We've just gotten off the phone with Sulake's CEO Paul LaFontaine about today's announcements. He did not want to comment on the specifics of the announcement, but what we really wanted to understand is what is the future direction Sulake will take. LaFontaine stated that Sulake is modernizing their strategy and this involves changes to how the company currently operates. A big part of the company's future will have to do with games and user generated content.
Sulake is also moving towards a model where their current Habbo community will further evolve into a platform on which third parties will be able to develop additional services on. LaFontaine did not want to comment at this moment on what kind of a time frame we are talking about at the moment. However, he did disclose that they are working with some third parties today already.
According to Finnish publication Dome.fi, Sulake the creator of Habbo Hotel, will be laying off some 40-60 people from their workforce. In total, they have about 210 people working for the company so this is effectively 25% of their workforce. We also heard this from a different source, so the chatter is definitely picking up. Sulake.com was down as of just now and there is no official announcement on this so far.
In showing the door to 25% of their workforce, Sulake will also close all of their 11 country offices according to the article on Dome.fi.
The whitelabel media streaming service, Aspiro, has signed a deal with Google's Widevine DRM for studio approved DRM-solutions for Video OTT-services. The Norwegian company runs the music streaming service WiMP, as well as provide TV and music streaming services for partners who wish to put their own branding on a streaming service. This new deal will allow Aspiro's partners, which include Hi3G, Telnor, Netcom, and Deutsche Telecom, to easily stream protected movies and TV shows to nearly any device. This comes as good news for media companies, as it seems the streaming services are used mostly for sports broadcasts.
Unfair Advantage has reached its sixth episode and on the show we talk to Daniel Kaplan of Mojang. We've covered Mojang many times in the past and they are the creators of Minecraft, the hugely popular game where you...err.. listen to the show to hear how it's pitched. Daniel joined the company back in 2010 already and he was the first employee. It was only Markus Persson and him back then, so Daniel has enjoyed the company ride quite sometime.
Our sponsor for this week is Gapps.fi - a Helsinki-based company that brings the Google productivity tools to your workplace. They've got a special offer for all those who ping them and say they came from ArcticStartup.
Startup Sauna is going on tour this spring as well with their warmups. Warmups are short events that take usually a day, where local entrepreneurs in the cities they visit get to pitch to the Startup Sauna coaches and organisers for a chance to get accepted into the program. The winner of each warmup will receive €1500 as prize money to cover travel and accommodation for the program in Finland. The six week program is taking place in April and May this spring. Based on the quality of the applications, the program will select 10 to 15 companies to participate. Each company will further develop their product or service during the 6-week intesive and present it at the end of the program at the demo day.
During the coming one and a half months, Startup Sauna will visit 11 different places from Shangai to Warsaw as well as Moscow to Kuopio. Below is the schedule as of today:
In a story with clear parallels to Amazon.com's purchase of Zappos, OZON, Russia's largest online retailer has purchased Sapato.ru, an online shoe and accessories retailer. Sapato.ru was the first company funded by Fast Lane Ventures, and has also become the first exit by Russia-focused venture firm. OZON was able to acquire the shoe retailer after it raised $100 million last September. The purchase price of Sapato.ru has been not been disclosed.
Flattr, the microtipping service from Sweden, has announced it has closed a 14 million Swedish kronor (€1,6 million) investment from Federico Pirzio-Biroli and Passion Capital. The investment values the company now at 88 million Swedish kronor (€10 million). The service allows content owners to attach (and thus accept) micro donations through a simple Flattr -button on their website. A user can tip as many services online during a single month and the amount the user has allocated to be paid out will be evenly distributed all those who received clicks by that user.
According to the company, the investment was closed actually towards the end of last year, but they were only able to announce it today as the proper paperwork was in place.
We've been quite busy since December putting together our plans for 2012 and naturally that includes Arctic15, the annual conference we're putting together for growth entrepreneurs from Northern Europe. This year, the event will take place over the course of two very exciting days in October. October 17th and 18th to be exact. We've redefined our concept a little bit to better suit the needs of the entrepreneurs in the region. During the two days we'll have more than 50 people on two stages sharing their advice and experience. Tickets and the full program will be available later in the spring, but below is a little introduction to what we have in mind.
Nest New York is a new kind of a startup accelerator (can we really call it that?) in New York that helps Finnish companies establish themselves into the US market, according to Finnish Talouselämä. The setup is a combined effort by Tekes (Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation) as well as Teknologiateollisuus (The Federation of Finnish Technology Industries).
The companies currently accepted into the accelerator are PlayMySong, Campalyst, Stream Republic, Wantlet, MobileBrainBank and Kiosked.
