Kisko Builds WODconnect To Provide Tracking And Billing For CrossFit Gyms

Antti Akonniemi, the Director at Kisko Labs, got himself and his company on the CrossFit train early. He offered his employees access as soon as the first gym opened up in Helsinki, and as result there are some ripped nerds doing digital consulting and prototyping.

But Akonniemi isn't alone. The high intensity strength and conditioning program has been exploding in popularity worldwide due to its focus on functional strength. Reebock now started developing their own line of CrossFit gear, and between 2011 and 2012 the number of gyms worldwide grew 60% to over 4 400 gyms.

Combining work with their hobby, Kisko Labs started developing a CrossFit Workout of the Day web service called WODconnect during their downtime between clients. But now it's grown to become much more than a side project. Kisko has secured a loan from Tekes, the Finnish growth funding agency, and put three of its 10 employees to work fulltime on the app. Akonniemi is so interested in the CrossFit experience that he even personally bought shares in CrossFit Espoo to see how the business ticks.

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Twitbear Defies Twitter With Commenting

Twitbear LogoThree Finnish Jaiku fans have created a service called Twitbear that describes itself as "enabling conversations around tweets". Antti Akonniemi, CEO of Kisko Labs, Kai Lemmetty, co-founder of Floobs and Helene Auramo, CEO of Zipipop came up with the service after Jaiku had started crashing fairly often after Google announced it would pull the plug from it las January.

The service itself is based around threaded communication and is currently in closed beta. At the moment, it pulls tweets from Twitter and adds the comments to the service itself - enabling the threaded communication that many other services have tried to pull off, inluding Tweetree. In essence it is a microblogging platform that pulls part of its data from Twitter. According to the creators of Twitbear - services like Friendfeed are too manyfold and difficult to use, something that many former Jaiku fans can agree with, I'm sure.

Only a handful of users have received invitations to the service and each registered user is given 5 invitations to share. It's nice to still see innovation around threaded conversations, something that remains to be tackled with a proper service. Jaiku had a good try at it, but with Google buying the service - development came to a halt. I've personally noticed many Finns beginning to use Brightkite, a service similar to Jaiku. It remains to be seen which will be the service that will take off outside Twitterdom - or do we need one?

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Jaiku Picks Up. Android Integration Soon In The Plans?

We recently wrote about Jaiku losing users and subsequently got strong response from the Jaiku community telling us differently. Partly the reason why some users (link in Finnish) have moved to Twitter was Jaiku's feature pack was seriously couching:  feeds not coming through and SMS messages were disabled.

Soon after Jaiku community stood up for their service the Jaiku team also woke up and already the next day feeds were back up, even if still a bit slow, and today SMS was also reactivated. The community effectively made itself heard and it worked at least to some extent.

There's also new feature's coming for example regarding the API that supports OAuth, but the gravest of the concerns' has yet to be answered by the Jaiku team, namely when are we going to see these changes happen and especially where is the service going.

Jyri Engeström commented in Jaikido blog way back in August when Jaiku was being ported to Google App Engine, "We appreciate your patience and can’t wait to open up Jaiku to everyone", but is Google's corporate wheel too slow to turn and is Google's silence policy regarding it's products development slowly pushing the Jaiku community's patience one step too far?

The same Jaikido blog entry talks about how 3rd party developers will have greater control over the system and can write applications that provide richer features to their users. This clearly shows that there are plans for the future. One could even speculate that Google has all along had a clear plan on what they are going to do with Jaiku. As Antti Akonniemi speculates, " Jaiku’s location based and phone profile features pre-installed on Google phones could change everything."

Now, if one wants to see this happening one easily could: Petteri Koponen has been working especifically on Android in Google's London office, while Jyri Engeström is in Mountainview working on Google's strategy for the social web. Has Google just waited until Android is ready to ramp up Jaiku development? Then again, last April Teemu Kurppa told (In Finnish) the Finnish crowd that Jaiku was being developed on the Google's infamous "20% time". Google would hardly make developers develop the corner stone of it's mobile strategy on their 'extra 20%'. Or would it? Jyri's silence despite the lively conversation and many requests regarding an update on what's happening could indicate that something's up.

