The Mobile World Congress 2011 in February is a definite event to keep an eye on, especially when there is some interesting news associated to the Android based smartphones. There is definitely the same level excitement for quite some innovation in the mobile category but Rightware has plans to make display on Android phones, visually more pleasing.
A little over a year ago we reported on a Finnish media startup called Indiedays. The company put together a fashion, beauty and lifestyle network of bloggers, all under the same address to leverage their traffic and build a new media destination. I talked to the CEO and co-founder Esa Suurio about their development in 2010 and how they were able to exceed their goals.
Lets watch TV together, it could be anything, your favorite drama or something as addictive as a Football match. But don’t you think the idea of getting ready and walking to a friend’s place sounds a bit too tiring? And where’s the fun in all that when you have already watched a countless games together? How about jumping on the Internet bandwagon and having a more social experience? That’s what formed the basis of the launch of Sofanatics. The startup was launched back in February giving users a platform to cheer for their teams.
Last weekend I took part in a 48-hour event called Garage48. Garage48 is an intensive hackathon where on the final day teams gather to pitch their results. While we've written about these and similar kinds of events before, I thought I should take part this time round to see what the atmosphere is "on the ground". I had to take a day's rest and think about the whole experience and what it means before writing about it.
Many businesses are keen on making tourist and other guides for mobile. Fully customizable, based on peer reviews, suggestions by locals or existing tourist guides - you name it. A new addition to the field is a recently created start-up called Zonear from Tampere, Finland. Rather than bringing an all-encompassing travel guide directly to the consumer, Zonear provides mobile apps with customizable maps for service providers like travel destinations, museums and event organizers. The idea is that for each customer Zonear would create a unique map that would point the end user in the right direction, provide additional information and let them interact with the location or object. The app can be viewed directly from the web or be used offline if it's been downloaded in the browser once. It works across many platforms, can be fully customized for the brand and includes a simple analytics tool. Four years ago another Finnish start-up Whatamap tried to do exactly the same thing, so how is Zonear different?
Garage48 Helsinki will take place this weekend in the Aalto Venture Garage, where about a hundred enthusiasts will compete in a friendly manner to build the best business/product -combination in only 48 hours. We'll be bringing you updates through out the weekend and they will be added to this post. Garage48 has originated from Estonia and already two such events have been organised. The reason why Garage48 is worth following so widely, is the cross border effect it has - Estonians, Finns, Latvians, Lithuanians as well as some from the US and UK, all coming together for a weekend to build something great.
TruthFeed is a new social startup emerging from Helsinki, Finland that provides users with a platform to share their experiences with a global audience. The idea is to help people take informed decisions based on the overall experience others have had. Think for a minute, you are planning a trip to Helsinki, Finland and you have absolutely no idea what places to visit, what startups operate in the region or who are the top tech bloggers [other than those at ArcticStartup..] you can head over to TruthFeed and learn about all that. How?
iPad, iPhone that’s where the folks are rushing in and so must I. That is what Wesley Snipes must have had in mind when he signed up for Julius Styles: The International. The game comes from Lapland Studios, a Finnish game developer in association with Elstree Studio Productions and Red 27 Films. The release is set for June 2011 release but with Wesley Snipes as Julius Styles, expect nothing short of kicking and bullet riddled action. Oh there is some puzzle too.
Teenagers arond the world seem to be going crazy about Sulake's Habbo Hotel - the company announced today that 2010 was their best year ever with December being the busiest month. Habbo Hotel boasted 4.5M€ revenue from virtual goods in December alone. Unique monthly users also peaked the same month reaching 8.7 million, one-third of whom accessed the game through the Facebook application. Almost 200 million unique active characters have been registered to the site throughout its ten-year existance, 42.5 million out of them in 2010 alone. Habbo Hotel has also been making more money this year than last - annual user revenue grew by 25% compared to 2009.
Initiating and closing sales is a tedious process, often made even worse by complicated software that makes you fill out endless forms before you even start the work. Seems like people in the Northern Europe are particularly frustrated with existing CRM solutions and are busy building their own tools. Cases in point are a new start-up from Estonia - Pipedrive and an early-stage start-up from Finland - Deal Machine. Both companies offer sales management software but from different perspectives. Pipedrive from the point of view of experienced sales managers, Deal Machine from a young generation of innovators. What is the difference between the two and why would you choose either one of them?
