IPhone Sales Finally Grow, Russian Operators Accused Of Overpricing Conspiracy

In 2011 the Russian mobile operator and retailer MTS – one of the two exclusive importers of iPhones to Russia – brought in as many iPhones (for $140.8 million) as it had during all the years dating back to the product’s launch in 2008.

According to the IT and telecom news portal CNews.ru, MTS’s purchases of iPhones amounted to $65.4 million in 2008 and to $79.4 million in 2010 — but to just $3.4 million in 2009, due to the initial commercial failure of the smartphone.

MTS’s sales plan over these years was fulfilled by only 30%. In the absence of operator subsidies, the iPhone’s pricing (starting at $1,000) and positioning as an elite product did much to explain the poor sales record.

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Cuutio Inbound Marketing Platform Raises €100 000

Helsinki-based Cuutio has raised €100 000 by angel investors Pekka Koskinen, Esa Mäkeläinen, Charles Odinot, Jaakko Salminen, and Raimo Vaalasranta. The company bills itself as an easy-to-use service for companies to monitor and manage their online presence, sort of like a Google Analytics before your customers even arrive on your site.

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Everplaces' New Features Flirt With Social Travel

Everplaces has tacked on more social features, expanding the scope of the service since launching just in the middle of March. The company was founded to be somewhat of an Evernote for places, making it easy to save and store that restaurant that you saw, or remember that great place for a picnic. The service was great for bookmarking places, but a new social layer adds another level of usefulness to the service.

Rather than focus Everplaces on the nerdier folks among us, CEO Tine Thygesen told us in our podcast interview last week that they're really focused on bringing their service to nearly every user with a smartphone or computer.

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Zerply Raises $600K Seed Round

Zerply has announced it has raised €600 000 (€456 000) to expand their development team and establish an office in Tallinn, Estonia. Investors in the round include Dave McClure / 500 Startups, Quotidan Ventures, EchoVC, and others. With the funding round, Zerply is also launching Zerply Converse, a conversation tool, and two new integrations where you can show off your skills.

Zerply operates on the idea that while resumes might still be the credentials of choice for fortune 500 companies, the creative class are better served through portfolios that demonstrate their talents. Online there's not a great place to go, and certainly LinkedIn's format doesn't best express a designer's talents.

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The Evolution Of Conferences

Last week I attended the awesome TheNextWeb Conference in Amsterdam. It was organised by TheNextWeb, naturally. The event itself was excellent, high production value and a good bunch of people that made it even more interesting. However, participating in it made me think about conferences and how little they have actually evolved over time.

Clearly people attend conferences, summits and other business focused events for a reason. Usually the biggest reason is related to the other attendees, ie. having the possibility to network, create new connections, keep old ones going and possibly also meet new partners and clients.

Keeping this reason in focus is of course important, but what many events (us included) have a hard time doing is innovating around this. While there have been a few innovative concepts recently attempted, business events at large still follow the same one to many communication routine.

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Flattr and Dailymotion Partner To Provide Income For Video Creators

Swedish micro payments provider Flatter has partnered with Dailymotion, the world's second largest video portal with 100 million unique monthly visitors and 20 000+ daily uploads. The partnership will allow viewers to directly pay video creators by "Flattring" online videos, creating what they call the world's first crowd-funded social video network.

Flattr buttons found on the web are very similar to Facebook "like" buttons, but involves a real money transfer to the creators of the content you Flattr. A user's Flattr account has a fixed amount of money to give away each month, and at the end of the month this balance is split between websites, podcasst, videos, and whatever else the user Flattrs. The service is designed to easily repay content creators for their time, while getting rid of the mental task of "how much is this going to cost me?"

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Connect Ventures Closes €16M Fund For Early Stage Investments

A new European venture capital fund has opened up in London after raising €16 million for early-stage investments. Connect Ventures will focus on web and mobile sector investments, with a particular focus on web, digital media, e-commerce, entertainment and gaming sectors. Investments will run across €250 000 to €1.25 million across seed and Series A rounds.

Behind the fund is Pietro Bezza and Bill Earner. Bezza is an entrepreneur and angel investor who founded and built up Neo Network, a market-leading digital content venture that he sold to the European media group De Agostini. His angel investments include Picklive, where he serves as board director, PlusPlugg and Dri Dri.

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Click-And-Mortar Concepts Gain Traction Among Russian Retailers

M.Video, a leading consumer electronics retailer, will open a network of outlets in Russian cities of less than 150,000 inhabitants, Telecom Daily reported last week. The limited-surface outlets will extend their restricted on-site assortment through POS electronic terminals that provide local customers with access to the retailer’s full catalog.

The first outlet of this type will open this summer, M.Video’s press service announced, with plans to deploy 35 similar sites across the country by the end of the year. The firm will invest some 35-40 million rubles ($11.5-$13.5 million) for each outlet, compared to 50 million rubles ($16.7 million) for a standard store.

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Nordics Embrace Crowdfunding

With project after project hitting higher and higher goals on Kickstarter (a watch just hit $7 million of its $100,000 goal) one can say the crowdfunding industry is hot. The U.S. is also opening up equity crowdfunding for startups, which could usher in a new era of startup investing. Perhaps it's just hard to compete against the noise and hype of the U.S., but the Nordic region also has a couple platforms that can get your startup funded though both Kickstarter-like gifting and equity crowdfunding.

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Wrapp Launches In The U.S.

Wrapp has now launched in the United States, partnering their launch with retailers including the Gap, H&M, Rovio, and Sephora. We've been covering Wrapp for some time now, interviewing COO Carl Fritjofsson on our podcast and hosting CEO Hjalmar Winbladh at our ArcticEvening panel discussion in Stockholm. In both cases they stressed the importance of controlling the United States market, especially against the competition of the German Samwer Brothers' Dropgifts.

