Since Facebook went public a year ago, it has started actively exploring possibilities for monetization and introduced many new features, which in fact seem to be pretty disruptive for users. This situation opens a lot of opportunities for Facebook-based application developers to improve users’ social media experience.
Espoo-based Fajoya builds a mobile app that allows Facebook users to help request, receive and reward favors from their friends. It aims to accomplish a social mission — to make the world a better place where helping others is something everyone wants to do.
WeVideo is an ambitious startup with Norwegian heritage. The cloud-based video editor is built on educational software technology from Oslo's Creaza. Within a year of spinning out a new company and moving to Silicon Valley, WeVideo struck deals with Google and Disney, the latter allowing fans of The Avengers to remix their own movie trailers. They've now taken their product mobile, with the launch of what their PR calls an "iMovie competitor for Android".
The new app syncs with an "online video creation environment", enabling customers to capture video on a video camera or smartphone, edit their footage on any online computer, and collaborate with anyone, anywhere in the world. Videos created with the WeVideo Android app can be edited, trimmed, stylised and published from the phone, or saved to be edited at a later time.
Do you find your day filled with scheduling meetings, meeting people, and then trying to manage the to-do process afterward? If you haven't done so before, it might be time to check out Helsinki-based Meetin.gs, who has relaunched with a nice facelift and a mobile focus. Their product manages to wrangle together all the loose strings associated with professional meetings by plugging into popular business tools.
To schedule a meeting, Meetin.gs now offers a fully brandable "meet me" page, which enables uses to create and publish a calendar page that makes it easier to schedule a meeting time, which solves the problem of that awful email chain where suggested times are pinged back and forth. This service plugs into the user's calendar, so occupied time slots are automatically blocked out. Meeting location is also included, so transit times and meeting durations can be accounted for.
I finally 'get' Breakit, the Finnish app that came into Helsinki consciousness at last year's Summer of Startups. To be fair, it is a location-based social app, and lord knows those were played out a few years ago. But Breakit isn't social in the sense that they've slapped a Facebook login onto GPS. Instead they've built a photo sharing service built completely around location.
"Location is the relevant information, so if someone takes a picture at your school or work and says something, you might want to know about it," says Sebastian Schroderus, co-founder of Breakit. So pulling up the app, you just get a stream of everything - lunches, teenagers posing, and drunks on the bus. It's kind of cool - it's the culture and people around you, not necessarially your friends, but maybe that girl you've passed nearly every day on your way home.
How active are you every day? As the old adage goes, you can't improve what you can't measure, but the new buzz around Helsinki is for Moves - an iPhone app that does a whole lot more than your basic pedometer. Rather than just tracking how much your phone shakes, it helps you understand the types of activity you do in your day-to-day life. Your data is then visualized on a daily storyline that shows where you've walked, cycled, or run to, and well as where you camped out at. The app was launched a little over a month ago, and so far has seen a little over a million downloads.
"The main idea is that it should be really simple and effortless," says Sampo Karjalainen, the Designer CEO behind Moves. "So compared to all those sports tracker devices like Nike Fuel Band or the Finnish sports trackers, they're really good at one run or cycling event, but you have to remember to turn it on, and to stop it. And they also use GPS all the time. So if you go on a long walk, the battery is empty in like five hours."
Spotify has just overhauled its iPhone app interface, making it more similar to their Android version. Gone now is the bottom bar that was responsible for much of the navigation. Instead now everything has moved over to the side bar accessable by a button on the top left.
The app feels fast and responsive, making this update an nice addition, even though it takes some getting used to. Despite these updates, the app is still missing some features like Related Artists, and the search results still force you to dig down into tracks, albums, and artists, which is tricky when you only know half of a song's name, but you do know the artist.
After investing into three companies (VALO, FUSION, and RBN), a finnish IT company Reaktor announced a new investment arm of the company - POLTE. Just last week, they made their first investment into Ninchat and today they came out with the news that they invested into Avansera and their shopping list app - OstosNero. They claim that they will be able to save up to 40% on groceries and other fast moving consumer goods.
