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.
The Finnish government confirmed at the recent European State Portals Seminar in Tallinn that they have plans to implement a data exchange layer of e-services that is akin to the Estonian X-Road. In the process, they will co-operate with Estonia as much as possible. For those of you that do not know, X-Road is a data exchange layer in Estonia that allows institutions and people to securely exchange and access public data.
In its simplest form, it makes the whole country connected and anyone, whether it is a public organization or a private one can securely use the data. For instance insurance companies can easily forward information to the Estonian Health Insurance Fund. Population register, tax and customs office, social insurance board, vehicle register and others are all connected to the X-Road. Another example is that this is one of the reasons why in Estonia you can create a company online in around 15 minutes and submit annual reports online using an accounting system that is smarter than some custom built accounting software solutions.
The Finnish Venture Capital Association released their H1/2013 report last week, and with it comes more good news about the Finnish startup scene; things seem to be moving upwards and to the right. In the first half of 2013 new funds were raised by Finnish firms worth €319 million, which is very strong compared to €99 in the first half of 2012, and the €467 raised in the entire year. A big chunk of that could probably be pointed to Supercell's $130 million April round that went to the owners.
Private equity firms have had good luck raising funds as well. This year the Annual New funds raised by Finnish PE firms are above €300 million. Looking at these numbers as a halfway projection for this year, it seems that we won't hit 2007-8 levels, which seem to have been boom years for raising funds.
Our Minimum Viable Office co-working space is taking shape and we are ready to host events. One of the first ones to come to MVO will be the Lean Startup Machine workshop that has been run over 125 times in 40 cities worldwide.
It will take place on September 13th-15th at our co-working space. We all know or have heard of the “lean startup” concept, many of us even use the name in our everyday lives. However Lean Startup Machine workshop is aiming to make sure that you live by it and implement it into your daily startup lives.
The summer is basically over and everything is starting to pick up speed again. Startups are getting ready to launch their products, corporations are back looking for talent and partnerships and investors are almost ready to start considering possible investments. So we were happy to hear that there is a brand new accelerator out there.
Finland already has a fair share of various accelerators and incubators, but it is always good to see new ones that have a very specific theme. After all, that creates the feeling that the people behind it must be specialists in their particular industry. That is why the brand new Nestholma in Lahti caught our eye.
Startups and armies are not often seen in the same sentence. Especially when an army becomes one of the biggest clients for a startup. However this is exactly what happened with HeiaHeia, the social web platform for sports, who have signed a deal with the Finnish Defense Forces for a national roll out of their fitness training program.
HeiaHeia is basically a sports activity tracking solution with a built-in fitness motivator, trying to make you be more active. However as we have written earlier, they are not really a consumer company, but actually target companies and organizations that want to lower their health-care and insurance costs, while motivating employees.
Despite developing some ridiculously cool sleep technology, Beddit CEO Lasse Leppäkorpi hasn't been sleeping well lately (I know this to be a fact, I saw the graphs). A week ago they launched their Indiegogo campaign for their sleep sensor and pushed out one press release through PR newswire. Since then their campaign has shot up like a rocket, and he's been responding to a nonstop barrage of requests from press, investors, and new contacts in the sleep industry, and their campaign has rapidly climbed to hit their $80,000 goal today.
Yesterday evening Leppäkorpi came to the cafe attached to our office to show off the Beddit sensor, the real technology behind their Indiegogo campaign. I didn't know what to expect since a lot of crowdfunded devices eventually turn out to be a lot of noise about nothing. But Beddit easily entered the "Woah! We have this technology?" territory.
So let's get into it. Beddit is basically a full sleep monitoring solution accessible through your smartphone and online service. To collect data Beddit has a thin ribbon of sensors you put between your sheet and your bed, which measures the force your body exerts on it. The ribbon plugs into the wall and talks to your phone via bluetooth, which can be used to collect light and sound data for even better data collection about snoring and how light effects your sleep.
Beddit employs a fairly amazing set algorithms that interpret the force and movement data to provide sophisticated information, such as heartbeats, breathing rhythms, and then more macro movements, such as rolling around in bed. The sensor is only measuring force, so the heartbeat graphs it provides is actually the ribbon picking up the force of your heartbeats against your bed.
DFJ Esprit recently promoted Scott Sage to Partner, giving us a good opportunity to get in touch with him. We haven't covered too much DFJ Esprit news, but they're a larger global VC firm with about 30 offices around the world with $7 billion in funds under management. In the last three years, DFJ's exits have generated more than $2.3 billion.
October is packed full of all sorts of interesting events and conferences, but one in particular interests me the most, the Reaktor Dev Day 2013.
This year’s Dev Day is on Friday 4th of October at Event Center Telakka, and will be the place to be if you’re an aspiring developer interested in what’s happening in the industry.
The speakers been equally impressive every year, you can’t really go wrong with top tier engineers and employees from companies like Facebook, Spotify, SoundCloud, and GitHub.
On a trip to see the activity around Google's datacenter in Hamnina last April, I hung out with Markus Råmark who was then involved with the regional development agency Cursor. As we drove around Kotka to check out Playa, the local game industry space, we talked about the Finnish gaming industry as a whole, and the need for there to be a game publisher in Finland. For as much as we focus on games here in Finland, it is a bit odd there isn't a solid publisher that can help with the marketing and promotion know-how that turns a finished game into a hit.
Today it's easy to self publish games, you can just throw it up in the app store. But the logic with getting behind a publisher is that developers are experts of creating an amazing game experience, but may not have the knowledge to be experts at the marketing, PR, and analytics that make up a successful launch and long-term success.
Our smartphones are fast becoming personal tracking devices, and a number of apps are measuring movement to help you measure how fast you ran or how much of a couch potato you are. Finland's Fjuul is focusing on the casual movement area, where they see a hole in the market in tracking the physical activities, like walking or gardening, that take up 80% of your life.
The app runs silently in the background, picking up accelerometer and some rough location data. Fjuul analyzes this data on the device to determine the Metabolic Equivalent of Task, which allows them to come up with a metric across different weights and profiles.
We live in a world where people are starting to do just about anything by utilizing the power of the crowd. We have come to call it crowdsourcing and it is definitely picking up speed with startups at the forefront of the movement. For example Innopinion is using “gamified crowdsourcing” for running idea and feedback competitions and already had such clients as the Finnish Ministry of Transport and now announced a partnership with her majesty, Queen Silvia Of Sweden.