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.
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.
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.
Smartphone cameras have long been used as simple inputs for photos and videos, but recently we've started to see a few local companies leverage the camera as much more of a smart sensor for advanced applications. We've only scratched the surface with augmented reality technologies. But with Sayduck launching their first co-branded app, with 13th Lab receiving funding, and with Guidepal in the mix, maybe we're starting to see the signs of a new trend developing in the Nordics.
Starting off the news, Sayduck recently announced the launch of their co-branded app with One Nordic Furniture Company, a Finnish-Swedish furniture brand. The app allows users to virtually test out products in their homes using accurately scaled virtual reality furniture viewed through their iOS device. The app lets you scroll through furniture, change colors of the furniture, and even read the description, price, and dimensions all virtually placed to float around the furniture.
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.”
We've opened the flood gates with Arctic15 and we're coming out with lots of news these days. The latest being the opening of the Arctic15 startup competition. Like said in a post earlier this year, we will do the startup competition in a slightly different way. We have 15 different categories that startups can submit themselves into and through those we will find the winners of each category that will get a chance to pitch themselves on stage in October.
Here we go! We have 12 hot keynote speakers from around the world coming to Arctic15 this October to share their advice in growing scaling businesses. Furthermore, we're only half way there. We'll be seeing 10+ more panelists in August, but we wanted to give you a sneak of the upcoming speakers and our program for this year. In addition to awesome talks, we're going to be hosting the Oohack Open 1, which is Open Ocean Capital's data hackathon on Tuesday th 16th. Lucky developers from the hackathon will get to showcase their hacks on the main stage.
As for the new speakers announced today, we have in no particular order Phil Libin, the CEO of Evernote, Mikkel Svane, the Founder and CEO of Zendesk, Kristjan Hiiemaa, Founder and CEO of Erply, Nicolai Wadstrom, Founder and CEO BootstrapLabs, Edial Dekker, Co-Founder and CEO of Gidsy as well as Niklas Adalberth, Founder and Deputy CEO of Klarna.
Arctic15 is a very dear child to us. We want to create the most business worthy event for startup entrepreneurs through awesome speakers, networking and business opportunities. We also realise that when you make a great event, a lot of people will have to travel to your event from close and far. This of course generates huge amounts of carbon dioxide and the so called carbon footprint is rather large for an event close to 1000 people.
Sulake, the Finnish company behind Habbo Hotel that has some 10 million active users a month globally, has run into its biggest difficulties as a company so far. The company has seen its fair share of challenges in the form of financial difficulties that resulted in shutting down its country offices outside of Finland. Last night The Kernel broke the news that Channel 4 in the UK would reveal some very disturbing material regarding the teenage community. The Kernel titled their piece as "Habbo exposed as a paedophile haven".
Before airing the piece on Habbo Hotel, Balderton Capital confirmed to the BBC that they will exit their investment in the business at zero value. The investment firm held a 13% stake in Sulake which by even careful estimates would have been in the low tens of millions. Since the Channel 4 piece ran, Tesco and WH Smith have withdrawn the Habbo Hotel gift cards from sale in the UK.
Last night Startup Sauna, the FInnish startup accelerator pulled of something that became Europe's largest demo day with some 750 registered attendees. We've also noticed something else this week with Founder's Week in full swing and Latitude59 taking place in Tallinn - we need to begin to prioritise startup events as we're simply running out of bandwidth. As we're also attending the Latitude59 event in Tallinn we weren't actually able to attend the Demo Day, but based on what we've heard - the Startup Sauna guys and gals pulled off another great event with an awesome late night after party.
If you're planning on attending ArcticEvening Helsinki next week, now you have another reason to come - we're giving away four two day tickets to Arctic15 just like in Tallinn, Stockholm and Copenhagen. All you need to do is sign-up and attend the event.
An interesting application of 3D printing is shown by London and Helsinki based MakieLab. The company announces their alpha launch of MAKIES, a user designed 3D printed doll. Along with the launch, MakieLab has announced their seed round investment of $1.4 million, led by early-stage investors Lifeline Ventures and Sunstone Capital. The round was also joined by Anime and gaming industry veterans Matthew Wiggins, Daniel James and Cedric Littardi of superangel-fund Ynnis Ventures.
Editorial note: this article was originally written by Chieftain Elina Arponen for Tribe Studios blog. Tribe Studios builds Dramagame - a platform for high quality multiplayer story games. Tribe Studioes was also one of the Arctic15 finalists last year.
I attended an excellent panel yesterday morning which consisted of Paul Bragiel, Sami Inkinen, Russel Simmons and Aaron Patzer. The event was part of the founder’s week organized by Aaltoes. This topic of having kids/family came up in several audience questions and was a little bit foreign territory for most of the panelists.
I feel somewhat of a self-learned expert on the area and thought to write about my experiences. I’ve been running with Tribe Studios now full speed for 1 year and 8 months. My husband, Ville-Kalle, is one of my co-founders from the start. Together we have a boy that’s going to be 4 years in August. Currently I’m pregnant with the second one with an ETA in July. So how do we make it work?
ArcticEvening Helsinki will be organised on the 14th of June to discuss "Where are Finland's big startups?" The event will take place at the awesome Aalto Venture Garage from 6pm onwards. Sign-up now to enjoy the panel discussion, network and a plenty of cold drinks before summer holidays. We're expecting to have a good turnout of people as earlier in the day Aalto is putting on an event with Linus Torvalds and the Summer of Startups program has also kicked off at the Venture Garage.
Please take a look at the full program and event description here and also sign-up for the free tickets.
