Helsinki is lucky to host two world-class conferences this fall that are bringing great in speakers from Silicon Valley, Europe, and the region. While both conferences are put together to enable startups get further, they have significant differences and it makes sense to attend both. To make this happen, at a reasonable price, we've partnered with Slush to sell bundle tickets at about 20% discount to those going to both events.
This year's Arctic15 is just a little over a month away and we're ready to announce the 14 finalists (the last finalist is decided by Tekes) that will be on stage to compete for the grand prize, that is now almost €30 000 in cash and prizes. During last week, we received almost votes from almost 3000 people in total. Some categories were clearer than others, but overall - it was still a very tight competition. The 14 finalists are listed below.
Well over a 100 companies applied to pitch at this year's Arctic15 startup competition. The quality was impressive this year again and it took us a while to go through all the applicants. Below are listed 5 semi-finalists per each category. We are asking the public to vote their favorite startups and submit their e-mail (so we can verify voters and also pick the lucky two that get free tickets to the conference). You have time until the 9th of September to do so, after which we will announce the winners of each category that will get to pitch on stage. The 15 finalists on stage will compete for more than €20 000 in prizes.
If you were going to design a car from scratch today, what would it look like and what technology would you put inside? This is the question posed by Scarlet Motors, a new Finnish auto manufacturer with plans to design and build a consumer electronic sports car. On Friday Scarlet Motors threw a launch party in Berlin where it announced it will allow the community to to participate in the product development process.
The company was started eight months ago by Joona Kallio and Julien Fourgeaud, an ex-Rovio employee and designer who are staying close to their roots by calling cars a "true mobile device".
Editor's note: Please see correction at the end of the article for an update.
We covered Jolla in July as they set about an ambitious task to build a MeeGo phone. Nokia built N9, which was their first MeeGo phone and discontinued the line later on. This meant that N9 was their only MeeGo enabled phone. Many thought that this was a crucial mistake for Nokia as the phone immediately received fans around the world for its UI and usability. One thing that was missing though, at least to the comparison of iOS and Android, was the app ecosystem. Jolla, a new Finnish based venture has picked up the pieces and is planning to release a MeeGo enabled phone later this year.
One of the questions, and perhaps the most important one, that has been asked from Jussi Hurmola, the CEO of Jolla, is that of: "How do you plan to solve the problem with building an app ecosystem for the phone?". Tero Lehto from Finnish 3T publication interviewed Jussi Hurmola and learned that the company will be enabling Android (although he does not want to officially disclose it just yet) as well as Qt-applications.
and HTML5-applications to their platform through something that is called ACL (application compatibility layer) Jolla PR got in touch with us and told us that the use of ACL is currently speculation. They will be announcing more information regarding this later this year.
We just caught news that U.S.-based real estate listing service Trulia has quietly filed for a $75 Million IPO in July. Reuters reported that the company filed for an IPO taking advantage of a JOBS Act provision that allows companies to file behind closed doors.
Just taking a quick glance at NonStop Games you'll see that they've created two fun, but fairly generic titles. Their first, PaintStars could be described as a DrawSomething clone, while Dollar Isle is more of a casual citybuilder. Two titles are solid, but doesn't paint the real picture that the company is taking the road less traveled. This should be best exemplified with a new title the Singapore-based company is working on, now dubbed Game IV.
They aren't sharing too many details on their new title at this moment, but CEO Juha Paananen describes it as a 90° shift from their last couple games.
Co-founders Paananen and Henric Suuronen (Previously head of studio at Wooga in Berlin) met us in our office during their short trip back in Helsinki, and seemed genuinely excited about the game they're working on, saying it's the game they've always wanted to make. They describe it as a mix of strategy, social collaboration and competition with PVP elements.
With two of Helsinki-based Supercell's titles in the top 25 grossing iPad Games in the US, we decided to get in touch with Ilkka Paananen, the CEO of the company, to see if they could share anything about their success.
The two games on the App Store charts are Hay Day, a farming simulator game similar to Farmville in many respects. My colleague, Antti Vilpponen, reviewed the game "for many hours," which got the whole office playing and trading eggs and wheat on the free market. Read Antti's review here.
Supercell's other title, Clash of Clans, is similar, but more within the fantasy realm. In the game, not only do you have to make sure your army is well equipped and adequate against attacks while you're away but also make sure your finances are in order to keep building your village.
What's more impressive is the fact that Supercell is one of the four developers/publishers of games that have two releases in the list. The other publishers include Electronic Arts, GREE and Playtika.
Below is our short interview with Ilkka Paananen.
