of cake 🎂.

Content creators can align around an intuitive and interactive calendar, live preview posts in all possible social media formats and push it to an approval workflow that also includes the client.

👉 Everyone knows at all times what the team is doing and only content everyone approves gets through.

Big brands like Adidas, SAB Miller, Pernot Ricard and Absolut Vodka are already relying on Kontentino for their social media strategies.

If you want to dig deeper, Kontentino’s blog has two neat posts where they break down the exact differences between them and both Hootsuite and Buffer, with cases on where one of the two would be the better fit.

#10. AXSemantics — Self-writing content

From: Stuttgart, Germany

Wait, what? Content that writes itself?

👇 Behold our reaction when we walked by AXSemantics’ booth.

guy shocked throwing his hands back

Salesflare is about automation. We want you to use a CRM you don’t have to waste time and energy on. Right now that means it fills out your address book, keeps track of all your contact’s interactions and tells you to follow up when you should. In the future there will be a lot more where that came from. How about self-writing emails? 😏

Hence our interest 😎.

AXSemantics automates content from sources of big data. You can plug it into your systems via REST-API or manually import with .XLS and .CSV. They also provide the possibility to enrich your data with data from partners.

Quite the customer testimonial 😯

Think commerce systems, product information databases, business intelligence platforms and similar. All of these are full of valuable data AXSemantics can turn into site-ready content.

Not sure if you’ll like the content that comes out? No worries, you can set your own wording, linguistic styles and story structures into rulesets to direct the content creation process. You stay in control.

Oh and this little text robot speaks every language on the planet.

#11. YouTeam — Booking.com for IT outsourcing

From: London, United Kingdom

Everyone needs a badass software developer these days.

If you’re ‘everyone’ you know how much of a pain in the ass it can be to find one, let alone a good one.

Currently, there’s about 5 (!) software jobs per available candidate.

That’s a huge problem and it only gets bigger for SMEs and startups. They have a hard time competing for the top dogs out there, leaving them to fight over the crumbs. Not exactly ideal when you’re fighting fierce battles to emerge in your market.

Wouldn’t it be great if a fresh load of experienced engineers would magically appear out of nowhere? 🤔

That’s what YouTeam is working on. Magic ✨. But not out of nowhere.

Turns out a lot great engineers working at software agencies are currently nowhere to be found on the job market while they could be. They could be because that these engineers are often underloaded at their agency and could work on other projects. The problem? They don’t want to freelance or change employer/location.

In fact, idle tech staff is a typical problem that adds up to about 10% in costs for software agencies. Together with S&M and HR bonuses this can combine to a blazing 30% total overhead.

YouTeam brings together both sides of the equation by giving businesses the opportunity to rent kickass engineers from this pool of software agencies.

Learn more at YouTeam.co.uk

YouTeam also takes care of the risks that come with IT outsourcing, such as payment and code escrow, as well as independent verification of skills.

👉 All you have to do is handpick yourself the best engineer for your team.

YouTeam’s mission: to build the world’s biggest database of idle tech talent. Similar to what our customer Udacity does for tech alumni.

Stay tuned for more awesome stuff like AI-driven candidate/job match-making, enhanced independently verified CVs and solutions for performance-based reimbursement and more.

#12. Vainu — Big Data helping you find the best leads

Vainu is your best friend, your least paid employee and your competitor’s worst nightmare.

That’s some solid marketing copy right there 👌.

Question is: is it as awesome as it sounds? 🤔

Vainu doesn’t brew your beer, neither does it bring your coffee. What it does do is bring you leads. Not just any leads — qualified leads.

How? Data baby 😎.

Vainu uses intelligent data collection from millions of open and public data sources to identify prospecting signals. It’ll get you the best leads out of that data based on a set of parameters you set and tell you when the time is right to contact them.

They currently have databases from the United States, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and The Netherlands to fish your leads from. Denmark, Ireland and Australia are reportedly coming soon.


They’re already counting big fish like FedEx, DHL and Adecco among their happy customers.

#13. Guggy — Transform any text into epic GIFs

From: Israel

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I have the hots for animated GIFs.

Finding the perfect GIF to express a feeling can be a pain in the ass. GIPHY has let me down on more than one occasion when trying to find a GIF that matched the vibe I wanted to bring across in my post.

The Guggy-guys (read that out loud, it’s fun) told me their app could give me the perfect GIF for every combination of words I typed in.

Always the perfect GIF at your fingertips.

I was skeptical, but they proved me wrong. Guggy will automatically add your text to a series of related GIFs and I must say it does a hell of a job sourcing those.

Guggy has bots for Viber, Slack, Messenger, iMessage and Telegram as well as a sweet Chrome Extension and an API. And more, go check for yourself at guggy.com.

We tried to talk to all 262 startups at The Next Web but came short of that goal. Not every booth was manned at all times and there’s only so much time in a man’s life, let alone at a two-day conference.

If you were rocking TNW17 with your startup and you believe you should have made this list, please, oh please, let us know! 🤗

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Gilles DC