Much has been talked about Flattr since the last time we covered the company in May. Founded by the three guys behind The Pirate Bay, Flattr enables easy micropayments as social donations for the whole web. Many described its service as a Facebook's Like button but with money. When we covered the company, it was still in closed beta. Since then, the service came out of beta and, according to TechCrunch, got more than 46,000 registered users with over €114,000 worth of transactions passing through the system within the first four months of being live. This week Flattr announced a few updates to their service that make the company all the more exciting.
Going nuclear with your business, especially when it is related to a geographic expansion is a justified move especially if you are recognized as a major regional player. A similar story comes from the Stockholm based European Music company; X5 Music Group which is branching itself into the US.
The Swedish music company announced that it secured a 7 Million Euro investment from Northzone Ventures. This isn’t Northzone Venture’s first investment in a music related firm, given that they had earlier made a major investment in Spotify, a prominent Scandinavian music startup. With the current investment by NZ, the venture group has given X5 Music the necessary investments to expand beyond Europe and into the US Markets. And if X5 Music is actually able to make this, it will become the first Swedish record label in over five decades to move into the US region. With that said, X5 will be readying to start work at its New York office in early 2011.
Powerkiss have not released much news this year. Apart from a feature in VentureBeat in June and a mention in connection with The Europas competition, we have not heard much about the company. Just this month, however, they've been pushing out news stories like crazy. First we hear that they've partnered with Wayne's Coffee in Sweden and Finland. The coffeeshop chain's guests can now (in limited locations) ask for a Powerkiss wireless ring from the counter, plug it into their phone, put onto the Powerkiss-enabled table and recharge it during their stay. Next we hear that Powerkiss is the official wire-free provider for Santa in China. That's right: Santa Clause foundation has been hosting showrooms in China to promote Santa and other Finnish exports and Powerkiss has been one of those products. Last but not least, Powerkiss' wireless charger has been officially approved as an Apple accessory. Charging an iPhone/iPod next to you soon! Apart from all the glitz, the case of Powerkiss poses some interesting questions.
Swedish Sillens AB has developed a service called ShapeUp Club, which allows you to follow what you eat and also helps you lose weight through constant following of calories and your intake of food. I'm currently reading the new book by Tim Ferriss - 4 Hour Body, which is a great way to cut down on bingeing around Christmas. One of the key messages of the book is that you need to measure certain metrics to be able to improve on them - something many entrepreneurs understand easily regarding online business. ShapeUp Club is a great tool in helping you understand and follow metrics on how your body reacts to what you eat and how you exercise.
Guidepal is a Swedish startup that offers city guide apps for Android, iPhone, iPad, and Blackberry devices. The guides are free to download and use, and contain information about sights and attractions, places to go, shopping etc. typical things you might expect from city guides.
The guides are produced by Guidepal's local city experts and writers around the world. There is currently an app for 27 different cities. Guidepal aims to differentiate from the traditional travel guides by supporting a number of digital platforms, and trying to offer wider and more relevant content than other services.
Editorial note: This is a guest post by Kristoffer Lawson, the Travelling Salesman. He's on a 10 000 kilometre drive to meet Nordic startups. ArcticStartup is supporting the project, by covering his travels and findings. This post was originally posted in the Travelling Salesman blog.
When pondering my travel plan I was told by a number of people, even Swedes, that there would be very little in places like Karlskrona. That I should stick to the big centers: Stockholm, Lund, Göteborg, etc. They were wrong, but proving that was to be a challenge.
Via Venture Partners has announced (PDF) raising of a new fund. The fund is its second, amounting to 134 million euros. In addition to the VC's original fund founded in 2006, this makes Via Venture Partners one of the largest VCs in the Nordic region with a total of EUR 268 million of committed capital. The fund targets Nordic high growth potential ICT firms that have a global market opportunity.
