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Big things can come from small countries, and so can ‘big’ people.

First, a little background in case you’ve never heard of Bart Decrem: he was born and raised in Belgium, but emigrated to the United States at the age of 22. He got a law degree at Stanford and moved to the Silicon Valley area right after graduation, where he started Plugged In, the nation’s first digital divide program that Bill Clinton once called a model
for the rest of the country. When he left in ’99, he co-founded Eazel and was actively involved in the creation of the GNOME Foundation.

In March 2001, Bart moved to Korea and worked as VP Business Development for Linux One and Hancom Linux. He later headed marketing and business affairs for the Mozilla Foundation, where he was responsible for the Firefox launch and business partnerships with Google and others. He went on to co-found Flock, for which he served as CEO until he stepped down in September 2006. Full bio can be found here.

I got the chance to ask Bart a couple of questions, you can find the transcript of the interview after the jump.

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Mostly thanks to the growing information overload, web-based memetrackers are popping up like mushrooms. Memetrackers scan a limited number of ‘authorative’ websites and blogs for the latest and biggest news and discussions, often within a defined topic (e.g. politics, technology, etc.). Since most memetrackers are available only in English, the space for services copying the concept to aggregate sources in other languages is wide open. BlogObs (short for ‘Blogs & Observatory’) is leading the way for the French speaking community.

BlogObs is a project by Denis Balencourt and Tor Holden (Synapsys), two guys from Brussels who have been friends since their childhood. They experienced the need of a memetracker for French websites and blogs, because they lacked the time it took to weed trough hundreds of RSS feeds in order to satisfy their lust for information. Since nobody seemed to be dedicating himself to create it, they decided to build one themselves (in association with DSImprove).

Although the service was launched almost 2 months ago, it’s still running in ‘alpha mode’, which means imperfections can occur. Currently, BlogObs tracks an undisclosed number of French speaking websites and blogs for two well-defined categories: politics and technology (both can be syndicated with an RSS feed). If you want to keep track of future developments, check out their blog.

Plans for the future include: adding video integration, more categories (e.g. science, media, …), other languages (Dutch should follow in the next couple of months) and to provide space for advertising so they can monetize traffic in a non-obtrusive way.

In Belgium, there are two comparable services aggregating the Flemish blogosphere: blogium and De Blogoloog.

As for the English language, the list of comparable services is quite long, with Techmeme / Memeorandum, TailRank, Megite, Blogniscient, Chuquet, Topix.net, Digg, …

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Mobiya, a Belgian startup I briefly profiled last month, has just successfully closed a financing round. In total, a capital injection of a quarter million euro has been approved by an international group of private investors, among which a number of venture partners from Belgian and Dutch venture firms like Big Bang Ventures and Solid Ventures.

Mobiya is exploring the fields of ‘Next Generation Classified Advertising’, by which they basically mean they’re actively looking for innovative ways of bringing classifieds from the offline and online world to the mobile phone. The Mobiya Application Suite, launched in October 2006, offers any publisher the opportunity to integrate classifieds in their magazines, newspapers and/or websites, handle the content billing, formatting, distribution, etc. The system is patent-pending; an approval is expected within the following 6 months.

The company believes the explosion of mobile user generated content (text, image, audio, video, etc.) and the rise of mobile advertising are capable of disrupting the business model of traditional classified advertising (and estimated 100 billion dollar industry). The Mobile Classifieds industry is believed to grow into a 4.2 billion dollar industry by 2010. Below is Mobiya’s projection of the ‘Mobile 2.0’ roadmap, in comparison with the Web 2.0 (r)evolution. In my opinion, the projection is relatively cautious in terms of timing. I think we’ll be seeing a breakthrough in mobile payments and mobile social networks before 2010.

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Mobiya’s go-to-market strategy is twofold: indirectly (mobile enablement of publishers’ classified content and activation of user generated content initiatives) and directly (by working with partners on large-scale projects to provide full outsourcing of existing or new classified business).

Mobiya is actively looking for media partners looking to create a full-scale classified gateway, and has already struck deals with national daily newspapers and classified advertising giants in both Belgium and the UK (where they have installed a sales office).

A working example can be found on Dolcevia.com (check the sidebar on the left) and Mobiya.be. Comparable international services are emerging in this growth market as well: examples include IQZone and TextAndSell.

Mark Creeten is very much into CSS & XHTML design, and his website Gigadesign.be has become a reference for a lot of professional web designers and developers. After receiving many requests from visitors, Mark came up with the idea of creating CSSSnippets, what he calls an ‘online CSS Code Social Bookmarking Tool’.

Basically, CSSSnippets allows registered users to submit, tag, share and comment on CSS code snippets publicly or within a defined group of ‘friends’. The stats show that the usage is relatively low with 23 registered users having submitted 60 snippets, but Mark claims this is a result of the fact that CSS design is still relatively young in both Belgium and The Netherlands (the website is only available in Dutch). Nevertheless, the website has managed to make it to the 6th place in the category ‘best newcomer’ of The Dutch Web 2.0 Awards 2006.

Mark is looking for ways to increase community participation by motivate users and visitors to submit their own CSS code snippets. If you have any suggestions, you can post them in comments.

By the way, if you want to test your own CSS and XHTML skills, check out his other site Gigastyle.be.

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He’s 28 years old and he looks like an average college student. But don’t let that first impression fool you: Dries Buytaert is far from average.

Currently a PhD student at the University of Ghent, and not even in his thirties yet, Dries has already managed to build up an impressive resume, which you can consult on his personal website. Most people know him as the founder and maintainer of Drupal, a brilliantly written piece of open source software, used by thousands of high-end developers worldwide to build content management systems, blogs, forums, collaborative authoring environments, etc. He’s the driving force behind the enthusiastic Drupal community (including the Belgian one), and an experienced speaker at international conferences.

If you want to know how it all started, it’s right after the jump.

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