Planeetta Internet, a Helsinki-based hosting firm, tells they've launched the Jelastic cloud platform in Finland, which might be interesting to some local startups. Jellastic is a similar platform to Heroku, except it claims to be easier in some ways to set up. Users only need to copy-paste their code, with out any complicated installations, taking the hard stuff away. And like most other hosting solutions, their solution is designed to scale up your startup, however you need it.
I sat down with Lauri Kasti, the CEO of Planeetta, who told us about some additional benefits.All of Jelastic service providers are local, so they operate within local laws. EU law regarding data protection can be tricky - they strongly protect an individual's right to privacy, which add layers of complication for businesses working with indiviuals' data.
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”.
We published an article earlier today on the status of ACTA, being signed by 22 European countries in Tokyo. This in itself is a clear signal of how the process has been wanted to put forward, quietly and in secrecy. Even though this is a global treaty that countries join voluntarily, would it not have made sense to sign it in Europe? Probably not. That would have caught the medias' attention resulting in public debate.
SOPA received a lot of publicity in the US in the last couple of months. The publicity is all deserved. It's a flawed law that should not pass. The upside of this is that the legislation was analysed in detail and it sparked a lot of public debate.
This is completely the opposite how ACTA is put through. In December we covered ACTA in a post where the EU Council adopted ACTA in a meeting for Fisheries and Agriculture, even though it clearly didn't belong there.
Guess it was the launch in the US that was holding back Spotify’s expansion in the rest of Europe. This is just a speculation but things have sped up recently, especially after the music streaming service shook hands with the world’s largest social network; Facebook. After launching in Austria today, as per the latest reports, Spotify is planning its launch in Belgium and Switzerland this week.
We haven’t had confirmed news regarding this expansion but things have been pretty favorable for us to believe it. There have been hints about the expansion of Spotify in other regions as well, which include; Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Germany and New Zealand. We think this expansion is bound to happen and that Spotify will be available in many regions within and outside Europe in a few months time.
In Europe we've come to realise it that while there are certain hotspots, to among which Northern Europe is slowly growing into, venture capital in general is extremely scarce compared to other parts of the world. Jan Müehlfeit, Microsoft’s European chairman, spoke this week in Brussles to TechEurope, in a Microsoft Bizspark summit, about the differences and challenges Europe faces as an area for entrepreneurs. Venture capital is clearly one of them.
Microsoft BizSpark European Summit released the names of the 14 finalists from the whole of Europe. The competition involved hundreds of startups from all over Europe and making it to the top means that the selected startups had great potential to impress the selectors. Each of the finalists had to battle their way to this spot against numerous companies and two qualification rounds to grab a chance to pitch their ideas live in front of an audience of investors and a panel of expert judges. This final event will be held on June 14, in Brussels. Impressively, 4 companies are from the Northern European region.
Europe’s most popular music streaming service, Spotify is finally edging closer to cross the ocean and land into the US market with rumors of it attempting to sign deals with major labels in the US market. Last week Peter Kafka hinted that it might have struck the cords with Sony US. This will be a distribution deal and wouldn’t necessarily steer clear Spotify to invade the US market.
When you succeed at first, you have every reason to expand and take up newer and bigger challenges. That’s exactly what Startupbootcamp is doing after the very successful first edition, which was launched as a quarter long program in Copenhagen between August and November, 2010. It brought 10 teams of 32 selected entrepreneurs from 12 different countries, face to face with 75 top mentors in the industry. All that came with thanks to Startupbootcamp’s co-founder, Alex Farcet who put a good number of months to find the right mentors to guide these entrepreneurs.
Spotify has had its sets of issues with its launch in the US thanks to the demands of the leading record labels, but the free music streaming service is growing leaps and bounds in Europe. Of course it's pointless for Spotify to boast about European success, they are at least able to leverage their lead in Europe.
Rovio, the makers of Angry Birds, are on a roll. Just a few days ago we wrote about the company releasing their app for the PS3 and PSP devices and yesterday Angry Birds made its debut in the Mac App Store. The app immediately rose to the Top Paid app list's #1 spot.
There has been quite a a hype about the Swedish Music Streaming company, Spotify setting its feet on the US soils and honestly many have been waiting for this for long. Sad news, Spotify has just drained all hopes by pulling off the US launch altogether, thanks to all sorts of roadblocks created by US record labels. Quite astonishing, given that the music streaming service should have been fully functional in the region before 2010 ended. Things have turned out contrary to all such expectations.
