The year has just turned to 2010 and it's time to do some predicting into the future on the most likely trends this year. While they may not be accurate nor hold true in the end, it's nice to get a feel for what people are predicting. I've got 6 predictions, some not so spectacular, others slightly more outside the possible reach.
The first one is a pretty obvious one based on the recent developments in the media world as well as the startups involved in this industry as well: online video will become a mainstream alternative for advertisers. This does not mean that online video itself will be watched in equally large amounts to regular television, but it will become an alternative and a possibility for advertisers. This essentially means that the industry itself will grow as a business and become an attractive platform for doing business.
As the year end is closing, we would like to take a moment to express our gratitude and thanks to all of our wonderful sponsors who have supported us during 2009, and wish everyone an excellent and even better New Year.
Please have a look at what these firms and organizations have to offer, they are quite a versatile bunch.
Erply has been one of my favorite companies in the Nordic and Baltic region lately. We've covered them before on their Seedcamp tour, first when they were nominated and second when they were announced one of the winners. Erply is an Estonian company that has created a Saas-based offering which enable retail shop keepers run their business. Erply enables companies to sell online, keep track of their inventory as well as billing, manage your sales pipeline, a Point-of-sales application and a lot more. I received access to their software and decided to take it out for a little test ride and see how well it performs.
Christmas is here again and I have to say many agree, it always surprises you in how quickly the year has gone. Without getting too sentimental, it's been a great year for us. We've managed to hold 9 events in many of the Nordic and Baltic cities, break stories from the Nordics and Baltics globally and also push out a lot of news on an everyday basis to quench your thirst for startup news. I'd like to thank each and every one of you on behalf of the ArcticStartup team for reading our stories, attending our events, re-tweeting our stories and in general being part of the posse that's creating a better ecosystem for entrepreneurship. You guys make this worthwhile!
However, Christmas time is also a time of giving. While many bootstrap and don't exactly enjoy large amounts of liquidity, we can still help. Like before, I'd like to focus your attention to Kiva.org the website helping third world entrepreneurs through micro financing. It's a great way to help out the societies elsewhere in the world and what's best - through entrepreneurship.
If you fancy helping out the entrepreneurs in the third world like we did, join our community team in Kiva.org and take a few minutes to lend $25 USD or more.
ps. We're enjoying a little time off with our families and relatives, but will be back for a few days after Christmas so don't leave us altogether!
There's more happening in Copenhagen, Denmark than just climate change talks. In 2010 Copenhagen will host two of the more interesting micro-seed investing programs in the region.
We all know the London born Seedcamp and what's its shooting for: To bring together the European startup scene. At least from the startup financing point of view. Now Seedcamp has released the new dates for 2010 (See below). There's also a new Copenhagen based player entering the micro-seed investing scene, Startupbootcamp.dk
There's clearly many more seed investors across the Nordic and Baltic countries (and more coming soon), but Seedcamp and now Startupbootcamp.dk are the only ones that are structured as programs and can be compared to the interesting Y Combinator style model operating in the US.
A huge group of Finnish old media companies and different organisations are wishing TV-Kaista a Merry Christmas in the form of a lawsuit for TV-Kaista's service offering, according to Helsingin Sanomat. TV-Kaista has become famous in Finland (and outside Finland as well) to enable television watching regardless of time and location - up to two weeks that is. TV-Kaista offers the possibility to view any of the 11 Finnish televison channels over the internet two weeks back. This does not go down well with MTV Media, Sanoma Television, Yleisradio, Kopiosto, Teosto and Sound and Video producers' association.
I managed to get a fresh load of stories regarding the Finnish startup scene yesterday. While the companies themselves have not made too much noise about these, they are valid to break to keep the system as transparent as possible. There are 3 investment deals and one acquisition offer that was did not go down.
To begin with, we have Muxlim. The world's largest online network for Muslims. They have about 200 000 registered users at the moment. The story is that they have recently closed a round of financing from Europe, possibly UK. There is no word on the size of the round, nor who the investors are but this is what we're hearing from the street.