Music Ally recently revealed financial report from Spotify Ltd in UK, which showed £16.66 million loss for 2009. When looking at the financial report for Spotify AB in Sweden the picture is quite different. While in UK Spotify's expenses exceeded their sales by more than £16 million, Swedish branch showed an income of 1,5M€ and a profit margin of 15,5%. Net sales for Spotify in Sweden were almost 10M€, which is almost as much as the sales numbers reported by Spotify in UK. The data for Spotify in Sweden did not include detailed break down of numbers for its subscription fees vs. add sales but the UK numbers suggest Spotify makes slightly more money from subscriptions.
Discovery and cross-promotion are important buzz words all over the app and gaming world, especially on the iPhone and Facebook where the amount of new product launches is ever increasing. With thousands of new products being launched each day, it is very daunting task for game developers and publishers to try to stand out and drive downloads to their own apps - at least if not gettng any help. It can be also very hard for the users to find out new content they would enjoy from all the noise. Swedish The Game Trail's purpose is exactly to "guide iPhone gamers down the right path to quality games" and thus ease the problem for both sides.
Widespace is yet another mobile advertising startup from Sweden. The company provides premium mobile ad network to mobile advertisers, app publishers, and developers. Widespace aims to compete in the crowded mobile advertising space by claiming to allow advertisers superior targeting (by e.g. handsets, operators, and markets), being extremely simple and fast to get started, and taking smaller commission than other networks. For website publishers and app developers added promise is automatic revenue maximization by the company's proprietary algorithm. The startup also claims mobile site owners can considerably reduce their ad administration costs with the solution.
The Sweden based Cronlab, a provider of different anti-spam solutions, has closed financing to further speed up its sales and widen its product offering. The financing round is Cronlab's first and was raised from different European angel investors. The size of the round, nor the investors were not disclosed. Cronlab offers both anti-spam hardware solutions, but also SaaS alternatives as well as hosted solutions.
Cronlab is a small Swedish company, that created only 91k kronor (10k€) in revenues in fiscal year ending April 2010. However, in the fiscal year ending April 2009 they generated revenues of approximately 1,4 million kronor (150k€). Update (20.10.2010): The figures represented above only account for CronLab's Swedish business. Cronlab moved their business to UK in 2010 and thus the figures do not completely show their business potential or state of it.
Mozoomi is a Swedish mobile advertising startup, aiming to enable advertising on the wallpapers of mobile phones. The background wallpaper image is one of the most seen images to mobile phone users. Mozoomi believes that the image has limited value to many users, but it can mean a great deal to advertisers. The company has been developing technology platform for making it possible to serve targeted, interactive ads to replace the wallpaper images. Mozoomi aims for the Asias and South American markets, and plans to pilot the service by the end of the year, as mentioned in an interview by Swedish site E24.
Guest post by Andy Cars, the founder and CEO of Seedcap AB based in Stockholm. Seedcap AB help entrepreneurs and start-ups to raise capital. You can read Andy's previous post on the 10 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Often Make When Raising Capital here. Here Andy talks about an alternative to locking-up your valuation too early.
Many entrepreneurs that seek external capital to finance their startups often find the valuation of their companies difficult. How do I know what my company is worth? Moreover, by its very nature the founder often believes his company to be worth more than what the investor is prepared to accept, which in the end leaves the founder without a deal.
‘’The markets are on the web, the production power is on the web, both globally available for everyone’’ Mårten Mickos, CEO, Eucalyptus Systems.
Let’s do a small intellectual play: Web 2.0 services, or the current generation’s internet companies globally, are built for the most part on top of the so-called LAMP-stack. In other words their infrastructure is based on Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP – a selection of open source software programs.
As a Finnish modern saying goes, "Life is man's prime time" - but it is sure to end some day, and more and more of our identity will remain alive in the digital online world after we are gone. Managing all your services can already be a daunting task for you yourself when alive, let alone for anyone else looking after your heritage after your earthly journey, be they a spouse, a relative, or a friend. Furthermore, they don't know how you would like your digital identities and remaining traces online to continue, nor have the means to access the services.
Swedish web startup My Webwill has addressed this problem by creating a secure online service that lets you decide how your online Internet presence should look like after your death, shutting down your online identities, or handing them over to friends and family. The service has just launched globally, after a couple of month's beta testing in Sweden.
