Editor's Note: This series of posts is sponsored by Tekes and produced in co-operation with ArcticStartup to share experiences from startups about their funding experiences.
From offhand comments in forum comments, hackathons, and local tech events, I'm sure many first-time Finnish entrepreneurs have some pre-formed negative-leaning opinion about how the Tekes bureaucracy works. Without getting into a discussion on how society should support entrepreneurship, realistically there has to be some sort of balance between bureaucracy and free government money. With too much bureaucracy, the system can kill entrepreneurs time and crush innovation. But if the system is too loose, you then have "entrepreneurs" buying fishing boats for their summer cabin.
Where is Tekes on this scale and how should you mangage it? To get to the bottom of the bureaucracy, we talked to Joonas Pekkanen, who's been part of a few Tekes projects. He's currently the CFO of Flockified, who are gearing up to release a full-fledged version of their group buying service. Their teaser page proudly states, "WE'RE BUILDING THE BEST DAMN GROUP PLANNING AND GROUP DECISION MAKING TOOL EVER," which we'll cover more on later in the post, but first, here's our interview with him:
This year's CeBIT trade show will feature a brand new global innovation contest called CODE_n. Short for ’Code of the New’, the contest aims to seek out and promote the world’s most innovative startups involved in the development of new business models for the internet or mobile devices.
Six Nordic and four Russian startups have been selected into the Top 50 of this year's contest out of over 400 candidates. Each finalist gets a 15 square-meter presentation space at CeBIT and a chance to promote themselves at the world’s largest digital expo. A whopping 62% of the finalists are from Germany.
Finnish cloud-based video and gaming service provider G-cluster has received a significant financial investment from French telecom operator SFR. SFR was one of the first companies to deploy G-cluster's gaming service in 2010 and it now joins Intel Capital as the company's financial backer. No details were released, but the deal is reportedly worth millions of euros.
G-cluster’s core business is a fully customizable, cloud-based video and gaming platform. The company’s patented technology allows high-end video games and full-length films to be distributed to a wide range of devices, including televisions, personal computers, tablets and mobile phones.
Editorial note: This post is part of Microsoft's sponsored posts series Hear it from the startups.
Microsoft Finland is throwing its annual conference, TechDays in Helsinki in just over a month's time. The event is scheduled for two days between the 8th and 9th of March. The event has a ton of speakers covering a very impressive amount of topics. Microsoft has also confirmed for us that they will be giving a first look at the new Windows 8 operating system at the event as well. In fact, there will be one whole day's worth of content aimed at Windows 8.
Valkee, the bright light headset used to treat mood disorders, has announced it has gained good traction this winter with Seasonal Affectedness Disorder (SAD) sufferers. Just in Finland alone Valkee has gotten into the hands of 10,000 people, which the company conservatively estimates at 1/3 of all the bright light market in Finland. Timo Ahopelto of Lifeline Ventures, a Vigo Accelerator, tells us, "Our year has been really phenomenal, and people have adopted Valkee. In our view, this is based on good user experience: most of Valkee users realize very strong benefit to their wellbeing during the winter months"
TorrentFreak has come out with an article on the situation with the legal problems of the Pirate Bay founders. The Swedish Supreme Court has rejected the leave to appeal in the trial. This essentially means that the sentences in place given to the founders of the file-sharing site will stand. The founders, Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm and Carl Lundström, all received sentences of different length, but combined they are required to pay back $6.8 million in damages.
Oulu, Finland-based Ball-IT's product, blobo, is a golfball sized soft ball that can sense movement, rotation, magnetic fields, and even pressure. You can compare it to a Wii controller or Playstation Move, yet because of its size it offers unique opportunities available for gameplay-- such as throwing the ball up in the air or placing it in a players pocket to sense macro physical movements like jumping or running.
The device has seen the creation of a children's TV show in Finland, but Blobo is now being taken to China, where the Shanghai Media Group's children's channel, Toonmax, is turning it the game system into an interactive TV show. On the show kids take each other on in front of a live studio audience, who watch their avatars compete on a large screen. Meanwhile the viewers at home can play blobo at the same time using their computer and compare their results with the TV contestants.
