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.
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?"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
In our 15th episode we talk to Tine Thygesen of Everplaces, Copenhagen, Denmark based startup. We discuss location based services and how Tine got into entrepreneurship through her first startup in the e-commerce space in Australia. After selling that to an Australian company she came back to the Nordics to take on more entrepreneurial challenges first with Venture Cup Denmark and later with 23 Video before starting her own company Everplaces. She is also one of the founders of Founder's House, a co-working space in Copenhagen that now has 17 startups and some 70 people working there.
AudioDraft has released another model for companies and organizations to purchase original, licensed music, while also rebranding its service. Until now, AudioDraft featured only a crowdsourced contest model where someone could describe the sound they were looking for so musicians and sound designers could compete and enter submissions for a prize pool of money.
In addition to that model, today AudioDraft is releasing an online store for exclusive audio tracks. What sets the store apart from iTunes or some stock music supplier is that each track is sold only once, so if you purchase the music you won't come across it in other projects -- making it perfect for audio branding, advertisements, and games.
Annia Capital, a Nordic investment firm with offices in Helsinki and Stockholm, is currently looking for high-potentential entrepreneurs that can take advantage of their experience and capital. Annia's focus is fairly broad, but generally they're looking for products and services with clear international growth potential. Most of their investments will be in early stage firms, with a technology focus, or other businesses as long as they are asset light.
Annia Capital is not built around a traditional fund structure, but are investing their own funds and engaging co-investors on a case-by-case basis. Instead of a specific investment plan, Mikko Silventola, a founding partner at Annia Capital says, "Our premise is that the support we can provide (marketing, contacts, know-how, etc) is at least as important as the capital we provide and hence we want to make sure we partner with the best possible people/institutions for a given situation"
A pretty cool service coming out of Norway is Fribi-- a beautiful app a social marketplace that makes it give, receive and swap things with people near you. Free things are always good, and the app has a really nice design aesthetic and functionality that gets users taking pictures of their products and getting them out to someone who could better use them. The company launched their app last week at DEMO Spring 2012 in Santa Clara, and the app is free to download in on iOS devices, with an Android version coming out in May.