iZettle has announced that they will begin their Nordic launch tomorrow, and will be releasing 5000 devices in Denmark, Norway, and Finland, each, for beta testing. If you haven't seen our previous coverage, iZettle’s iPhone and iPad app lets anyone take credit or debit card payments on the go, with or without iZettle’s chip-card reader.
The company offers a service similar to the US-based competitor, Square, although Square is built for magnetic strip cards and plugs into the headphone jack. The device has already been beta testing in Sweden since November, a month after the company raised €8.2M in venture funding. We've already gotten our hands on the device, and will be releasing a more detailed review later this week.
The Finnish Arvopaperi magazine has announced the ownership structure of Rovio, the creators of Angry Birds. The information has not come up in any IPO filing, but through public information in the Finnish governmental registry. The biggest chunk of the Rovio is owned by Trema Holdings International BV, the holding company of Kaj Hed. Kaj Hed is Mikael's father and Mikael is Niklas' cousin. It seems that Accel and Atomico, who together invested $42 million into the company last year, own around 20% of the company.
Editor's note: This post is part of a series of posts sponsored by Microsoft Finland. You can read the other posts over here.
Last week saw Mobile Acceleration Week (MAW) take place in the Aalto Venture Garage, where a group of mobile developers gathered to create applications for the Windows Phone platform. The series of events under MAW take place in many different parts of the world Moscow, Shanghai, London and Berlin to name a few. In Helsinki, 16 team participated in the program. On Thursday, the teams finalised their work and came on stage to present their results.
The winner of the competition was Entetrainer, which had by far the most impressive app, even in our opinion. We'll outline in the list below all the different apps and what they set out to do. The runner up was Star Arcade, which enables gaming to hundreds of thousands of people.
There seems to be at least one daily deal aggregator in each country, and it's interesting to get their take on the local daily deals from their vantage point above the market. According to the daily deals aggregator, Dealfins, the daily deals business in Finland is different from other North European countries. It lacks the niche sites that sell specific deals, and the market is almost completely dominated by Groupon – Citydeal, which holds 89% market share. Dealfins has also noticed that business is also very much concentrated in the Greater Helsinki area.
We've just gotten off the phone with Sulake's CEO Paul LaFontaine about today's announcements. He did not want to comment on the specifics of the announcement, but what we really wanted to understand is what is the future direction Sulake will take. LaFontaine stated that Sulake is modernizing their strategy and this involves changes to how the company currently operates. A big part of the company's future will have to do with games and user generated content.
Sulake is also moving towards a model where their current Habbo community will further evolve into a platform on which third parties will be able to develop additional services on. LaFontaine did not want to comment at this moment on what kind of a time frame we are talking about at the moment. However, he did disclose that they are working with some third parties today already.
According to Finnish publication Dome.fi, Sulake the creator of Habbo Hotel, will be laying off some 40-60 people from their workforce. In total, they have about 210 people working for the company so this is effectively 25% of their workforce. We also heard this from a different source, so the chatter is definitely picking up. Sulake.com was down as of just now and there is no official announcement on this so far.
In showing the door to 25% of their workforce, Sulake will also close all of their 11 country offices according to the article on Dome.fi.
Startup Sauna is going on tour this spring as well with their warmups. Warmups are short events that take usually a day, where local entrepreneurs in the cities they visit get to pitch to the Startup Sauna coaches and organisers for a chance to get accepted into the program. The winner of each warmup will receive €1500 as prize money to cover travel and accommodation for the program in Finland. The six week program is taking place in April and May this spring. Based on the quality of the applications, the program will select 10 to 15 companies to participate. Each company will further develop their product or service during the 6-week intesive and present it at the end of the program at the demo day.
During the coming one and a half months, Startup Sauna will visit 11 different places from Shangai to Warsaw as well as Moscow to Kuopio. Below is the schedule as of today:
Nest New York is a new kind of a startup accelerator (can we really call it that?) in New York that helps Finnish companies establish themselves into the US market, according to Finnish Talouselämä. The setup is a combined effort by Tekes (Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation) as well as Teknologiateollisuus (The Federation of Finnish Technology Industries).
The companies currently accepted into the accelerator are PlayMySong, Campalyst, Stream Republic, Wantlet, MobileBrainBank and Kiosked.
Valkee, the creator of the bright-light headset used to treat seasonal depression and mood disorders, has published the first results of its clinical and neurobiological research program. The clinical trial, published in Medical Hypothesis, studied therapeutic effects of bright light channeled into the human brain via the ear canal to test the sensitivity of the human brain to light. The trial has been conducted since 2007 and challenges the existing paradigm that light therapy is only effective when transmitted through the eyes.
