World Economic Forum announced the results of its annual study on how countries are able to leverage ICT as a sustainable, long-term source of economic development. The results show success in general for the Nordic countries, Sweden is ranked first, Denmark third, Finland sixth and Norway tenth.
A US based startup Groupon offers users deep discounts on products and services from local businesses, but you need a minimum number of users to sign-up into a deal before getting the discount. And you have only one day to do this. TechCrunch knows that Groupon is on track to generate $100 million in gross merchandise sales in 2010 of which they take a 30%-50% cut. That sounds like a real business.
Now Offerium has opened its doors in Finland. In short, Offerium is a localization of the Groupon concept. The founder of the company, Oskari Lehtonen, was running MyButler before founding Offerium. MyButler asked users what they are interested in and then negotiated two-for-the-price-of-one deals from the given advertisers for the users.
The Finnish film industry is looking more and more lively nowadays. The international successes have not been that many in the past, compared to e.g. the Swedish movie industry focused on strong story telling, like the recent Stieg Larsson's Millennium Saga. However, in the past few years the Finnish industry has been showing signs of much increased international ambitions. One of the most widest distributed Finnish films ever has been the animation Niko & The Way to the Stars, published in 2008.
The next big take seems now to be The Sampo, a feature length 3D stereoscopic animation film based on the Kalevala mythology by Northern Digital Film Company NDFC Helsinki, founded in 2006.
TechCrunch reports that Spotify has signed an exclusive deal with the Finnish side of TeliaSonera. The two year deal will give TeliaSonera the exclusive rights to sell Spotify Premium in Finland. The announcement comes on the same day as TeliaSonera unveils its IPTV service that is complete with a certain selection of television channels, video rentals and Spotify Premium. Spotify signed a similar contract with the Swedish side of TeliaSonera last year and it seems that the deal was worthwhile as the Finnish side of TeliaSonera also went forward with the partnership.
Many cleantech companies are large scale companies who aim to work with the utilities, who require millions in investments for R&D, production facilities, and rolling out their product. Quickly one forgets about the smaller players, and one of those smaller players is Tuulivoimala, who develops and markets wind and solar power solutions to private customers, and who are quite successful with their venture.
Those following the mobile gaming industry paid notice that the Finnish gaming studio Universomo was shut down (in Finnish) by its owner THQ Wireless, which acquired the Finnish firm back in 2007. Rumors started to spread on Tuesday this week and pretty soon THQ confirmed the liquidation of the studio. This is part of a bigger shift in the game industry.
There's much talk about the new Aalto University in Finland, which is what came out when Helsinki School of Economics, Helsinki University of Technology and Helsinki University of Art and Design were molded into one school to rule them all. A lot of potential I'm sure, but wait, there's more!
There's a new kid in town. Many of our readers felt the waves from Aalto Entrepreneur Society last year. The student group headed by Kristo Ovaska hasn't been resting on their laurels. Now they are coming with a new Y Combinator-esque university accelerator program, Aalto Bootcamp. It's a five week program for students and researchers to get a feel for the joys of entrepreneurship and build a company. And yes, become a bona fide entrepreneur.
TNS Gallup, Finnish subsidiary of the biggest industry market research expert TNS Global, has teamed up with a mobile customer experience management startup QAim to provide Finland wide tracking of mobile website usage metrics.
We recently argued that Schibsted will give Finnish media companies a run for their money in classifieds and market places. Now Schibsted Classified Media Finland's CEO, Jussi Lystimäki, tells us that Tori.fi just passed the one million unique visitor water mark last week. This comes from a firm who just opened their Finnish site in December.
Lystimäki further commented that they are adding tens of thousands of products a month. No doubt, this traffic has not been cheap, but it comes to show that that digital marketing is fulfilling its overdue promise and that ROI is superior compared to the traditional channels. If marketing's focus is moving online, it should also be the media's.
Finland is not protected from what has been happening in other markets for some time and it's high time for the Finnish companies to wake up to reality. I might be overly optimistic here, but perhaps they may even start innovating on their own and who knows, maybe we will see quality content emerge beyond classifieds. Never have Finns been as innovative and performed as well as when the crisis has been the deepest. And deep it is.
