International development aid and tech startups is an unlikely but promising combination, as shown by Aspectus Ltd, a Finland-based startup that officially launched its online donation portal, Bank4Hope, on Tuesday.
Donations to developing countries have long been plagued by the lack of transparency and people are often hesitant to give away their hard earned pennies if the money has no concrete destination. This is the problem that Aspectus wants to address. Bank4Hope is the first online portal that allows private and corporate donors to follow their donations in real-time and get direct feedback from the beneficiaries themselves.
In September we covered the news that Facebook might be looking to place their server farm in Luleå, Sweden. Tomorrow, it will be confirmed as Facebook's company representatives will be holding a press conference together with local city representatives. The confirmation ends months of debate and rumors which have been circulating since last summer.
Hot on the heels of Grey Area comes Lokus Digital, a Finnish mobile games startup that plans to take location-based multiplayer games to a whole new level. Founded by three University of Turku graduates, the company’s mission is ambitious - to blur the border between gaming and reality.
Lacking a better metrics from official sources, the data analysts at Xyologic have put together statistics on the top paid and free apps in the Android, iPhone, iPad, and WP7 marketplace. These numbers can't be relied upon completely, but should prove themselves to be fairly sound when discussing what's happening at the top of the marketplaces.
Our first coverage of these data-sets will look at what's happening in the paid and free iPhone marketplaces in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, using data from the month of August. Games accounted for about 59% of paid app downloads in the region, with anywhere from 57.1% in Finland to 61.3% in Sweden. This is quite apparent when looking at the top paid app lists, with the following four games consistently in the top 5:
For the past couple of days I've been looking at different online solutions to setup a very simple online storefront to sell one physical item on behalf of our rugby club. While it may seem an easy and a quick task to do, it's surprised me with the amount of things I have to look into, not to mention the amount of insufficient solutions on the market. The work of setting up this storefront has opened my eyes to the fact that there's still a lot of room to set up a startup in the e-commerce space.
I'm not saying there aren't good solutions on the market, but most of them are aimed at those who want to run e-commerce sites full time with hundreds of SKUs. My guess is that if you look at only sports clubs, there are probably thousands of them who have about 10 SKUs they'd like to sell online, just in Finland.
Arctic15 was held almost a month ago and we decided to summarise what the 15 awesome finalists actually pitched and released on stage. This is a little bit of a promotion to our upcoming videos of all the pitches we're beginning to release soon on ArcticStartup from our event. So browse through the 15 finalists presented below in alphabetical order, presented in their own words.
The path to becoming an entrepreneur anywhere is wrought with obstacles. Most of the concerns come down to money and time but if you happen to live outside of your home country you also need to think of visas. One often hears horror stories about getting an entrepreneurship visa to the US. Here is my experience with Finland.
The story starts similar to many foreigners: I moved to Finland from the safety and comfort of my home country because of my girlfriend. I was lucky enough to find work despite my non-existent Finnish in a big international company. All was good until I started being more and more interested in entrepreneurship. Besides, things at work were not going so well, there was a lot of hushed-up talk about job cuts.
Bloomberg is reporting today that Rovio has announced it is preparing for an IPO in 2012. “We’re not ready to file for an IPO tomorrow. Maybe a year from now.” Peter Vesterbacka, the Mighty Eagle of the company said on Bloomberg TV. He also went on to state that the company is insanely profitable. The valuation of the company is more than a billion dollars, sources close to Bloomberg state.
BBC’s Global iPlayer iPad app, originally launched in July in 11 European countries, is now available in Finland, Sweden and Denmark. For 6.99 €/month or an optional annual subscription of 64.99 €, users will get access to BBC’s extensive archives from the last 70 years of broadcasting.
Finland has one of those peculiar western cultures where failure isn't tolerated. Failure isn't tolerated socially nor is it tolerated in the society at large. One of the most common outcomes of starting high growth businesses is that most of them go bankrupt. This means, that failure is at the core of high risk entrepreneurship. This is something that hasn't been accepted in Finland and the National Fail Day (in Finnish), celebrated today, is the first public awareness act to change this.
The annual Game Developer Conference Online is on its way on the new continent. Every year the conference also looks at the gaming scene to award the best online games out there. This year, Mojang with their Minecraft game and Grey Area with their Shadow Cities mobile game were victorious and won their categories. Mojang actually took home two awards (little over 6 months ago they took home 5 awards at GDC).