When we last spoke to Oskari Kettunen, the head of the POLTE project, he did mention that they are evaluating many companies and that the pace will be fast. However we did not expect it to be this fast. This time around, the total investment is undisclosed as the seed round has multiple angel investors on board that prefer to stay anonymous. Still Kettunen was able to tell us that their share of the investment is €55 000. As usual POLTE will also provide the experience and knowledge of the Reaktor team.
These days the iPad is becoming tool of choice for the meeting rooms. You're not hunched over laptop, but with your tablet you can still find more data and take notes. But according to Helsinki-based Punos Mobile, right now users are too spread between apps and services for the meeting lifecycle. Their new app, Meeting Assistant, lets users prepare an agenda, take notes, and find out more relevant info within the app - all for the sake of more efficient meetings. If this all sounds familiar, we covered them last August, although their solution officially launched last week.
Göteborg-based Fishbrain, sort of a mobile Facebook for fishermen, has received an undisclosed amount of funding from Sweden's Almi Innovationsbron. The capital will be used for the standard stuff - to accelerate the development and help Fishbrain reach new markets.
Fishbrain has been seeing good traction since we last saw them pitching and winning the lightweight category at Helsinki's giant "Slush" conference. The app has become the most downloaded "Sport" category in Sweden, and more than 15,000 catches have been recorded.
Vamos, the event app, has secured an "undisclosed €6-digit friends and family round" to hire more freelance developers and continue their expansion. We covered the Berlin-based startup created by a team of Swedes last August, when they announced their public launch. But if you missed that coverage, the concept is pretty simple and handy.
Vamos aggregates public Facebook events through an iPhone app - meaning when you connect your Facebook account to Vamos it shares your public events in a list or map view. As a result, on a given night you can see gallery openings, music at restaurants, and other events that might interest you, even though you aren't connected to the event on Facebook. The app also offers a few other features, like directions to the events and pictures of the people who have publicly said they are attending, giving you a better impression of the vibe at the event.
If you're like me, Flightradar24 is one of those awesome websites you just accidentally end up on every now and then. The service allows you to see an map of live flights, and by clicking on each individual plane you can see which flight and airline it is, the route it has taken, and see deeper data like altitude, speed, and squawk. Zooming in on London, for example, you wonder how there isn't one plane crash a week. But I had no idea it was based out of the region - Flightradar24 was started in 2006 by a few aviation enthusiasts in Stockholm.
CEO Fredrik Lindahl tells us at first Flightradar24 was just a hobby project. Mikael Robertsson and Olov Lindberg bought ADS-B receivers/antennas (surveillance devices for tracking aircraft) and put them up on their houses in the Stockholm area for their own enjoyment.
At the Arctic15 I caught up with Lars Hellström, the founder of Helsinki-based LivLiv Solutions, who showed me their new Android solution for the 55-75 demographic. He pointed out that old folks are a rapidly growing and technologically underserved demographic. And it makes sense- we're at an interesting period of time. Smartphones have become ubiquitous in younger generation's life, but there's still a learning curve and layers of complexity to smartphones, which may be difficult for older generations to grasp.
There are a few handset manufacturers out there, like Sweden's Doro, that provide phones with easy-to-use interfaces and big buttons, but essentially you're just getting a mobile phone. But this is the generation that invented the wheel. They may be suspicious of their phone's power, but they're adaptable enough to changes in technology that a dumbed down or completely locked down phone would be patronizing.
One company we haven't covered since 2010, but has building a solid community around its product is Sumo.Fm, the service behind Sumopaint. The Helsinki-based company started off when their CTO Lauri Koutaniemi got fed up paying a photoshop license and decided to create a free online alternative. On top of the web-based tool, the company was able to build a strong community around an online gallery at Sumo.fm, which looks familiar to the concept behind deviantART. Users can share images they've created and interact with each other.
Sumopaint was designed to be to a photoshop alternative, so it still can be intimidating and inaccessible to many users who open it up the first time. To bring the Sumo.Fm community to more people, today the company announces an iPad app that is simpler to use, but still offers the basic set of features that will get creativity flowing to a new set of users.