Throw away your televisions, Netflix is coming to town. That is at least if you're living in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, or Finland. The U.S. based streaming service offers a deep catalog of movies and TV shows for a flat monthly rate. More specific details about pricing and content will be announced closer to launch, which is slated to be be in late 2012.
You can say the same nice things about Netflix that you can also say about Spotify. Almost all the content you're looking for is just sitting there in front of you, so you don't even need to open up your torrent client to "borrow" it off the internet. In addition, Netflix supports devices such as PCs, Macs, Smart TVs, game consoles, Blu-ray disc players, smartphones and tablets.
While Russia has the most internet users out of any European country, the adult population is still just getting online for the first time. A 2011 poll found that only half of all adults in Russia use the internet monthly, an increase of 15% from the year before.
These new internet users (and some experienced ones) haven't built up a healthy dose of cynicism when browsing the web. "Free Viagra? This looks legit," they think. But now, Russian internet powerhouse Mail.Ru group has launched a new version of its browser that integrates Helsinki-based Web Of Trust's crowdsourced website reputation rankings.
On Tuesday, Jolla's CEO, Jussia Hurmola, gave a keynote talk to a packed audience at Aaltoes' Summer of Startups demoday. The somewhat mysterious company has drawn major international attention for their plans to become a new handset brand, by building a new platform on MeeGo, a software platform that saw the light of day only on Nokia's N9 handset before the company switched to Windows.
It was interesting to see Hurmola talk in person, as he comes across as the physical manifestation of the different path the company is taking. Rather than having a prepared speech, he got up there and talked to the audience about whatever came to his mind. He related this to what Jolla is doing: being flexbile and having a dialogue, rather than having things set in stone.
The healthcare industry is often overlooked for entrepreneurs. Even though it’s an area in need of a major overhaul. The amount of regulations and lengthy sales cycles makes it a daunting prospect for anyone who wants to set up a business in the industry.
And as we see incubators like StartUp Health focus solely on health pop up in the US. Tueday's Summer of Startups Demo Day presented four teams addressing problems in healthcare.
While Helsinki remains the hub for startup activity in Finland, three young entrepreneurs from Turku are aiming to make life for nurses easier with NurseBuddy. Their goal is to make reporting between managers, nurses and patients more efficient with the use of their homecare improvement solution.
Last year, Rovio did about €75.4 million in revenue. About 30% of this came from different merchandise sales. The rest of the revenue flowed in through the sale of digital content and advertising in its Angry Birds games. Wall Street Journal interviewed Lisa Shamus, EVP of Commonwealth Toy & Novelty, a family business that creates plush toys for children. Shamus in the article shares that they sold about $200 million worth of Angry Birds merchandise to retailers. She continues to state that they are on track to sell $400 million worth of Angry Birds merchandise for this year.
To answer that question we've been in touch with AppStats to analyze how these entertainment giants are doing. Stardoll of course is one of the more successful online networks aimed at teenage girls and Rovio has been huge on Facebook due to Angry Birds Friends. Angry Birds was "leaked" to Facebook on February 13th. Already in March the company passed 10 million MAUs (monthly active users).
The Founder Institute, claiming the title for the world's largest startup accelerator, is arriving to Finland this fall. The for-profit accelerator was started in 2009 by Adeo Ressi, also the founder of TheFunded.com a website for entrepreneurs to understand how investors compare between each other. Compared to other accelerators, Founders Institute has more of an educational approach to entrepreneurship than a 2-month intensive with hands on coding or business development.
To graduate, you must go through the curriculum that includes numerous lectures on different areas to successfully start a business. Classes are run by the chapter leader, which in Finland is Toni Perämäki. He is the founding member of Boost Turku and has built the Boost Startup Farm co-working space as well as the person in charge of Boost Turku Startup Journey - accelerator. The chapter begins operations in Finland on August 14th with a public event taking place in Turku on selling. Participants are expected to graduate in early February 2013.
August 2nd saw the release of Supercell's second big iOS game, Clash of Clans. Towards the end of June the company released Hay Day and shot to the top of the charts with it. Even today, Hay Day is in top 50 for the top grossing apps in the US.
But back to Clash of Clans. It's a game made for the iPad and iPhone in a similar fashion to that of Hay Day. Both games are expected to be played in short bursts (but then again you can dive in for hours) whether you're comfortably on the sofa with your iPad or commuting to work and waging war on your iPhone.
The Helsinki, Finland based startup Transfluent has launched Transfluent for Apps. It is a cloud based service where app developers can tap into the network of 15000 translators that work in 60 languages. The traditional or more common way to translate applications into multiple languages is to finish the app and towards the end of the development cycle, send all the text strings for translators. Transfluent helps in speeding this up, but making the translation process a part of the development cycle and will thus improve time to market.