Videoplaza has just come out with an announcement that they have secured a $12 million investment aimed for global expansion. The Series B funding comes from Qualcomm Ventures and Innovacom. We've written about the Sweden based company before as well, regarding their strong growth. With this investment the growth is sure to follow. The company had a great 2011 according to the press release. It served five times greater ad volume than the year before and opened up new offices in Madrid, Berlin and Singapore. It now operates in 17 different countries.
In December Twingly announced it has acquired Bloggportalen.se from Aftonbladet, allowing Twingly to add the categorizatoin and visitor numbers provided by bloggportalen. The site is now redesigned and moved over to the Twingly servers, but still kept separate from the main Twingly Blog Search features. Twingly says it's now the best meeting point for bloggers and blog readers in Sweden.
When thinking about old people using their smartphone to track their medications and biometric data, my mind immediately leaped to the time my 90 year old Grandpa tested out an iPhone and unlocked it with his arm moving in an exaggerated half-meter arc. But times are changing. The next generation of old folks are just as natural on their smartphones and Facebooks as most 20 year olds these days. And as everything else moves digitally, Finland's GreyCrunch seeks to release a cross-platform, all-in-one package to keep track of blood pressure, pills, and activity monitoring.
Tinkercad has released a major update to get users designing and printing their 3D objects right away. The new release makes it painless to get to the CAD design tools, and leads users right into the design "quests" that teach the basics of creating objects in Tinkercad. For those without a consumer 3D printer at home, the release includes an integration with the 3D printing service offered by Ponoko, joining the the previously integrated services from Shapeways and i.Materialise. Tinkercad also supports leading consumer 3D printers like the MakerBot.
Automatic check-in apps for Foursquare have been available for some time now, but they all suffer from two major issues; poor accuracy and high battery drainage. To address these problems, Finnish startup Walkbase has introduced Checked, the world’s first indoor positioning client for Foursquare.
If you work with web analytics, you know how time consuming it can be to do all the manual work behind getting your data the way you need it. This can mean logging into multiple accounts, copy/pasting into an Excel file, and then messing with Excel formulas because you didn't add everything in correctly. If you're compiling reports spread across dozens or hundreds of sites, you can easily see the value in the Helsinki-based tool, GA Data Grabber.
Russia's largest search engine has announced it has purchased map licenses from NAVTEQ, the Nokia maps subsidiary. The digital maps will be used to develop a detailed world map for the Yandex.Maps service, which currently shows a more "artistic" than realistic cartography of international locations (a current map of Helsinki is shown below). NAVTEQ's service includes highly detailed maps of Europe, North America, Australia and developed countries in Asia, and show intercity motorways, urban traffic networks, streets and buildings. Yandex says it will gradually add new content both to its desktop version and to its mobile application that supports all major platforms.
Scandinavian Outcomes is providing consumers a digital and mobile way to get answers about medication with a new app release, Medicinera.se. With the IOS app, users can ask a virtual pharmacist questions about self care, get help in choosing the right over-the-counter medicine, or find the nearest pharmacy. The service was nominated in 2011 for Sweden's Golden Mobile award in the health category and also to the Dagens Medicin award Guldpillret for the promotion of good and safe use of medicines. The app answers questions in Swedish in real time.
This year Barcelona is playing host to the eighth International Mobile Gaming Awards as part of the Mobile World Congress. Almost 500 games in total were submitted for review, and the list has been whittled down to 30 games in 6 categories. We noticed the Nordics and Baltics were heavily favored on the list, and includes 5 games from Finland, 3 from Sweden, and one game from Lithuania.
Minecraft has long been compared as a digital version of the LEGO building blocks, but now that comparison is one step closer to becoming a reality. The idea of creating the blocks came up through LEGO CUUSOO, a sort of official crowdsourcing idea generator for new LEGO sets. Through LEGO CUUSOO, LEGO fans can submit new ideas, and if the project gains the support of 10,000 people, it will become a reality if passed by the LEGO jury.
Stardoll, the Swedish paper doll site has reached 150 million registered users. The news was disclosed by Mattias Miksche, the CEO of the company in his twitter stream. We also caught the news in the official Stardoll news stream in the morning, but it has since disappeared. The site has definitely hit a nice growth trajectory. Back in March last year we reported the company counting down to 100 million users.
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.