Scred, a house hold Finnish startup who we have used to seeing tracking debts and shared expenses is now shifting their focus towards more comprehensively managing money.
They start with managing money for different groups such as bands, indie film crews, event organisers and associations. The point is to offer a solution for communities which often don't have good online financial applications and don't know about accounting.
Along with the new focus the guy have also redesigned the site. Kudos to the team for learning the design tools as they went along. As Kristoffer from Scred told me "We ended up learning how to do design ourselves as we couldn't find anyone sufficiently skilled and available to work with our bootstrapped approach". Whether that was a good choice, I left to the user to decide herself.
The debate on the tax code for entrepreneurs in Finland is becoming more surreal by the day. The origins of the debate lie in the tax code working group set up by the Finnish Parliament. This group, headed by Martti Hetemäki, is to devise a new tax code for areas such as capital gains, options and carried interest for VC funds. The biggest verbal and rhetorical battle is waged around the double taxing of dividends in non-listed companies.
Just as with any tax code, the more transparent and simple the tax code to understand, the better it incentivizes people to invest in a risky and uncertain future. The tax code should make it easier to see how the future plays out for businesses, not make it more difficult. All the scenarios the working group is considering are rather complex and won't help the state of entrepreneurship in the country.
According to the EU's climate and energy package, Finland is expected to increase its share of renewable sources from the present 28 per cent to 38 per cent of energy production by 2020. Fulfilling this obligation require a significant increase in Finland’s use of wood-based energy, waste fuels, heat pumps, biogas and wind energy during next years.
This is no easy feat, especially given the rather modest Finnish feed in tariffs in the sector (premium tariffs and investment subsidies amont annually to roughly € 30 million). Nevertheless, the market can be potentially really really big and the need is dire. We've already seen some groundbreaking news surface this week in cleantech sector from the US. But make no mistake, Silicon Valley is not the only place where cleantech blossoms. Far from it. This week Wärtsilä came out with news that the world's first solid oxide fuel cell unit, running on landfill gas, has successfully concluded the first phase of its validation programme.
We've been looking closely at the startup scene in the Nordics and Baltics for the last two and a half years and I have to say, the amount of events on the market these days is very attractive. There are a lot of different kind of events and I'm sure there's something for everyone. While these events have their own functions and drive their own agendas, there's no getting round it - they're great fun and will surely improve your business if not by any other means than at least by networking with the other visitors there.
Are Nordic countries particularly entrepreneurial? How do our societies perceive entrepreneurship as a career choice?
The perception already exists that the Nordic countries are among the most innovative in the world. The two most recent and comprehensive rankings supporting this belief came from the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Boston Consulting Group, both published in April 2009. The first of these studies ranked Japan as the most innovative country in the world, while in the second Singapore was at the top of the list. Nevertheless, Finland and Sweden ranked in the top ten for both reports, while Denmark and Norway also ranked impressively.
Mobile Dev Camp is coming to Helsinki on February 27. The second time this event brings together all the mobile developers across the region to hear about the latest trends, meet the other mobile honchos and, well, to develop for mobile platforms.
The event was born from the realization that the hey days of mobile phone manufacturing where behind us here in Finland. Regardless, or maybe because of it, the country is full know how on mobile service development and people with skills to match.
The two themes of the evening of 27th are cross-platform development and mobile apps versus the mobile internet. A timely topics given the state of the web. This means key note presentations, workshops and a MobileDevCamp-Challenge competition. And a hell of a party if its anything like last year.
The two big Finnish “old media” companies, Sanoma and Alma Media, published their 2009 results yesterday and today, respectively. However, as seems to be the common policy, neither of them was too open about the state of their online business. But luckily Alma still offered some nuggets of information for constructing a picture of what’s going on.
The two online legs of an old media company are typically classifieds and editorially driven news sites. Alma’s classifieds segment, which includes such assets as the housing site Etuovi.com and jobs site Monster.fi, posted a loss of €0.7m with an €27m revenue. Sanoma doesn’t give out any information on its online classifieds.
On the online news side, Alma publishes Iltalehti.fi, the biggest website in Finland by unique visitors. Although the full year figures for the asset were not disclosed today, the Q1/09 report from April states a revenue of €1.2m, so the annual income is likely to be around the €5m mark. Given that Iltalehti.fi relies mainly on journalistic content, the site is – after full allocation of editorial costs – most likely loss-making or, if they’re lucky, posting a very small profit.
