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.
This has got to be the stupidest law preparation I've heard in a while. Today's Helsingin Sanomat writes (in Finnish unfortunately) about a law that is under preparation in the Ministry of Employment and the Economy. The law in essence gives the government the possibility to deny the sale of a corporation overseas, ie. an acquisition, if it endangers Finland's "national interest".
Finland's Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice as well as the Finnish Competition Authority have said that the law is too broad. If the law goes through, it can infringe basic rights and the freedom of trade and industry. In my opinion, this is law would be a huge step towards a 1984 type totalitarianism.
Applifier is a new Finnish startup that was pivoted from Everyplay, which was originally a social games developer. Applier is a cross-promotion network of independent social application developers on Facebook. It's user base has blow up over night and gone from zero to 55 million users in four months. The service currently represents over 100 social games and applications, and reaches more than 55 million monthly active users (MAUs). According to the company, it reaches more Facebook users than any social game publisher, except of course Zynga.
‘’The markets are on the web, the production power is on the web, both globally available for everyone’’ Mårten Mickos, CEO, Eucalyptus Systems.
Let’s do a small intellectual play: Web 2.0 services, or the current generation’s internet companies globally, are built for the most part on top of the so-called LAMP-stack. In other words their infrastructure is based on Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP – a selection of open source software programs.
This is an exciting week for the Nordic startup scene: each country has seen a boom in startup activity during the recent months, so we have decided to organize a road trip together with AaltoVG, in an effort to bring the community closer.
The idea is to meet with the actors of each country, find new and interesting startup stories, potential partners, and friends!
Veraventure, a Finnish government backed early stage investment organisation, will open up access to its angel network for all startups. Veraventure is known as the government's investment arm to leverage private investors' efforts. Over the years it has accumulated quite an attractive network of private investors from Finland.
In Finland, we think he’s a fool who thinks he’s better than everyone else, disrespects the rules and is probably Finnish-Swedish.
Entrepreneurs are the same. They are opportunists and idealists. In its original French, the word means: somebody who will attempt to create something.
On one hand it’s a risky, lonely and difficult endeavor. But on the other hand, it’s thrilling, challenging and potentially offers great returns (value, jobs). I believe we Europeans, and especially in Finland, spend too much time focusing on the former and not enough on the latter.
Thinglink, a Finnish startup, has come out with a new focus. Little over a year ago we wrote about the company and how they were opening up their Beta. Ulla-Maaria Engeström's blog post goes on to explain how during that Beta phase they explored all the possible variations of linking together people, things and the information the things hold. Even if brief, It's an important account on how a startup can dig out the essence of a minimum viable product (MVP) on their way to product/market fit.
Fruugo, the much-debated ambitious Finnish e-commerce startup (see our previous coverage) that has raised tens of millions of euros of funding, filed its 2009 annual report last Friday. The report reveals the company made a loss of 11,040,071 euros (USD ~13.9M) in the financial year 2009. Despite the huge loss, the result was actually a slight improvement from 2008 when the company made a loss of 14.5 million euros. The report also tells that Fruugo produced a turnover of 8236 euros (yes, not a typo; i.e. USD ~10,350) from the sales commissions in 2009. The company launched its web storefront, available to consumers in Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands (and including merchants from also the UK), in May 2009 several months late from the planned schedule.
Zonga is a new Finnish startup committed to make the Internet experience easier, better, and cheaper for all the globetrotters around the world by providing a mobile Wi-Fi rental service. The company was founded by Internet enthusiasts feeling the frustration of getting and staying online while traveling. While mobile services and Wi-Fi hotspots are getting more and more common, every business traveler knows what pain it is to try to get connected while on the go. Many mobile phones can create a Wi-Fi hotspot over 3G, but while traveling abroad mobile data roaming is usually outrageously expensive and thus not feasible. And Wi-Fi never seem to be conveniently located nor priced.
Something that none of my friends abroad have been able to understand is the Finnish summer holiday. You take four to eight weeks holiday and for this sacrifice you get an extra pay day. For good or for ill, that's nevertheless how we roll here in the Nordics. Not all of us, but most. Most of us entrepreneurs are different though and love to work on cool projects instead shutting down for the summer. And thus, if you find yourself bored out of your mind once your country shuts down for the summer, there is a way out: build a startup!
Nordic media, take note. Finland is notorious for its lack of entrepreneurs. A collaboration between student-run associations from the top 3 schools in Helsinki (Aaltoes, Hankenes and Hues) has raised 50,000 euros in public funding, to encourage students to create startups during the Summer.
Summer of Startups will take place during July and August and will provide 750 euros per month in funding to each team member, regardless of their school or country of origin. This is the first time such a program does not take any equity, unlike programs such as Y-Combinator, Techstars, or Startup Bootcamp Denmark. The goal is purely educational, in order for students to try entrepreneurship without having to fear from failure. Stanford started a similar initiative called SSE Labs, which will run from June 15th-Sept 15th.
Disclaimer: I am the main coach of this program.
The Nordic Tech Tour, organized by the independent not-for-profit organization The European Tech Tour has kicked off today. During two and a half days, the selected 30 promising early and later stage growth companies based in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, and the Baltic countries will gather together with the leading cross-border venture capital and global corporate firms.
During the event, the companies have twenty minutes to present their business plans to 70 international delegates, consisting of senior partners, VPs, and CEOs from the global venture capital and technology industry, as well as advisors and academics. The investment capital present at the Tour is said to be worth over €10 billion.
"Harvard spinoff promises genome sequencing for $30"
This was the headline from FierceBiotech Research, a biotech journal. It's also a game changing development for the industry as a whole and part of a bigger trend of personalized cancer medicine. The first time scientists sequenced a human genome it cost $ 3 billion. Then it went to $ 6 million (2006), then $ 60,000 (2008), in June 2009 Illumina pushed it to $ 20,000, Nov 6 2009 Complete Genomics promised $ 4,400. The prediction for the coming year? $ 1,000 in 2-3 years and further down to $ 100 in 5-10 years.