Powerkiss have not released much news this year. Apart from a feature in VentureBeat in June and a mention in connection with The Europas competition, we have not heard much about the company. Just this month, however, they've been pushing out news stories like crazy. First we hear that they've partnered with Wayne's Coffee in Sweden and Finland. The coffeeshop chain's guests can now (in limited locations) ask for a Powerkiss wireless ring from the counter, plug it into their phone, put onto the Powerkiss-enabled table and recharge it during their stay. Next we hear that Powerkiss is the official wire-free provider for Santa in China. That's right: Santa Clause foundation has been hosting showrooms in China to promote Santa and other Finnish exports and Powerkiss has been one of those products. Last but not least, Powerkiss' wireless charger has been officially approved as an Apple accessory. Charging an iPhone/iPod next to you soon! Apart from all the glitz, the case of Powerkiss poses some interesting questions.
Jenkatehdas is a music start-up from Finland that's been operating in stealth mode for about nine months but publicly released their service this September. The company describes itself as a Finland's first online rock venue: they host exclusive live concerts in a rented studio and stream it in real time. The audience needs to purchase tickets to be able to view the show (4-5€) and can interact with the band by signing into the chat room on the website using Facebook credentials. Yesterday Jenkatehdas streamed their second third concert ever with Jukka Poika & Sound Explosion Band. Antti Eronen, founder and CEO, did not disclose the number of people watching the show but said he was "really happy with the number of tickets sold, since they were in triple digits". Most of the viewers stayed for over 50% of the show. All the more impressive given that the show was targeted primarily for the Finnish audience (all ads were in Finnish and the band is best known in Finland) and that the start-up is mere months old.
Every now and then I boast about the next big thing coming from the Nordics and now I believe I have found a seed for one of those monsters.
Social Shopping is one of the fastest growing online consumer markets and there’s a Finnish startup right in the middle. DealDash, a Finnish startup, is making $200k+ a month and has currently 130k+ users, and its growing fast. Their annual revenue run-rate is approaching the $3m mark and sales have doubled in the last 6 months.
Finnish gaming industry is thriving with innovation. The latest newcomers are Tribe Studios with a game concept called Stagecraft, which will be specifically targeted for 30+ adults. The idea behind the game is that modern grown-ups like computer games but can no longer play them for hours on end every day. Thus, Tribe Studios are designing a game that can be learned and played within one evening. The action will be centered around a story-telling narrative and allow for simultanious multiplayers, which means that just like in boardgames using the same tools you'd create different games every time you play. Stagecraft creators also want gaming experience to reflect that of watching a movie but in a more interactive way. Thus, the graphics are promised to be staggerring and playing a game would cost you as much as renting a movie or watching one in the movie theaters - between 3-10€ at a time. The game is estimated to be launched around the summer 2011.
Groupon has sparked up a lot of similar concepts, if not exactly the same, in many local markets as it has not been able to expand as fast as it should have to satisfy the market demand. In Estonia, Deal24 has taken advantage of this and has launched their own version with a similar concept. The service offers one deal a day and there are no limits to how many people have to purchase it for the offer to become valid.
Via Venture Partners has announced (PDF) raising of a new fund. The fund is its second, amounting to 134 million euros. In addition to the VC's original fund founded in 2006, this makes Via Venture Partners one of the largest VCs in the Nordic region with a total of EUR 268 million of committed capital. The fund targets Nordic high growth potential ICT firms that have a global market opportunity.
Reading and writing are the basics that we often take for granted. However, according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, there are 800 million illiterate adults and 130,5 million illiterate youths in the world, most of them living in the developing countries. At the same time, more and more people use mobile phones to access Internet and broadband providers are expanding to the developing markets. Ympyra is taking advantage of those circumstances by delivering basic educational services through mobile handsets. Their technology is patented and their educational methods are based on the Finnish basic elementary curriculum, which is ranked number one by OECD's educational assessment benchmarker PISA.
QAim, a Finnish mobile analytics and Customer Experience Management (CEM) startup, has released a new study (announcement available in Finnish) on the share of different mobile operating systems (OS) among users of mobile services in the Nordic countries. QAim's study shows strong increase in Android's popularity among the active mobile services users, and the firm estimates that Android will become the most widely used mobile operating system among the Nordic mobile service users in the summer of 2011.
If you are a tech geek with an idea for a B2C web service living somewhere in Finland, there are few funding options at your disposal. Most probably you'd apply for public funding from Tekes, but that needs to be supported with additional private funds. You might take a loan or raise capital from other sources or, like most tech geeks currently, you'd raise the money by subcontracting or free-lancing. However, there is a new pre-seed funding that has recently come to Finland - HackFwd. The fund was started by tech geeks for tech geeks. The term 'geek' is used in this context very proudly because it portrays how passionate the people in question are about hacking and programming.
Lots of activity taking place today. A few weeks ago 10 startups with the help of Aalto Venture Garage flew to Silicon Valley to network and raise awareness of the Nordic and Baltic startup ecosystem. That trip already bears fruit in the form of Robert Scoble interviewing some of the startups and the purpose of their trip.