The investment will enable the company to further accelerate the growth and sales of its custom insole concept (see videos below). The solution is sold through Road Runner Sports in the US and Intersport International Corporation in Europe. Here's a more in-depth take on the investment from Technopolis.
Footbalance's solution is a 100% customized insole, which it creates through its computer-aided foot analysis and in-store production units. Footbalance's concept is also a means for sports stores to increase their service level by helping the estimated 75% of all consumers who suffer from incorrect foot positions, such as overpronation and supination. Footbalance insoles support ideal foot and ankle alignment while preventing and correcting malpositions.
Foodie.fm is that obvious thing that I always knew I needed but could not think of. There's about a million different ToDo list apps and cooking apps that help you do partly what Foodie.fm does, but not really.
Foodie.fm enables smart grocery shopping by allowing the user to browse different recipes and then add that meal to their shopping cart. It lets me see different meals and then breaks them down into the needed ingredients in just the right amounts and once I tab 'Add to cart' it ads it to my shopping list on my phone. Now, here's the beauty. Foodie's back end is connected to all the stores in a given chain (They just announced a partnership with S-Ryhmä in Finland) and the server technology learns from what I like to buy and starts to ...wait for it... make recommendations to me when such ingredients or products are on sale in my local store (iPhone lets the service know where I live and recommends me to choose a store as my local shop). You can get the iPhone App here.
Gemalto, provider of end-to-end security solutions, has acquired a Finnish startup Valimo Wireless. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Some of Valimo's investors included Altine Group, Risto Siilasmaa and SpringBank TechVentures.
Valimo has developed a two-channel, two-factor authentication based on Public Key Infrastructure, combining an over the air platform with a software client in the SIM to generate a legally binding electronic signature. What this jargon from the press release means is that Valimo enables mobile phone users to securely authenticate themselves, digitally sign documents and confirm legally binding transactions simply by entering a self-chosen passphrase or a PIN code. Voilà!
Osuuspankki, one of the largest banks in Finland has put out a statement reminding people of dangers in using software to query your bank account statement - in essence talking about the pulling of data from the bank with Balancion. They are saying that using such third party applications is against the terms of service as well as dangerous for security reasons.
Finnish VC Inventure has invested 2 million USD into Finnish mobile publishing platform firm Conmio. The financing will be used to support Conmio's international growth and product development. Conmio sees many opportunities for expansion due to the strong demand for mobile services. Conmio's target customers include media firms, device manufacturers and other companies interested in providing mobile solutions to their customers or end users.
The Jaiku co-founder Jyri Engeström, who recently left Google (see our previous story here), has joined Xiha Life's board. Both Jaiku founders, Engeström and Petteri Koponen have switched into the dark side, namely after founding several companies of their own, they have now moved into investing in new startups.
Engeström has started to do angel investing in a chosen few companies, while Koponen co-founded Lifeline Ventures, one of the Finnish Vigo accelerators (see more on the Vigos here)
This might not seem like a big deal, but it is. Finland has been suffering from a deficit of investors that believe in and understand the consumer Internet. Just recently we wrote about the state of the Finnish venture capital and the picture was quite clear: We need more entrepreneurs that have succeeded in the consumer internet to share their experience, inspire(!) and invest in the young guns who want to reach for the stars, but don't have much more than a boat load of energy to start with. Jyri, along with Petteri, are clearly on the right path.
In the Arctic latitudes we have a condition that most others closer to the equator don't know of, its called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or winter depression for the rest of us. It is mainly due to the lack of sun light we get in these latitudes during the winter time. According to the all knowing Wikipedia in Northern Europe 2% of the population suffer from winter depression and roughly 10% feel slightly down beat during the dark winter months. I personally only need a bit more sleep during the winter time, but I'm pretty hyper anyway, so perhaps a bad proxy. That said, Wikipedia also tells us that Symptoms of SAD may consist of: difficulty waking up in the morning, tendency to oversleep as well as to overeat, and especially a craving for carbohydrates. Other symptoms include a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating on completing tasks, and withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities. Some might think one is just describing the average Finn.
