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.
It seems like every other day you hear news of a new accelerator opening it's doors, but a new gaming-focused accelerator out of Tallinn looks particularly interesting. GameFounders claims to be Europe's first gaming accelerator, and seeks to tap the knowledge of its 60+ mentors to help game-related companies build and monetize addictive games.
Finland's Startup Sauna accelerator as well as the San Francisco-based Gamedojos gaming accelerator are full partners in the program, giving the brand new accelerator slightly more weight. GameFounder is now accepting applications for it's first batch, and will provide each accepted company €10 - 15 000 per company for 9% equity.
Unlike 97% of other accelerators, GameFounders specializes“, explains Kadri Ugand, one of the co-founders. “By focusing on a niche we are able to offer more value in that niche than any unspecialized or general accelerator could.“
Editorial note: This is a guest post by Toivo Tänavsuu, a journalist working for Eesti Ekspress and contributing (to different tech blogs) on developments in Estonian startup scene
Estonian startup Plumbr announced $1,5M saved for its customers and releases tool to fight Java memory leaks.
Plumbr's publicly launched first version of must-have memory leak detection tool helps to spot and eliminate memory leaks in Java applications before they affect the end user’s experience – something that is very critical for e-shops, online self-service portals, internet banks and others.
This is a guest post by Martin Grüner. He is an Estonian entrepreneur and hacker, co-founder of game studio Aplefly games. He spent last summer in US, where he had to learn to say no to people who wanted him to be their technical co-founder. The post was originally published at Martin's own blog. You can follow him on twitter through @MartinGryner.
Hackers are becoming more and more like VCs, they often have to say “no”. Last summer, just before the 500 demo day I attended an event which required me to fill in “company” on name tag. As I was there just to help out Zerply for less than 2 months I didn’t feel adequate enough use their name. I didn’t bother to write my consulting companies either as obviously it wouldn’t have said anything. I decided to go for “Hacker”. I don’t think I would have been forced to listen to as many pitches had I chosen “writing checks”.
Every week I get approached by someone with a “game changing” idea. All they need is someone to execute it. “Hey, I’ve heard you are good at IT stuff, let’s start up!”. Well, no.
We've managed to get to 16 episodes already! This week on Unfair Advantage we talk to Mike Reiner, one of the people behind the Estonian Startup Wise Guys accelerator program. Startup Wise Guys is an early stage accelerator aimed at interesting companies who want to tap into the potential of Scandinavia as well as Russia from Estonia. The accelerator announced their first batch of companies a while ago and they're coming from all over Europe. We talk to Mike about the program, how many applications they received and where they plan to take. Join us for another exciting episode and if you like it - please tell your friends and rate it in iTunes, we appreciate it!
Tallinn, and more specifically the efficient grassroots startup ecosystem there, is putting together a conference on June 7th and 8th called Latitude59. The conference is "aimed at the startups and enterpreneurs in our region - 300 miles both sides of the latitude 59", says Priit Salumaa, one of the numerous people involved with the conference. Despite being a startup focused conference, they have created a wider focus to the program pulling in people from outside the usual internet focused startup industry.
The first day of the conference is titled Technology Alternatives and it touches on numerous topics including biotechnology, green technology as well as building the next Rovio into the region. The second day is titled Startup thinktank and flows through different panel discussions and 1:1 chats.
On Wednesday, some 100+ people met in Estonia to help startups develop their businesses further in a Seedcamp Tallinn event. Seedcamp's Carlos Eduardo Espinal said that it is about time the organisation came to Estonia as 6 of their investments are from just Estonia and even more from Eastern Europe. I joined the event as an observer, but also as a mentor to give my feedback to the companies.
I find myself at the venue, Tallinn's IT College, around 10 and immediately begin to wonder what makes this place so special that they have two secret service type guys directing traffic in the parking lot.
As I walk into the auditorium, I find it packed with only a few vacant seats here and there. A really good crowd, not only in numbers, but also in terms of their background and experience.
A newly launched Estonian startup seeks to provide a safe home for your bragging -- for professional networking purposes. For freelancers, contractors, and entrepreneurs it makes sense. Rather than a stuffy CV line that says, "Grew a multimedia business to thousands of customers," you can instead chart out the steps along the way, such as raising capital, bragging about influxes of users, learning new skills, and so on. Achoo saves these updates from getting lost in your Twitter of Facebook. And it cuts to the core of what LinkedIn provides -- a platform to show off your accomplishments -- but for the industries where you don't need such a contrived and professional front.
