Softcolor, a Joensuu, Finland based startup, has totally missed our radar for some reason. This North Karelian company is in the business of improving images - the automated way. Their website states that their main products are server side software that can be used to automate image enhancing.
The company was founded by Petri Piirainen (CTO) and Juha Purmonen (CEO). They also have a few other people more or less working full time helping them out. They met each other in the Joensuu university and inspired by the M&A deals of Bitboys and Hybrid they too decided to start their company and have a go at it.
Petri Piirainen did not disclose their clients, but states they are in the media and more specifically print sector - ie. publishing houses. There are numerous competitors in the field and thus it's not an easy task to come up with an innovative solution to image enhancement, according to Petri. However, as many of the giants such as Apple, Agfa, Kodak, Adobe and others concentrate on user initiated image enhancement - there is a clear gap in the automated solutions department and Softcolor has been able to take advantage of this.
Their future includes improving their server side products as this is where the big business is. Softcolor is also currently expanding their sales network in Sweden, Germany, France and UK - so a strong push towards the Central European states is under way.
Softcolor also has a demo service available at improveyourimages.com.
Rebtel, a Swedish and Luxembourg based startup offering cheap international calls over internet, is pushing itself hard to conquer the VoIP market. Some might say that even a bit too aggresively as their phone numbers were blocked in Germany by O2.
However, as Alexander Drewniak writes in his blog post, this sort of activity is against EU regulations. He is also asking customers of O2 to send an e-mail or contact Jaime Basterra the "boss in Germany" about this and let the company know how the customers feel about this sort of activity. He goes on to make a Churchill type speech regarding the future:
The fact remains, old operators will always cling on to their decreasing margins, lock-in contracts, hidden charges, big offices, expensive TV-commercials, and out-dated methods but they cannot stop the future of calling. When internet now meets telecom, operators are going to have to change or die. Internet stands for transparency, consumer value, openness and change. Values that clash against the business models of all telecom operators.
It'll be interesting to see how this works out. We'll be following the activity closely.
The guys at MindTrek have shown that when it comes to getting start-ups on board, Tampere knows what its doing. Here's what they have on offer quote on quote:
The winner elected by the jury will be nominated as the MindTrek Startup of the Year 2008, and given the right to pick up the prize first from the basket. The three prizes are:
- Two tickets for an international conference (max á 1300 €), like Le Web 3 Le Web08 in Paris (December 12th – 13th) December 9th – 10th*
- Supercoaching training by Sharon Ballard
- Technopolis Ventures incubation program (12 months contract, worth 3 000 €) and an opportunity to participate in the Money Talks Forum
In addition, the winner will get two tickets for the MindTrek 2009 conference and one hour face-time with one jury member to discuss about the concept, business model, financing opportunities, markets, etc.
The company nominated as second will select prize after the winner, and the bronze-medallist will get the remaining prize.All companies selected to present their pitches in the conference will be given an opportunity to participate in a half-day pitch training session before the conference.
If the prizes are noteworthy, so it the jury. The jury line up includes Marc Davis from Yahoo!, Sharon C. Ballard, the founding President/CEO of Enable Ventures Inc., Tapio Siik from Nokia Growth Partners, Pekka Pärnänen theHead of Finpro at Silicon Valley and Henri Rantalainen the CEO and Business Development Advisor at Technopolis Ventures Professia.
But as they say there's no such thing as a free lunch and even start-ups have to invest real money sometimes as much as it hurts. There is no real registration fee for the Launchpad competition, but if a start-up is selected it will have to register for the conference to get to pitch and be eligible for the prizes. The registration fee is 75 euro (+VAT) for the Thursday when the actual pitching competiton will take place, and if you want join the whole two days you have to pay 110 euro (+VAT) for a two day ticket, ie Wednesday and Thursday.
To ease the pain a bit, we are co-organizing with Culminatum, Sombiz, Floobs and MindTrek a free bus ride for all the startups to Tampere and back. Regardless of whether you're pitching or not, you're most welcome to join the ride. write me at ville [at] arcticstartup [dot] com if you wanna come and I'll reserve a seat for your team.
