Updates From The Latest Garage48

Twenty-five teams came together at the latest Garage48 hackathon in Riga, where the focus this season was primarily on mobile apps. Of the 25 teams, 13 were able to prototype an app, and last Friday the teams presented a variety of interesting projects. The winner of Garage48 and the audience favorite was Mustache Ninja, who put together a location-based Pacman type game that uses the streets around you.

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Sweden Tops List Of Android App Downloads Per User

According to estimates by research2guidance, a Berlin-based mobile research specialist, Sweden has the most app downloads per user in the Android store. While the U.S. has the most Android users by volume, this data may suggest that Sweden is a good proving ground for apps.

With an average of more than 5 downloads per Android user per month, usage patterns in Sweden reflects a high interest in apps. The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Spain follow slightly behind, all averaging above 4 apps per user per month. This is well above the US average, which is slightly above 2. You can see in the following graph where the rest of the Nordic countries fall:

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Endomondo, iZettle, Podio and Rovio Win At The Europas

The third annual European Tech Startup Awards (Europas) were held in London last night. Quite a few Nordic and Baltic startups made the list of finalists in several categories again this year and over 40 000 public votes were cast to aid the advisory board in selecting the winners.

Nordic/Baltic highlights from this year's awards included iZettle (winner of Best Commerce, Finance or Payments Startup), Podio (winner of Best Business or Enterprise Startup) and Endomondo (winner of Best Sports, Leisure or Health Startup). Rovio's flock of Angry Birds took home The Europas Hero Award for "kicking ass globally from Europe". Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss of SoundCloud (originally from Sweden) were also named the best founders/co-founders of the year. The Grand Prix Award went to UK-based Peer Index.

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Skype Brings Facebook-To-Facebook Calling To Its Client

There could be nothing better than to reach nearly a billion people through Facebook. The social network has become a target for tons of digital entities trying to leverage the social network. We will not talk about brands and business, rather online services and the most recent example is that of Spotify. Yesterday, Skype made a more social move by enabling Facebook to Facebook Calls via the Skype Client.

Skype already had Facebook integration in its clients. However the latest move follows the announcement Skype made back in July regarding powering the Facebook video chat feature. The platform is widely used and offers Facebook the perfect service to roll out or integrate video chat functionality within the social network’s ecosystem.

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Interview: Gísli Kristjánsson, COO Of Greenqloud

We recently talked about Greenqloud, a cloud storage startup with a focus on IaaS (Infrastructure as a Cloud) services. We took the opportunity to get in touch with Gísli Kristjánsson, COO Greenqloud to get a better insight about the startup and understand what makes them unique. Gísli rightfully thought that it is essential to clarify the understanding of Cloud Computing, and before we post the short Q/A, we would love to share the definition of Cloud Computing as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology:

Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

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Bonnier Hosts Mobile Hackathon Targeting Female Entrepreneurs

Bonnier, the publisher of Olivia, Divaani, and Evita, is supporting a mobile hackathon to promote female entrepreneurship and making mobile development accessible to newcomers. The aim is to create female-friendly lifestyle apps – or at least a proof of concept prototypes that not only work, but look good and are user friendly. Along with the app building there will be presentations on mobile design, trends in mobile media, as well as shorter talks and workshops on development in technology, mobile development for newcomers, and more. The event will be held at the Aalto Venture Garage in Helsinki from the 25th to the 27th this month.

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Nokia To Launch Windows 8 Tablet Next June

In an interview with Les Echos, a French business publication, the director general of Nokia France made a remark that that the Nokia tablet would be coming out in June of 2012, and that it would be running Windows 8. Microsoft has not confirmed a launch date of Windows 8, and the details of the new Nokia tablet have been kept to the minimum. At the Nokia World conference last month, CEO Steven Elop spoke positively about Windows 8 the partnership with Microsoft:

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TuneRights Is A Stock Market For Songs

How much do you value your favorite musicians? I suppose if you were an economist you might say something like, "by calculating the present day value of future cash flows," and TuneRights would be just the site for you.  Musicians are looking for any way to monetize their works these days, and a Swedish startup is trying to provide them a way to get cash upfront for their songs-- by selling part of their songs' rights to their fans.

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Enreach Group Merges With Adaptlogic

We covered Enreach Group in September only to hear yesterday that they merged with Sweden's Adaptlogic, and have been secretly working as one company since June. The two companies have very complementary services, and their merger does seem like a logical step for building deeper products that can help them together reach critical mass.

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CanvasDropr: Share And Collaborate On A Rich Media Canvas

CanvasDropr is a new collaborative media-sharing platform from Denmark. Instead of emailing or uploading your images and videos to different social media platforms, you can drag them onto a fully editable blank canvas and let your family, friends and colleagues join in on the fun.

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Efficiently Schedule And Run Your Meetin.gs

I picture CEO Teemu Arina as a man obsessed with the inefficiencies behind scheduling and running meetings. What he and the rest of the Meetin.gs team has put together is such a tight, well thought out, and efficient system, that reducing one more pointless email about a meeting coming up must be the only thing on his mind. In short, Arctic15 finalist Meetin.gs is a cloud-based service for organizing online and face-to-face meetings.

The service is designed to work between organizations, so it focuses on ease of use, low barriers to entry, and the removal of unproductive conversations out of your email inbox. These qualities manifest themselves in several key features. The service demands no accounts or logins for participants, simple updating and uploading of documents by email, a central platform to discuss the meeting beforehand, and integration with Skype and other services.  To sum it up, Meetin.gs manages to hit the mark where it's simple to use yet packed with great features. 