I've found a horrible and distracting background noise while I work on my articles for ArcticStartup. I'm a news junkie, and I've been following the Middle East on Bambuser, the live video broadcasting service from Sweden. Over the past week I've spent a considerable amount of time listening and watching feeds from Homs, Syria, which usually just shows a still shot of rooftops from a webcam. There's not much to see, so I'll write my articles just listening to Homs while Bambuser runs in another tab. Syria's army has been shelling Homs, a town held by rebels, and at least 300 people have been killed in Homs alone since February 4th. Lots of startups in the region are doing important work, but none have affected how I look at the world like Bambuser.
Valkee, the creator of the bright-light headset used to treat seasonal depression and mood disorders, has published the first results of its clinical and neurobiological research program. The clinical trial, published in Medical Hypothesis, studied therapeutic effects of bright light channeled into the human brain via the ear canal to test the sensitivity of the human brain to light. The trial has been conducted since 2007 and challenges the existing paradigm that light therapy is only effective when transmitted through the eyes.
People with suspicions of Valkee's claimed benefits have long been asking for some proof from a peer reviewed study that acknowledges that the medical concept is sound. Unfortunately this paper will likely do little to remove those suspicions after taking a look at the colorful history of the journal, Medical Hypothesis.
Russian business daily Kommersant reported from unnamed sources on Friday that VTB Capital has invested $10 million in Oktogo.ru, a leading Russian online hotel booking startup, in exchange for a stake of 30 to 35 percent in a capital increase operation. VTB Capital declined to confirm or comment.
Founded in 2010, Oktogo now shows daily traffic reaching 18,000 users on average and up to 25,000 on peak days, project founder Maria Kolesnik told Kommersant. Oktogo’s revenues reached $10 million in 2011 and Kolesnik expects them to triple in 2012.
It seems that Angry Birds is already available on Facebook. We stumbled upon the game a day early of their official release. A few weeks back Rovio announced on Facebook that they would hold the biggest Facebook event ever and invite everyone and your mom to participate. The day naturally coincides with Valentines Day - a great day to share a good game with your friends. We snatched a few screenshots from the game as we played it and they're available below.
We've covered the rise of Helsinki-based Mobile Backstage, a service that creates and maintains smartphone apps for bands. They've seen success creating an interactive fan club service that helps develop and maintain relationships between artists and fans, where now their platform has expanded to many Finnish and UK based bands. Today Mobile Backstage tells us the service has reached 100 thousand registered users on mobile devices alone. These users have also logged 4 million interactions in 2011.
A new Android app being tested in Sweden is WalkMeHome, another player in the location-based safety field that provides peace of mind to those who feel threatened when walking home at night. The app provides a similar service to bSafe, a Norwegian app we covered last December, but I suppose the real innovations come down to the easiest user interface to use in a panicked situation. At its core, WalkMeHome allows users to click on a alert button to send a text message to your pre-designated "guardian angels". The message includes a map of your current location, information about their current position, and your planned destination.
This weekend we saw an update that suggests This Latvian website should have been on our radar long before this article. Ask.fm is a question asking and answering service that gives you the opportunity to ask and answer controversial questions anonymously. According to the company's update on Angellist, Ask.FM, has announced it is hitting a sizable amount of traffic. Since its launch in June of 2010, the company has seen 14m absolute uniques, 78 million visits, and 780 million pageviews per month. New user registrations are also pouring in at over 50,000 registrations a day.
It's easy to think that Skype is the only kid on the block, but its VOIP competitors are hitting significant numbers. Rebtel, the world's second largest VOIP network, announces today that it has hit 15 million users worldwide and has increased revenues by more than 55% in 2011 to $60 million in revenue. The company attributes this to its transparency, honesty, and new innovations, such as the KeepTalking technology that lets users switch seamlessly between between WIFI and 3G if the smartphone app senses the connection quality is deteriorating. In comparison to Rebtel's 15 million users, Skype has 663 million registered users as of September 2011.
Travelers going to the Estonian Air website are given quick access to booking flights and to the typical add-ons such as car rental, hotels, travel insurance, and now taxi booking through Cabforce. The Finnish startup officially launched a few weeks ago, and gives travelers easy online booking for taxis, executive cars, and minibuses. For business travelers, Cabforce provides accountants with detailed receipts (which is not a given in the taxi business), and saves travelers the pain of negotiating prices and which route to take across language barriers.
According to reports by IFPI and some other data available, it seems that Spotify doubled its market share in 2011 as compared to 2010. And by market share we mean the global streaming music market as followed by International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
Also, according to public records the company had filed in the UK we can tell Spotify's revenue was $99 million in 2010. Towards the end of 2010 they also shared that they had some 750 000 paying subscribers world wide. According to IFPI estimates, the global market for subscription services had about 8,2 millioin paying users. This yields Spotify a market share of around 9,1% in 2010.
BaltCap has invested in Clusterpoint to the tune of €1 million, TechCrunch reports. The Latvian company produces its own, designed from ground up database software product-- Clusterpoint data base management system (Clusterpoint DBMS) and related application software. Their software allows customers to simplify database design, and scale out big data in clusters without performance loss.