Russian media has recently been buzzing with news about the Skolkovo project, dubbed Russia’s Silicon Valley. Named after a business school nearby, Skolkovo will be a modern tech-hub for development and commercialization of new technology in the fields of energy, IT, communication, biomedical research and nuclear technology. Russia's president Dmitry Medvedev signed the decree to build Skolkovo already in 2009, building works will start in the second half of 2011 and construction is estimated to take 3-7 years. The overall budget for the project is $4-6 billion. Half of the sum would come from Russia's Federal budget, the other from co-financing agreements. Built on the outskirts of Moscow covering 3.7 km2, Skolkovo will be home for 40,000 people. Although Skolkovo currently exists only on paper, the project has already signed partnership deals with Nokia, Microsoft, Siemens and Rusatom, just to name a few.
Facebook's grip on Europe is by far not complete. According to the recent analysis from Casual Games Association presented by i-Jet Media (the biggest game publisher in Russia and Eastern Europe), Europeans still prefer local social networks to Facebook. In Poland Nasza Klasa has 8 million users more than Facebook, in Germany VZ has 6 million more and Russia's Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki together have a mighty 104 million users compared with 1,6 million Russians who've joined Facebook. Thus, Europe's 30 social networks altogether boast 180+ million users, which is 24 million more than Facebook has in Europe.
Helsingin Sanomat ran a story on Mari Kiviniemi, the Finnish Prime Minister, who has expressed her thoughts on European state of affairs regarding digital media. She states that, "it's no co-incidence that the digital superstars, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, are all from the US, where they share a large, functioning domestic market". What she's saying here is that the European non-functioning markets should be better built for both consumers and online companies generating value.
Limited Partners or LPs, the people or institutional investors who invest their money in venture funds, are pulling away and the European investment climate is going from bad to worse. This is on one hand because of the dismal returns that the funds have generated and on the other hand because of the bloated management fees that some VCs collect without working much for their portfolio companies or for new deal flow.
Even if the general investment climate in Europe is getting darker Seedcamp is determined to make the early stage investing work in Europe. I talked with Reshma Sohoni, CEO of Seedcamp, at the Copenhagen Mini-Seedcamp about Seedcamp's past, present and future and what value they can offer for startups coming from the Nordics and Baltics.
Seedcamp model is to invest €50,000 in early stage startups in return for some 10 percent of equity. Beyond just the capital, they aim to connect entrerpeneurs with the best mentors across Europe, UK and US.
Seedcamp, the European seed investment program that originated in London has opened its Nordic Mini Seedcamp for applications. This year the Mini Seedcamp takes place in Copenhagen, Denmark 27th May 2010.
Mini Seedcamp Copenhagen is a one day event aiming to connect the 20 best web-tech, mobile and software startups with some of the leading entrepreneurs, developers, and experts from the European tech ecosystem.
Last year Seedcamp's Nordic event took place in Helsingborg, Sweden and attracted a decent line-up of startups. That said, there is definitely room for more quality applicants, not least from Finland. You can see our coverage from last year here.
Plugg, one of the better conferences in Europe, is held 11 March in Belgacom Surf House at Brussels. It's a one-day conference with a clear focus on celebrating entrepreneurship and innovation in Europe and raising global awareness for those European start-ups in the Web / Mobile 2.0 field that stand out in the crop.
There's certainly not too much celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation in Europe and we are excited to see Plugg bringing together some of the best thinkers and startups on the continent. Our good friend and established writer at TechCrunch, Robin Wauters is at it again and is going to showcase the best that Europe has to offer. Plugg is a must for anyone who's anybody in the European startup scene.
Just recently Mårten Mickos, former CEO of MySQL, joined Index Ventures as an entrepreneur-in-residence. He also serves in a similar position with Benchmark Capital in US. We of course welcome this as a positive news for the European entrepreneurship. But just a little earlier in January Fred Destin and the whole Atlas Ventures packed up and moved to Boston, leaving just enough staff to support to current European investments.
What is going on in Europe? Are we going to see the existing VC model literally disappear? Just last week I came back from DLD conference in Munich, Germany where I talked numerous people influential in the industry from Israel, London, New York and Zurich about the situation on the ground and most concurred that what we used to know as A-round-sized-VC-firms are becoming fewer and fewer. The smart ones are either going towards smaller deals and much more hands-on model or gravitating towards private equity sized funds (not least because of the hefty management fees) ...well, or moving to Boston.
For those who have not found this resource yet, I'd like to turn your attention to the wonderful list compiled by Larry Cheng on international Venture Capitalists who blog. He has compiled a list of the top international VC bloggers. The figures are interesting as the lists are created by average monthly uniques. On top of the list is not suprisingly, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures with about 100 000 uniques a month visiting his blog.
Larry has also compiled the RSS feeds of the bloggers into Google Reader bundles/OPML files that help faster subscriptions to the blogs.