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Greenqloud: Cloud Storage Startup From Iceland Promises To Be Greener Than Amazon Forest

With everything moving to the cloud owing to the high level of mobility, many startups continue to step forward with new takes on cloud computing to compete with Amazon's huge and popular cloud services. Factors like efficiency, ease of access, and affordability are key, but eco-friendliness is also one of the credentials your service needs to have to keep up with the times. While some users may not know the difference, corporations do see advantages for making more ecological choices. Greenqloud, a cloud storage startup from Iceland comes forth as a user and an eco friendly cloud storage service. In their own words, Greenqloud focuses on IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) alongside putting greater efforts to offer HPC (high performance computing) compatible cloud that academic and scientific communities can use for scientific calculations.

Cloud storage has definitely made life easier. Think of having your data stored on self purchased or rented hardware that was costly, not readily scalable and with hundreds of servers for hundreds of firms across a countless locations, it proved to be quite inefficient in terms of energy. What cloud has done is rid consumers (corporates and individuals alike) of the worry associated to what hardware hosts their data and how to scale the same. With Greenqloud, the focus is on the same idea along with being a lot more environment friendly.

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TechHub Working Space Expands To Riga

TechHub, the co-working space for technology startups in the 'Silicon Roundabout' area of London, announced yesterday its first international expansion. The new Riga co-working space will offer offer 400 square meters of much of what's already available in London; it will provide a dedicated co-working space, community gathering point, and international network to product-orientated technology start-ups. TechHub Riga will be opening in January.

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Spotify Launched in Austria Today, Rumored To Launch In Belgium, Switzerland This Week

Guess it was the launch in the US that was holding back Spotify’s expansion in the rest of Europe. This is just a speculation but things have sped up recently, especially after the music streaming service shook hands with the world’s largest social network; Facebook. After launching in Austria today, as per the latest reports, Spotify is planning its launch in Belgium and Switzerland this week.

We haven’t had confirmed news regarding this expansion but things have been pretty favorable for us to believe it. There have been hints about the expansion of Spotify in other regions as well, which include; Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Germany and New Zealand. We think this expansion is bound to happen and that Spotify will be available in many regions within and outside Europe in a few months time.

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Second Batch Of Arctic15 Pitches (Video)

Here's another batch of Arctic15 presentations, including Mancx, the first place winner. Also in this group we've got presentations by Streamtainment, 300.mg, Fishare, and Kiosked. So clear off the rest of your schedule this afternoon, cancel that meeting, and re-live the Arctic15.

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Kiosked Teams Up With Finland's Largest Web Community

Arctic15 finalist Kiosked is rapidly gaining ground with its in-content online sales platform. The startup has now partnered with Suomi24, Finland’s largest web community, to provide interactive online marketplaces (kiosks) to the community’s 2700 discussion forums and 1.3 million unique weekly visitors.

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Why Use A NFC Enabled Device When mCASH Lets Your Mobile Accept Payments?

We have witnessed the evolution of how we purchase items around us. From the days of cash as coins, then paper and plastic money to the latest NFC enabled payment methods, all seem to have eased things out one or the other. The evolution has come about as per the needs of the time, and lately the need for change has increased dramatically. One startup from Norway, mCASH, plans to bundle all payments into your mobile device.

NFC, non-NFC, credit or debit, why carry extra luggage or purchase a dedicated devices when it's dubious whether the point of sale would even accept it or not? While NFC might become a common method of mobile payments, I am not buying the idea, primarily for the fact not every region worldwide can implement the system. What mCASH does is liberate you of the task of getting yourself a new hardware or implement a new technology. Keeping it simple is what mCASH focuses on, why burden merchants and clients with excessive burden?

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Wrapp Explodes Out Of Sweden, Taking Online Gift Cards To US With $5.5mm Funding

Another disruptive service is launching in Sweden today. Wrapp, a new social gifting service, has just received $5.5 Million Series A funding led by Atomico, the international venture capital firm formed by Niklas Zennström, the co-founder of Skype, Kazaa and other companies. The company plans on updating the gift card model to the current era by tying their service to smartphones and social networks. The service is now out of its test phase in Sweden and will be launching in the US and UK in the first quarter next year, with the rest of Europe soon to follow.

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Speaktoit Enters In the Battle Of Virtual Assistants, Faces Siri And Vlingo

Apple with the release of Siri for the iPhone 4S has had everyone praising the feature. It is no doubt a great addition to the iPhone, perhaps the only notable one in the new generation of the iPhone. While that goes for the iOS devices, there is one for the Android, Speaktoit. The application comes from Russia and is in for a challenge from Siri and Vlingo.

There is a need for virtual assistants and to be honest, with Siri in the playground we will definitely be seeing a rapid increase in improved versions. I tried my hands with Speaktoit and it does the job fairly well. You can ask questions or commands directly to the Speaktoit assistant on your Android device and the client processes the same, executing what is being requested. Of course this requires that your commands be specific enough for it to recognize and execute.

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iZettle Out Of Beta, Starting Its Commercial Launch In Sweden Today

iZettle, the smartphone chip credit card reader and payment processer, is now out of beta and is offering its services to Swedish businesses and individuals that would like to accept credit card payments on the go. The device, which plugs into the data port of your iPhone, is given to users for no upfront costs. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the demand for iZettle’s card readers has exceeded their expectations but the company now guarantees that all registered users will have their card reader before Christmas. Only last month the startup received €8.2 million in venture funding.

While there are no upfront costs for using the service, they do take 2.75% of a sale, plus a €0.16 transaction fee. In comparison, Square, the similar U.S. service that plugs into an iPhone's audio jack, charges only 2.75% of a sale. iZettle is Europay, MasterCard and VISA approved, and compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). No sensitive data is ever stored on the mobile device or iZettle reader, and all data traffic is encrypted.

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