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.
Rightware is really a spin-off from Futuremark that was just founded at the end of 2009. At the same time the company announced the deal with Futuremark, they announced a closing of a €3m investment from Inventure and Nexit Ventures.
With the funding, Rightware will accelerate development and marketing of Kanzi. Kanzi is a taylor made solution specifically for mobile phones and automotive applications as well as Futuremark’s established device performance measurement products and services for mobile and embedded industries. Kanzi enables manufacturers of mobile phones and automotive display & infotainment systems to create richer and more intuitive user interfaces in radically less time than it takes with conventional tools and methods.
It's great time to take the first step with your New Year's resolution to exercise more, before you give up and forget it like you did last year. At least I did. Moozement, a Finnish startup offering a simplified training log for sharing your activities with friends, has rebranded itself and become HeiaHeia (see my previous interview with one of the founders here). "Heia! Heia!", pronounced similarly to "Hey ya, Hey ya", is a Norwegian sports chant.
The company states that the key driver for the development of the service has been to create a sports service which anybody could use with her or his friends - not just the devotees of a particular sport or the users of certain technical gear or the fans of a given brand.
The founders, Ivan Kuznetsov and Olli Oksanen, are both ex-Nokiates who took the infamous 'package' when Nokia started offering it to its employees to slim down the organization. HeiaHeia is one of the first startups that emerge from stealth mode, which has its roots in the Nokia package. I know there's other startups coming with a similar origin. I have even heard some people say that with the package, Nokia has done more to the Finnish startup scene than Tekes. I'm not sure about that, but it has certainly given a possibility for many people with long careers in Nokia of a runway of a year to year and a half to play around with their ideas before the reality hits and they need to start thinking about salary.
Today The Finnish Software Entrepreneurs Association issued a press release (here in Finnish) demanding tax exemption for Finnish startups. Jaakko Salminen, head of the Association, argues that the current Finnish tax legislation is not fair for startups in comparison to the BigCo. To fix this the Association proposes that those startups that fund their operations from their own profits and are owned by the entrepreneurs themselves should be exempted from the corporate income tax. This of course means that those startups are profitable. Further, the tax legislation should promote all the measures that lead to M&A activity that increases the size of the company. The Finnish Software Entrepreneurs Association also go on to argue that such measures push up the employment figures and increase the tax revenue in the long run.
Currently the heaviest burden from the Finnish taxation is felt by the early stage startups that don't use debt leverage as much as BigCo, are owned by the entrepreneurs themselves and fund their day to day straight from the accrued revenues. Salminen goes on to argue that being exempted from corporate income tax would incentivise exactly these types of companies to leave the money in the company to fuel the growth, instead of taking out every last penny through dividends.
We concur, but can't see how this helps the pre-revenue stage companies that are not profitable, which is the type of startup where the need for tax, or any break, is the biggest. Profitable and promising startups should not have trouble getting investors interested in the. Conversely, even the promising, but riskier pre-revenue ones do.
Steam Republic, a Finnish startup in the mobile space, is focusing on digital fan oriented marketing. They are big in mobile and want to enable bands to control the relationship with their own fans and consequentially make money through that.
Steam Republic was previously called Backstage Alliance. The company has participated and won several competitions under both names. Latest is the Appsfire App Star Awards where they were a finalist (see video below). They have also landed their first international agreement with EMI record label (UK) and are pushing out their first international pilot with You Me At Six already at the end of this week if all goes as planned.
Kauppalehti reports on some fascinating results from research conducted by Balance Consulting on the effects of growth companies in the Finnish economy. While I realise this data is very Finland centric and might not be of that much interest to others - I am sure these results will resonate in similar manner in other countries. We wrote about this in 2008 as well and it seems that the data, some one and a half years later is still very valid. The study was conducted by looking at companies whose revenue is above 1,7 million euros annually and belong to the Balance Consulting corporate databse. While the database is very thorough, it does leave a lot of the younger startups out.
Netcycler, a Finnish startup, wants to get us to recycle all the pretty things we own but don't need anymore. After talking to the founders they are also keen evangelize their own version of cradle to cradle thinking and want to make more than just money, even though that is part of the plan as well.
The service itself is still in closed alpha (we have invites though, see more about those below), although to me it's a full blown Beta and working just fine. You can put your stuff for people to see, include a photo, description and all the usual stuff. In addition to this there's quite a nifty way to find what you'd like to get in exchange: You can also create a Wish, where you tell the service what you'd like to get in return. After you have done this, it will automatically offer you that, if someone is willing to exchange such a product.
I talked with John Liljelund, the CEO of AW-Energy in Lahti, Finland a few weeks ago in the Cleantech Venture Forum. He discussed various aspects in how the company was founded and where they are at the moment with their product. Not only is the story behind the company very interesting, but he goes through in detail the different stages of investment the company has received including his own march to become the CEO of the company. AW-Energy develops a product called Waveroller which harnesses energy from the energy of the waves.
The Nordic countries, and especially Finland, have been strong in graphical software development. This has partially been reflected in the relatively large and successful gaming industry. Another area where this expertise has now had positive network externalities is the animation and movie industry in the form of 3D. For those unfamiliar with 3D movies, Wikipedia defines the technology as the process of including the illusion of depth perception. There's an interesting Finnish player in this area that has attracted quite a bit of international interest in the recent months.
Yesterday we reported that a big name team has come out with a new startup called Sofanatics. The team consists of Toni Laturi, CEO (former Valve managing director), Asmo Halinen (Apaja co-founder) as well as Sami Kuusela and Peter Nyman, a familiar face in Finnish television as he hosts one of the most known Saturday night shows Uutisvuoto.
We have gathered some further information and believe Sofanatics is a service focusing on sociel viewing. Wikipedia describes a social viewing service as a practice revolving around the ability for multiple users to aggregate from multiple sources and view online videos together in a synchronized viewing experience. Typically the experience also involves some form of instant messaging or communication to facilitate discussion pertaining to the common viewing experience. This would fit our earlier prediction of 'something with video, football and doing all this is a social manner.'
Remember Zipiko? The service with a "quick and effortless way to see what your friends are doing and a way to invite them to your chosen venue whether it’s it a local cafe or your own place for drinks, lunch or whatever you fancy."
Unfortunately the company that developed Zipiko, namely Zipipop, put the product development on ice already last June and moved on to service the growing Finnish enterprise customer base that is completely and utterly lost with social media wave that has hit the organizations. To scale their operations Zipipop, lead by its energetic CEO Helene Auramo, has teamed up with the former Managing Director of Accenture's Finnish and Nordic offices.
Richard von Kaufmann of Zipipop states in the company blog the following:
Tuxera is a Finnish software startup specialized in file system interoperability software. The firm has developed Windows-interoperable file system drivers for NTFS and exFAT, allowing device manufacturers who use Linux or other non-Windows platforms to still provide plug and play access to the files from Windows or Mac computers. It claims to be the only company currently providing such system drivers to device manufacturers who use Linux or other non-Windows platform.