I got a call from Kai Lemmetty, one of the co-founders of Floobs, that they are filing for bankruptcy either today or tomorrow. Not a very pleasant call to get by any means, as they've been one of the most passionate guys in the ecosystem and been doing a lot of good for the startup scene itself by helping out with organising and live streaming events. The simple reason behind the bankruptcy is that their sales did not ramp up quickly enough to support their current burn rate.
Massively multiplayer online games and Wii Sports are so last season, it seems. Uplause is a new Finnish gaming startup with quite an interesting a concept -- “Crowd Games” or Massively Multiplayer Crowd Playing Game (MMCPG) as the firm calls them. Uplause’s crowd games are developed for large events, where the audience can collectively participate in playing the interactive mini-games, real time, on location. See a quick overview of the concept in the video below.
The Future Just Arrived - Grey Area Is Developing A New Kind Of Mobile Gaming Genre From The Ground Up
Grey Area, a small startup operating in stealth mode, is gearing up to change the cityscape for everybody. I get back to how they are going to do this later in the post, but the story of how this startup came to be is equally interesting.
I first met the guys back in OpenCoffee Helsinki what must be more than a year ago. I remember Mikko Hämäläinen telling me how they were exploring possibilities to set up a company with two of his friends, Andreas Karlsson and Teemu Tuulari, from Ericsson. All three had started at Ericsson in 2003-2004 and met when they were put in the small team with the task of developing an Ericsson network node.
The Finnish Casual Continent aims to challenge the leading MMOGs with its new Crown of Byzantus browser based game. Speaking of leading MMOGs, one can mention Travia, OGame and Seafight which together have some 60 million registered users. All these games are directly playable from the browser and require no installation to the local computer. While the average revenue per user generated is only 1.5 euros, it is still approximately a 90 million euro market.
Kuneri has launched a limited Alpha of Mobile Joomla! as a way to easily mobilize websites made with Joomla!, a popular and extremely extensible open source content management system. Joomla! has a huge developer community and maybe some 30 million websites created using it, including quite a few corporate and high traffic sites.
Kuneri Mobile Joomla! allows out-of-the-box mobilization of Joomla! websites within minutes. The admin interface of Mobile Joomla! allows one to determine the mobile site outlook and optimization methods even handset by handset. One can for example have a higher end graphics and layout for iPhone and smartphones, and more basic site for feature phones.
The Nordics and Baltics are still very much a wild west when it comes to venture capital and building startups into real growth companies and all the way to the IPO dreamland.
All the countries have their peculiar histories when it comes to VC landscape and so does Finland. Will Cardwell, the CEO of Techopolis Ventures, wrote a very enlightening post called "Reeling in the last decade in Finnish VC" (here) on how the scene has developed in Finland what factors have influenced it.
Will starts out by saying that while there certainly are a lot of colorful stories, the thing that bothers him is the number of “success stories that got away. When assessing history track record he goes on to say that he emphasizes exits, since they are the only relevant measure of success for both growth entrepreneurial businesses or venture capital investing, and this area (exits) is precisely where Finnish companies have had the biggest challenges Cardwell's view. By looking at the figures one can't but agree.
The independent Finnish Internet is in a pretty sad condition when looking at the number of quality destinations let alone ones with significant traffic. There are two categories of websites that prosper however: Fashion blogs and knitting blogs (cooking, we believe, is also coming fast). Now a group of people have figured out that the former can also be a quite lucrative business if you collect all the eyeballs under one roof. Indiedays is exactly a destination like that. It's a portal and a platform for Finnish fashion blogs with 21 independent fashion bloggers and 19 fashion blogs.
The blogs have been ported from their old domains and now run on the Indiedays platform which is essentially a Wordpress blog. The company will place brand advertising on the portal landing page as well as to the individual blogs and is very likely going to sell their own advertising. The niche can be profitable and one of the easiest to monetize, but there are clear limits how big such a business can be in Finland. The 19 top Finnish fashion blogs will pull altogether roughly 100K unique weekly visitors, which is a clearly a very valuable audience for any fashion or beauty brand but won't scale into a business which for example Weblog Inc. had and what AOL is currently busy building. The best performing individual blogs currently have 20K to 30K weekly unique visitors.