You can read more about the competition and fill in the registration for here. Good luck!
*Edit: A correction to The MindTrek website: The first prize that includes two tickets for an international conference (max á 1300 €), should read "like Le Web08 in Paris (December 9th – 10th)", not 'LeWeb3 that was held in Paris last year on December 12th and 13th.
Star Wreck Studios, an open source movie making platform or rather a community of passionate movie loving individuals that produced the Star Wreck, a movie with eight million downloads from all around the world, has been featured in the VentureBeat.
The article is quite thorough in explaining what Star Wreck Studios is doing and it sounds very promising indeed, even though already the first comment to the actual article questioned the long term prospects of the open source movie making model. I am sure all open source models have their own problems and hurdles to over come but just like with the software business I believe the model can be made to work better than most of the industry heavy weights can predict. After all, it is hard to argue with eight million downloads achieved with a mere $20,000.
Regardless of the Star Wreck Studios' operating model's credentials it is absolutely fantastic to see another Finnish startup featured in a media such as the VentureBeat. Now, I suspect that Star Wreck Studios' board member and a personal friend of mine Peter Vesterbacka had something to do with the fact that VentureBeat's reporter Tanja Aitamurto took note and eventually wrote the piece. I'd hope more people that have similar connections to the Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley or even to the Silicon Roundabout in London would recognize the opportunities and contact the promising Nordic start-ups and start evangelize them on their trips over seas or over the canal. If such a culture would born it would benefit everybody, not least the evangelists themselves.
Going back to the article, here's a few tidbits that I found particularly interesting:
Star Wreck Studios isn’t just about collaborative movie making, it’s also about collaborative movie viewing. [...] For example, if you’re watching a horror flick, as a part of the plot, your phone rings, and when you answer, the person on the other end of the line is the main character of the movie.
[Peter Vesterbacka] says that the goal for the project is to wreck the Hollywood model of film making.
“StarWreck easily generated more than 10 times return. The numbers are small, but the cost, $20,000, was minimal as well”, Vesterbacka says. “And when your movie costs only 20K to make, you don’t need to have an audience of millions or tens of millions to reach your goals. But if you spent a hundred million on the production, the expectations for the size of the audience grows, too.”
Star Wreck Studios is bootstrapped so far, and the company is hoping to get a first round of funding in a year and some angel led funding in the next few months.
We here at ArcticStartup are fans already and looking forward to Star Wreck Studios' future productions. Let us know if you know any other promising open source projects going on in the Nordics. We'd love to hear what else is cooking on the open source front.
Many websites have reported that Jaiku is now being hosted on Google servers. I had to test it for myself and see what a traceroute would return - look for yourself.
Jaiku has been down all weekend with a notice: "Folks, we're offline for the weekend for server maintenance. Now's a good time to talk to someone you love." Recently we also wrote about the web 2.0 crash that occured to Finnish startups using Nebula's services and back then Jaiku was one of those services.
Mashable is guessing that the final move to Google App Engine is on the way, but to be honest - there's no proof. We've written about the move a few times, but it hasn't happened yet. Another interesting question to ask is that how many people have left Jaiku for twitter as this is the second long outage that has occured in a very short time period?
Megapolis, a Finnish born festival for global urbanites, is planning to go international. The theme of the third Megapolis is Happy Cities and according to Roope Mokka from Demos Helsinki says the event is going to be bigger and better than it was last year and that international expansion might be in the cards:
Theres plans, but theyre still v. much plans.
You can see the whole discussion thread here at Jaiku.
Once we get a samekind of buzz and self confidence going country wide and everybody buys the mindset that we can make it anywhere and everywhere, we're doing just fine even without the ill incentiviced governmental early-stage investing and other market distorting subsidies from the public sector agencies.
On Wednesday 27th of August, Sampo Karjalainen - a co-founder of Sulake - will tell the story of the company from the founding moments to this day in an event organised by Tommi Rissanen of Digibusiness - Digital content cluster.