Face-to-face meetings are a necessary part of the decision making process, but meetings have picked up their negative reputation for a good reason. When no one has time to prepare for a meeting, meeting-goers may not be aware of who they are in the same room with, and have trouble sticking to the meeting agenda. When the meeting is over, many times you don't really know if everyone is on the same page. On top of that, technology in the meeting room may have hurt meeting efficiency more than it has helped it; it's far too easy for colleagues to hide behind their laptop and not use the screen in front of them in productive ways.
But iPads are starting to become the weapon of choice for many corporate warriors, and Helsinki-based Punos Mobile Ltd has come up with solutions to many of these problems by developing an iPad app called Meeting Assistant. Based on their beta testing, some of the most sought-after features allow the users to keep their meetings on time, track to-dos and send notes to everyone right after.
As soon as it was announced that Spotify was opening up their API to users, Playmysong CTO Timo Kari did not sleep until he had a working prototype that would integrate their service into Spotify's collection. This was apparently jumping the gun, Spotify wants developers to first submit their ideas to confirm that the Swedish music delivery service finds the idea interesting before letting developers know to proceed, but Kari was a man inspired. Today, after much more polish, Playmysong has been accepted into Spotify's small, but growing list of apps.
We've covered Playmysong plenty in the past, but if you're unfamiliar with it, essentially it's a modern update to the jukebox. At supported bars, restaurants, hotels, and other locations, Playmysong lets users pull up their smartphones and pick the next songs to play off of the location's music library.
The most basic use-case is for the new Spotify app is for house parties. Spotify seems to be the main method of music delivery but for the house parties I've been to in recent years, but it's not perfect. A playlist usually keeps a party going, but when a partier wants that one song played, they usually search for and start the song off the playlist and you're left hearing that artist's b-sides on random for too long. Or sometimes a few people will just huddle around a computer to have their song played next, so all night you end up hearing just hearing half of every song.
When we last coveredGrafetee, co-founder Juha Huttunen mentioned to us that their geo-location platform was working on some interesting partnerships, but law enforcement was not the angle I would have predicted. The Helsinki-based geo-location app is now being beta tested with Finland's police force, who will be monitoring images and text submitted through a certain channel on Grafetee.
Police will also be able to send location-based updates to warn users of situations. The app is both location-aware and time-sensitive, so Grafetee will only display content when they are near a location or specific event.
It should be noted that rather than this being a tool for emergency services, Grafetee and the Poliisi have built this aspect of the service to be a platform where people can communicate with the police and leave suggestions and ideas on how to make their neighborhood safer. In the case of emergencies, citizens should still call 112, the Finnish police emergency number.
A cool little app that found its way to us is Streetheart, built as a side project by Arvid Janson, the co-founder of Stockholm's Hoa's Tool Shop. The app helps document and explore the street art scene anywhere in the world an iPhone's camera and location-based features.
"I like connecting online to offline, which is why one of the most important features – to me – of the app is the possibility to place the photos on a map. One part of this is obviously due to the inherent fragility of the format, to document what has been, but to me it's more about giving people another way of looking at their cities," says Janson.
Every now and then a company will come along seemingly just to remind you that "the future" is here already, sort of. Helsinki-based Sayduck is one of those companies, and has created an innovative new service to allow users to shop for and pick out furniture using augmented reality.
The iPhone and iPad app lets shoppers virtually visualize objects in their homes from any angle, providing the obvious benefits of seeing how furniture looks in your room and fits your decor. And after competing last month in Tallinn, Sayduck announces it has been accepted to the London-based Seedcamp incubator.
Launched today is Fourchords - a new app designed to make playing the guitar accessible, especially for when you want to play and sing songs you're not so familiar with. The main point of the app is to break down songs to their simplest level to make it easy to start playing songs you know, especially when you want to play and sing familiar hits with friends. This isn't some app for precise fingering, the motto behind FourChords is that close enough is good enough.
Co-founder and CEO Topi Löppönen gave a demonstration of the app to me, and says when creating the service he kept two things in mind. "There should be a lower barrier of starting to preform music, as many people could play music as possible. But the app should also connect people."