APE Payments is a Finland based startup working with online payments. The company was founded in 2009 and has already some 50 clients using their payment mechanism. On top of this they have some 100 agreements signed from companies who will become clients. Companies providing online payment solutions is nothing new, but there are a few things that set APE payments apart from the competition out there. I interviewed Juhani Kivikangas, the CEO of the company to discuss what they're up to and how it all got started.
It's been quite a while since our previous event in Helsinki and we believe it's time to get the startup community together again. The next ArcticEvening Helsinki will be held on the 4th of November from 6pm to 10pm at Korjaamo. The event happens to coincide with TEDxHelsinki, but that's a day event so make sure you continue the inspirational talks into the evening as well.
So what do we have lined up for you this time? We've managed to reserve two very interesting speakers, from slightly different stages of the company lifecycle. However, both of them have the potential to make it very big. These will be talks by the company founders and their experiences in bringing up the companies to where they are currently.
VideoFlow, a new online video distribution and monetization network has come out of closed Beta. The company opened it's Beta already in June to the Finnish fashion blogger community, but now it is open for all the video producer and production houses.
The service was partly build already in early 2009 and has since tried out various different models before finding its current form. You can think of the service almost like 'Adwords for video' that come with the platform. A amateur, semi-amateur or professional video producer can upload its content to the network and distribute in all the platform she wishes. Videoflow will not only host the videos but will include smart content sensitive advertising on the video. Here's the best bit. You can use the platform for free and once you upload the video on your blog or media you will get paid everytime someone watches it. Videoflow will share the revenue between the producer, the publisher (the media owner) and keep a slice to themselves.
Thinglink, a Finnish product tagging startup based in Helsinki/Palo Alto (see our previous coverage), has just announced it has raised USD 1 million in funding from Nordic Inventure and Lifeline Ventures. The funding will be used to develop in-image product advertising network for brands, retailers and other product advertisers. The firm's reference customers include the Scandinavian media house Aller, the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE (Wenzel’s Antique Road Show), and interior design brand Artek.
Norwegian enterprise feedback management company QuestBack has just announced that they have acquired the Finnish SaaS company Digium Oy. Digium is perhaps the most well known company in this sector in Finland has proven that in their financials as well. In the financial year ending 2009, they turned over about 4 million euros while making over 650k€ in profit. In 2005 they made just about a million in revenue. The new company expects to tally a combined turnover of more than 22 MEUR for 2010. This makes it the largest player in the EFM industry in Europe.
QuestBack has been on a shopping spree lately. They have acquired Easyresearch AB from Sweden and Refleks AS from Norway. Both companies have been integrated fully to QuestBack's operations and thus adding to their turnover in a successful manner.
Editors Note: This post is the second part of a post we published earlier this week. Do make sure to read the first part before reading this one. The two posts together are an exciting read on some of the reasons why Nokia has ended up where it has.
Managers vs leaders
The manufacturing line mentality also shows up in who Nokia hire. In a factory, good managers control costs and manage efficiency, and workers are interchangeable.
When Nokia decided to be an “internet company”, instead of bringing in leaders and workers with experience and knowledge, Nokia put top managers (with zero Web skills or understanding) in charge (not to mention inappropriate repurposing of coders with the wrong skill-set). I’ve seen a ton of bad decisions in products and services because the division leader (a manager, of course) had no clue what the product was about (but, he was a good finance man, indeed).
Grey Area, a new Finnish iPhone gaming startup (see our previous coverage), has been operating silently the past months, but now the firm has released a new teaser trailer and screenshots of their upcoming location-based MMORPG for iPhone called Shadow Cities. The game transforms the neighborhoods and familiar streets as part of the game world, visible to the player through iPhone. The tagline is "Your city is a game." The company promises the game will be available on the iTunes App Store in late 2010.
As you all know, it’s been an interesting few weeks at Nokia - a new CEO, top executives leaving, the company stock wallowing at absurdly low values. When Ville Vesterinen asked me what I thought of the changes and the cultural and organizational challenges Nokia has to deal with to move forward, I knew I had a lot to say.
I worked for Nokia for a long time mostly in marketing and product development, leaving in the Great Exodus of talent in the summer of 09. My time at Nokia was marked by MS Stinger and our response with S60 and the 7650; the (slow) rise of 3G; iTunes and offspring (iPhone); and the rise of Web 2.0, Google, and Facebook.
Future Female is a new Finnish network for likeminded women who work, use or are interested in technology, business and all-things-digital. For me that reads geek girls loud and clear. It's great to see geek girl networks popping up in the Nordic and Baltic scenes. Especially given how many talented ladies there is out there.