The conference is probably amongst the more reputable ones out there. It's attended by thousands of people and the top gaming companies of the world. Therefore it's a great place to be winning.
Radio is one of the few mass media technologies that has not been widely explored by start-ups. While many companies build services around music and news, few combine both in smart ways. Tuubio, a start-up from Helsinki that has been in stealth mode for the last 5 months, has just launched their service - a personalized radio app. For the moment it is available only on Android phones or tablets with a browser-based client and an iOS app coming up soon.
A few weeks ago we wrote about Angry Birds being played with the Uplause technology at the Formula 1 event that took place in Singapore. Since we covered the items right after the weekend, we didn't have any video available. However, now we do and it just makes you smile. Take a look at the video below and see people in the audience participate in playing Angry Birds Fast and Furious. People participate by shouting, which is basically the control for the slingshot. Made us smile for sure.
In our series with Nokia we continue to discuss possibilities of developing for Symbian. This time we interview Kalle Koutajoki of Foodie.fm about their application and why they decided to go ahead with development on Symbian. Foodie provides an online service around recipes and shopping. Their application is able to give you a shopping list based on the recipe and also helps you see where the products are in the actual store and order the goods to your home door. Let's go ahead with the interview!
Miivies is a new browser based 3D animation service available to consumers. The service enables users to create 3D short animations to portray their message. The offering is very similar to that of xtranormal, an online service that has been used quite a bit on the other side of the pond to create parodies of startup investments that have made circles in the startup ecosystem at least. The service is free, but if users want to share and finalise their projects they will have to purchase rendering tokens.
Sofanatics, the Finnish social sports media startup, has decided to quit advertising on Facebook for the time being, citing increased costs and lower conversion rates as the main factors behind the rather radical decision. The company says that despite optimizing and targeting their ads on Facebook, customer acquisition costs have almost doubled due to higher click prices and declining conversion rates.
Joakim Achren, a Finnish entrepreneur, was one of the first entrepreneurs I met when we started ArcticStartup. He talked about his company Ironstar Helsinki with passion and of all the things they're building. Couple of weeks ago he posted a post mortem on his final touches to shut down the company and move on. He summarises the path they took with Ironstar Helsinki and outlines a couple of reasons why they decided to shut the company down, instead of pursuing other alternatives. We've also written about Ironstar Helsinki extensively, be it their product launch or the fact that Monty Widenius invested in the company in 2009.
The reasons that lead to the closure of the company were a failed acquisition and the failure to raise more funding this year. Nothing new there, but what I really respect with the all the emotional turbulence Achren must have gone through, is the effort he has taken to cover all this in a single blog post.
AutoAle is looking to enter the somewhat crowded car sales market in Finland. The company isn't all that unaware of the situation or unexperienced as you may think. AutoAle has been co-founded by Mika Fagerström, Hannu Kytölä and Dmitry Genin. Fagerström was the founder of the hugely popular nettiauto.com in Finland that basically took used car sales online. So what makes AutoAle better than the existing solutions on the market? In short - they're targeting the market of new or nearly new cars, something that is still being sold through traditional sales channels (ie. dealers). With AutoAle, dealers can advertise new or nearly new cars online to an audience that do not want to buy a traditional "used car".
Editor's note: This is written by a Finnish entrepreneur Riitta Raesmaa, who wanted to cast her voice about her home country. We're glad to publish similar articles from any other country in our region - please get in touch with us, if you'd like to get your content published. This post was originally published at Riitta Raesmaa's personal blog.
Something exceptional is happening here in Finland. However I think that the foundation for that has existed a long time, only to wait its time to come. And it seems that the time is here and now. Let me explain.
I am a startup entrepreneur and I am considering myself very lucky that I have had the opportunity to follow somewhat amazing chain of events happening in the startup scene of Finland. The young crew from the Aalto University, so-called Aalto Entrepreneurship Society, has worked hard for two and half years, and finally this week they publicly proved that their vision and the actions taken truly are a very powerful force.
Every now and then we highlight a few good events people should attend to make the most of their networking, business opportunities or learning new things. There are three good conferences we believe people should watch in the coming month or so. They are Goto Conference organised in Aarhus, Denmark, Slush organised in Helsinki, Finland and StartupGarage -event organised in Tallinn, Estonia. All slightly different, but surely worth your time to check them out if they're of interest to you. Below's a short break down of each event.