At the ArcticEvening event I asked Winbladh if their biggest barrier to entry in the U.S. was selling the concept to large retailers. He said brands can easily see Wrapp's value, but what was more important was being sure to get the right retailers on board for launch. Wrapp is opening in the U.S. with 10 brands, with another 15 merchants joining in a matter of weeks.

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Just-Eat Raises $64 Million For More Competitor "Take-Away"

Just-Eat, the Denmark originated company opertaing online takeaway sites has announced a $64 million (€48 million) C-round investment led by Vitruvian Partners. Former Just-Eat investors Index Partners, Greylock Partners and Redpoint Ventures also took part in the round. We've interviewed Just-Eat CEO Klaus Nyengaard on Unfair Advantage as well as covered the company before on ArcticStartup as well. We talked to him again on the new investment the company raised.

Nyengaard raised three different reasons, when we asked why the company went for such a large round. Firstly, Just-Eat sees the online takeaway services continuing to develop in the coming years. Nyengaard stated that in such a high growth industry and environment, "it is always a good idea to have a strong balance sheet".

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Friday Wrap-up

I missed the Friday wrap-up last week to get the Finnish "startup band" story out, but that only means more links this week. Scroll through and get a broader picture of what's happening in the Nordic and Baltic startup scene, find an event, or get hired. The top image this week is of Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the President of Estonia, pitching GrabCad and the Estonian internet economy at the Seedcamp event in Tallinn. Image by Sander Saar.

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Nextdays Aims To Become Your Flexible Event Calendar

Nextdays is new startup based in Helsinki that's hoping to take events to more of a natural level. Nextdays helps you share what you're planning to do and what you're intending to do with your friends using a feed of time periods like today, tomorrow, the next 7 days, or even longer periods of time. The service is designed to help you share real events, as well as those flexible events like "lets get brunch next Sunday."

On top of that, Nextdays also offers event channels that anyone can create and curate. The channels already up on the service include Movie premiers - Helsinki and Startup events - Helsinki. The company imagines businesses like rock clubs and other organizations using these feeds as a way to publicly promote their events to interested people.

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Kulisha Mashes Up Facebook And Twitter On A Pinterest-Style Board

The Pinterest clones are many, but one Swedish startup has a different take on the concept by mashing up your social feeds. Kulisha (meaning "reader" in Swahili) is a social network aggregator that collects your social feeds and throws them up on a Pinterest-style board. Currently the site is in open beta, but it's still very functional on the web or as a mobile website.

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CanvasDropr Goes (Mostly) B2B

CanvasDropr, the collaborative media-sharing platform from Denmark, is somewhat pivoting its platform to focus on the B2B aspects of the service. CanvasDropr provides what could be described as GoogleDocs for rich media, like images and video, allowing users to collaborate around visual content like what other services already do with text.

Files are shown visually when dragged onto the canvas, and all connected users can see when someone edits an element or makes changes, such as annotations, texts, movements, or drawings.

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FourChords App Launched, Mixing Guitar Learning And Party Karaoke

Launched today is Fourchords - a new app designed to make playing the guitar accessible, especially for when you want to play and sing songs you're not so familiar with. The main point of the app is to break down songs to their simplest level to make it easy to start playing songs you know, especially when you want to play and sing familiar hits with friends. This isn't some app for precise fingering, the motto behind FourChords is that close enough is good enough.

Co-founder and CEO Topi Löppönen gave a demonstration of the app to me, and says when creating the service he kept two things in mind. "There should be a lower barrier of starting to preform music, as many people could play music as possible. But the app should also connect people."

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Tekes And The Companies That Don't Make It: The Floobs Story

Clearly not every start-up makes it, and in this sponsored series for Tekes we thought it would be good to also look at a "failure story" of  a company that was previously on Tekes financing. We got the chance to speak with Kai Lemmetty, previously from Floobs, about his experiences with Tekes funding.

Floobs was a live video streaming service for sports clubs and bands, allowing users to record and stream video from mobile phones and supported video cameras. The company was started in 2007 before mobile live-streaming was even on the radar, and could be somewhat compared to what Bambuser is today.

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Fast Lane Ventures Secures $18 M In Round Led By VTB Capital

VTB Capital, the venture investment arm of leading Russian state-controlled financial group VTB Group, has led a $18 million investment round in Fast Lane Ventures, a Western style Internet investment company operating in Russia.

Investors from Fast Lane’s two previous rounds are also participating in the operation. They include eVenture Capital Partners and “some business angels and wealthy individuals,” said the company’s CEO Marina Treshchova in an exchange with East-West Digital News.

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Yandex Invests In Seedcamp

Yandex, Russia's largest search engine, has invested an undisclosed amount in Seedcamp, the London-based incubator. Seedcamp's sponsors include internet giants like Google, Microsoft, and PayPal, but this is the first time a major company has hopped on board as an investor. The company therefore gains an indirect share in all of the participating countries, and will participate in the selection of the startups.

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Devolver Breaks Down Barriers To Becoming A Spotify Competitor

Spotify is on a warpath, but Swedish Devolver seeks to grease the wheels for entrepreneurs that want to create their own take on a music streaming service. Devolver's On Air platform allows entrepreneurs to use the company's technical platform and relationships with content providers -- two major barriers to entry to creating your own music streaming services.

Devolver itself was formed in the summer of 2010 with the goal of providing solutions for the content industry. The company's content partner is the Swedish InProdicon Digital Media, who has relationships with both the major and independent labels. Through them, Devolver is able to to provide music downloading, rental, and streaming services.

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