Did you know there was an online games retailer called Viagame that sold exclusively to the Nordics? I didn’t, and hearing about it made we wonder whether there was strong enough demand in such a narrow market to support a business like this. Especially when there’s so much competition in the field from the behemoth that is Steam, and other companies such as Good Old Games, Green Man Gaming, and Origin. Well Viagame, that brave company, have just announced their expansion into the Baltics and have launched stores in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Perhaps they have been thinking the same thing.
Doing your grocery shopping online is becoming more and more common. Pretty much all of the major grocery stores have realized that investing in e-commerce means keeping up with today's markets and customer demands.
The benefits of online grocery shopping are many, both for the individual customers and the companies who provide the products. Customers can browse and search for their desired products easily and in the full comfort of their living rooms.
In the recent Estonian news, we found out that a company known as "Data Valley Enterprises OÜ" is planning to establish Europe's largest data centre in Estonia. According to the news published on the Estonian Äripäev, the company wants to establish a 30 000 square meter server farm with an initial investment of €170 million and then expand this to 200 000 square meters using a total investment of €600 million.
The announcement was made by the representative of Data Valley Enterprises, Jussi Vartiainen together with Eerik-Niiles Kross, who is currently in the running for the mayor of Tallinn. According to Vartiainen "Estonia has the ideal climate for server maintenance, innovative business environment and favourable taxation. At the same time in the workforce and land prices are cheaper than in western and northern Europe."
Personally I have been under attack on Youtube, Google Search, AdSense, banner ads and outdoor ads. To be honest, it worked, as I used the company to Transfer some of my hard earned cash to the USA and it worked without a hitch. Unfortunately, though, I can’t get the money back easily as you can’t use Transferwise to make the transfers from the US yet.
The Estonian mobile payments provider, Fortumo, just announced a partnership with the Ukrainian mobile operator - Kyivstar. The partnership would allow Fortumo to tap into 25 million Kyivstar customers to make payments inside of Kyivstar’s App Club store without using a credit card.
The first game to be published that will be able to use the Fortumo mobile payments is Cut The Rope by Zeptolab with games from Rovio, EA, Halfbrick, Creative Mobile and Lima Sky to follow.
Sitting at $57 million USD in 2013, the Ukrainian digital gaming market is but a drop in the ocean when comparing to the recent Supercell sale. However when you come back to earth, it is still an attractive piece of the pie to target.
Has the peer lending revolution finally started taking off in Europe? IsePankur, the Estonian based peer to peer lending network has announced last year that they started to allow anyone within the EU to invest on the platform, however it was still only the Estonians who could actually look for a loan. Recently, however they opened up the platform to Finnish residents.
This means that now anyone in Finland can request a loan using Isepankur.fi and many are doing just that. In the first 9 weeks of operations, IsePankur reported 13 million euro of loan applications in Finland. Combined with Estonia, they are now hitting over €800 000 of issued loans monthly. The month of September, for example, reached €859 500 and IsePankur reports a 20% month to month growth of this figure.
If I were to tell you that there is a startup in Estonia that generates 100 000 000 unique visitors per day, is number #80 on Alexa, has over 3 000 paying customers, has more than 40 employees and is aiming for over €25 million turnover in 2013 you might say I am bluffing. Your first guess, thinking about the Baltics is probably Ask.fm. However, there is such an Estonian company - AdCash.
AdCash is an ad network that is concentrating on entertainment and gaming. According to Thomas Padovani, founder and CEO of the company: “AdCash is doing what Google Adsense is doing. The only difference is that AdCash is very focused on entertainment.”
It is always great to see when there are two major funding announcements on the same day for the region. In addition to today’s Kiosked funding round, Pipedrive just announced an extended seed round of €1.8 million.
The round was co-led by Rembrandt Venture Partners and Storm Ventures, with participation from TMT Investments and a group of angel investors, including Taavet Hinrikus of Transferwise, Ott Kaukver of Twilio and Rain Rannu from Fortumo.
The Finnish government confirmed at the recent European State Portals Seminar in Tallinn that they have plans to implement a data exchange layer of e-services that is akin to the Estonian X-Road. In the process, they will co-operate with Estonia as much as possible. For those of you that do not know, X-Road is a data exchange layer in Estonia that allows institutions and people to securely exchange and access public data.