Last year they had Jyri Engeström talk about the path that Jaiku took and it was a huge success, so they decided to redo it this year with another successful Finnish entrepreneur. I sure hope this continues every year and the industry keeps those successful speakers coming.
The event takaes place on the stairs of EGO at Unioninkatu 13, Helsinki at 2pm.
The event is free, but due to limited space - please RSVP to Tommi Rissanen if you're coming.
Asmo Halinen, Co-founder of Apaja, has compiled a listing of Finnish gaming companies into a rather comprehensive list. You can find the list here, and the original blog post about the project here (in Finnish).
Asmo started the list way back in 2005, but has updated it along the way, the latest update being from 16 July 2008. The list has 38 gaming companies altogether, a number which in itself amazes me. I'd be very interested about the ratio of 'other startups' vs. gaming startups in Finland, if anyone wants to compile such a ratio. And if that is not challenging enough I'd love to see the ratios from all the Nordic countries. I have yet to figure out why Finland has relatively such high numbers of gaming firms. Any ideas on this would be warmly welcomed.
Let us and Asmo know (via comments) if he's missing anybody from his list.
We've added a tiny bit of information to the right hand side regarding upcoming events that are of interest to entrepreneurs and startups in the Nordics. You too can add your own event and get it posted in the stream, just sign up to Upcoming (works with Yahoo accounts), join the group ArcticStartup and add your events also to that group once you post them to the service. This way we'll see it and if approriate, approve it to let others know of it as well.
Please remember to write something about the event to the description part and also link to existing information elsewhere as not many people might be familiar with the event.
Please let us know what you think!
A friend of mine at Nokia tipped me off to this wonderful wake up software. HappyWakeUp, a smart alarm clock for your mobile phone, promises to wake you up feeling refreshed every morning. Not a small thing to promise in any measure.
I am particularly keen on getting my good night's sleep and am already using pzizz for my napping and Phillips Wake-Up Light for my mornings. Pzizz works like magic, but I've found the Phillips Wake-Up Light useful only for reading at the evenings. Thus my excitement when I heard about the HappyWakeUp.
HappyWakeUp goes beyond the mere gently sound or light and instead offers us statistical analysis of our sleep pattern for the price of: One week - 2€. Two months - 8.95€. Full license - 49.95€. This is how it works:
HappyWakeUp detects the optimal moment to wake up by monitoring the quality of your sleep using the microphone of the mobile phone. Actually it listens to your movements during the night time. Therefore the phone has to be near to you, preferably on your bed. Detection of the arousals is based on statistical analysis of the microphone signals.
To read more about how the service works go here.
The company does not say where they are based, but since there is the Finnish language option available and the English copy writing has quite a few typos I'm guessing they are from Finland.
It's a compelling story and I'm eager to try it out. Before trying tho, I need to get a Nokia phone which is a bit of a let down. No happy wake-ups for iphone owners. According to the company behind the service, Smart Valley Software Ltd., the service works only with Symbian 60 3rd edition platform and can be installed in Nokia mobile phones.
I was personally about to get a Nokia phone to go along with my iphone anyway, just to have the video recording capabilities with me at all times. But I can see this nifty service bypassing potentially significant tech savvy market if they are not hard at work with the HappyWakeUp iphone app. A nice opportunity for an iphone app developer perhaps.
Nebula had a meltdown of their power supply setup at the Lauttasaari facility last night. Due to the outage several Finnish web services went down yesterday at 7pm (GMT +2). The services that got hit included Jaiku, Scred, Ampparit.com, telkku.com to name a few.
In total, the outage affected about 1500 servers and 8000 of their customers. The web services seems to back up and running by now.
The idea is to rent a bus and take off to Tampere together from Helsinki with a bus full of start-ups. Spend the Oct. 8th and 9th at the Conference and give the start-ups a possibility to pitch at Startup Launchpad competition.
