Every mobile phone user gets these moments when they wish they could automate your phone a little better - like to make a smartphone an actually smart phone. One group of app developers from Finland have been looking for a solution to many of these nearly unnoticeable impracticalities - like having your phone go on silent for the duration of a meeting or automate SMS sending when your kid leaves school. These little things that make life a little nicer.
Editor's Note: The last paragraph has been changed to reflect that the €994 million is not in fact the value of exits. It is the total number of investments that have exited, the exit value is likely to be higher.
The Finnish Business Angel Network (FiBAN) and Finland’s Venture Capital Association (FVCA) released their collected statistical data on investments made into early stage growth companies in 2013 by private investors and VC companies.
Fonecta, the Finnish directories business that was founded in 2002, is known to be the largest acquierer in Finland. With a turnover of around 190 million euro, they understood that the directories business is not exactly a growing industry so M&A became a core strategy in keeping up with market developments. So as a result, in the past ten years, they have purchased over 70 companies from various industries.
When we first wrote about Hello Ruby, the world took it by storm. The original story that we published got picked up by Hacker News and stayed at the top of the popular news syndicate for around ten hours. Four days later, the campaign reached over $185,000, which was huge considering the humble goal of $10,000.
It looks like everyone is jumping on the startup ship. From governments, to corporations, to media, people are getting excited by what by now looks like a movement.
Finnish Industry Investment has raised a total capital of €130 million is the first closing of their new FoF Growth II fund. Major contributions totaling up to €70 million include Ilmarinen, Keva, Elo and the State Pension Fund.
The FoF Growth fund will invest in approximately 10 funds between the years 2014-2018. Evaluations from the the previous fund, the FoF Growth I, give these funds the potential to go as high as €1 billion in value.
These days most Finnish startup's limited sales force is focused on the whales: big corporate customers that pull in a lot of money, instead of cold calling the long-tail of SMEs in Finland. But there could be a way to plug into the flower shop down the corner. Finnish mobile operator Elisa tells us that they're launching a new app and service store for startups called Taitawa (Editor's Note: This is a working name) through Appelsiini, a company they acquired in 2010.
Full disclosure: I used to consult Giosg, the company powering most of Finnchat’s chat’s.
Chatting has always been a huge part of the internet. At one point, that was probably the most fun thing you could do, because everything else was too slow. Remember the good old ICQ and IRC days?
Let’s talk about ads for a moment. Looking back in history, advertisement was pretty much always there. Egyptians used papyrus for sales posters and political campaign messages were found in ancient ruins of Pompeii and Arabia.
However it has been the last 70 years or so when advertisement really shaped up. Mad Men TV series shows us how commercial television changed the game in the 60's, from there cable TV opened new horizons in the 80’s. Finally in the 90’s we were introduced to the Internet, where the game changed completely once again.
Today, we are on the verge of yet another shift of epic proportions - the increasing use of mobile devices and the fight for getting advertising right on this new medium. However the whole concept of advertisement is getting increasingly out of control. According to some research we see up-to 5 000 ads per day, compared to about 2 000 just 30 years ago. There is no empty space anymore, if it is empty - chances are it will soon be filled with ads. People have become ad intolerant, banner-blind and overly suspicious. So with that in mind, how do you win the mobile ads war?
Looking at 2013, it is probably fair to say that the two hottest areas in Northern Europe at the moment are Gaming and Health. Perhaps the two are almost opposites of the spectrum and as much as I love gaming, I can't help to think how important are startups that can measure success in lives saved as opposed to money made. Unfortunately they do not get as much hype as many other companies and often escape the radar.
For example there is Mendor, a company focusing on one very specific target market - people with Diabetes. When it comes to diabetes, it is extremely important to know your glucose levels (blood sugar) and track daily changes in order to manage the disease. Missing measurements can mean not doing the insulin injection at the right time which can have severe consequences on one's life. To tackle the problem, most people use blood glucose meters.
Editor's note: This is a guest post by Jaakko Lindgren and Laura Pirhonen, Castrén & Snellman Attorneys Ltd
Freedom of contract as a main rule in contractual relationships provides for a large variety of options in startup financing. Instruments combining attributes of both equity and debt – which may also be called hybrid or mezzanine instruments - may help to balance the risks and yields of an investment to a level suitable for both parties, but at the same time with financial evaluation one must remember to make important legal considerations. These include e.g. legal issues relating to accounting, corporate law and taxation. An arrangement, which might be flexible and efficient from the point of view of financing, accounting and taxation, might be hard to comply with from corporate law point of view. In the following post we will briefly discuss convertible notes and an instrument called ”SAFE” - a recent financial innovation by yCombinator – from corporate law perspective.