Transfluent for Apps works through the company's API. The company's backend has been prepared in such a way that it works well with lean development processes where multiple iterations take place each day. All the texts can be sent to translators multiple times per day, but only those where changes have taken place are translated as Transfluent's system keeps track of different iterations.
Earlier this week iZettle sent out e-mails to their users in Denmark, Finland and Norway that Visa Europe has cancelled their contract in those countries. Since then iZettle has been working on restoring the status of that contract so that it could continue to accept payments with Visa cards in those countries. The story has multiple weird twists, such as why hasn't Visa Europe cancelled the contract in Sweden which is iZettle's home market?
On Monday's blog post iZettle has not commented on the specifics of the agreement and why Visa Europe decided to cancel it. Since then we have learned that it has to do with Visa Europe's policies regarding security standards. Then again, this is where the story gets harder to understand.
Back in June we covered how the Finnish startup Kippt had been accepted into Y-Combinator. The founders are back in Finland for a quick visit and we decided to have a chat with Jori Lallo about the impact Y-Combinator has had on them. Y-Combinator has been ranked the best startup accelerator in the world by Forbes and there are surely others as well.
The reason is quite simple. The accelerator has produced some of the most valuable internet startups in less than 10 years. Since the founding of the program in 2005, companies such as Airbnb and Dropbox have graduated, not to mention Reddit whose co-founder Steve Huffman spoke at Arctic15 last year.
Creating native mobile applications from HTML5 is picking up speed and the Helsinki, Finland based AppGyver is in the middle of this. They've seen steady growth in their client base in the last two years and to speed things up, they closed a $1M funding round. The money will be used to continue hiring of key personnel and expand their business operations into the US. Investors in the round include private investors as well as Tekes and Foundation for Finnish Inventions (Keksintösäätiö). Therefore the amount announced includes both private money and public leverage.
Arctic15 is the premier industry event for Nordic and Baltic startup and growth companies. The conference was organised for the first time last year with some 400 people attending it. This year, we're improving on many fronts and Arctic15 will be over the two days in October.
A big part of the conference is also the startup competition we're putting together. Last year we had 15 awesome companies on stage pitching themselves. However, what's more interesting is the fact that these 15 companies raised $12.85 million in funding in just 10 months since the last conference. Naturally we can't take credit of this for ourselves, but I think it suggests that the best companies in the Nordics and Baltics are present at Arctic15.
A stealth startup from Oulu, Finland has been reported by The Finnish National Broadcasting Company (YLE) to be working on a device called Goodspeed. Uros Oy is the company behind this mobile phone sized device that would make data roaming costs obsolete. Today one of the biggest obstacles to using services overseas are the ridiculous roaming costs operators charge users.
In July 2010 the European Union announced regulation that would force operators to limit charges to consumers from data roaming costs. The default monthly cut-off point would be €50, unless the consumer has chosen another cut-off point enabled by the operator. Operators also need to send a warning to the consumer when 80% of that sum has been reached.
Has this change by the EU made users more open towards using data services overseas? Yes and no. While it's more transparent to use these services the usage figures are still far from those in the home networks.
Yesterday, Helsinki, Finland based Gajatri Studios soft launched their facebook game Yoga Retreat. It's the first game of Gajatri Studios and developed through an interesting model of financing as well as a small development team that outsourced many parts of their work where they were missing talent.
We thought it would be interesting to talk to Tiina Zilliacus, the founder and CEO of Gajatri Studios about the development and funding of their first game. The story is interesting and hopefully would inspire other women to also try their wings at running a startup.
Compared to shopping malls, the e-commerce sector has it incredibly easy. But Helsinki-based Hyper[in] is attempting to make managing commercial real estate much more plug-and-play. Hyper[in] has produced a nearly all-encompasing platform for managers of commercial real estate. It combines all the things you need to run your shopping mall efficiently, while also creating significant non-rental advertisement revenue for their customers. On top of that they also offer services, like the website behind the shopping mall, making Hyper[in] an easy one-stop shop for their customers.
Their solution is somewhat targeted to commercial real estate owners with around ten good-sized malls in their portfolio. With multiple malls they can offer a management dashboard where whole-mall portfolios are shown, with metrics like sales, service provider management, advertisement sales figures, consumer analytics, and so forth.
Last Friday, the New York Times ran an editorial entitled That's no phone. That's my tracker. The authors Peter Maass and Megha Rajagopalan of ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative newsroom, make the point that today's mobile phones are used only occasionally for phone calls, and instead their main function is to help its owners keep track of the time, our friends, where we go, and how much money we have in the bank.
They suggest a new term for smartphones. "People could call them trackers. It’s a neutral term, because it covers positive activities — monitoring appointments, bank balances, friends — and problematic ones, like the government and advertisers watching us."
