Trulia, the U.S. real estate website, has now focused some attention to the data it has collected on the U.S. housing industry. The company was co-founded by Sami Inkinen, and provides an easy search of available real estate. The new service, called Trulia Insights, will provide real estate agents will valuable information such as which users have been pre-approved for a mortgage, who are looking to buy a home in the next six months, and which homes the users have looked at or saved on the website.
Editorial note: This is a guest post by Jaakko Salminen. More information on him towards the end of the post.
One of the generally accepted wisdoms of the Finnish startup and growth company environment is shortage of private money. Startups run to Tekes for funding supposedly due to lack of available private early investments, and growth companies get sold very early when there is no VC money available. Easily available public funding is often cited as the dragon eating away any lucrative investment opportunities, and the vicious circle is ready.
Or is private money simply being directed elsewhere? In fact some very interesting sources for additional private money could be made available, if we take a forward-looking attitude.
Following the news of last month's €85 million closing of "Sunstone Technology Ventures Fund III," Sunstone Capital announced it has led a $1.2 million round in Gidsy, a Berlin-based startup offering an online service where people can discover, offer and book unique experiences. The round is led by Sunstone Capital and is joined by Index Ventures, Werner Vogels, Peter Read and Ashton Kutcher.
A few days ago I listened to Horace Dediu's Critical Path and it got me thinking that would governments be able to increase innovation and competition through more transparency in the economy. Dediu talked about the movie business in one the more recent shows and he stated it many times that it is very hard to analyse the industry at large as they do not provide any figures on how different players are doing.
Further into the podcast, he went on to explain the findings of his study and more specifically how movies are financed as well as how the accounting works in the industry. Having listened to his findings, I completely understand why there is so little innovation and disruption taking place in the industry.
The lack of innovation was put in concrete explanation in Fred Wilson's blog post on AVC yesterday where he argues that scarcity is a bad business. He writes how he wanted to find something interesting to watch through many different legal movie services, but was unable to find anything worthwhile. In the end he had to resort to a "foreign rogue site", as he put it.
Lithuania-based game developer Outlander Studios has signed a partnership agreement with pre-seed investor HackFwd, securing enough funds and support to commercialize the company’s first game, Equilibrium.
Equilibrium is a 3D real-time strategy game for Android. Players are taken into a medieval fantasy world of Chaos vs. Order in which they have to build and defend their village against the opposing force. Reminiscent of tower defense, Outlander Studios promises that the game mechanics and challenges presented in the game are actually quite unique.
Startup founders consider picking a company name one of the most important parts of their company's life. You can't succeed without a good name, right? Well, while you're searching for a new name, or if you've already got one trademarked, Stockholm-based Markify provides a free search service of confusingly similar trademarked names so you can be sure you're doing everything to protect yourself from legal trouble.
The Scandinavian news publisher Schibsted is set to buy a Norwegian company, Aspiro, for 340 million Swedish krona (€38m). Aspiro provides whitelabel TV and music streaming services, and also provides the music streaming service WiMP, which competes with Spotify. Aspiro is traded on the Nasdaq OMX Nordic Exchange in Stockholm, and Schibsted Media Group offers to the shareholders in Aspiro AB to acquire all the shares in Aspiro for SEK 1.65 in cash per share.
Editorial note: This is a sponsored post by Microsoft and is part of the Hear it from startups -series.
I had a chat with Drazen Dodik, a Microsoft Student Partner, about the Geeks on Wheels tour they did with the other Microsoft Student Partners in November and December. All in all the gentlemen toured some 12 different cities and universities in Finland, talking to students about the possibilities Windows Phone offers. The tour was also an answer to the numerous requests they had received regarding Windows Phone trainings from faculties and different partners around Finland.
The first episode of our new podcast is now out and it's called Unfair Advantage. In the weekly talk show we interview thinkers and doers from Northern Europe to understand what makes them tick. The show is co-hosted by me, Antti Vilpponen and our writer Greg Anderson. In our first show we interviewed Alex Esser from Sweden. He is one of the founding members of Tunaspot, a location based music discovery service. The service got its start from Copenhagen Startup weekend in 2011.
One2Touch out of Norway recently unveiled a new product: Keyboards for smartphones and tablets that are water resistant and foldable to pocket size. Theres plenty of products like that out on the market, but the kicker is that One2Touch's keyboards don't require any batteries or charging, and communicate to supported phones and tablets by NFC.
