Grand Cru has made into the finals of the Amazon AWS Challenge, and out of the 12 finalists in 4 different categories, they're the only ones from Northern Europe to make the list. At ArcticStartup we normally don't cover a lot of company-sponsored competitions for the PR flurry that they are, but it gives us an excuse to talk about the fairly secretive Helsinki-based Grand Cru and their upcoming title, Supernauts.
For those of you who haven't seen our past coverage, Supernauts is sort of a sandbox game populated by Superhero-styled worldbuilders. Thorbjörn Warin, their Marketing and Business Development Director says that the easiest (but not the most accurate) way to describe the game is "Minecraftville". "We've had a lot of Minecraft players test the game, and they really like the touch interface for example. You can see small parts of it in the video, you just take your finger and drag and all the sudden stuff happens."
FundedByMe has expanded from their native Sweden and launched their equity crowdfunding platform in Finland. The company also offers the more traditional rewards-based crowdfunding platform (think Kickstarter), but equity crowdfunding offers some interesting new opportunities to startup companies by allowing them to raise money by selling shares to a large number of investors who can invest smaller amounts of money. The minimum amount needed to invest on FundedByMe is €50.
How does your team communicate at work? There are a lot of team communication tools out there, but check out Helsinki-based Ninchat, a nicely designed and accessible browser-based chat client. Ninchat is free to use and can be used for any sort of chat communication, but they're targeting the product towards companies that need secure team communication that's backed up in the cloud.
When logging on you'll notice it looks like an online version of IRC. Ninchat CEO Ville Mujunen calls IRC "beautiful" and "impossible to kill", but sees value in adding features and running it in a browser and through the cloud. Ninchat offers a secure backlog, history search, notifications when your name is mentioned, and video chat to get people communicating more efficiently, as well as mobile use as a HTML5 app (with a native Android and iOS apps eventually coming).
A new public competition is attempting to shake up the perception of entrepreneurship as a career path in Finland. Harva on Rautaa (literally "few of us are iron" - taken from a 70's Finnhits song) will select one Finnish entrepreneur per city and have them battle each other for five months. Progress can be followed on their website, where they plan on publishing one at least one video clip every day of the week. Finnish entrepreneurs can also apply with a deadline of today.
The competition is being put together by Pasi Ilola, and is supported by the Software Entrepreneurs Association (Ohjelmistoyrittäjät), Teknologiateollisuus, Tekes, Microsoft and others.
Editor’s note: This guest post is written by Kostas Papageorgiou, a copywriter in Finland who creates engaging content for startups
Right off the back from all the coverage Startup Sauna and Slush has received, it’s easy to forget that there’s also a startup scene outside the Finnish capital region. Turku, the third largest city in Finland, and home for the likes of Walkbase, NurseBuddy and Belon.gs, is slowly, but surely establishing itself as a breeding ground for aspiring entrepreneurs
Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Antti Hemmilä, a Specialist Partner at Attorneys at law Borenius Ltd.
While crowdfunding is not a new concept, it is getting a lot of media attention nowadays. Crowdfunding is evolving and new crowdfunding platforms provide an excellent tool for financing different projects, whether these are art projects, game or hardware/device development or even equity financing. Yet the use of these new platforms and practices needs to comply with the existing regulations, which sometimes causes conflict. The first guest blog published on 23 October 2012 featured legal issues related to using donation/rewards-based crowdfunding platforms, and this second blog addresses equity funding and the use of equity crowdfunding platforms.
The Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen opened Slush 2012 with great enthusiasm about the Finnish startup scene. Katainen has been popping up more and more around the entrepreneurship circles in recent weeks, first touring the renovated Startup Sauna co-working space with Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev.
Onstage at Slush Katainen started off his talk by jokingly showing off his multicolored painted nails, which Rovio's Peter Vesterbacka (who also had his nails painted) later explained it signified how enthusiastic and accessible the Finnish Government was. Katainen seemed bemused about it onstage, but Vesterbacka (sort of) has a point - "When has Obama had his nails painted?"
But it wasn't all a princess tea party. Katainen spoke about €200 million worth of tax proposals his government will implement to make Finland a better environment for startups.
Reaktor, a Finnish IT company, is now moving to becoming a hands-on seed investor in Finland. Reaktor solves IT and software needs for large customers like Elisa (telecom), Rovio (one of the leading gaming companies in the world) and many other big names in Finland. The company has been rated the best place to work for four years in Finland, and was once rated as the best place to work in Europe.