Be prepared and be warned. This article is dangerous and might cause uncontrollable laughter, screen staring and you might even start questioning the meaning of life. We are going to be writing about GIF’s.
Yes, GIF’s, those small animated images that are looped and cause people to share them violently across the web. GIF’s make the internet go around, if you know what I mean.
There are cat related gif’s, meme gif’s, celebrity gif’s, fail gif’s and much more. They can make you laugh or run away in disgust. But one thing is for certain - they are viral.
Helsinki based startup, Smarp, is on the rise. With major client companies in Finland and the UK, Smarp's social business tools and services, and especially their SmarpShare - Service, have been in high demand.
It's a sweet idea actually. According to their researches, more than half of employees feel like they could publish company related content into their personal social media, such as LinkendIn, if only they were encouraged to do so from the highs of the chain-of-command. That's where Smarp steps in, in the form of a game of some sort.
It may come as a surprise to the humble Danes and Finns, but they come in first and second as having the most positive attitude towards entrepreneurship in the world, according to the Amway Global Entrepreneurship Report compiled by the University of Munich. The rest of the countries we cover were not present in the 24 countries the report interviewed.
Below is a quick copy of the report's findings. The percentage in parentheses is the percentage of people with a positive attitude towards self employment.
It is fair to say that Wi-Fi has changed the world. In fact we have become so spoiled by it that people are now getting stressed out if they do not have Wi-Fi on airplanes.
Oh and when it fails, it gets even worse. That dropped Skype call or a bad network connection at an event can make us really anxious. Now imagine if that Skype call was actually important, life or death kind of important. This is what happens everyday in Hospitals, where they increasingly rely on technology. You would be surprised to find out that nowadays even some IV pumps are “online”. Nurses and doctors use tablets to communicate with each other and their patients. Some hospitals have emergency buttons operating through Wi-Fi and in others nurses have voice-over-ip devices connected to it. So in that kind of environment - you can not afford any networking errors. In fact, it becomes mission, and life, critical.
So you are in a startup and you have a website that has a fairly large amount of features, pages and steps that a user can take. Since you often update the code, some of these features and pages break once in a while and normally you have to either magically find the bug or wait until one of your, now unhappy, customers let’s you know about the problem.
This is where UseTrace comes in with an aim to save the day. The startup let’s you teach it any step that you might want tested on a regular basis and then automatically tries to go through the process as your user would.
To do so, you just have to navigate the page yourself once and it will memorize what needs to be tested. This can include filling out forms, going through a purchase basket and more.
We last wrote about Web of Trust when they raised €1 million investment to “keep up the pace of their development to match the huge growth the browser add-on has seen.” That was in November 2012 when downloads of their addon had reached 50 million. Well it looks like that investment has been successful as their number of downloads has now crossed 100 million.
“I see a traditional audience shifting very fast from traditional media platforms to smart devices. And if you look at content usage on these devices, then you see gaming is 50-70% of usage on iPads. Gaming is coming out on top. If you think that’s where audiences are moving, then the next entertainment brands are going to be built on these new platforms,” Andrew Stalbow, CEO of the newly founded Seriously Games tells us.
Around a month ago, the Helsinki gaming scene was buzzing with the news that two executive vice presidents of Rovio were leaving the company to start their own gaming endeavor. Earlier this week expectations grew further as Seriously Games announced €1.75 million in seed funding from Upfront Ventures and Sunstone Capital to build a free to play game targeting the casual / casual plus audience, despite the fact they were so early in development.
So you want to start a marketplace for telephones from the 1940’s, because you think its a great niche market and can be an excellent business opportunity. That may very well be the case, but it’s going to cost you upwards of EUR 50 000 to develop the software to give it a try and simply launch your Centurian Telephones Company.
Unfortunately, building market places is tough and having the actual software ready is only the first and perhaps the easiest step. From then on, you have to do a lot of work to make sure it takes off. For most, this initial investment is such a big hurdle that it in itself is off putting.
This is where Sharetribe comes in. They are a marketplace for marketplaces, much like ArcticStartup is a startup about startups. Basically if you still want that marketplace, you can go to Sharetribe and start one in minutes. As Juho Makkonen, the CEO of the company, put it, they are the: “Shopify for Marketplaces.” So yes, you can now create your niche marketplace or Airbnb for dog hotels.
I had a chance to write two blog posts about crowdfunding last year, published on 23 October and 26 November 2012. There were no plans for a sequel but this third blog post came up rather spontaneously in an effort to give some advice and guidance to companies thinking of (equity) crowdfunding themselves, how equity crowdfunding affects your company, and what you need to consider when running a company with a lot of shareholders located in different jurisdictions.