In its simplest form, it makes the whole country connected and anyone, whether it is a public organization or a private one can securely use the data. For instance insurance companies can easily forward information to the Estonian Health Insurance Fund. Population register, tax and customs office, social insurance board, vehicle register and others are all connected to the X-Road. Another example is that this is one of the reasons why in Estonia you can create a company online in around 15 minutes and submit annual reports online using an accounting system that is smarter than some custom built accounting software solutions.
When I first heard about Uber, I was confident that this would be my ultimate taxi app, if it ever reached Finland and/or Estonia. After all, it was super easy to use, it would get me a good taxi exactly when and where I need it and best of all, I do not have to wait on the phone for 5 minutes.
Unfortunately, Uber did not turn out to be exactly what I hoped it would be. After all it is rather expensive and there is basically no choice in what driver/car you get. Not to take anything away from Uber, they have their niche market and they are doing very well. It was just not something I needed and the same went for a lot of the people I knew.
What I really wanted, though, was an app that would provide me with a choice of all taxies in the area, ranging in price, quality and distance to my pick-up point. However, there wasn’t one. Until now, that is.
Most companies end-up using a variety of CRM solutions to manage their businesses. That is to say, there is no one single solution that would cover all aspects of the business reasonably well, so companies are forced to use a number of them. For instance you might end-up using Pipedrive for sales, ERPLY for stock management and POS solutions, Mailchimp for sending e-mails, Quickbooks for accounting, etc. The problem is, that all of these have their own database and they do not sync with one another.
What this means is that if one of your clients changes their e-mail address, you will need to manually update this information in all of the CRM’s that you are using. An Estonian startup, Cloutex, is aiming to change that by making a service that would achieve full synchronisation with all of your CRM solutions and update data everywhere, automatically for $19 a month. The real revolution of this idea is that you are not limited to just two systems and only updating new data, you can completely synchronise all data.
Fits.me dates back to 2009, when they have received their first round of cash from Arengufond, Webmedia AS and a number of angels. Since then, they have raised several more rounds and are currently one of the top startups in Estonia by the amount of capital raised.
The technology behind the company, robots that can take shape of any human size in order to show exactly how any given garment will sit on you before you purchase online, was always a little controversial.
Some people thought it was definitely the way of the future, however others were not quite so impressed by the developed and did not think the company stood a chance of success.
Whatever you had planned for next week, cancel it. Unless your plan was to go to Latitude59, a startup conference in Estonia that is picking up speed every year. With themed days, it was a blast last time around and attracted great speakers from all over the globe.
This year, the team behind the event tried to make it even more impressive and gathered a great selection of speakers. Perhaps even more interestingly, there are surprisingly many investors who signed-up to speak and attend the event.
Estonia's Plumbr is transforming into a full featured SaaS product by adding more centralized features and a wider scope to their code performance detection service. Since launching about a year ago, the company has gained about 100 paying customers, including names like Ericsson, TeliaSonera, NATO. Since launching, the main benefit Plumbr provides is memory leak detection for Java, memory leak detection for Java, which can save your application from crashing and your development team many stressful days of work. For the average company, tracking down a memory leak could take a few weeks of pouring through code, but Plumbr's Java agent can track it down in about 30 minutes.
Before this SaaS update, clients had to install Plumbr on each workstation individually, and the alerts and results would only be visible to that workstation. With the new Plumbr 3.0 update, users can attach Plumbr to as many applications as they wish, with alerts now being created on the server side.
The big idea? Smart bicycle brake light. How can a light be smart? For one it knows when to shut itself off (Hint: when the bike is stationary) and when to start blinking again. It also detects deceleration, allowing it to act as a brake light.
This is the story that will explain everything you need to know about the Baltic investment market, outlining the current trends, introducing the key players, listing major investments and exits. It does not get much more comprehensive than this, so grab a chair, get a coffee and dig in.
HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE INVESTMENT MARKET
Before we start with the statistics and introductions, let us take a look at the Baltic investment market in general. The scene has been changing and developing and over the course of the last 5 years, the number of startups coming from the Baltic States was growing rapidly, most of them requiring seed and early stage investments.