The investment arm is named POLTE, which means sort of a "burning intensity" in Finnish. Oskari Kettunen, the head of the POLTE project, defines this as the next step in Reaktor's evolution. Through investing they will be able to use their company's talent to work ground-up with startups. Startup founders will be able to concentrate on their core product, while they help with financial and product assistance.
The Helsinki region is a natural gateway from Russia to the EU, and Russian companies are finding a new home in the Greater Helsinki region. We spoke with Olivier Bonfils, Senior Business Advisor at Greater Helsinki Promotion, where they determined the three main drivers why Russian companies move to Greater Helsinki Area. A few of the reasons seem obvious to anyone that has done business in Finland, but one factor was surprising, to say the least. They determined that first, Helsinki is an easy gateway to European markets. Second, in Finland you have access to an innovation environment that can provide easier conditions to do research and development. And third, for many Russian companies Finland is a good place to do production and assembly of their products.
In addition to banking, Holvi, a new type of banking service, is bringing clarity to politics. The Finnish service allows organizations to have their own account for storing, payment, and receiving of money, but also provides the option to make their books public. For political organizations and charities - which rely on public trust - this can inspire confidence that money is being managed correctly.
In Finland the local government election cycle is in full swing at the moment, and currently around 30 candidates are using the service to track and execute income and expenditures. Of them, only a few have made their books public, but it's a sign of a new trend. There's a growing open government movement in Finland, which includes avoinministeriö.fi among other websites where the public can vote on issues they would like the national government to consider. If 50,000 signatures are collected, the issue must be brought up in Parliament for consideration.
Today's big news in Finland is the launch of a new Startup Foundation (Startup-säätiö), by renowned Finnish serial entrepreneurs and investors, Startup Sauna and Aalto ES. The foundation looks to advance the state of startups in Finland and create Helsinki the centre of startups and technological innovation in Northern Europe. The foundation will fund and operate three different activities: 1) Startup Life, an internship program where students are sent abroad to work at the best startups globally, 2) Startup Sauna, the startup accelerator program as well as 3) run the Slush conference.
In addition to the above mentioned activities, the foundation will also financially support ecosystem activities elsewhere in Finland to help achieve its goal. Therefore other individual organisations can also apply for financial support.
The Startup foundation is looking to operate with a hefty budget. Its equity upon starting is about one million euros. €57 000 come from individual donors. Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund, has donated €300 000 to the newly minted foundation (news in Finnish). The rest of the money comes from the Finnish Ministry of Economy and Employment, Tekes and Confederation of Finnish Industries.
While people have the impression that Helsinki is a one company town, that image is rapidly shifting as more and more exciting companies move and start up in the Helsinki region. Personnel changes at Nokia make big headlines, but the region isn't stagnating.
Right now we're looking at an unique time for companies setting up shop in Helsinki. The capital area is home to the Nokia headquarters as well as many development and research functions, providing a nice cross section of talent to choose from.
How Are Finnish Startups Raising Large Rounds? By Designing Their Startups For The Largest Possible Opportunity
Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Timo Ahopelto, a serial entrepreneur and Founding Partner at Lifeline Ventures, where he is currently a board member, investor and contributor in ZenRobotics, Oncos Therapeutics, Valkee, Enevo and Arctic Diagnostics, among others.
Finnish startups have recently raised significant funding rounds in relatively early stages. These include Supercell's $12 million by Accel Partners and the most recent €13 million grabbed by ZenRobotics from Invus. What is the secret sauce?
Well, I don’t think there are any secrets. There are just talented entrepreneurs going after large opportunities with credible plans.
What we are seeing at Lifeline Ventures is an increasing number of Finnish teams who, from the very beginning, design their startup for the largest possible opportunity. This starts from finding a large, actionable and disruptive opportunity, building a company that can execute on it, continuously asking how it can be bigger, and not giving up on the large plan.
There was clearly demand for a new technology company to go public on NYSE, as Trulia's stocks jumped over 40% on the first day of trading. Pete Flint and Sami Inkinen, co-founders of the company, together with their entourage was present at the event. Accel Partners was also keen on celebrating the success as they still hold on to 19% of the company while not selling any shares in the IPO.
We seldom get to write these kinds of stories, but what a day it was. The stock opened already north of the issuance price of $17 at about $22. It later continued the climb to peak at $25.20 and closed the day at $24.00 totaling a 41.18% increase.
This week we've closed a deal with our last gold partner, Rubylight. Rubylight is a super exciting company that isn't too well known. However, they are the talent and minds behind extremely successful social networks in Russia and Latvia. Rubstein was one of the founders and CEO of Forticom, a company that had built social networks with more than 100 million registered users. In November 2010, Forticom was acquired by Mail.ru (DST).
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.