I've found a horrible and distracting background noise while I work on my articles for ArcticStartup. I'm a news junkie, and I've been following the Middle East on Bambuser, the live video broadcasting service from Sweden. Over the past week I've spent a considerable amount of time listening and watching feeds from Homs, Syria, which usually just shows a still shot of rooftops from a webcam. There's not much to see, so I'll write my articles just listening to Homs while Bambuser runs in another tab. Syria's army has been shelling Homs, a town held by rebels, and at least 300 people have been killed in Homs alone since February 4th. Lots of startups in the region are doing important work, but none have affected how I look at the world like Bambuser.
Valkee, the creator of the bright-light headset used to treat seasonal depression and mood disorders, has published the first results of its clinical and neurobiological research program. The clinical trial, published in Medical Hypothesis, studied therapeutic effects of bright light channeled into the human brain via the ear canal to test the sensitivity of the human brain to light. The trial has been conducted since 2007 and challenges the existing paradigm that light therapy is only effective when transmitted through the eyes.
People with suspicions of Valkee's claimed benefits have long been asking for some proof from a peer reviewed study that acknowledges that the medical concept is sound. Unfortunately this paper will likely do little to remove those suspicions after taking a look at the colorful history of the journal, Medical Hypothesis.
Russian business daily Kommersant reported from unnamed sources on Friday that VTB Capital has invested $10 million in Oktogo.ru, a leading Russian online hotel booking startup, in exchange for a stake of 30 to 35 percent in a capital increase operation. VTB Capital declined to confirm or comment.
Founded in 2010, Oktogo now shows daily traffic reaching 18,000 users on average and up to 25,000 on peak days, project founder Maria Kolesnik told Kommersant. Oktogo’s revenues reached $10 million in 2011 and Kolesnik expects them to triple in 2012.
It seems that Angry Birds is already available on Facebook. We stumbled upon the game a day early of their official release. A few weeks back Rovio announced on Facebook that they would hold the biggest Facebook event ever and invite everyone and your mom to participate. The day naturally coincides with Valentines Day - a great day to share a good game with your friends. We snatched a few screenshots from the game as we played it and they're available below.
We've covered the rise of Helsinki-based Mobile Backstage, a service that creates and maintains smartphone apps for bands. They've seen success creating an interactive fan club service that helps develop and maintain relationships between artists and fans, where now their platform has expanded to many Finnish and UK based bands. Today Mobile Backstage tells us the service has reached 100 thousand registered users on mobile devices alone. These users have also logged 4 million interactions in 2011.
A new Android app being tested in Sweden is WalkMeHome, another player in the location-based safety field that provides peace of mind to those who feel threatened when walking home at night. The app provides a similar service to bSafe, a Norwegian app we covered last December, but I suppose the real innovations come down to the easiest user interface to use in a panicked situation. At its core, WalkMeHome allows users to click on a alert button to send a text message to your pre-designated "guardian angels". The message includes a map of your current location, information about their current position, and your planned destination.
This weekend we saw an update that suggests This Latvian website should have been on our radar long before this article. Ask.fm is a question asking and answering service that gives you the opportunity to ask and answer controversial questions anonymously. According to the company's update on Angellist, Ask.FM, has announced it is hitting a sizable amount of traffic. Since its launch in June of 2010, the company has seen 14m absolute uniques, 78 million visits, and 780 million pageviews per month. New user registrations are also pouring in at over 50,000 registrations a day.
It's easy to think that Skype is the only kid on the block, but its VOIP competitors are hitting significant numbers. Rebtel, the world's second largest VOIP network, announces today that it has hit 15 million users worldwide and has increased revenues by more than 55% in 2011 to $60 million in revenue. The company attributes this to its transparency, honesty, and new innovations, such as the KeepTalking technology that lets users switch seamlessly between between WIFI and 3G if the smartphone app senses the connection quality is deteriorating. In comparison to Rebtel's 15 million users, Skype has 663 million registered users as of September 2011.
Travelers going to the Estonian Air website are given quick access to booking flights and to the typical add-ons such as car rental, hotels, travel insurance, and now taxi booking through Cabforce. The Finnish startup officially launched a few weeks ago, and gives travelers easy online booking for taxis, executive cars, and minibuses. For business travelers, Cabforce provides accountants with detailed receipts (which is not a given in the taxi business), and saves travelers the pain of negotiating prices and which route to take across language barriers.
According to reports by IFPI and some other data available, it seems that Spotify doubled its market share in 2011 as compared to 2010. And by market share we mean the global streaming music market as followed by International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
Also, according to public records the company had filed in the UK we can tell Spotify's revenue was $99 million in 2010. Towards the end of 2010 they also shared that they had some 750 000 paying subscribers world wide. According to IFPI estimates, the global market for subscription services had about 8,2 millioin paying users. This yields Spotify a market share of around 9,1% in 2010.