Even casual observers can probably notice Finland’s economy is turning more and more mobile game focused. Sure, the headlines are all about Supercell these days, and it’s tough to go outside without seeing an angry bird. But you’ll notice more and more people starting up companies in the broader Finnish gaming industry, such as help with licensing, cross promotion, and now it’s very own PR agency.
A certain type or startups is easy to write about. Anybody can understand what they do and it is not difficult to explain those that let you let you take cool pictures, play new games or interact with the TV in a new and social way.
However, occasionally, we come across startups that are from much more serious and difficult to grasp industries. What is a major annoyance is that these startups are often overlooked and I personally believe that they deserve just as much hype as all those social apps and perhaps in many cases - more.
Let’s run an experiment. If there was a social startup that in less than a year generated over €400 000 revenue and employed 17 new people, you would probably be very impressed. What is more, this startup would be very hot in the news and you would most likely know the name.
Are you the curious type that likes to know all the latest information? What’s happening in your city, wherever it may be, at whatever time you check? There’s an app for that, of course there is.
Whereabts is a social geomessaging service about to launch this Friday for people on the move, travelling or just those who love to share everything happening around them as it happens in a way that shows exactly where things are going on. I suspect such an innocent description hides a possibly explosive app.
Based around a map instead of an updating wall of text you can see what people are commenting about in any area. Interesting art, a traffic accident, great street musician, protest, picnic spot… the list is as long as your imagination; the thing that ties all these shared updates together is that they are geolocated and time centric so you can see exactly when and where something is going on easily on the app’s central map.
Beddit, the sleep pattern and wellness tracker Indiegogo campaign came to an end last week, when they announced that they have raised a whopping $503 472. This makes them the most successful reward-based crowdfunding campaign coming out of Finland.
The concept is simple, you put a thin film of sensors between your bed sheet and the bed and it does the rest. It is so sensitive that it can detect your heartbeat, breathing patterns, movements and then use the data to display it all in the app.
The 8th Startup Sauna batch sessions started last week and we have had the chance to check out the teams and talk to Juho Kokkola, Head of Operations at Startup Sauna and the Captain about the program.
This time around there are 16 companies, representing 40 people from 7 different countries. There is no specific theme, but the startups are split evenly in terms or B2B vs. B2C focus.
According to Kokkola, "The program's overall structure and content stays pretty same as in the spring, but we're constantly bringing in a couple of new coaches. Also, our Local Event tour (prior the batch) reached more Nordic countries than before (Denmark, Norway)."
Wired UK's next issue focuses on the top ten startup capitals in Europe, and lists ten of the hottest startups from each city. Helsinki and Stockholm were selected out of our region, and we feel they've done a fair enough job.
Here's their list, with links to our (AS) coverage of the startups. Pick up the issue when it hits stores!
In Helsinki, they list:
Has the peer lending revolution finally started taking off in Europe? IsePankur, the Estonian based peer to peer lending network has announced last year that they started to allow anyone within the EU to invest on the platform, however it was still only the Estonians who could actually look for a loan. Recently, however they opened up the platform to Finnish residents.
This means that now anyone in Finland can request a loan using Isepankur.fi and many are doing just that. In the first 9 weeks of operations, IsePankur reported 13 million euro of loan applications in Finland. Combined with Estonia, they are now hitting over €800 000 of issued loans monthly. The month of September, for example, reached €859 500 and IsePankur reports a 20% month to month growth of this figure.
Finland boasts a population of just 5.4 million and it doesn't need to be said Finland's gaming startups have had a remarkable ride on top of the mobile gaming charts. Checking today, Rovio's Angry Birds Star Wars II is the top grossing paid app, and Supercell's Clash of Clans and Hay Day are in the second and fourth position on the top grossing charts, despite both launching over a year ago.
The Finnish gaming industry was built on the backs of what The Economist called Finland's "autistic creatives." But to continue to grow, the industry can't wait for more programming talent to come out of Finland's universities. Instead, it will be a matter of pulling in outside talent.
Finland's Dream Broker has been topping the growth charts with their online video solution. In 2012 they were the top of the charts with Deloitte's Technology Fast 50 in Finland, growing at 2,712%. They apparently have no sign of stopping, as they plan on hiring 25 new employees this autumn on top of their current 60 employees, bumping up its staff number by 40%.
Here at ArcticStartup, our priority is to write about startups from the Nordic and Baltic region that going after international markets. We have this editorial focus because we write in English, and it makes sense to lead our international readers to startups they can use for themselves, or are at least going places. Day-to-day this means following Twitter feeds and seeing what the buzz is across the region, and an interesting trend has appeared.
In Finland, basically every single startup we come across is building their product to target international markets. It's really hard to find web startups targeting only Finland. But if you look around to the rest of the region, it's easy to bump into web companies that are doing a web or mobile app that is somewhat innovative, but are focused inward onto only their own country and are operating in their native language.