People with suspicions of Valkee's claimed benefits have long been asking for some proof from a peer reviewed study that acknowledges that the medical concept is sound. Unfortunately this paper will likely do little to remove those suspicions after taking a look at the colorful history of the journal, Medical Hypothesis.
It seems that Angry Birds is already available on Facebook. We stumbled upon the game a day early of their official release. A few weeks back Rovio announced on Facebook that they would hold the biggest Facebook event ever and invite everyone and your mom to participate. The day naturally coincides with Valentines Day - a great day to share a good game with your friends. We snatched a few screenshots from the game as we played it and they're available below.
We've covered the rise of Helsinki-based Mobile Backstage, a service that creates and maintains smartphone apps for bands. They've seen success creating an interactive fan club service that helps develop and maintain relationships between artists and fans, where now their platform has expanded to many Finnish and UK based bands. Today Mobile Backstage tells us the service has reached 100 thousand registered users on mobile devices alone. These users have also logged 4 million interactions in 2011.
Iron Sky has been one of the more anticipated films in the Finnish movie industry in the past years. The movie is a sequel to the Star Wreck, a fully crowdsourced movie that has become the most watched (and also downloaded) Finnish film of all time. Iron Sky is a built on the story that in 1945 Nazis flew to the moon - and now they're coming back. The movie is also a big budget film by Finnish standards. On Wreckamovie, a site where movie creators can crowdsource parts of the content from the community, the film's budget is listed at an impressive €7.5 million.
Nokia has just announced, according to Reuters that it is cutting down 4000 jobs in Finland, Hungary and Mexico as it struggles for better profitability. Finnish Helsingin Sanomat expects that the factory in Salo will see some 1000-1200 jobs cut as part of downsizing the output to match demand in Europe.
Seedcamp London is kicking off this week, and with it they announced for this round they've received a record number of applications and are hosting a record number of teams. For those who aren't familiar with the program, Seedcamp is a European startup incubator that employs many of the same principles as Silicon Valley's famous Y Combinator startup incubator. Of the selected 22 companies, Finland, Estonia, and Latvia are each represented with one company who will compete to win the London event. Winners will receive a year long support with mentors, and Seedcamp will invest around €50000 for 8-10% in the winning companies.
Editorial note: This post is part of Microsoft's sponsored posts series Hear it from the startups.
Microsoft Finland is throwing its annual conference, TechDays in Helsinki in just over a month's time. The event is scheduled for two days between the 8th and 9th of March. The event has a ton of speakers covering a very impressive amount of topics. Microsoft has also confirmed for us that they will be giving a first look at the new Windows 8 operating system at the event as well. In fact, there will be one whole day's worth of content aimed at Windows 8.
Automatic check-in apps for Foursquare have been available for some time now, but they all suffer from two major issues; poor accuracy and high battery drainage. To address these problems, Finnish startup Walkbase has introduced Checked, the world’s first indoor positioning client for Foursquare.
Finland-based analytics provider Xtract has been acquired by software company Comptel for EUR 3.1 million. Xtract was founded in 2001 and specializes in advanced customer analytics solutions for companies operating in the mobile, retail and finance sectors.
Rovio has announced that Angry Birds will expand to Facebook on February 14th. They did this in a very subtle way, by inviting people to an event on Facebook itself. Angry Birds has been anticipated to arrive on Facebook since last spring. At the time of writing this there are only a little over a thousand people invited to the event, but this will surely grow as the date gets closer.
Last week saw the closure of hugely popular site Megaupload.com that functioned as a file-sharing site for individuals. That was the intention, but many used it to share illegal files as well. It has been publicly stated, that due to the fact that the service held so much pirated material - the FBI and New Zealand police arrested Kim Dotcom (previously Kim Schmitz). Kim Schmitz is actually half German, half Finn which qualifies him for coverage on ArcticStartup.
We've received news that tomorrow Blaast is launching "the world's first cloud-based mobile platform" in Jakarta, Indonesia in cooperation with the mobile operator XL. The Helsinki-based company is throwing a press event and hackathon designed to catch the attention of the local press and the local developer community, who are encouraged to create apps for the entirely cloud-based platform. Finland's Foreign Minister, Alex Stubb, is also in Jakarta and will likely attend the launch.
Blaast has been operating in stealth mode for some time, but what's been public is that the company's cloud based platform will essentially allow 'dumber' feature phones to behave like smartphones by running the complicated background processes in the cloud. Android already incorporates some of this ideology, but Blaast has built its entire platform on this concept.