BaltCap has invested in Clusterpoint to the tune of €1 million, TechCrunch reports. The Latvian company produces its own, designed from ground up database software product-- Clusterpoint data base management system (Clusterpoint DBMS) and related application software. Their software allows customers to simplify database design, and scale out big data in clusters without performance loss.
Following the company's €2.2 million investment from Industrifonden and angel-investors last year, Sweden-based Burt is expanding to Norway, as part of their expansion program. The company produces tools to help advertisers and agencies improve the efficiency and effect of their online campaigns, which we covered last June. Their main product, Rich, distinguishes itself by focusing on the media industry and offering analytics that form a more complete overview of the environment in which their ads are being displayed. As a result ad-buyers can compare online performance of their ads with broadcast and print advertising and media agencies get a greater control over ads, their vital revenue source.
(Article edited to correct that Wiseguys does take 8% equity)
Hot and fresh out of an event in Riga is a new Tallinn based accelerator: Startup Wise Guys. The accelerator is built in the modified Y Combinator model with a similar setup to Startup Sauna in Finland. Getting accelerated involves a 13 week program, demo day in Tallinn and London, and €5000 of funding per founder for 8% of equity. To build some hype, Wise Guys is also offering €500 for any startup referral that makes it into the program (this is my get rich quick scheme-- you heard it here first). The application process is open from 9th of February until 11th of March and the program starts on 25th of April.
In the fifth episode we talk to Estonian investor and serial entrepreneur Allan Martinson. Allan Martinson is the managing and founding partner of MTVP. MTVP is one of the more well known and successful investment companies operating in the Baltic region. In the show, we discuss numerous things about the Nordic and Baltic startup scene as well as the role of accelerators. Martinson also tells us what he thinks needs to be done on the regional scale to get things working better and more effectively.
We also want to thank our first sponsor of the show: Kippt.com - it makes bookmarking and reading the web easier (and we'd like to add beautiful). It works well on your browser as well as on your mobile devices like iPad and iPhone.
Finally - you're also able to now find us in the top navigation under Unfair Advantage. You'll find all the shows there for future reference.
A big issue to consider with any ongoing Facebook marketing campaign is Edgerank-- the algorithm that determines what items pop up in the newsfeed. Facebook tries to show you items that are most relevant to your interests by only showing you status updates, links, and images from the friends and pages that you interact with the most. This provides a strong motivation for Page owners to engage their users and encourage liking, sharing, and commenting. Riding this trend is Bemmu Sepponen, who has created two Fan Page Apps for Facebook, Fan of the Week and Top Fans, where each application has broken the milestone of 1 million monthly active users.
Ovelin, the creators of WildChords, has just announced it has received $1.4 (€1.1) million in seed funding from True Ventures. The Finnish company has already seen a great deal of successes for its innovative method for teaching the guitar, which provides instant feedback and gamified hooks to keep up motivation. WildChords counted 100,000 downloads in the first month of its release, and has racked up a full shelf of awards since leaving StartupSauna. With the funding Ovelin plans on strengthening their team and widening the number of platforms it is available on.
Iron Sky has been one of the more anticipated films in the Finnish movie industry in the past years. The movie is a sequel to the Star Wreck, a fully crowdsourced movie that has become the most watched (and also downloaded) Finnish film of all time. Iron Sky is a built on the story that in 1945 Nazis flew to the moon - and now they're coming back. The movie is also a big budget film by Finnish standards. On Wreckamovie, a site where movie creators can crowdsource parts of the content from the community, the film's budget is listed at an impressive €7.5 million.
Who has the right to enter the artistic scene? Who decides the criteria’s on access to public funding? How would public art funding be designed if we invented the concept now? CrowdCulture is a new crowdfunding site for creative projects, that tries to answer these questions in a fairly unique way. The crowdfunding platform mixes private money with public money in a hybridized economy to fund art and cultural works. The platform was developed by an initiative of Fabel Communication in collaboration with SICS-- the Swedish Institute of Computer Science.
We're back with organising ArcticEvenings! This year we'll do altogether six ArcticEvenings and our annual Arctic15 conference (more on the other events soon). We will kick off our events this year with ArcticEvening Tallinn on Thursday, the 1st of March. Our theme for the event is startup metrics. We also have a really good speaker coming to present his view on startup metrics - William Wolfram of DealDash. We recently interviewed him on Unfair Advantage about the metrics they use in DealDash. Back then he said they are obsessed with metrics and data. I'm sure there will be more interesting things to hear and ask William on stage.
Nokia has just announced, according to Reuters that it is cutting down 4000 jobs in Finland, Hungary and Mexico as it struggles for better profitability. Finnish Helsingin Sanomat expects that the factory in Salo will see some 1000-1200 jobs cut as part of downsizing the output to match demand in Europe.