We were talking today at the office about all the different applications we use on a day to day basis only soon to realise the most of the applications I use on a daily basis are from the Nordics and Baltics. In this post I've done a short analysis on each of the applications and services I use, but they really make up the most important applications outside of my e-mail client (Sparrow) and browser (Safari). One could assume that since I'm working on a Mac there wouldn't so much options out there, which of course couldn't be more wrong. I find the most beautiful apps to be on Mac and to my surprise many of them are made here in Northern Europe.
My work involves writing content, recording audio, e-mailing and sales work - just to name a few different tasks. I also invite you to add your own applications in the comments below - would be great to see how people in different functions use different applications. Oh, and if you're wondering why these products get to be on the list? They create amazing products. I've paid for all the programs below, meaning I haven't received any free licenses for any of them.
isePankur, the social-lending service, was established in 2008 and pioneered the concept of social lending in Estonia. The service allows individuals and small to medium-sized enterprises to borrow and lend between each other, skipping the whole traditional banking process. The company has just opened up a white-label of their service, allowing other institutions to take a solid social lending platform to their area.
For individuals looking to earn a return on their money, isePankur displays auctions of people looking for money. From there you can analyze the credit history of the borrower and do your own due diligence by asking additional questions. Lenders can then make a bid specifying the investment amount and interest rate, and the system will automatically choose the bids with the lowest interest rates and combine them into one loan.
The Estonia based Garage48 is organising a music focused event in a couple of weeks in Tallinn together with the Tallinn Music Week. The event is held on the weekend between the 23rd and 25th of this month. Registration ends a week early on Sunday the 18th. The goal of the event is to make people focus on the potential of good services in the entertainment space.
Jüri Kaljundi, one of the people behind the successful events tells us "music and entertainment is our first try to do industry-specific events. We believe that the actual business problems are among the common people, non-tech crowds. Technology is just an enabler, so we want more people from other areas of life to come to the events to get their ideas executed. Focusing on real life problems is very important."
ArcticEvening Tallinn was held yesterday in the great premises of Technopolis Ülemiste. Around 100 people gathered to the event to both network and listen to a top notch presentation by William Wolfram of DealDash on startup metrics. Technopolis Ülemiste had also sponsored some snacks and drinks at the venue, which naturally helped break the ice. Wolfram gave a very packed and high quality presentation on how DealDash sees and works with metrics. What made it all the better was the personal experience he was able to share in also where they went wrong.
Transferwise has just come out with an announcement that the company has transferred around $13.4 million in currency exchange in its first year. It is situated in London and offers currency exchange for a mere £1. We covered the company a little over a year ago, when it began operations.
The $13.4 million in transfers was made up of over 5500 individual transfers, which may not seem like a lot but this yields an average exchange to be just over $2300. To me this is a sign of trust if people are willing to transfer amounts this large across the service.
ArcticEvening Tallinn will be organised in just a few weeks. We've already registered about 3/4 of the tickets (overall availability is 120 tickets), but there are still some spots left for those who would want to attend. Now there's one more reason to attend - we will be giving out four free tickets to our Arctic15 event organised 17th and 18th of October. These tickets aren't the traditional one day tickets, but will actually get you into the exclusive first day of the conference. The tickets will be drawn between all those who attend the event (registration isn't enough). We will give more details on how this works by e-mail to those signed up.
Our event in Tallinn is themed around startup metrics and we have William Wolfram of DealDash share his experience how his company goes about metrics. If you want some sneak peak into how they think, listen to our audio interview with him on Unfair Advantage.
(Article edited to correct that Wiseguys does take 8% equity)
Hot and fresh out of an event in Riga is a new Tallinn based accelerator: Startup Wise Guys. The accelerator is built in the modified Y Combinator model with a similar setup to Startup Sauna in Finland. Getting accelerated involves a 13 week program, demo day in Tallinn and London, and €5000 of funding per founder for 8% of equity. To build some hype, Wise Guys is also offering €500 for any startup referral that makes it into the program (this is my get rich quick scheme-- you heard it here first). The application process is open from 9th of February until 11th of March and the program starts on 25th of April.
We're back with organising ArcticEvenings! This year we'll do altogether six ArcticEvenings and our annual Arctic15 conference (more on the other events soon). We will kick off our events this year with ArcticEvening Tallinn on Thursday, the 1st of March. Our theme for the event is startup metrics. We also have a really good speaker coming to present his view on startup metrics - William Wolfram of DealDash. We recently interviewed him on Unfair Advantage about the metrics they use in DealDash. Back then he said they are obsessed with metrics and data. I'm sure there will be more interesting things to hear and ask William on stage.