Last week Tallinn was hot with startup and entrepreneur activity. Latvian travel search engine startup MoVoLo won the Elevator Pitch Competition organized by ArcticStartup and Tehnopol Estonia as part of the Third Annual Tallinn Conference by The International Technology Law Association and Enterprise Estonia. Also ArcticEvening Tallinn, among other startup events the same week, gathered a great crowd of entrepreneurs and likeminded people together.
Finnish web design solution provider Hammerkit has launched a closed beta of the new version of its cloud-based web design tool with revamped UI and features. The company's tool allows web designers to implement even complex websites on their own, without the need for help from programmers. Traditionally web designers have built mock-ups and wireframes, and then transferred these over to programmers to implement and weave in database connections etc. dynamic functionality. Hammerkit aims to revolutionize this old school fashion, allowing creativity without learning complex programming techniques - thus the company's tagline "a tool for the web punk generation."
Silicon Valley Journey - Experience of Finnish IT Startups from Dot-Com to 2010 is a new book published just recently that delves into the secrets of Silicon Valley from the Finnish perspective. It's written by Raija Rapo and Marita Seulamo-Vargas, two Finnish business journalist residing in the Silicon Valley. Pekka Pärnänen of Finnode had also his fingers in the pie in making the book happen. The book is at the same time a guide to how to go about entering the Valley with your startup and a window into the history of Finnish technology entrepreneurship. At least into the history of those who were ambitious enough to try to enter the infamous Bay Area.
When I got the draft copy of the book I thought I would find it boring as I already know most of this stuff. How wrong was I. Come page 20 or so and I had lost track on time and didn't even notice how the war stories and historical accounts had sucked me in. Although admittedly you need to be into technology entrepreneurship to find the book interesting, but given where you're reading this article I think you are just the right type.
Gigswiz, a Finnish startup founded by Juuso Vermasheinä with the ex-Floobs duo Kai Lemmetty and Joonas Pekkanen, has just launched in Beta. The service aims to enable bands and artists to better tell where they have fans who'd be willing to come and see them play. The team hasn't wasted any time as the beta launch came just months after they started to work on the idea in this February.
The service is an analytics platform for the live music industry and it should help bands, their agents and local promoters make better informed decisions on where bands should arrange concerts and tours. GigsWiz gathers fan requests through widgets that sit on the bands’ web sites and is looking to combine it with real-time consumption data from online music services. The actual widget can sit on the band's web pages, MySpace pages and Facebook pages.
A while back EnterpriseHelsinki invited Tom Keller of TechStars to come and speak at their event in Helsinki on their incubation model, how they get high quality startups emerge from TechStars' program and whether this could be possible in Helsinki, Finland since it's possible in Boulder, Colorado, which is mere 100,000 strong town in the Rockies. Boulder, much like Helsinki now, has not always been famous as a hot bed for startups, but has lately become as one.
Partied too hard and lost your stuff? There's a cool new Finnish startup looking to help you out with your lost belongings - FinderBase.com. The was launched only a few days ago, on the First of May in Helsinki, Finland. The launch was handled in junction with the First of May celebrations, where most of the country goes out to celebrate in parks with their friends. Needless to say, a lot of stuff is lost.
“This is the first step to turn our Advanced Therapy Access Program results into cancer therapeutics”, comments Pekka Simula, CEO and co-founder.
Oncolytic viruses enter into cancer cells where they aggressively replicate. The replication kills cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.
The next generation oncolytic viruses address the key challenges of cancer therapy: They mediate sustained anti-tumor immune response, are tumor selective, provide systemic response and have mild to moderate side effects compared to routine therapies.
Eat.fi is hands down one the best designed Finnish webservices, if not the best. I love it and use it weekly, but can't keep thinking it could be so much more.
Facebook just yesterday released its new API in its developer conference f8. This is really big news for everybody. Much bigger than we can yet grasp. With their new really(!) big vision, Facebook will now compete with Google in being the one who parses the web together for the rest of us. Google does it with hyperlinks. Facebook will try to do better job with the meta data from our social relationships. That aside for a moment, let's look at what this announcement could mean for Eat.fi in the short term.