Suntrica Oy was one of the companies we visited during the Finnfacts Cleantech Blogger Tour 09, and who handed us out an actual product for testing, the SolarStrap. The tech savvy person has usually a few gadgets on him - cellphone, smart phone, PDA, MP3 Player, GPS, etc. - and at some point might run into the problem of an empty battery. That's no problem if an outlet & charger are at hand, but what if on the go and none of these are available?
Nokia has sent out some of its new flagship phones, the N900s, to some of the tech and gadget bloggers around the world. Tracy and Matt's blog received one and have posted a great video on unboxing the phone and taking it into use as well as running through the basic functionalities of the phone. What makes this unboxing a bit more interesting is the fact that, to open the package - you have to plug in a USB cable and "hack" it.
There's been a lot of talk lately about angel investing or the lack of thereof, and I think the time is finally ripe for it to raise its head here in the Nordics and Baltics.
I just recently talked to Petteri Koponen of Lifeline Ventures, who came back from the first SeedSummit that took place in London and was put together by the good people at Seedcamp. It's a new initiative that twice a year brings together a critical mass of Europe’s most active seed investors to try and establish a stronger, more cohesive network to support entrepreneurs across the continent.
We welcome the initiative. If its needed generally in Europe, the Nordics and Baltics are literally screaming for such an initiative.
The other angel investor coming from our neck of the woods who was present was who else than the other Jaiku co-founder, Jyri Engeström. Other angels present included Jeff Clavier, Martin Varsavsky, Brent Hoberman, Lukasz Gadowski, Stefan Glaenzer, Dave McClure, Andy Philips, William Reeve, Robin Klein and Sherry Coutu. A hefty list.
Planeto, a Swedish startup still in closed beta, has announced closing a 4.5 million Swedish Kronor investment round. The investment was made jointly by Sydsvensk Entreprenörfond AB, current shareholders and angel investors. Sydsvensk Entreprenörfond (SEF) put in 2M Swedish Kronors and the shareholders and angel investors more than doubled that with 2.5m Swedish Kronors. 4,5 million Swedish Kronor is the equivelant of about 430,000 euros or 615,000 USD.
Back in November we visited the Lahti Cleantech Venture Day where we had a chance to see a lot of different companies and people. One of the most interesting was Valoya. Valoya is a company working in an industry that most people wouldn't consider especially sexy. They are developing professional lights for greenhouses with LED technologies. While this may sound boring to the average man on the street, take a minute to think about how your vegetables are grown these days. The business is huge and about one third of the costs of producing vegetables go into electricity.
This week was all about the releases, new products, versions, and, er, some employees. Swedes-in-Berlin based startup SoundCloud launched their App Gallery, and we pronounced it good. Unfortunately, Sulake's release was in the form of 28 of their employees. Hopefully, when their Facebook application starts to take off, they can hire everyone back.
There were releases coming from the financial and government worlds this week too. The Icelandic, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish Ministries' collaboration known as the Nordic Game Program awarded a total of 3,000,000DKK (400,000€, 4,200,000SEK, 3,300,000NOK, 73,000,000ISK) funding to 8 winners to develop innovative games. The Finnish Software Entrepreneurs Association released a manifesto demanding a tax exemption for startups that fund their operations from their own profits and are owned by the entrepreneurs themselves. Lastly, one of the very few investment banks left on the Earth, released a huge report on the future of the mobile internet, and we "filleted" it for you as best we could.
Finally, in a MUST SEE video for all European entrepreneurs, Mårten Mickos releases his hard won wisdom on challenges that are in the way of building world’s biggest anything
GetJar is the world’s second largest mobile app store founded in Lithuania offering over 57,000 apps for all mobile devices and serving over 55m downloads per month. To date they have achieved over 750m downloads and attracted 300,000 registered developers and 50,000 registered beta testers.
