We published an article earlier today on the status of ACTA, being signed by 22 European countries in Tokyo. This in itself is a clear signal of how the process has been wanted to put forward, quietly and in secrecy. Even though this is a global treaty that countries join voluntarily, would it not have made sense to sign it in Europe? Probably not. That would have caught the medias' attention resulting in public debate.
SOPA received a lot of publicity in the US in the last couple of months. The publicity is all deserved. It's a flawed law that should not pass. The upside of this is that the legislation was analysed in detail and it sparked a lot of public debate.
This is completely the opposite how ACTA is put through. In December we covered ACTA in a post where the EU Council adopted ACTA in a meeting for Fisheries and Agriculture, even though it clearly didn't belong there.
We were sitting in the ArcticStartup office yesterday afternoon and Antti showed me the video to the unreleased to-do list app, Clear, by UK based Realmac Software. The app is beautiful and colorful way to do the same to-do list function that has been iterated a thousand times since the invention of the keyboard.
Whoever created Clear didn't come up with a brand new way to solve an unsolved problem -- they thought, hey I've got the UI skills to build a better mousetrap. And with posters everywhere on the way to the office proclaiming Helsinki as the World Design Capital of 2012, that got me thinking about where the "Arctic Valley" is in terms of elegant design.
In our third episode we talked to Nikolaj Nyholm, a partner at Sunstone Capital in Copenhagen, Denmark. We wanted to talk to him as Sunstone had recently led a large investment into Gidsy. In the show we also talk Sunstone capital's way of doing business and what areas they see currently hot. He also shares some insight on Soundcloud and Prezi. Oh, and you need to listen in to hear what were some of the hot Nordic and Baltic companies they've passed, but have since then become successful.
At a signing ceremony in Tokio, representatives from the European Union and 22 member states have signed the controversial ACTA treaty. Signatories include the UK, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. The five remaining member states -- Cyprus, Germany, Estonia Netherlands and Slovakia, are also expected to sign soon.
ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is a proposed international treaty that would establish standards for the enforcement of intellectual property rights to prevent digital and physical counterfeits. The treaty calls for the creation of an "ACTA committee" to make treaty amendments, for which public or judicial review are not required, according to Wikipedia. The panel would also operate outside of the scope of the World Trade Organizations or the United Nations.
Finland-based analytics provider Xtract has been acquired by software company Comptel for EUR 3.1 million. Xtract was founded in 2001 and specializes in advanced customer analytics solutions for companies operating in the mobile, retail and finance sectors.
Arctic15 finalist 46elks has released its Global Voice feature this morning, meaning that applications can receive and make international calls to anywhere in the world through the 46elks cloud communication platform. As part of the total package, 46elks makes it very easy to integrate Voice, SMS & MMS into your applications by providing the API infrastructure and phone numbers behind whatever service you're building.
Nokia announced yesterday it has sold the 1.5 billionth Series 40 phone to a 21 year old woman in São Paulo Brazil. The phone sold was a Nokia Asha 303, which comes with a touch screen and a pre-installed version of Angry Birds Lite-- a big step up from the Nokia 7110, the first S40 phone sold in 1999. This comes on the heels of Apple's attention grabbing earnings and sales numbers, where it reported it has sold 138 million iPhones since they came into existence in 2007.
An OSX developer from Spotify's labs came out with a new third party desktop client for Spotify to show off the power of the libspotify and CocoaLibSpotify API features. The client, called Viva, is only runnable on Mac OSX Lion systems and with those with a Premium Spotify account. It can be downloaded from here, or you can view and build it from source on Github. With it, you get a quick and buggy version of Spotify, but with some notably missing features from the standard version such as a visualizer. To be honest, Viva really didn't work for me at all. It told me that every normal track wasn't playable in my area, but as a concept it does point to an early 2000's Winamp era of customization of features for Spotify.
Rovio has announced that Angry Birds will expand to Facebook on February 14th. They did this in a very subtle way, by inviting people to an event on Facebook itself. Angry Birds has been anticipated to arrive on Facebook since last spring. At the time of writing this there are only a little over a thousand people invited to the event, but this will surely grow as the date gets closer.
Qubulus is a Swedish company producing the engine and algorithms behind what they call QPS, the "Qublus Positioning System". With it, they seek to solve the mobile phone indoor positioning problem that will provide an accurate X, Y and Z level for their own positioning products, and for solutions for developers.
One end-user product they're advertising is Iguana, a workforce collaboration solution that offers you the ability to find and interact with your colleagues, no matter what floor or building they're in. For Developers, Gecko is a tool they've built so anyone can provide indoor positioning in their apps. It's advertised as free to use, and to implement it, basically all you have to do is provide a map of your venue and record a "fingerprints" file by walking through the venue to collect the radio signals.