This is not a new idea, but could the time start to be ripe for the launch as Jaiku's porting to Google App Engine is nearly finished which allows a rapid uptake of new users, and as Android is fully functioning and just starting to go after market share?

Edit 17.12.2008 at 3.36pm: Jyri Engeström posted today a new blog post in his blog where he carefully tells us about the future of Jaiku. Among other updates he says that "I regard the Jaiku community as friends, and your concern about the future of the service is legitimate. It warrants a response."

To indicate what is to come, he goes on by saying that they "[...]plan to open up its development to the user community more in the future." and that "People should be able to post and follow status updates across servers just like they send email. No single service, no matter how large and powerful, is the platform. The Web is the platform."

The best indication on what's to come is at the end of the blog post. I quote: "In spite of the decision to not throw resources at building Jaiku into an independent Web brand, recall that the acquisition announcement stated that 'Activity streams and mobile presence are important areas where we believe Google can add a lot of value for users.' Of course this statement still holds true, and you can bet your Android that there are completely new Wow!'s in store."

At ArcticStartup we believe that we will soon see something that involves Jaiku's microblogging model, Android and the Open Stack nicely mixed into a working solution for those handset manufacturers that decide to take upon Google's open offer.

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Where Are All The Business Innovations?

I had an excellent lunch today with Antti Akonniemi, the CEO and founder of Kisko Labs and Ville Vesterinen. Among other things, we discussed business models and how stuck up companies are in their methods of innovation. I mean think about it, at least we've come across a ton of different companies with a ton of consumer internet applications for all sorts of needs. But when we discuss what their business model is - it is usually limited to advertising, freemium, subscription, premium or some sort of mix of these.

However, I had a talk with an anonymous for now, but very successful entrepreneur earlier on this week and we discussed his new business idea about a service concept where the innovation was in the business model for the consumer. The service concept usually would cost around 1500e and nobody in their right mind would pay such money - looking at the current market and the way things are done. However, when you package it with a financial company and a monthly payment plan of 49e the whole scheme is beginning to look a lot more appealing, extremely appealing actually. The beauty of the idea is that my friend's company does not have to take any of the financial risk as it's "sold" to the financial organisation partnering in the business plan. I'm sorry I can't disclose more here, but what I wanted to tell with this example is that with a simple business innovation you can create a lot more value for the consumer and thus create a lot better chance for the concept to fly.

Nevertheless, back to Kisko Labs - they've come up with an interesting concept for enabling new innovation in the Nordics. What Kisko Labs is trying is that they're taking a pro active approach to web development for start-ups. They're willing to do an equity swap in return for web development for start-ups with a great business idea. Kisko Labs has of course a healthy consulting and development business to support this cash flow-less venture. I believe this could prove a killer approach for startups with great ideas in a time when venture money is tight.

If you look at this from a larger scale - the last great business innovation (that flew big time in the consumer market) I saw, was the iTunes 0,99 USD/EUR for a track. You take the existing business and package it differently, economically. But seriously speaking - where are all the business innovations? Shouldn't times like these be good drivers for new packaging of existing and already proven business cases?

Disclosure: We have some small scale innovation going on with Kisko Labs, which we will disclose just before Le Web.

Image by Vermin Inc. (CC: by-nc-sa)

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MindTrek Finalists Have Been Chosen

MindTrek Startup Launchpad finalists have been chosen. The following companies made the cut (in alphabetical order):

One Did It
Star Wreck Studios

There will be eight finalist in total in the pitch competition and each startup will have 6 minute pitch to present to the high profile jury. Read more about the Startup Launchpad here.

Congratulations and good luck to all the finalists!

The free bus ride for startups to the MindTrek and back from Helsinki on 8.-9.10.2008 will depart 8.10. Wednesday morning at 7.15am in fron of Kiasma  (the bus has MindTrek sign on it).

The bus will head back to Helsinki on 9.10. Thursday at 4pm departing in front of Hotel Rosendahlin at Tampere. If you want to come along contact Hanne Lehtola at hanne.lehtola [at]

Antti Akonniemi from Kisko Labs is also running an Ignite while we are driving up there. Antti wrote a short intro on what’s on offer for the ride up:

If you had five minutes on stage what would you say? What if you only got 20 slides and they rotated automatically after 15 seconds? And what if your stage was an actual bus full of startup entrepreneurs? Fun of karaoke and excitement of Powerpoint combined. Sounds too much like the movie Speed? Introducing Ignite:Mobile. Join ArcticStartup’s bus trip to MindTrek and experience the first ever Ignite:Mobile.