In the interview Laurs' says that the battle of the app stores will culminate in a dramatic change to the market over the next 12-18 months, and at least 90% of app stores will fail. Further, the importance of global mobile billing will become critical: Several $10M-a-year mobile app businesses will appear in 2010 as the apps market gathers momentum. The billing processes and agreements will improve in 2011 and 2012, stimulating the app economy and the rise of the $100m app businesses.
Finland's biggest directory service Fonecta has made an undisclosed "strategic" investment into social yellow pages service Tupalo.com, run by an Austrian startup. Finland marks the beginning of the service's Scandinavian expansion. For Fonecta, this is a step into getting involved with social media technologies for directory services. Tupalo's service has now also been launched in Finnish.
Music and audio sharing service for artists, SoundCloud, today announced the launch of their App Gallery, "a nice home for all the apps using the SoundCloud API." In the process they are demonstrating how startups can develop thriving application ecosystems without the "get rich quick" motivation that drives many developers to create for that other app store.
We've all heard it before, at events, camps, or pitching sessions - to be really successful in the consumer web you have to be a platform. But how do startups, even a funded startup with a rapidly growing user base convince a critical mass of developers to spend their precious time coding for them? In particular, why does a handful of Swedish guys who moved their company to Berlin just because the parties are better, think they can build a dynamic App Gallery?
Back in October we wrote about the negotiations Sulake was having with its employees about reducing the work force. The plan back then was to reduce the workforce by 20%, which would have meant something along the lines of 40 people. They ended up sacking 28 people, to cut costs, and thus stayed well below the initial plan of 20%. Juhani Lassila, their Communication Exec stated in the Finnish M&M article that the current restructuring and cuts have dramatically improved their profitability.
While 28 people were fired, I've heard from close sources that others have left the company of their own will and the environment isn't all that lively inside the company. This of course is completely natural when a startup that has grown to a multinational gaming house has its first real employee negotiations and ends up cutting its workforce by this much.
Soprano Brain Alliance is a fast growing Finnish software developing company, which is particularly specialized in open source web technologies such as PHP, Drupal and Zend Framework. Our clients include large Finnish media corporations, public sector organizations and a handful of start up companies. Company’s founder Jukka Hassinen has build the 35 person employing company in six years. Other key people are Taneli Tikka (Board member), Mikko Hämäläinen (COO), Eetu Hyppönen (Serial Creative Director) and Santeri Lindgren (CTO). Brain Alliance is a part of the NASDAQ OMX listed company Soprano Plc.
Over the years our company has worked with over 60 clients and over 100 projects. Even though we work mainly with medium and big companies, we also like to take part in fresh start-up projects. In fact our key people work with at least one. To mention few: IRC-Galleria, Muxlim, Dopplr, RunToShop, ENCA, Mauton, E8 Personal CRM.
Global plans to increase the amount of renewable energy will boost the growth of the biomass industry in the coming years. MHG System has developed an open and real-time enterprise resource planning system for biomass/forest energy management. It is a tool targeted at the management and optimization of the complex biomass supply chain. The system is designed for fuel suppliers, energy utilities and related harvesting,chipping & transport contractors and subcontractors.
The solution, MHG Bioenergy ERP service and map service solution, was commercialized in 2008. The service can be used via a web browser or mobile dvices. Customer solutions are created from MHG's ERP independend building blocks and delivered as a turnkey solutions - or the service can be used on an ASP basis. The key competitive edge of the ERP tool is based on feed stock quality but it also allows customers to monitor moisture and energy content with a novel technology.
XIHA Life has partnered with a French company called BlueTeach to enable online teaching at their multi-cultural and multi-national social network. XIHA Life is a Finnish startup that has moved to Switzerland (Update: They're still registered in Finland). They have steadily grown their user base and Jani Penttinen, Co-founder of the company has tweeted that they recently passed the 600 000 registration mark.
With the help of BlueTeach's in-browser application, teachers are able to go through a variety of material together with their students. BlueTeach is also able to monetize the teaching situation as teachers are able to ask for a price for the session or teach for free. Looking at the offering BlueTeach has, I have to state that it is a pretty neat package put together. The service is also easy to use and you are able to use it to record your lessons and have them online for later use.