Last week PayPal announced that it has opened its micropayments solution to the public globally. In essence, it's a better way for developers, content creators and publishers to charge for small amounts of content quickly. PayPal has designed this new service to be more useful for small, quick payments instead of the traditional way of purchasing and paying for services with PayPal where you have to leave the original website you were on.
Remember TrueCaller? A Swedish startup that we covered last year, a application that removes anonymity from any call that you may receive. That’s one of the most worrying things when it comes to calls from unknown numbers. TrueCaller simply takes charge of finding the identity of the caller and let you know who the person is.
If you're reading this through our e-mail newsletter or an RSS reader, you should come visit our site as we've done a small facelift with some additional features to the site. I've outlined some of the key improvements to the site in this post, to help our community take advantage of those. First and foremost though, I'd like to publicly thank our Karri Saarinen for putting in all the extra work to get this done. He's worked with Kisko Labs to get the site out and functional. Many thanks for the effort!
There is indeed a very bright future for anything mobile. As our smartphones get smarter and more powerful, companies are more inclined to give more preference on what level of mobility they can add and help simplify the task for consumers. And its not just about bringing in your email, documents, location, etcetera to your device only, rather a stew of every service that exists, collaboration of each feature within a mobile to bring a more refined product which is in demand. And in demand means investors are on the lookout to make investments that ensures them the ROI.
Sony Ericsson announced tonight the launch of the new "PlayStation phone", officially called Xperia PLAY, shipping this March. The device will be the first PlayStation Certified Android device, running Gingerbread 2.3. One of the first primary markets will be the US where Sony Ericsson partners with Verizon exclusively, the company announced at a launch event taking place in a hip Barcelona beach club prior to the Mobile World Congress.
Interestingly, the Danish-born Unity Technologies has struck a deal with Sony Ericsson for the new device, in which Unity's technology comes embedded. The partnership is the first of its kind for Unity that hasn't teamed up this way with a platform manufacturer before.
We sat down to interview Siim Teller, Chief Product Officer of GrabCAD to talk about their Seedcamp experience. As you may know, GrabCAD was chosen as one of the winners of the week. Estonia is on a roll regarding Seedcamp as Erply, the SaaS-based pos-service is also one of the winners of Seedcamp last year. Siim Teller acknowledged this and actually disclosed that having had the possibility to talk to Erply about Seedcamp, had helped them a lot.
Apart from being very useful, gadgets can also be the source of pride or, as it turns out, a source of attraction. A recent study by Retrevo, a consumer electronics shopping and review site, looked into how and what do people find attractive when it comes to gadgets. The sample included over 1000 people living in US distributed across gender, age, income and location. Turns out, men are overwhelmingly attracted to cool phones and laptops while reading a book is still cooler than using an iPad. Women, on the other hand, found cool laptops slightly more attractive than cool phones and reading a book was reported to be 1% more attractive then using an iPad. Well-off people in general (those earning over $200,000/year) were more attracted to cool phones (71%) and laptops (61%) than iPads (54%).
Very big news coming from the gaming industry - Namco has announced it has signed a deal with Finnish Bugbear that they will develop the upcoming Ridge Racer Unbounded console game. Bugbear is renowned for making car games for over 10 years now.
Albeit expected, very big news regarding Nokia. It has just announced that it will partner with Microsoft in the smart phone business - Windows Phone will serve as Nokia's primary smartphone platform. Additionally, Nokia has announced that it has looked at designing a new approach to "capture volume and value growth" to connect the next billion to the internet. For startups, there are good news as well, Nokia will begin (if not continue) focused investments in new technologies in key areas. Lastly, they will shuffle some of their leadership team and organisational structure to better focus on speed, results and accountability.
Remember our review about Pipedrive, the Estonian startup? The Sales tool announced making the Pipedrive application more native with the Google Chrome browser, giving Chrome users a chance to make use of Pipedrive application on their default browser.