The problem of 'fit' when selling clothes online has always been a problem, and since 2009 the Estonian startup Fits.me has been trying to solve it. They are not trying to do this by modifying the sale procedures or offering free return shipping, instead they built robots that can mimic nearly every body shape. Since the company was founded, they have raised around €3 million and were already one of the best funded startups in the Baltic region.
Today, Fits.me announced a Series A round from an existing investor SmartCap and also new investors onboard: Conor Venture Partners, Fostergate Holdings Limited and The Entrepreneurs Fund. The total amount raised is €5.5 million and is a part the earlier reported investment.
Today Spotify has expanded into seven new markets, hitting four countries under ArcticStartup's radar: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and everyone's favorite, Iceland. It's part of today's bigger push, where they've expanded into Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Mexico. This now brings them to 31 countries, by my count.
There's not much more to say about this news, but for our readers in the Baltics or Iceland, it's worth the download. For better or worse it's become one of those services I don't want to live without - I like having 20 million songs on my computer or phone, and Spotify's UI is clean and constantly improving.
The Region Is Going Green: Click & Grow, Indoor Garden & Fresh Wall Are Crowdfunding To Bring Plants Into Your Home Or Office
Here is an overview of the 'growth', in the very literal meaning of the world, startups of the region. These companies are trying to bring the joyful experience of being a gardener into everybody's home and office. Without actually any need for doing anything about it.
After all, three startups from the ArcticStartup region, are seeking crowdfunding in the region: Estonia's Click & Grow, Finlands Fresh Wall and Indoor Garden. Click & Grow as well as Indoor Garden are aiming to allow you to grow a variety of plants at home without any gardening knowledge, skills or time investments. Fresh Wall, on the other hand, as the name suggests is going to put a huge wall of self-watering plants in your house or office.
The Google Analytics Of Emotions "Realeyes" Receives $3.2 Million From SmartCap And Entrepreneurs Fund
It is no secret that when people are asked to fill out surveys in marketing research studies that the answers tend to become skewed and biased thanks to the fact that they are made consciously. Wouldn't it be cool if you could use a camera coupled with technology from "Lie To Me" in order to tell what people are really thinking and feeling? Well, this is exactly what the London based but with Estonian ties Realeyes is doing.
The company is basically the Google Analytics of emotions and they are currently using their technology for analyzing emotional reactions to videos through the use of webcams and in-store cameras. This basically allows marketers to know exactly how effective their marketing videos are going to be and at which point exactly the consumers will feel happy, scared, confused and sad.
If you have been to Estonian homes, you may have noticed that many of them have a little card-reading device next to their computers. It looks like a bank card reader or a memory card reader or something. To those that don’t know, it may create an illusion that Estonians are all hackers or something. The truth is, this device can read your personal ID card and can be bought very affordably at any Estonian bank. This is legally binding and also confirms your identity. This is why Estonians can easily e-vote, file tax returns, submit company annual reports, sign contracts or even start brand new companies in minutes all from the comfort of their own homes. It removes a whole level of bureaucracy and adds a lot of simplicity to the daily life.
Unfortunately, outside of Estonia this system and the likes of it are not that wide-spread despite the EU Directive on Electronic Signatures that was put in place in December of 1999. This is what Signwise, a Tallinn based company, is trying to achieve by integrating all the possible solutions under one roof. Before we can explain how that is going to happen, let’s take a look at what an Electronic signature really is. You might think that Signwise will have a lot of competition as there are literally hundreds of companies and start-ups that provide an electronic signature solution. For instance in USA it is extremely common to simply attach your scanned signature to documents and it would be legally binding by law.
Yesterday the video below was floating around the web, with tech, sports, and music giants talking about how and why they got into programming, with the goal of motivating kids to open up their favorite text editor and saying hello to the world. But in Estonia, this dream shared by Zuck, Gates, and Will-i-am already exists. An initiative called ProgeTiiger (or Programming Tiger) has been taking programming curriculum into Estonian schools, reaching children as young as kindergarten with basic programming and robotics. The goal is to continue Estonia's dominance when it comes to technology, programming, and the e-estonia initiative.
