Among US business angels, Esther Dyson is probably the one who has invested the most to date in Russia. Her portfolio includes no fewer than 15 Russian startups as well as Yandex, the search giant which she advises as a member of its board of directors.
In this exchange with East-West Digital News, Esther Dyson speaks openly about her business successes and failures. She also reveals why she considers Russia her “second country,” and why she thinks that information technologies could bring a better future to Russia by “reducing the cost of being honest.”
A Finnish startup by the name of GoAct, has released a new way to organise your days activities. Plango is a social, mobile calendar app that changes the way we think about our traditional calendars. Not in the sense that it completely changes it, but more like adds a useful social approach to it all. If you think about it, the most advanced features embedding social in calendar applications has been the possibility to invite attendees and share events - something many would consider seriously outdated in comparison to the advances we're seeing elsewhere. Plango tackles this challenge head on, in an interesting manner.
Valkee is a Finnish technology company that has enjoyed a very controversial ride in the last year as people have questioned it for scientific backing regarding its claims. Valkee has created a device that shines light into the ear - somewhat like mobile music player where music is replaced by light. Today, Valkee has announced scientific findings to back their initial claims.
Bob Helsinki, a Helsinki based advertising agency, has disclosed some interesting figures regarding Valkee in their application to Grand One, a Helsinki based annual gala for ad agencies. In the application, the agency states, that Valkee sold 691 devices during the two month campaign period from October 11th to December 12th last year. 691 devices at 185€ a piece yields a nice 127 835 euros. However, the agency later discloses that they sold a lot more by early January.
Earlier this week we broke the 400 000 euro investment round that Valkee managed to close from some of the top tier angels around. Talouselämä, a Finnish weekly publication, has stated that the investment event that took place this week into Valkee has valued the company at 4 million euros. Esther Dyson, Anssi Vanjoki, Jyri Engeström and Lifeline Ventures received 10% of the company for their 400 000 euro investment. In total, there were six individuals and organisations who invested into the company.
Valkee, the startup that is developing an ear light solution to curing seasonal affecting disorder (SAD), has closed a 400 000 euro investment round from many well known investors. Some names include the world renown Esther Dyson, Nokia's former director Anssi Vanjoki as well as Jyri Engeström a Jaiku co-founder as well as Lifeline Ventures. To add to all the success, Valkee has also received a special mention in the Finnish INNOSUOMI 2010 -competition.
Dopplr, the Helsinki and London based startup, has secured second round financing from a very admirable group of investors including Esther Dyson, Tyler Brûlé, Thomas Glocer, Yat Siu, Aditya dev Sood, Lars Hinrichs, Joshua Schachter, Brian Behlendorf, Ami Hasan, Daniel Sachs, Joshua Cooper Ramo, Kim Weckström, and Azeem Azhar. Saul Klein, who invested in this round, also invested in the previous round together with Martin Varsavsky, Reid Hoffman and Joichi Ito.
“Dopplr is leading the way in intention sharing services online. It is valuable to know where your trusted friends and colleagues will be, and where you could meet them next,” said Lisa Sounio, CEO of Dopplr. “Partner brands on Dopplr will also give you relevant information and offers tailored to you. For example, when you tell Dopplr your plans to go to Hong Kong, you might get the latest intelligence from Monocle and offers from boutique hotels picked by Mr and Mrs Smith.”
Despite seeing a lot of attention from both the press and investors, there are some questions that people look answers for. One cannot miss the (despite somewhat questionable) data from Compete.com. According to Compete.com, Dopplr reached just over 50k UVs in August. If you're making money from commissions on hotel bookings and such, you need a lot more traffic to make the business model work and therefore focusing on such a small group of people travelling so much might be difficult. Furthermore, Mike Butcher at Techcrunch UK makes a solid point about the dilution of ownership with so many investors. It could be that once you get enough popular investors on board, the odds of you failing are smaller as these investors are looking forwards to making a return (hence they echo the name as much as possible).
Having these questions answered would be interesting, but nevertheless you have to give it to the Dopplr team for getting financed in such a tight market - we haven't heard that many similar stories lately.