Destly, the Swedish e-commerce site for discounted luxury travel has just announced that Visit Technology Group has invested an undisclosed amount for 20% ownership of the company. Visit's founder and CEO is Magnus Emilson, who was also an early investor in Tradedoubler. He's been very active with the investments in other companies as he has ownership in livebookings.com, arrivalguides.com, jetshop.se to name a few.
Real Networks, who bought Mr. Goodliving back in 2005, has decided to shut down the company. In doing so, it will have to fire the 44 people currently employed there. The news come to us through Dome.fi. The news came pretty suddenly as the chief of the gaming division at Real had flown to Finland two days ago to announce the shut down of the company at 6pm on Tuesday.
As the Valentine's Day is approaching, some men might start frantically searching for original ways of greeting their sweethearts. One Estonian start-up has just the solution for you - knickers in an envelope! The service is called KnickerMail and the idea behind it is this: if you want to send someone your greetings, don't go buy a postcard, flowers or chocolates but pick a pair of knickers instead. You can choose the text for the hand-written postcard to be sent with the undergarment, order and pay for it all online and voilà - you make the recipent blush and smile at the same time. Andrus Purde, technology and business talent behind the start-up, tipped us their story.
We talked about Uplause back in 2010 and already stated that it made traditional multiplayer gaming old school. It has indeed with its concept of Crowd Games or Massively Multiplayer Crowd Playing Game (MMCPG). It looked promising to us and its recent numbers stand as a solid proof to its success.
Sportlyzer is an Estonian sports software start-up that is developing an application that tracks workouts of amateur athletes and provides automatic consulting advice on top of that. Back in September we wrote about them closing a seed investment and now their product is almost ready for launch. No official date is announced but one of the founders, Tõnis Saag, shared some curious details of the progress the company has made so far. The team has been spending all this time developing the online coach - a character called Mike Lyzer. 'We have been doing a huge amount of work on the training management algorithms, the user interface and making those two meet. By now we have put them all together into a dirty prototype and just started interviewing target customers to embody the application for private beta', states Tõnis.
Recent IFPI report on digital music reveals the size of Spotify in Europe and how much money it's actually churning for the record labels. The report also stated that on a European level, Spotify is the second single largest source of digital music revenue for record labels. This means that 2010 saw dramatic increase in its usage as well as payouts to record labels and artists themselves.
24MAS that specializes in mobile advertising and hosted applications is all set to step in the mobile gaming arena. The Swedish firm has acquired Game publisher, THQ’s Wireless gaming division. Let me get a grip here, advertising, app marketing/distribution and gaming all coming together, sounds quite the right stitch for success.
I might sound a bit too judgmental and far fetched when it comes to putting Sofanatics as being one of the most interesting startups from Finland. Primarily because it brings all football fanatics onto one platform that has the potential to be the buzzing stadium within a browser. Do I make sense?
Microtask has launched a new service called Digitalkoot (digital communal work/barn-raising - very loosely translated) to help digitize the Finnish National Library content. We wrote about the plans to do so already in October. There are currently four million pages of digital content from 1700 to 1900 in the form of magazines and newspapers in the Finnish National Library. More and more content is continuously digitized from the archives as well. Previously used way to go about this would have been to use OCR software. However, the old language has characters that current OCR software is unable to recognize. According Kai Ekholm from the National Library, 2% of the currently digitized text has errors in it. Microtask's crowdsourcing service helps correct these errors and make the archives more accurate.
Russian tourists are known around the world for many things, some of them quite embarrassing. Despite their many shortcomings Russian tourists are also a gold mine for the hospitality industry: they travel a lot and they like spending huge amounts of cash while at it. A new Russian start-up Hipclub.ru, backed by Skype's former CEO Michael van Swaaij and founder of eDreams Javier Pérez-Tenessa, launched an invitation-only travel club that offers exclusive short-term discounts on hotels and travel destinations, reports Quintura. No details of the investment have been disclosed. The service is a new project from the team behind Hipway.ru - a search portal for exotic travel tours. That project was founded in 2009 and received over $500 000 investment from European and American investors. Founders behind both of the projects offered interesting insight into the Russian VC market on their blog [in Russian].