Finnish social news aggregator Scoopinion is looking to capitalize on Twitter’s acquisition of competitor Summify. According to co-founder Johannes Koponen, Summify’s unanticipated exit and subsequent shut down has enabled Scoopinion to grow its user base significantly during the last few days.
Has Scoopinion caught a lucky break? Well, not really. It all comes down to hard work. The guys at Scoopinion were quick enough to react and engage in some aggressive marketing tactics, recommending the startup’s newsletter service as an alternative to Summify on all major news sites and blogs that covered the acquisition.
Finland-based Cabforce launched officially at the Nordic Travel Fair last week. The service allows business and recreational travelers to book a taxi up to two hours in advance, and pre-pay with a credit card online. This saves the stress of being "taken for a ride" on a longer route in an unfamiliar city, and simplifies payment and language hassles with local drivers.
Editorial note: This is a sponsored blog post by Microsoft as part of their series Hear it from startups.
Imagine Cup is an annual competition aimed at students worldwide, who are looking to change the world. Each year students compete against each other in many different categories for the best application. Applications are judged by their real world potential in changing the world, but also how viable they are business wise.
This year the finals will take place in Sydney, Australia and Microsoft Finland will be sending one team from Finland to the finals. The team however, has to win the semi-finals in Finland first.
Imagine Cup has multiple different categories available, but if you choose to enter the competition local semi-finals will be held for the Windows Phone Challenge as well as the Software Design categories.
PlayMySong has announced it has received $350,ooo (€271,000) in funding, allowing them to open an office in New York City and continue their reach in bars and venues between both coasts of the United States. In case you haven't seen our previous coverage, PlayMySong is a social jukebox mobile app that lets patrons control the background music you hear when you're out at a bar, diner, or at a similar location where the venue owner has the PlayMySong app running on iOS device connected to the sound system.
Helsingin Sanomat wrote an article on A.W. Yrjänä, the head of a successful Finnish rock band CMX, and how much money they made on Spotify and through record sales. Yrjänä is a multi-talent. Not only does he write and sing the vocals for their songs, but he also writes poems and books. He shares with us that Iäti, their album that came out in September 2010, wasn't really a huge success financially even though it shot to number one on the charts.
Unfair Advantage is out! Our guest this week is William Wolfram, the CEO and founder of DealDash. DealDash is a penny auction site with a lot of small innovations to improve the shopping experience. We talked to Will about pretty much everything related to DealDash; how he started it, what he did when he started the company, how they're doing financially and so forth. Listen in to hear the story of DealDash and what Will thinks of running a company that does revenue in the low eight figures annually.
Hammerkit, the Finnish cloud technology provider, today received €1.25 million investment from the North West Fund, joining Veraventure and Tekes as investors. The company produces scalable digital solutions for the global PR and marketing industry, and will use the funding to open a sales and development center in Liverpool.
Editorial note: This is a guest post by Jaakko Salminen. More information on him towards the end of the post.
One of the generally accepted wisdoms of the Finnish startup and growth company environment is shortage of private money. Startups run to Tekes for funding supposedly due to lack of available private early investments, and growth companies get sold very early when there is no VC money available. Easily available public funding is often cited as the dragon eating away any lucrative investment opportunities, and the vicious circle is ready.
Or is private money simply being directed elsewhere? In fact some very interesting sources for additional private money could be made available, if we take a forward-looking attitude.
A few days ago I listened to Horace Dediu's Critical Path and it got me thinking that would governments be able to increase innovation and competition through more transparency in the economy. Dediu talked about the movie business in one the more recent shows and he stated it many times that it is very hard to analyse the industry at large as they do not provide any figures on how different players are doing.
Further into the podcast, he went on to explain the findings of his study and more specifically how movies are financed as well as how the accounting works in the industry. Having listened to his findings, I completely understand why there is so little innovation and disruption taking place in the industry.
The lack of innovation was put in concrete explanation in Fred Wilson's blog post on AVC yesterday where he argues that scarcity is a bad business. He writes how he wanted to find something interesting to watch through many different legal movie services, but was unable to find anything worthwhile. In the end he had to resort to a "foreign rogue site", as he put it.
Editorial note: This is a sponsored post by Microsoft and is part of the Hear it from startups -series.
I had a chat with Drazen Dodik, a Microsoft Student Partner, about the Geeks on Wheels tour they did with the other Microsoft Student Partners in November and December. All in all the gentlemen toured some 12 different cities and universities in Finland, talking to students about the possibilities Windows Phone offers. The tour was also an answer to the numerous requests they had received regarding Windows Phone trainings from faculties and different partners around Finland.