As the year is turning to an end, we'd like to take a moment to wish all our readers a very happy and relaxing holiday season. We have had an awesome year here and we're glad that so many of you have enjoyed the ride with us. To be exact there are more than 50 000 of you who keep coming back each month. That's a lot when we work hard to stay away from any click optimized, SEO focused content. We're of course very happy about this, but it's more awesome for all the startups in the region - they've got the world's attention.
Here's some big news out of the Baltics: Slevomat Group from the Czech Republic and Cherry Media have partnered together to form the region's largest Daily Deals group. Their 2011 turnover put together exceeds 60 million euros, putting them up there as one of the largest startups in the region.
“Both companies were looking for expansion in Central Europe and teaming up was the most logical step. We have the best management teams in the region and have now got great opportunity to gain a scale for region-wide deals,“ said Tomáš Čupr, Chief Executive Officer of Slevomat.
There are over 215 million domain names currently registered, which means finding a the perfect domain name is difficult without any tools. While GoDaddy and others give you a simple suggestions, NameStation, a startup from Estonia, provides domain suggestion tools you can find suitable candidates faster using better algorithms and the community.
Perhaps inspired by the emerging data centres in Finland, Sweden and Iceland, Norwegian shipping and investment company Smedvig has teamed up with ErgoGroup, Norway’s largest provider of ICT services, to develop Green Mountain, a fjord-cooled data centre that is housed in a completely refurbished ammunition depot on Rennesøy, an island in southern Norway.
Taking advantage of the cold fjord running through the area, the data centre will be cooled by a continuous flow of 8-degree water all year round. Power will come from a low-cost renewable energy source, which means that the data centre will have a practically non-existent carbon footprint. In fact, Green Mountain claims to be greenest data centre in the world.
According to Mobile Payments Today, Paypal is testing a NFC payment system in Stockholm at two retailers, Alpingaraget and Webhallen. The new app, called PayPal Instore, uses NFC stickers affixed to smartphones to enable purchases. After downloading the app, customers just need to swipe their phone over the terminal to display and confirm the purchase.
One Lithuanian startup serving a specialized market is ArtNetBook, a service that allows you to manage your art gallery business online. ArtNetBook provides gallery managers a way to make collections, run exhibitions, and sell artwork with their web based and mobile app.
Atomico announced it has invested in Ge.tt, a Danish startup that seeks to make it easy to share files with people you know. Currently if you're trying to send a file greater than 25mb, you either need to find workarounds, upload it to a sketchy service, or just put it on a USB stick and drive it to your friends house, like in that XKCD cartoon. Atomico is backed by Niklas Zennström, one of the co-founders of Skype.
Ge.tt has such a simple yet valuable service. It allows you to select a file, copy an URL while it's uploading, and then send the URL to a friend who can start downloading the file while it's still uploading from your computer. The whole package is well designed and easy to use. There are two free usage tiers for users. Without creating an account you are given 250mb of storage space, but if you create an account you have access to 2gb. Users who want more storage, such as professional users or people with large file requirements, will pay small, tiered fees. For $5 a month they get 5GB, for $10 they get 40GB and for $20 they get 100GB.
Do you dream about creating your own digital startup but lack the business know-how to get everything going? Then an international master’s degree programme in Design and Development of Virtual Environments (DDVE) may just be the thing for you.
DDVE is a new inter-discliplinary initiative at the University of Tartu in Estonia that combines three key study areas; design, business and ICT. Taught in English, the two-year programme provides students with advanced skills in entrepreneurship for creating innovative digital products and services.
Techdirt has brought to our attention an interesting turn of events in adopting the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, also known as ACTA. EU Council has adopts ACTA and will thus pass it for vote in the European Parliament. EU Council is the place where national ministers get together to adopt laws and coordinate policies. Interestingly, the policy regarding international trade was hidden in a meeting regarding issues of agriculture and fisheries.
Morten Lund, one of Northern Europe's "less traditional" investors announced on his blog that he's now allowing nearly anyone to invest in a pool of startups where he's focusing his time. He's looking to build a €500 000 fund with a €10 000 minimum investment, which may allow smaller investors to capture part of the crazy that saw Skype, ZYB, and his huge seed portfolio before their time. Lund has been one of the most active seed investors in Europe, and currently is the chairman of Everbread and Tradeshift.