Kiosked is an in-content sales and marketing platform that turns any sort of content into a media platform, and provides tools for creative brands to activate their content. Explaining it terms like that sounds meaningless, so we'll use the Norwegian lifestyle-clothing brand, Onepiece, as an example. Kiosked announces today it is now enabling OnePiece fans to share images and videos from the clothing brand on their blogs and Facebook timelines, which gives users' friends the opportunity to find out more and purchase the clothing directly from the videos and images.
When I go abroad I like bragging to people how much the startup scene is popping in Helsinki right now. Just going to an event or talking to entrepreneurs you get the sense that a bigger movement is happening around you, and you can feel a palpable sense of energy in the air. But after telling someone about the Helsinki scene, I usually get asked what the big startups coming out of Helsinki are right now. And I hate to say it, but I really don't know what to tell them after that. "Uhh, Rovio?"
"It took me all of two minutes to decide to join the company when I saw the gameplay," says Thorbjörn Warin, the newly hired head of Marketing for Helsinki-based Grand Cru, the creators of their upcoming release, Supernauts. Warin had previously worked as head of marketing for Wooga, but left in September of last year to take some time off and do freelance consulting for startups.
Compared to moving to Berlin from Stockholm, he found moving to Finland much easier and friendlier.
Aalto University's Entrepreneurship Society is throwing a Founders' Week: a week of talks, workshops and encounters with the aim to bolster the entrepreneurial spirit and startup culture in Finland's growing ecosystem. The events run from June 4th to June 8th, starting with a talk by Finnish Foreign Minister Alex Stubb, and cumulating with the Startup Sauna Demo Day.
Flown over from the Valley are a handful of well known names who will participate in the week's events:
It's the little things that add up to a regional culture of entrepreneurship. While I'm sure organizations like AaltoES and Tekes would be happy to take the credit for how ubiquitous entrepreneurial hype is in Helsinki, I'm glad there are events like Restaurant Day spread entrepreneurial culture to the streets by helping hundreds pop-up restaurants open four times a year.
Restaurant Day's goal is to spread food culture, but I believe it also serves as the spark that makes people realize there's value in providing the market with something unique. Every self-proclaimed chef has dreams of opening that restaurant or cute coffee shop, and Restaurant Day provides the ecosystem with the same effects as a hackathon. It gets people beyond the idea of starting a restaurant, into the doing.
Helsinki-based Giosg has built a sales, marketing, and customer intelligence solution designed to help companies get the most out of live help on their websites. Their main innovation offered by Giosg is the service allows companies to recognize and prioritize the most potential visitors in real time, and then reach out to them using a nicely integrated live-chat solution. The browser-based service is easy to use, and is designed to help any organization increase sales online by targeting only their most valuable potential customers who are browsing their website.
The installation of Giosg requires adding just one script to your website. This script maps your website, and through the settings you can target customers based on the priority you set for each page. If a webshop is running a new campaign, for example, a user could easily set the priority of that page to higher. The business potential for each customer is then calculated, and show graphically.
Arctic15 early bird tickets are now available at Arctic15.com! While the event is still some time away, we wanted to come out with our first batch of speakers to the event as well as more information on the concept itself.
Annia Capital, a Nordic investment firm with offices in Helsinki and Stockholm, is currently looking for high-potentential entrepreneurs that can take advantage of their experience and capital. Annia's focus is fairly broad, but generally they're looking for products and services with clear international growth potential. Most of their investments will be in early stage firms, with a technology focus, or other businesses as long as they are asset light.
Annia Capital is not built around a traditional fund structure, but are investing their own funds and engaging co-investors on a case-by-case basis. Instead of a specific investment plan, Mikko Silventola, a founding partner at Annia Capital says, "Our premise is that the support we can provide (marketing, contacts, know-how, etc) is at least as important as the capital we provide and hence we want to make sure we partner with the best possible people/institutions for a given situation"
E-mail and meetings are sucking productivity even from the most dynamic and agile of companies. The founders of Somia Reality, a Finnish startup, know this from experience and looked to innovate in this space to reduce the clutter. The founders of the company are also the founders of IRC-Gallery, a hugely popular online social network that has seen its brightest days for the time time being. Regardless of rising competition from the likes of Facebook and other social networking services, IRC-Gallery continues to generate enough revenue to keep Somia Reality ramen profitable to sustain a team of 9 to develop their new service, Teamvisio, further.
Teamvisio is heavily influenced by the ageless communication service, IRC, that is mostly used by developers and other online afficionados. Teamvisio takes IRC further though. Where as IRC users are limited to text only, Teamvisio adds audio and video to allow more depth to conversations. However, the basic use case of Teamvisio is very similar to that of IRC - both are considered to be the most useful when used in the background.
U.S. President Barack Obama and his campaign organizers aren't afraid to tap into new technology if it helps spread his message. Aside from the obvious Facebook and Twitter profiles, Obama uses Foursquare for check-ins on the campaign trail, and uses Square (think iZettle) to take donations on the go, and is even on Instagram. Now we've seen two Helsinki-based startups-- ThingLink and Transfluent-- operating in and around President Obama's web presence.
Helsinki based Grand Cru Games (previous coverage here) is announcing a $2 million seed financing round from Idinvest Partners. In addition to this, the company is also making public its first game title it is working on - Supernauts. The $2 million in funding comes mostly from Idinvest Partners, who is a France based venture capital firm that has around €3 billion of assets under management. Other investors in the round include Rick Thompson, Anil Hansjee, Henric Suuronen and Nicolas Béraud. We talked to Markus Pasula, the CEO and one of the six co-founders of the firm about the deal and the upcoming game.