Before applying for Tekes financing, you need to know how Tekes' money can be used. When you apply for financing, you will meet with your Tekes representative to come up with your own spending plan, which will dictate what you're allowed to spend Tekes' money on. It's been described by the entrepreneurs I've talked to as a flexible enough system as long as you confirm new expenses not included in your plan with your Tekes representative before spending any money. Last month, Elina Arpponen gave an example of not including travel costs in her original plan, but luckily she was able to re-allocate expenses with just an email to her representative.
As mentioned earlier in this series, Tekes doesn't give you money upfront to spend. Tekes reimburses entrepreneurs' receipts that stick to the funding plan laid out with their Tekes representative. But generally speaking, Tekes money can be used for any costs associated to research, development, and innovation activities. These include costs like:
Stockholm-based 24MAS, a specialist in mobile ads, has announced it has acquired Liquid Air Labs GmbH, a mobile radio application developer boasting 500 million minutes of radio airtime monthly across 1300 applications. The acquisition should fit the two companies nicely together. 24MAS operates through partnerships with mobile operators, media companies, publishers, and handset manufacturers in five continents, giving advertisers and application developers the opportunity to reach mobile users in more than 80 countries via its application and advertising platform.
Our January's recruiting partner is DealDash, a Helsinki, Finland based startup. They operate a "gamified" shopping site that we've been covering recently. Back in October we covered their growth in quite a bit of detail, but we're very happy to report that this growth has further continued and seems to continue into the future. To fuel this, they of course require the best of talent that is out there.
Currently DealDash is looking for front-end developers. If you've got your doubts about the financials of this particular startup, you need not worry.
Community-powered safe surfing tool WOT reached another milestone this past Monday by passing 30 million downloads. The number of downloads has effectively doubled during the past 12 months and the latest figure checks off a great year for the Finnish company - a year that also included new partnerships with social media giant Facebook and Russian email provider Mail.ru.
Sony Entertainment Network today announced that it is expanding its Music Unlimited cloud-based digital music subscription service to countries including Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Music Unlimited features a catalogue of over 12 million songs including "all major U.S. labels, leading independent labels, and major publishers worldwide." The service is designed to work on Bravia TV's, PS3s, PSPs, some Sony Walkmen, and as a desktop service. The basic subscription starts off at €4 and premium runs at €10 per month.
The court's order to make Elisa block access to certain websites became our most retweeted story yesterday. It received almost 1500 retweets in about 24 hours. I'm sure the plaintiff didn't anticipate the implications this will have, not only on Elisa but on a variety of other things - potentially even harming themselves. The more significant result to this is perhaps that Finland received a lot of negative publicity in the digital media space for its court's decision. In a time when countries are competing for appeal in the eye of digital media entrepreneurs, a lot of potential candidates saw Finland's position diminish. This may sound far fetched, but it really isn't. Let me explain why.
Remember our coverage of Tripbirds? The service is still showing a dummy page with a counter of the distance you and your friends have travelled according to Facebook checkins, but the team recently informed us about a side project that puts your Nordic startup on the map. StartupLocation is just a simple google maps mashup and Twitter aggregator, but there's value in knowing where your neighbors are. Anyone can add their Nordic startup by going to their website.
As a follow up to our post from last April, Toivo Annus claims to have "no tangible results to evaluate" on his chalenge for a Baltic startup to create a public service application that would attract 100 000 active monthly users from Baltic states by March 2012. The winner would get a $20,000 cash prize with no strings attached.
While most startups are focused on allowing users to share information as frictionless as possible, Neko.io is taking the opposite approach. The new service by Meontrust Inc. allows users to post on their friends' walls, blogs, and anywhere else in a scrambled web link. To be able to read the link, you need to be "friends" with the Neko.io user who originally posted the link, and have a Neko.io account of your own. Clicking on the link takes you to the Neko.io website where it unscrambles the link-- allowing you to communicate with your friends in a public forum, but still limit your privacy to a much smaller audience. In this sense, it's a much more "frictional" way of sharing, but allows you to still use the services where your friends are already present.
Elisa, one of the largest internet service providers in Finland, has been forced to block access to The PirateBay for its customers. Elisa issued a press release (in Finnish) on the matter moments ago. The decision was given by a local district court in Helsinki. Elisa has stated that they will seek correction to the decision in supreme court. As of today, all Elisa and Saunalahti (part of the same group) customers will be denied access to ThePirateBay on an operator level, meaning they have denied access to the servers in their name servers.