The Nordic Tech Tour, organized by the independent not-for-profit organization The European Tech Tour has kicked off today. During two and a half days, the selected 30 promising early and later stage growth companies based in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, and the Baltic countries will gather together with the leading cross-border venture capital and global corporate firms.
During the event, the companies have twenty minutes to present their business plans to 70 international delegates, consisting of senior partners, VPs, and CEOs from the global venture capital and technology industry, as well as advisors and academics. The investment capital present at the Tour is said to be worth over €10 billion.
Swedish startup Anyfi Networks has come out of stealth mode and announced Anyfi.net, a new Wi-Fi roaming solution. The solution allows Internet service providers (ISP) offer consumers the same automatic Wi-Fi user experience both at home and on the go - users can automatically and securely always connect to the same Wi-Fi access point.
The solution is based on a custom piece of software ISP can install (automatically over-the-air in most cases) into their Wi-Fi hotspot devices, to make the hotspots function as a radio gateway (or access point). The access points direct the raw Wi-Fi radio traffic securely over the Internet to a server in the cloud.
This way, when connecting to a hotspot where Anyfi.net software is installed, users will always be virtually in their home network, without having to login to any new local Wi-Fi network (no passwords are asked after the very first login to the home network). This means the users will also have a fully secured connection, even if the hotspot itself would be untrusted or even in an attacker's control. The solution is also very simple for the end users, as it does not require installation of any new software to the consumers' devices, thus working on any Wi-Fi client device (like smartphone) out-of-the-box. Check out the video below for more info.
Spotify has just announced that it will expand its service offering to Netherlands. Netherlands is the seventh country Spotify is available. The other countries are Finland, France, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Dutch people can now sign up to the service using the link on their website.
It seems that Netherlands came before the US in the end, which shouldn't be a big surprise. Clearing rights and getting the legal side of things sorted out is not a light job to do. It might also make better business sense for Spotify to grow their business in Europe before hopping to US - a show of strength that might ease legal issues later on.
Meniga, the Icelandic personal finance management service, has signed Applicon as its partner in Scandinavia to offer its service to banks. Meniga is an Icelandic startup founded in January 2009 with a very similar plan in mind compared to the famous US company Mint.com.
With the signing of the contract and the press release associated with it, it has become clear how Meniga plans to position their product and get it to market. They have signed the contract with Applicon, which is a Swedish company closely affiliated with banks. Applicon offers its customers a combination of standardized IT software with the help of its 50 strong organisation.
An interesting development: TechCrunch reported that a Swedish startup Klarna (formerly Kreditor), one of the biggest providers in Europe of in-store credit and invoice based payment solutions for the e-commerce sector, has secured funding from Sequoia Capital. What's interesting here is that the superstar VC Mike Moritz, who invested in Google among others, has joined Klarna's board.
Why this is interesting is because the general belief is that US VCs are very rarely interested in investing in European companies, and it's even rarer to see a big name US VC to join a Euro startup board. Just in our previous story our guest blogger, Marita Seulamo-Vargas, reported how the US VCs had advised Nordic and Baltic companies to seek investments primarily from home.
Flattr is a new Swedish service enabling easy microtransactions, or social donations, for the whole web. Flattr wants to make it easy for people to share money in addition to content on the web, and thus allow content producers to get income on their work. The service is currently in closed beta, but I got an account to take a closer look.
In practice, every Flattr member needs to pay at least 2 euros per month (you can up to 5/10/20 as well). Then, during each month, you discover content on the web that you really like, be it text, audio, video, or something else, and you want to "flatter" the creator. You then click a small button the content creator has placed on her site. After each month is over, your monthly allowance (e.g., 2 euros) is divided evenly to all of the content creators whose work you have "flattred" during the month. Flattr itself takes 10% cut initially.
iTunes just got a kick in the head when Spotify revealed their plans this morning realeasing the Spotify version 0.4.3 which includes the largest feature upgrade since Spotify's launch in late 2008. Why? Because music just become very social. It's on now and Apple can ignore it only at its peril.
The release is centered around a set of social features more than anything else. It lets you create an identity that is defined by the music you listen, or put other way you can create a personal playlist and share it with your friends. In the new release you see your friends profiles and by clicking them you also see all the music they listen to (given they allow it to be seen).