The competition will have a worthwhile set of prizes, which without going into too much detail yet include face-time with some big names in the industry and tickets to one of the most notable Internet Conferences in Europe. We will announce the jury line-up as well as the prizes as soon as they get confirmed.
To enter the Launchpad competition you need to:
Fill in the online form that you will find on the website (here)
In the form you will be required to provide basic information about the company and founders, a description of your service/product and why your company should win.
In addition to this, an optional maximum 2 minutes video uploaded to YouTube (or other server accessible for us) describing the company and the product would be highly appreciated. You can put the link on the form.
- Proposals must be submitted in English.There is no fee for registering your company in the MindTrek Startup Launchpad. If your company is selected, to confirm your participation, you will have to register to the conference. So those who are presenting the startup company must register and pay the registration fee.
- A maximum of 7 start-ups will be carefully selected from the submitted applications, and will demonstrate in front of a panel of expert judges in a room where any conference participant will have access to, on Thursday, October 9th.
The jury as well as the audience may ask questions during the Q&A session which will follow each presentation. The jury will also give feedback after the presentation.
If you're a start-up and you'd like to come along and reserve a place in the bus, first you need to register and then just let me know you want to come along by dropping me a quick mail at ville [at] arcticstartup [dot] com.
There is no fee for registering your company in the MindTrek Startup Launchpad itself. If your company is selected, to confirm your participation, you will have to register to the conference. So those who are presenting the start-up company must register and pay the registration fee, but you do get a 10% off by using STARTMIND-08 code when registering. Naturally, if you do register the bus ride to Tampere and back is free of charge thanks to Tommi at Culminatum.
The Finnish mobile software company JoikuSpot has received recognition in the 2008 Forum Nokia Innovation series program. The sotftware morphs your phone into a WiFi-router so everyone around you can share your mobile internet connection. Six of the winners were from the US, while Joikuspot and the Italian based UbiSafe defended the European pride in the competition. JoikuSpot also recently won the main prize in APAC Navteq Global LBS challenge.
The winners have gone through a tought selection process with focus groups held around the globe and a tight internal review by Nokia. Nokia also states that they are proud to be helping put these in front of business users and consumers, while not completely stating what this means in practice. Hopefully there will be more promotion for these winners other than a place in the Nokia Software Market.
I had a brief chat with Sorosh Tavakoli, the CEO of VideoPlaza - a Stockholm based Swedish startup, about how they are helping to monetize online video. YouTube, among many others, has proved that online video is definitely a big winner in the way people decide to spend their time online. However, as many media companies have shown - the single most important problem remains; how do you monetize this in a proper way?
VideoPlaza set off with this in mind when the company was founded in August 2007. They currently have a licensable platform for serving, managing and presenting ads in online video content. The technologies they use are either Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight. They charge their clients with a single startup-fee and a scalable fee based on served ads and bandwidth. VideoPlaza states Kanal5, WarnerBros, Opel, H&M and Arla as their current clients as a proof of big clients approving their products.
Sorosh was in the UK during the European Summer holidays and networking with local agencies and companies working with and around online video. He writes in his latest blog entry that the UK and Swedish market are very much alike and "a lot will happen in the next two years". He also states four dominant charasteristics that pretty much sum up the current immaturity of the market: 1) Pre-roll domination, 2) Confusion on monetization, 3) Lack of ad format standards and 4) Inadequate metrics and reporting.
He doesn't want to reveal too much regarding his plans on UK, but he is currently in talks with several large publishers and I'm sure we're going to hear some news from VideoPlaza during the autumn.
Juha, from a Finnish based hosting company dogfight.fi, has contacted us that he is willing to give free hosting for startups in exchange for advertisement or a share of your company (I'm guessing most will go for the advertisement :)). Despite him wishing that startups who apply, are well thought or even already launched, he says that the main point of the giveaway is to allow companies to grow without tech problems.
I asked him about scalabitlity and that shouldn't be a big problem up to a certain point. The technical setup is a regular LAMP-setup, but he's also willing to negotiate on ruby, postresql and others.