Danish software company Xstream has created one of the first Video On Demand Facebook applications for Nordisk Film's Facebook page (soon to be available). The customized VOD apps will allow Facebook members within the Nordic countries to rent and stream episodes of films and shows, in HD quality, directly within the Facebook canvas, as well as full screen viewing. The PR push for this integration really highlights Nordisk's streaming rights to the Twilight series, and it's not hard to imagine why. Some people love their Facebook and Twilight, and what can beat Twilight in your Facebook?
Despite the news of co-founder and Chairman of Blyk Media India Antti Öhrling's departure last December, Blyk is seeing steep growth in its global opt-in audience base from one million at the end of 2010, to four million during 2011. Blyk runs permission-based marketing by partnering with mobile phone operators and allowing subscribers to interact with third-party brands and the operators. The company is partnered with T-Mobile and Orange in the UK, Vodaphone in the Netherlands, and Aircel in India.
Eskimi, the Lithuanian-based mobile social network based on flirting, has announced it recently hit 5 million users, and is growing at 30 000 a day. The service has grown steadily in popularity in Africa, where desktop-based social networks have not meet the needs of every mobile user. Eskimi's largest market is in Nigeria, where the company counts around 2.2 million users. There is also a growing user-base in Ghana, South Africa,Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, where there are over 250 000 users each. Our last coverage of Eskimi six months ago reported they had 2.5 million users.
Last week saw the closure of hugely popular site Megaupload.com that functioned as a file-sharing site for individuals. That was the intention, but many used it to share illegal files as well. It has been publicly stated, that due to the fact that the service held so much pirated material - the FBI and New Zealand police arrested Kim Dotcom (previously Kim Schmitz). Kim Schmitz is actually half German, half Finn which qualifies him for coverage on ArcticStartup.
Yubico, a Swedish/American provider of online identity security has announced it has grown its user base by 90% in 2011. New customers include U.S. Department of Defense contractors, e-governments, and cloud technology. Along with the announcement, Yubico says it has ended 2011 with more than a million users and 18000 customers in 100 countries.
We've received news that tomorrow Blaast is launching "the world's first cloud-based mobile platform" in Jakarta, Indonesia in cooperation with the mobile operator XL. The Helsinki-based company is throwing a press event and hackathon designed to catch the attention of the local press and the local developer community, who are encouraged to create apps for the entirely cloud-based platform. Finland's Foreign Minister, Alex Stubb, is also in Jakarta and will likely attend the launch.
Blaast has been operating in stealth mode for some time, but what's been public is that the company's cloud based platform will essentially allow 'dumber' feature phones to behave like smartphones by running the complicated background processes in the cloud. Android already incorporates some of this ideology, but Blaast has built its entire platform on this concept.
Finnish social news aggregator Scoopinion is looking to capitalize on Twitter’s acquisition of competitor Summify. According to co-founder Johannes Koponen, Summify’s unanticipated exit and subsequent shut down has enabled Scoopinion to grow its user base significantly during the last few days.
Has Scoopinion caught a lucky break? Well, not really. It all comes down to hard work. The guys at Scoopinion were quick enough to react and engage in some aggressive marketing tactics, recommending the startup’s newsletter service as an alternative to Summify on all major news sites and blogs that covered the acquisition.
SoundCloud has just announced it has reached 10 million users. SoundCloud is a music startup currently in Berlin, but its roots lay in Sweden where its two co-founders Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss are from. We've covered the music service in the past as well a couple of times and they've definitely been one of the more interesting startups in Europe in the recent months. Just a few weeks ago the company closed a, reportedly, $50 million finance round.
Finland-based Cabforce launched officially at the Nordic Travel Fair last week. The service allows business and recreational travelers to book a taxi up to two hours in advance, and pre-pay with a credit card online. This saves the stress of being "taken for a ride" on a longer route in an unfamiliar city, and simplifies payment and language hassles with local drivers.
Editorial note: This is a sponsored blog post by Microsoft as part of their series Hear it from startups.
Imagine Cup is an annual competition aimed at students worldwide, who are looking to change the world. Each year students compete against each other in many different categories for the best application. Applications are judged by their real world potential in changing the world, but also how viable they are business wise.
This year the finals will take place in Sydney, Australia and Microsoft Finland will be sending one team from Finland to the finals. The team however, has to win the semi-finals in Finland first.
Imagine Cup has multiple different categories available, but if you choose to enter the competition local semi-finals will be held for the Windows Phone Challenge as well as the Software Design categories.