Just as with Yelp, who was Facebook's partner at the f8 launch and have integrated their service to Facebook API, Eat.fi could gain similar benefits by simply integrating its service with the Facebook API. This would surely channel more traffic to Eat.fi as it would let people see who else likes the same restaurants (or even meals) that they do and let the users share the restaurant reviews more easily to their activity feed on their Facebook profile. The Facebook integration would help Eat.fi to get more traffic, but I believe they could do much more.
Veraventure, the government owned venture capital company that works with early stage Finnish companies, has recently become more transparent regarding its investment activities. This is a very good sign and should be carefully noted by venture capitalists and other seed investors not already doing so. With the renewal of Veraventure's new website, one is now able to go through all the investments Veraventure has made.
Shobble is a young new service that aggregates e-commerce stores (sound familiar?), which lets the user rate and reviews the different stores. It's based in Helsinki and only in Beta. And it's build by Jori Lallo - a single student - on his spare time.
Further, Shobble collects user reviews and ratings on e-commerce stores as well as other info that might affect a buying decisions, like delivery costs, available payment methods, return policies and so on. Thus, the service will aim to bring all the conversation from the forums and the grape wine to a one single easily found location. Simple, yet potentially quite powerful concept if the masses will start using it as e-commerce becomes more popular in the Nordics.
Culminatum Innovations is organising as part of its International Business Program an IBP Camp in Helsinki where startups will receive top notch advice and help towards different ways of financing and internationalisation. The camp itself has been hand tailored on the specific needs towards startups and thus it will surely benefit all the participants. This is a quick shout out to all the companies who are at that point in their lifecycle that internationalisation and financing are interesting topics. There aren't a lot of spots left so better hurry up and apply. It's a steal for only 200€ + VAT for a full day with expert advice (and a guaranteed entrance to the already sold out ArcticEvening afterwards).
Ticket registrations for our ArcticEvening Helsinki event are open! You'll find the registration module in this post a bit down the post. Before registering, do take a minute to see what we have in store for you. Like we said before, the topic for the evening is "Investments and things that go with it".
RapidBue Solutions has earlier been working with proximity marketing solutions that use Bluetooth to offer a wide range of content directly to consumers' mobile phones at point-of-sales, events, and exhibitions. Now the company has finalized a new product offering and is starting to expand more widely into the Nordic countries.
Retailers, exhibition and event organizers, and shopping malls, for example, always need better ways to understand their customers, and in essence, learn about their consumers' real movements in the physical space. RapidBlue is now aiming to enable them to better market to their customers and track the effectiveness of the marketing actions and layouts based on real consumer behavioral data. The solution works in any area over any time period, and tracks when, where and how the customers move.
Sendandsee is a Finnish startup. Not by age, but by ethos. The company is older than most non-startups, but they have never lost the promise of super fast growth if only the pieces would fall into place. Now they might just be about to do that.
I had a chat with the founder Aape Pohjavirta and he told me the exciting Sendandsee story. I may get some dates and events a bit wrong, but am sure you can parse the story together. In 1996-1997 Aape and a few other people got an idea that there might be something there in mobile. You still remember what mobile was in -96? Yep, this was the mobile experience back then and we were on the top of the world here in Finland.
2001 saw the emergence of the color screen phones and Sendandsee got the idea to license photos from leading image companies including Getty Images to push through the mobile. In May 2003 they got the first ones into production. In October 2003 they invented the mobile publishing concept and made Symbian and Java clients that in mind. This does not sound like much now, but back then they basically single handedly proved that this was technically possible. This was also when Sendandsee came out with mobile magazines which they sold for €2 a piece. This mobile publishing innovation landed the company on Newsweek cover sometime in 2005. This is also when XML came into the picture, Sendandsee was able to update the content on the mobile magazines and got all the big Finnish media companies to buy in.
It's about time, I've heard many of you say and I agree. It's about time we organise another ArcticEvening to get the growth entrepreneurs and people working to make the ecosystem better together once more. This time it's different though. We've changed the venue to a slightly bigger one so we can fit close to 200 of you in!
A few weeks back we asked the Finnish startup ecosystem to answer a simple survey on how the government backed Vigo accelerator program has worked in favor of the startups and the ecosystem as a whole. The time to answer that survey ended last Friday and we've now had a few days time to figure out what the data actually mean and how it could be used to make the program better. Needless to say, there are a lot of areas that need improvement. We'll go through the results below.
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.