"If you read the articles about Estonia, yes, we have lots of startups per capita, but we need more working hands and we have to change the attitude towards technology," says Ave Lauringson, Product Manager of ProgeTiiger.
We don't cover a lot of offline products, but when it's locally made, somewhat tech focused, and when they give us a discount code for our readers, we shouldn't pass it by. So definitely check out Hosewear, an Estonian company creating bags and tech gear out of rugged used firehose material. Hosewear was the first company funded by Hooandja.ee, the Estonian Kickstarter-style crowdfunding platform. Today they have a lineup of messenger bags, laptop bags, as well as iPhone and iPad sleeves to help you haul around your stuff and keep it protected.
With all the farming games out there, it is about time that somebody addressed the real needs of real farmers and not the virtual ones. VitalFields, a start-up that was created at Garage48 hackathon is attempting to do just that.
The idea is that they will provide a very accurate weather forecast for individual farming fields and in addition to that, they will also give pest and disease warnings. If that wasn't enough, they are developing this into a real-life FarmVille by allowing Farmers to log and keep track of actions carried out on the fields.
IsePankur, the Estonian peer-to-peer lending site, has now opened their platform so that anyone in the EU, can invest in Estonian private loans.
“We have worked for nearly two years to establish a legal and operational framework that allows anyone across the world to invest on isePankur," said Pärtel Tomberg CEO of isePankur. "This international diversification is unique to us compared to other peer-to-peer lending services as it allows investors to benefit from the different interest rates across the Eurozone. Additionally this will be the first time that private investors can invest directly in Estonia without committing large amounts of money”.
In the beginning of September we covered ProgeTiiger, the initiative with the goal of giving all Estonian schoolchildren between first and 12th grade with a basic understanding of computer programming. But now EMT, Elion (both of which are Estonian TeliaSoneara brands), and Microsoft have chipped in €90 000 to support ICT related after-school hobby groups aimed at 10-19 year olds. The project is run by Vaata Maailma and will focus on robotics and programming.
We just caught some news from Ubuntu Life about a new program in Estonia deigned to bring computer programming to schoolchildren as young as first grade. The program, called ProgeTiiger (programming tiger) aims to hit all schoolchildren between first and 12th grade with a basic understanding of computer programming, and knowledge of how to create their own web and mobile applications.
Primary school teachers are starting this September to get trained to teach the program, but the program won't hit 100% of all Estonian schoolchildren just yet. At first a few pilot schools will start using the course, and later every school who is interested to join can apply. All teaching materials are prepared by ProgeTiiger.
The old saying goes, you can't improve what you can't measure. A corollary for freelancers is, you can't improve your bank account if you can't mesure your time. Toggl, the cloud-based time management tool, tells us it recently hit the milestone of 300 000 registered users. The time tracking tool enables small groups and freelancers to jot down their hours for client projects, and be able to say what they were working on at the time.
The company says that the tool was initially created for our own in-house use because they found existing time-tracking software was far too complicated. Toggl is based in Tallinn, Estonia, and currently has 12 employees.
Estonia based Fortumo is known for offering in-app payments to Android developers in 70 countries. Towards the end of July, they added subscription payments to their offering. Now app developers can begin to charge subscription payments instead of asking for one off payments.
The company has already started rolling out the service with a number of games and dating sites. "Subscription payments deepen customer loyalty and have shown to increase developer revenue by at least 30%" says Rain Rannu, co-founder of Fortumo. "Recurring mobile operator billing has a potential to become a significant revenue driver for digital content merchants over the next few years."
Pipedrive, our favorite sales tool from Estonia, has announced a new $700k seed round from international investors. This brings the total amount of money raised from $300k in September 2011 to $1M as of today. The investors in the round were Satori Capital, TMT Investments and angel investors Andy McLoughlin and Christopher Muenchhoff. McLoughlin and Muenchhoff also participated in the round back in September 2011.
In addition to announcing the funding, Pipedrive is disclosing that it has signed up more than 1000 paying users in April this year. We're happy to be part of these paying users at ArcticStartup. These customers come from 72 countries and include companies such as KISSMetrics, Udemy, Fortumo, Techstars and Onswipe.