Pingdom is a service measuring and tracking the uptime, downtime, and performance of websites, covering the uptime monitoring needs of 90% of the companies in the world. The Sweden based firm has been very efficient in concentrating on this narrow segment, and has been growing strongly as a result. The firm's mission is fully focused on providing the best uptime monitoring service available. Pingdom was founded in 2005 by Sam Nurmi, who also founded and later sold Sweden’s biggest web hosting company, Loopia.
World Economic Forum announced the results of its annual study on how countries are able to leverage ICT as a sustainable, long-term source of economic development. The results show success in general for the Nordic countries, Sweden is ranked first, Denmark third, Finland sixth and Norway tenth.
MoSync, a Swedish developer of cross-platform mobile app development tools (previously Mobile Sorcery; see our previous coverage), has big plans for creating a whole ecosystem boosting open cross-platform App Stores. MoSync's new CEO Dusyant Patel, and Co-Founder Tomas Uppgård opened up MoSync's plans for ArcticStartup.
The global revenue from mobile applications, consisting of both paid downloads and mobile advertising, is estimated to increase to $17.5 billion by 2012 from $4.1 billion in 2009. The estimate is based on an independent study by Chetan Sharma Consulting (well, as independent it can be, being commissioned by GetJar). While massive amounts of players in the ICT industry are rushing to their own app store of some kind, developers are faced with an ever increasing burden and business challenges.
We all know the Swedish startup Videoplaza has been on a roll lately with their ad serving technology for managing and monetising online video. Venture capitalist are not disagreeing: Today Videoplaza announced the completion of its €3.5 million (US$5 million) round of investment led by Creandum and Northzone.
Not surprisingly, the capital was raised to support a further commercial development and a roll-out across Europe. More specifically, the funding will enable Videoplaza to accelerate the deployment of its Monetizer ad server platform technology for managing, displaying and tracking advertising in and around publishers’ online video content into more European territories, including Germany, Spain and Italy.
TechCrunch ran a story on Spotify a couple of days ago, where Daniel Ek had commented on some very interesting issues. Daniel Ek, Spotify CEO, spoke at SXSW and told in his keynote that, Spotify as a service consumes more bandwidth than the whole of Sweden (on certain days that is). Those wondering why Spotify is built in a P2P manner now fully understand the need for such a solution. Ek also commented that it's a million dollar question why Apple remains to deliver all its digital downloads from a "single source" generating huge amounts of traffic that also need to be paid for.
I ask myself pretty often why there is so much great web innovation coming from Sweden. Really awesome ideas and startups are much less common in my home country Germany, despite a population almost ten times as large as Sweden's.
This time, it's a new service called MyClubCards that caught my attention. MyClubCards offers a mobile application (currently iPhone only) which people who are members of one or more loyalty programs can use to collect points when paying in a store. So imagine you have club cards from three different loyalty programs that you carry in your wallet. Instead of that, you can add those cards to your MyClubCards collection by simply entering the program name and your personal customer number. MyClubCards generates a barcode for each of those cards, which you can show to the cashier next time you want to use your card at a point of sale. Instead of scanning the physical card, the cashier scans the barcode on your phone.
We've been looking closely at the startup scene in the Nordics and Baltics for the last two and a half years and I have to say, the amount of events on the market these days is very attractive. There are a lot of different kind of events and I'm sure there's something for everyone. While these events have their own functions and drive their own agendas, there's no getting round it - they're great fun and will surely improve your business if not by any other means than at least by networking with the other visitors there.
Are Nordic countries particularly entrepreneurial? How do our societies perceive entrepreneurship as a career choice?
The perception already exists that the Nordic countries are among the most innovative in the world. The two most recent and comprehensive rankings supporting this belief came from the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Boston Consulting Group, both published in April 2009. The first of these studies ranked Japan as the most innovative country in the world, while in the second Singapore was at the top of the list. Nevertheless, Finland and Sweden ranked in the top ten for both reports, while Denmark and Norway also ranked impressively.