Forget linking to some low fidelity Youtube video next time you want to share a music track on your blog. Spotify has now launched a Spotify Play Button widget generator that can get visitors to your blog or website jamming to your tunes of choice with just one click of a button. Currently the widget offers a pretty simple integration -- no live following of a user's playlists or anything, but it should be enough to spice up music blogs with it's easy playback and nice big cover images.
Voddler, the video on demand service for movies and TV series, is now expanding outside of the nordics. Since launching in Sweden, Voddler has over the past two years gathered around 1.3 million registered users in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, and is now making Spain its fifth market.
The common pattern that Nordic startups seems to follow is to tackle the home market and then expand to the UK to start targeting the English speaking world. But with competitors including Netflix and Vdio also fighting over market share, it makes sense to target underserved markets. On this, Markus Bäcklund, Voddler's CEO says, "Spain was an obvious choice for us as our first market outside of our home market of Scandinavia. It is a country of movie lovers, with good broadband penetration and an audience that is increasingly turning online."
It's always good to go back and get updates on Startups we've covered a while ago. Although we don't need a special occasion, we're using International Woman's Day to catch up on a couple startups across the region that are run by women.
Recently we spoke with Louise Brudö, CEO of Destly. We've covered their launch as well as their expansion to the Serbian and Croatian markets in the past, but for those new to the service, Destly is a travel deal curator that provides provides members up to 70% discounts on luxury hotels. The service is free to join, and has been growing rapidly since initiating partnerships with groups including CDON Group (the largest e-commerce group in the Nordics), Members.com, DN-Kortet (the member's club of Sweden's largest newspaper, DN) and with Stampen Group, a large Swedish media house.
Intoloop is expanding their set of features. The service provides a convenient location to store and share your child's story on a timeline, and this week they came out with a new mobile app that allows you to take pictures of your kid and upload it immediately to Intoloop. They advertise this app as "getting your kids off your phone," which is commendable, because you know grandma wants to see some new baby pictures.
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.
A new gaming start-up has recently appeared on the Finnish start-up scene. Tuokio is based in Tampere and their core business are mobile games for everyday gatherings. To be more precise, they develop a portfolio of games for iOS devices. Founded in spring 2010, they released three games so far and are developing another game at the moment. Their games so far include King of Opera, Raiding Company and Blond vs Brunette Racing . We talked with one of the founders, Jouni Salonen, to learn more about what they do.
This is definitely making things for Spotify as (unconfirmed) reports rolled out that Facebook will be launching a music streaming service. This is expected to be launched in the first week of June. The service is currently being tested and upon launch will have users of the social network seeing a Spotify icon just beneath the Photos and other links on the left hand side.
Not everybody works out to stay healthy but everyone definitely thinks or dreams of living that athletic lifestyle. All you need is a little encouragements and there are services dedicated to that end. Endomondo Sports Tracker, a mobile app that makes your smartphone a fully loaded personal trainer, is taking up the task of encouraging Wisconsin residents to buckle up for a ride.
Probably the biggest issue with fresh graduates is encountered when they need to market themselves appropriately for jobs, even for internships. Especially when it comes to the digital space, where recruiters are more interested in practical work rather than the traditional resume. Students at Hyper Island, a Sweden based organisation focusing on better education in areas all things "digital" have created Intern Store, a method to market themselves in an efficient way for companies to recruit them.
If almost half your users are paying to take advantage of a feature you have introduced, your product is by all means great. In the GDC Summit, Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio, aka the Mighty Eagle revealed that almost 40% of new Angry Birds users are paying to take advantage of the Mighty Eagle. The in app purchase enables users to skip a level just in case it proves way too difficult for them.
One major issue with a smartphone lover is that of heading into a block with a particular device. Which is one major reason why some hardcore smartphone addicts are found switching from device to another or always looking for a way add an extra functionality to utilize the power of the device. There has to be something more substantial that we must be able to do with smartphones, like the iPhone, Android based devices or those from Nokia. That’s what folks at Montroller think.