A Finnish company, RapidBlue, would fall into their latter category, as they are building the service that allows advertisers, media companies, and store owners to track customers in the brick and mortar stores. The solution uses public Bluetooth signals that RapidBlue's receivers picks up, but does not connect to. The company has determined that that their solution can track the movement of 95% of consumers in the Nordic countries, and 91% in Southern europe.
As the signal to noise ratio decreases on larger social networks, more and more startups are beginning to take a stab at creating much more private networks. Path is one big example of a social network for just your close friends, while others like Pair and Cupple (now currently operating out of Copenhagen) are building apps that allow couples to privately share messages, pictures, and checkins with each other. Continuing this trend is HeyWe, a private sharing app for families. It seems to hit all of the key pain points that parents and children have, or at least the easiest ones solved by mobile.
HeyWe is the first product built by the Oulu, Finland based startup, Cosmic Gecko. To build the product CEO Jyrki Matero leads a team of 15 people listed on their webpage (including three trainees). On top of HeyWe, the company also lists Cosmic Gekko Arena, a free location-based game, in development.
HeyWe has just launched on App Store, Google Play and Nokia Store, making it open to families with a mix of phones.
Most people are familiar with all the convoluted rights challenges around owning music they've purchased, but the problem is only extrapolated for those producing music. Many freelance artists join collection societies like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and Teosto. These organizations were created for keeping track of licensing, collecting and distributing income from the performance and the duplication of compositions. It makes sense for music creators so they can better monetize their works. But when new innovations like Audiodraft come around, it has added a some friction to getting their audio crowdsourcing platform to be a tool of choice for professionals.
Collection societies exist to give musicians a central organization that will take care of their rights. For example, if a composition is broadcast on TV or radio, the songwriter of that composition is entitled to public performance royalties from the broadcaster. The organizations that collect license fees from broadcasters and distribute these funds back to songwriters in the form of public performance royalties are called performance rights organizations.
While the homing pigeon is known for navigating back home over long distances, some other animals, such as the spiny lobster, are able to do the same on a more local level. Research has given some idea that these animals are able to derive positional information from cues that arise from the local anomalies of the Earth's magnetic field. With an accurate compass in every iPhone and Android device, a team of Engineers from the University of Oulu in Finland have created a new breed of indoor positioning technology that does not require WiFi or other beacons, but instead provides a major update to one of Man's oldest navigating technologies.
Using signal processing technology, the university team discovered that steel masses inside buildings twist the Earth's magnetic field such that every spot produces a unique pattern. “Each building, floor and corridor creates a distinct magnetic field disturbance that can be measured to identify a location and generate a map,” explains Dr. Janne Haverinen, the head of the project.
The team realized the practical potential of their findings. To provide a practical solution to be used by smartphone application developers, Dr. Haverinen’s research team has founded IndoorAtlas Ltd to commercialize the innovation. Along with the launch, the company also announces a seed capital investment from the Helsinki-based Vigo accelerator, KoppiCatch.
As people were beginning to wind down for the long midsummer weekend, the Helsinki, Finland based Supercell went on to launch their new game Hay Day. Hay Day is a farming game like no other. One might think that the world has seen enough of annoying farm game advertising on Facebook from the likes of Zynga, but having played Hay Day through out the weekend for about 10+ hours in total I can say that there is demand.
Hay Day is also Supercell's first mobile and tablet only game, meaning it has been designed for the iOS platform. You can play it on your iPod Touch, iPhone as well as the iPad.
According to Ilkka Paananen, the CEO of Supercell, the launch has been quite phenomenal despite the challenging launch date.
Just during the long weekend, the game has shot to #7 in the US iPad listing while pushing to #13 on the iPhone. Paananen also disclosed that according to their own analysis, they are going to be achieving similar places in their key markets in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, UK, Canada, Australia and so on. In many countries they're already in the top three spot.
The other week we asked where were Helsinki's big startups, and today Kiosked responded with a new funding round. €4.5 million is a nice number for the "content activation platform," but what gives the funding more weight is that this is the first major public investment made by Kaj Hed since pumping money into and buying up 70% of Rovio. The funding round was also joined by private investors and Tekes, and Hed will join the Kiosked board as chairman.
Of the €4.5 million, a million euros comes from Tekes' Young Innovative Companies -program and the direct investments by investors is around €3 million. Kaj Hed's stake in the round is the largest by far.
On the funding round, Hed says, “Disrupting and re-shaping any industry is always interesting. Kiosked is the first to connect brands with their online business logic through their content and fans. It is going to create new paradigms that will change the way brands engage with consumers forever.”