Helsinki based VC Vision+ has set their eyes on China where big dreams, if successful, turn into even bigger profits. Last year they hit our news with a fresh €50 million to pump into promising companies. Their more than colorful portfolio includes everything from Manga distribution to movies starred by Samuel L Jackson.
If I told that there is a brand new startup that puts an app on your phone that forces you to answer surveys, while giving you a few euro's as a reward, would you think that this can potentially a huge success in the future? Probably not. Yet, this is exactly what I am going to argue for a Finnish based Palmopinion.
The Finnish gaming success is not just about the casual games from the likes of Rovio and Supercell. There are other gaming companies that deserve the attention, especially if they also have an added benefit of being education.
For instance there is Beiz, who have created the Lola Panda brand and several games to go with it. The company focuses on pre-kindergarden and elementary school kids, creating games that would aim at providing entertainment and education in one go. The most popular of those is Lola’s Math Train, where you try to drive a train to a party and solve math problems along the way.
One of the startup jokes is, "We only need to get 1% of the Chinese market and we'll be millionaires..." but all joking aside, how would you do so? Today at the LAUNCH festival Helsinki-based Transfluent is releaseing Sina Weibo (think: Chinese Twitter) support, letting brands hit new markets effortlessly by letting Transfluent's army of translators provide near real-time translation. Three unlikely player's came together last week thanks to some innovative marketing and access to new markets.
BeiZ game studio has secured $1 million (€800 000) from Inventure and Tekes to boost the quality and marketing of their games. The Tampere, Finland based company has produced a number of educational and multilingual titles for iOS, Android, and Kindle, with one release also available on Nintendo DSi and 3DS. In addition to creating their own games, BeiZ also works on bringing partner companies' games onto new platforms.
BeiZ’s two flagship games are Lola’s Math Train and Alphabet Train. Lola’s Alphabet Train was launched in 2010 teaches letters and words to its target of three- to eight-year-olds.
Bloomberg has a story on Rovio, the makers of Angry Birds, that they'd be looking for financing at $1.2B valuation. Bloomberg refers to two people familiar with the matter, but does not disclose who they are. What makes this financing talk a little more interesting (not that it would need to be at such valuation) is that Rovio is said to be in talks with a company in the entertainment business to take on a strategic investment. Similar offers have been rejected from large institutional investors Bloomberg's sources said.
Unity Technologies, a Copenhagen originated startup now based in Silicon Valley, has closed a $12 million in financing from WestSummit Capital in China and iGlobe Partners in Singapore, according to Techcrunch. The financing round is Unity's second and an investor from the first round, Sequoia Capital, also participated in the round.
There is so much good to write about Angry Birds that many people would think that Rovio has always been a record breaker from day 1. It has taken Rovio 7 years and over 50 titles to bring forth this insanely popular game for the masses. By mentioning 50 titles, I simply needed to mention that I myself wasn’t much aware of Rovio before I played Angry Birds (and so did almost all my friends).
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.
LucSens, a Finnish startup, specializes in augmented reality and computer-vision programming. Their products include iPhone applications helping you have a better time in Asia. By better time, I mean you're able to understand the language. They have five applications in their portfolio, but only two are out in the App Store at the moment. Lost in Japan and Japan Goggles are the applications that are out and China Goggles, Lost in China as well as Taiwan Goggles are still in the making.
‘’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.
Wıshfi ıs a facilitating technology solution that aıms to capıtalıze on the internet connectıon in a novel way, by enabling a placement of highly targeted messages into consumers browsers.
Wishfi's customers range from internet connection providers, namely ISPs, Wi-Fi-, WiMax-, 3G Operators to other access point providers such as venue owners, airports, hotel & cafeteria chains to ordinary companies. Wishfi does not only offer a possibility to a revenue stream for above mentioned actors, but it also offers a way to brand networks and deliver localized messages to a given audience. In effect, Wishfi makes the Internet information flow more localized and more efficient. In networks where third party content is allowed, Wishfi wants to bring a new solution for marketer and media agencies.
XIHA is a Finnish startup developing XIHA Life, a multilingual social media platform and an online community targeted at people living outside their home country, and the multilingual people around the world. XIHA invites users of any language, but adjusts the user experience to each user so that they only see automatically the content they understand. Despite the current economic climate, XIHA has raised a significant amount of risk capital from a Chinese VC.
Jani comments it's hard to find risk capital in Finland to support global growth. According to Jani the Finnish VC's thought the risk was too big. Out of the international VC's Jani thought Chinese were the best, as they have both money and vision.
The amount of investment was not disclosed. However, the amount is rather significant, as the founder and CTO Jani Penttinen says with it the company will open offices in the US, Switzerland, and China, and will hire ten more people, developers and business roles, to achieve 24h global operations. Another ten will be hired later depending on the economical climate. There is also more money coming if certain growth targets will be hit. XIHA has strong Chinese roots due to Jani working in the country, and Jani's spouse Sun Xiaowen being Chinese. "Xiha" means 'fun' or 'happy' in Mandarin Chinese, and also 'Hip-Hop' in Cantonese.
As of now, XIHA is still losing money, but the goal is to get to profitability by the end of the year. So far the main income source has been downloadable games, but XIHA is planning to expand to other digital products as well. Below is a quick interview with Jani Penttinen from Slush Helsinki.
Toivo Tänavsuu has posted a blog post at The NextWeb site about a video telephoning solution being backed by Skype founders. The project is being run under the name of Inkspin1. The service itself is trying to bring free online telephony to the everyday life of people through television. Inkspin1 is currently being hatched in the Ambient Sound Investments incubator.
The goal of the project is to make the service as simple to use as possible. “Today, we have a solution for computer users. Yet, for an average home user, video calling is too difficult and thus they are not taking advantage of the opportunity. Our goal here is to make such calls equally easy for kids as well as parents. So that if people know how to turn on the TV and change channels, they would know how to make video calls,” Martin Villig, the leader of the project explains.
The product development is carried out in Estonia, but the software development is being worked on in Beijing, China.Villig says that the amount of coders needed for a job this wide are more plentiful in China than in Estonia. Also in China they are closer to the vendor manufacturers that are expected to partner with Inkspin1 to integrate the necessary devices to their televisions to enable Television Video Telephony. The unit in China is being run by a Finn, Jussi Nyfelt, who has been working for Nokia in China.
Inkspin1 is still very much at a design stage as Villig states that the service is expected to be up and running in one to two years. Inkspin1 is currently recruiting lots of different talents.
It's interesting to see ASI working hard on bringing a consumer service to the masses through better usability. The idea itself is nothing new, but then again it's all in the execution. I'm guessing there are tons of ideas like this waiting to be improved. Yet further proof that you don't always have to come up with a new idea to become an entrepreneur.