Security is a prerequisite in the real world and perhaps more so in the digital space. And with security online, comes WOT that has been ensuring a safe browsing experience for the millions of users online. WOT announced another major partnership earlier, this time with Kiosked.
Kiosked is an online service that transforms online content into a marketplace. The service provides consumers with access to more information as well as making both online and offline purchases easy. Kiosked was also one of the Arctic15 finalists this year.
Arctic15 was one great event last week. Not only was it great from the view point of attendees and speakers, but we also had some great partners there. A great example of one our partners is Amazon Web Services - they've decided to hand out an extra prize (we actually announced this on stage) to all Arctic15 finalists.
Business Insider has gathered a list of 100 companies from all around the world (these lists are always skewed a little and it's almost impossible to make them globally valid). The list is naturally ranked with lots of US based startups, but quite a few Nordic ones are on the list as well. Company valuation is used to organise the companies.
Gravity defying, men against alien pirates, set to save planet Earth from evil, sounds like a typical video game. But with all the hype surrounding Rochard, I am sure Sony Online Entertainment and Finnish Recoil Games have done a quite an impressive job. Even though the hero defies gravity, the gamers are sucked into the gaming experience.
Rochard is a tale of John Rochard who is given the voice of Jon St. John, the same person who’s voice is better associated to the legend we remember as Duke Nukem. The gameplay revolves around Jon, who is an astro-miner when he discovers an artifact deep within an asteroid. When you say artifact it should be known that it is of great value, and if this is found in space, don’t be surprised if aliens come with an objective to acquire it. Artifacts, aliens, invasions and in comes Rochard and alien annihilator; the G-Lifter that helps him play with gravity, solve puzzles and save the day.
Last weekend Rovio and Uplause, two Finnish companies, premiered the Angry Birds Crowd Game at the Formula 1 race in Singapore. Uplause is a company creating differnent kinds of massive multiplayer games - the kind that you play in large stadiums and outdoor events, for example, together with thousands of players simultaneously. More than 2.5 million people have participated in the games so far, according to Uplause.
Close to 400 startup enthusiasts from all over the region came together in Helsinki to witness 15 stellar pitches from companies on stage at Arctic15 yesterday. The day was all about winning and despite the hard choice of the jury to pick one winner - all the companies already won, by getting tons of coverage and visibility on stage for their products and services. In addition to this, Amazon Web Services decided to give a substantial amount of credit to all the 15 finalists (we'll contact you directly regarding the details on this).
Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, has launched a new financing program to support growth companies developing mobile services and applications - Tempo. Having followed Tekes for quite some time and knowing how they operate, one could easily argue that Tempo is a sign of the organisation changing tracks fundamentally and putting most of its feedback into practice. I'll go through a few examples below.
First and foremost, "as agility and customer development are essential in mobile service development, companies must be able to launch a minimum viable product to find out whether there is a customer need for it". This comes in fact from the Tempo pitch itself. They're promoting MVPs as a way to find out if there is demand for services the companies are offering.
While none of the Nordic or Baltic countries have made it to the very top, despite our wishes, we are proud to see Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and Finland in the top 10 of the latest ICT Development Index (IDI). These global rankings come from the Measuring the Information Society 2011 report, published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). ITU is the UN agency for information and telecommunications technologies.
The top spot belongs to South Korea. The country has been termed as the most advanced Internet economy in the world and this is the second consecutive year that it has been ranked number one. This is by no means surprising given the fact that South Korea has:
We've covered Microsoft's new Windows 8 quite extensively this week on ArcticStartup from the Build conference, but the truth is - all this will have a lot of implications in the different ecosystems regarding mobile operating systems, app stores and what not. Furthermore, enabling Xbox Live to run as an application on Windows 8 OS will have huge possibilities for gaming companies.
Yesterday at the Build conference Microsot CEO Steve Ballmer made a surprise visit on stage to talk more about how the company views new technologies and what this means for developers. He came out to further promote the importance of Windows 8 for Microsoft and what it also means for the whole company, looking forward. In addition to this, he also mentioned Nokia in his talk, but not in an extensive fashion. According to Ballmer, not only does Windows 8 change the approach to pretty much everything Microsoft works with, but it also changes the way how Microsoft views technology - the release itself will make Microsoft pivot and look at new technologies in a Windows centered fashion.