There should still be plenty of room in the bus, so drop Hanne a mail and come along.

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MindTrek 2008 coming up fast

MindTrek Conference 2008 is just around the corner, so if you're a startup make sure to apply to the  Startup Launchpad competition if you haven't already. It's worth it.

Registration is open until September 19th. You can register here for the Startup Launchpad and here for the Conference itself. I'll be hosting the competition itself and the jury include Marc Davis from Yahoo! and Sharon C. Ballard to name only a few.

We’re organizing a free bus ride with Culminatum, Sombiz and Floobs to the to the conference leaving from Helsinki on the 8th and coming back on the evening of 9th.

The idea is to rent a bus and take off to Tampere together from Helsinki with a bus full of start-ups. Spend the Oct. 8th and 9th at the Conference and give the start-ups a possibility to pitch at Startup Launchpad competition.

Antti Akonniemi from Kisko Labs is also running an Ignite while we are driving up there. Antti wrote a short intro on what's on offer for the ride up:

If you had five minutes on stage what would you say? What if you only got 20 slides and they rotated automatically after 15 seconds? And what if your stage was an actual bus full of startup entrepreneurs? Fun of karaoke and excitement of Powerpoint combined. Sounds too much like the movie Speed? Introducing Ignite:Mobile. Join ArcticStartup's bus trip to MindTrek and experience the first ever Ignite:Mobile.

Even if you decide to not apply or will not make the cut, you're more than welcome to join us for the bus ride up and for the conference itself. Although for the conference you will need a ticket.
Write me at ville [at] if you'd like to come along for the bus ride so I know to reserve the a space for your startup. Thanks.

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These Are My Brands opens Seedcamp application round

Antti Akonniemi, founder & CEO of Kisko Labs, has begun the Seedcamp application round we wrote about earlier (remember that we'll be giving each company/idea visibility in ArcticStartup so do let us know if you are applying).

Antti is apparently applying to Seedcamp with his new service called These Are My Brands. There is very little available on the website at this moment, which goes well with the rules of Seedcamp. Seedcamp rules suggest that your service should not have launched yet - however, you ought to have a prototype ready.

Good luck to Antti! We'll be providing an interview with him later on.

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BarCamp in Helsinki

BarCamp lands in Helsinki! Helsinki has seen some interesting international event concepts land in the city within a short time frame including Ignite and OpenCoffee Club. This Saturday is BarCamp's turn.

BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from attendees. Antti Akonniemi (from the IgniteHelsinki fame) is partly responsible for bringing the event to Helsinki. Along with Antti, Mari Koistinen a prominent blogger, is part of the organizing committee. Both active Jaiku users, Antti and Mari along with a few others kick started the event organizing in the Jaiku forum.

The proposed BarCamp Helsinki sessions include the following:

  • Time management

  • Creative flows

  • Case studies: Effects, aspects of use of Jaiku as organizing tool

  • Location-based services

  • Microformats for bloggers: What, why and how?

  • Scred vs BillMonk (with Peter Robinett

The event takes place in the new Fjord offices on Saturday 10th May.

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Ignite Helsinki

Ignite LogoThe first ever Ignite Helsinki -event is being organised this Friday in Dubrovnik Lounge and Lobby.

Those who are unaware of the ignite format - it is a set of short 5 minute presentations given by speakers on various topics where the presentation slides change automatically every 15 seconds. Therefore you have 5 minutes and 20 slides to get your point and issue to the crowd. Ignite events have been held in many of the large tech cities of the world and now for the first time it will be organised in Helsinki.

I was asked to speak there about Finnish Startups and would have done so if I'd be in Finland. If you're interested in giving a speech - send an e-mail to the organisers. I'm sure they're interested in getting more submissions.

The doors will open 5.30pm and the event will start at 6pm, free entry. Update: A slight shift in schedules as Antti told us in the comments - the doors will open at 6pm and the event will start at 7pm. And it's still free entry :)

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