In more Scandinavian VOIP news, Vopium from Denmark has released the first Blackberry calling app that allows users to make cheap phone calls phone calls over Wi-Fi or their existing network coverage. While Skype is clearly the market leader in VOIP technology, other players like Rebtel and Vopium have sprung up claiming cheaper calling rates and better integrated experiences.
When you're looking for an event to go to, a product to buy, or a non-profit to support, do you pay attention to advertising or do you listen to what your friends recommend? Goodbuzz from Lithuania blurs the lines by paying people for referrals of products and events on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or by email. How it works is that advertisers post their advertisement to the Goodbuzz website and deposit a sum of money for people who like the advertisment and want to spread the message to friends and followers. At the end of the campaign, the tip is split between these sharers, relative to the leads they've generated.
Editor's note: This is a guest post by Harri Kanerva, CEO, Founder of Valueframe. The company focuses on providing a SaaS based solutions to SMEs.
I’m writing this at an altitude of 10 kilometers in a plane to London. For an entrepreneur dedicated to the cloud service model the view outside of the window is rather fitting to be writing an article like this. ValueFrame was founded back in 2001. In ten years we have managed to become a key player in the Finnish Professional Services Automation market. We currently have 300 customers with 12 000 users in 14 different countries. This year we were nominated Country Representative for the HSBC European Business Awards. For the last five years we’ve been among the Deloitte Fast 50 list of fastest growing technology companies.
The creators of Minecraft have released their first third-party game as a publisher: Cobalt. The game is a 2D platformer with fighting robots that looks like it has similar elements to Super Smash Brothers. It should also be noted that currently there are no single player campaigns, only co-op and multiplayer. The game is only available on Windows initially, with OS X and Linux support arriving in "Beta."
While the world has become paperless, one thing that has been lost is how to get signatures for legal documents. Scrive is a Stockholm based service for e-signing of tenders, contracts, and other documents. To use Scrive, you just have to upload you document, sign it, send it to your contractee, let them sign it digitally, and then it is saved and archived. The company just closed their second angel round on the 15th.
As Rebtel launches version 2.0 of it's VOIP app on Android, they also announce they have hit 15 million users making it easily the second largest VOIP company after Skype. With a run rate of over 1 billion minutes per year, the company claims it is on pace to hit $75 million in revenue by the end of 2011. This competition in the VOIP sector can only benefit consumers, as you can see with the innovations present in their new app update.
Rovio's Chief Marketing Officer, also known as the Mighty Eagle, has come out with figures regarding Rovio's financials in an interview by Tekniikka & Talous, a Finnish newspaper. In the interview, he also said Rovio is looking to IPO in Hong Kong in 2013. In 2010 Rovio's revenue was around $10 million. This year the company expects its turnover to be around $100 million.
Om Malik, the founder of GigaOm was speaking in Helsinki to a room of media representatives yesterday morning at the Aalto Venture Garage. His visit to Finland is part of a tour to come understand the companies and environment the local startups work in. Before Helsinki, he had visited Berlin and the LeWeb conference in Paris. I managed to talk to Malik about the way he sees these entrepreneurial hubs.
The big part of our discussion circled around the fact that people in Europe always look up to Silicon Valley and how they succeed in everything they do, while failing to see all the potential in front of their eyes. I have to say, while I knowledge the value Silicon Valley has on companies - I wonder how much possibility is wasted when following a given path without truly thinking of the possibilities closer to you. After all, Rovio didn't go to Silicon Valley to succeed - it all started with an innocent tweet by a Swedish athlete in the Nordics (going international I mean).
Maxygen, Qminder, and Zonear all won the Fall 2011 Startup Sauna Demo Day here in Helsinki. It was an interesting event, with a nice Keynote by Om Malik the founder of GigaOm. On top of that there were some solid and entertaining pitches, and the StartUp Sauna guys put on a good show.
Maxygen is producing an interesting product on the social level. From what I understand, they do cheap and quick DNA testing through a device they built, which can tell doctors whether or not you have an infectious disease. Currently hospitals provide this service through their laboratories, but not every hospital has this access in developing countries.
An interesting new startup coming out of Denmark is Movellas, a new but familiar platform to create, discover, and develop stories and writing talent. Movellas is essentially a writing community to make it easy to self publish and read new stories. So far they've only officially launched in Denmark but they also have a working English version of the site.
CEO Per Larsen tells us that currently they're targeting a younger audience of authors and readers, and that most of their writers are in the 14-18 age group. But within that younger crowd they're seeing a hotbed of activity, with users who are engaged with reading and writing a large number of stories, as well as using the social features to comment and share.