Not sure if this is interesting to everybody, but for those who are trying to test out their concept - it might be worthwhile a try. If you are interested, contact him through the webform.
Mindtrek 2008, the conference that started off as a multimedia competition a decade ago, is once again gathering in Tampere between 7th and 9th of October. Mindtrek will also be featuring a Startup Launchpad, where a maximum of seven startups will be chosen to present to the audience and a group of judges.
The selection criteria and application procedure can be seen on the Mindtrek Startup Launchpad website. Although it is still unofficial, ArcticStartup, will also be present at the conference one way or another. We've also heard that the prizes will be pretty good, so think seriously about joining.
More on the conference in the future as things progress.
Scred organises Night-of-Code 2 on Thursday 21st of August at the Cable Factory in Helsinki from 5pm to 11pm. The event follows a very lose structure - sort of an uncoference as Scred announces on their blog.
The original idea of the Night of Code is attached to the Night of Arts in Helsinki, however this year the night of the code is a day earlier. Following it's traditions, the focus of the night will be on creativity.
Scred wishes that you tag yourself as attending in their Facebook event if you wish to participate.
Seedcamp applications are now closed for 2008. We received all together five notifications from start-ups that are applying after we posted our own offer. The start-ups come from Finland and Sweden, namely These Are My Brands (Finland), Scred (Finland), BiznesPort (Finland), BuzzPal (Sweden/US) and Wonderswap.com (Sweden).
Seedcamp received most of the applications on the last minute (for more see here) just as we received the information on start-ups that applied. On the other hand we did not post our offer that much earlier either. Regardless, the main thing is that many companies got their application in. Congrats and good luck for everybody who submitted their application in time.
Even though the applications are now closed do let us know in comments if we missed you, but you still applied in time. The interview offer is valid even though we did not hear about you before the application window closed.
Edit 11.08.2008: That's six start-ups now: MahShelf (Finland) applied also in time. Congrats!
Wonderswap aims to create a marketplace and a community that will support the need to re-cycle amongst a new generation of people who are tired of the "buy-and-throw-away-mentality".
There's not that much to see on Wonderswap's website at the moment, but their CEO, Monika Björn, told us that they´re planning to have a Beta out by this autumn/winter. The secrecy is understandable to some extend, since Seedcamp rules suggest that your service should not have launched yet.
For those of our readers who still don't know what Seedcamp is here's a short description from Seedcamp website.
Seedcamp is an intensive week long event held in September in London targeted at young entrepreneurs from across EMEA.
We've set it up to provide seed funding and world-class connections for startups. September 2007 marked our first Seedcamp Week and group of funded startups. September 2008 will mark our second.
We will be holding an open application available online. Based on this, we will select up to 20 companies to participate in the event.
Seedcamp application deadline is tomorrow(!), so if you're planning on applying, apply now. If you want to apply, go here.
Good luck to Wonderswap.com(!) and as promised an interview comes as a part of package later on.
BuzzPal, a US/Sweden -based social startup, is applying to Seedcamp. BuzzPal does not tell what their service is about other than that their name and tagline 'The world is your party' are good hints and that if you love to party and make new friends BuzzPal is for you. They promise to launch in 2008. Naturally our promise holds that I wrote about earlier on:
When you apply to Seedcamp before the August 10th deadline you will get a guaranteed 2 minute video interview by me or optionally you can submit a 60 second video pitch of your start-up/product/service, which ever you prefer. Naturally these will be posted on ArcticStartup. In addition, when you apply to Seedcamp you will automatically enter a draw in which we at ArcticStartup will randomly choose two start-ups that can have their logo (125×125px) on ArcticStartup front page for the whole month of September. Additionally any start-up that will be chosen to take part in the actual Seedcamp week gets also their logo (125×125px) on the front page for the whole month of September.
Here's a short and rather cryptic video pitch from BuzzPal to Seecamp video pitch competition.
You can vote BuzzPal's video pitch at Seedcamps video pitch competition which can earn the start-up a spot at the Seedcamp short-list interview day.
Good luck to everybody at BuzzPal!