- Top VC Blogs: Top 10, Top 25, Top 50, Top 100
- US VC Blogs: California, Massachusetts, New York
- Global VC Blogs: Europe, Canada, Israel
- Entire Directory: The Global VC Blog Directory
Here's the link to Global Venture Capital Blog Directory
Photo by Kris Taeleman
This is one of those issues that is always topical and never gets a clear answer. Why do we comparatively suck so bad at building companies in Europe and especially here in the arctic latitudes vis-a-vis our cousins in the US. In the age of the Internet and 'born global' it has to be more than the size of the home market. Now, I'm not saying things have to be that way, nor am I saying that things are not changing. They are and we, but to what extent and what is it exactly that we need to change?
Here's a video of a group of prominent European and US entrepreneurs arguing around the topic. The one just below is from this year's LeWeb and the one below that from 2008 (when we took the Sauna Truck to France with a group of Finnish startups). Both videos are insightful, but even more than that they are entertaining. Make sure not to miss these.
The third video is Mårten Mickos' brilliant talk about entrepreneurship in general and entrepreneurship in Finland in particular from last night at Aalto Entrepreneurs Society gathering. The talk is a must see for every single entrepreneur regardless of the continent they are building their startup in, but it also sheds light into the cultural challenges that are in the way of building world's biggest anything.
During our trip to the Silicon Valley we aimed to meet people who have experience from the Northern Europe on one hand, and from the Silicon Valley on the other to get the bottom of the differences between the two places. This is the final post of the series. See also the previous posts on the differences between VC firms, how to enter the US market and our chat with Mårten Mickos.
I talked with two seasoned entrepreneurs, Risto and Markus, who live in Silicon Valley, but are originally from Finland. It was invaluable to hear what Silicon Valley is alike from someone who is not a superstar entrepreneur, but is just like us, a passionate and proud entrepreneur working gradually towards building a successful business. We talked about how is it to run a business in the Silicon Valley and the downsides of the location (yes, there are some). The guys also told us what is the number one best thing about the location. See video below.
Remember Zipiko? The service with a "quick and effortless way to see what your friends are doing and a way to invite them to your chosen venue whether it’s it a local cafe or your own place for drinks, lunch or whatever you fancy."
Unfortunately the company that developed Zipiko, namely Zipipop, put the product development on ice already last June and moved on to service the growing Finnish enterprise customer base that is completely and utterly lost with social media wave that has hit the organizations. To scale their operations Zipipop, lead by its energetic CEO Helene Auramo, has teamed up with the former Managing Director of Accenture's Finnish and Nordic offices.
Richard von Kaufmann of Zipipop states in the company blog the following:
During our trip to the Silicon Valley we aimed to meet people who have experience from the Northern Europe on one hand, and from the Silicon Valley on the other to get the bottom of the differences between the two places .
Especially we wanted to know what their advice would be for the aspiring young startups that try to figure out whether it's worth to relocate to the Silicon Valley from Nordic or Baltic countries, or whether the whole Silicon Valley hype is just hot air and Northern Europe is just as good a location to build a startup as any.
Here Mia Lewin, a Finn, a former VC and an entrepreneur, talks about the differences between VC firms between Europe and the Silicon Valley, how to figure out where to locate and how Mia herself plans to build her startup and raise funding. See the video below.
The Europas, the inaugural TechCrunch Europe Awards 2009 for European and EMEA tech companies, were held last night in London, UK. Nordic and Baltic countries had a rather strong representation among the nominated startups and consequentially took home no less than 5 out of 15 categories. But these five wins did not scatter around just any startups. Four out of the five were taken home by Spotify and the fifth one belonged to SoundCloud, which has also its roots in Sweden just as Spotify does.
So Sweden truly lead the Northern European pack and really were an example to the whole Europe: Spotify not only took home 5 wins, but more impressively won Best New Startup, Summer 2008-2009, Best Startup Founder(s) and Best Web Application Or Service (EMEA) as well as was given the The Europas Grand Prix award by the 19 expert advisors, which included some industry movers and shakers and which I had a privilege to be included in (consider this as my disclosure). SoundCloud on its part won the Best Entertainment Application or Service (EMEA).
Espoo Otaniemi boomed of startups and investors when Invest Tech Finland was held for the first time on last Tuesday and Wednesday. There was a real mix of companies from all round consumer web, nano, medical and material tech.
We got some taste of new startups, more seasoned companies seeking growth and some familiar faces marching forward with their plans. There were quite a few interesting companies to write about, the full list can be found here - check these out. Note that most of companies presented at the event already had some prototypes, partnerships, customers or revenues. Here is some of my picks (not in any particular order):
The Next Web 2009, the fourth edition of the conference that began in 2006, will be held again in the beautiful city of Amsterdam on the 15th to 17th April.
The great guys at The Next Web gave us 10 passes with 20% discount to give out to our readers, you guys. First come first served, so be quick. You can buy a discount ticket here.
I will be in Amsterdam for the three days, so if you're coming join ArcticStartup Dopplr group and drop me an email if you want to meet up. See you in the windmill country!
Photo by earcos (CC)
Small Change Venture Capital is launching MicroFundr which will invest up to €14,000 Euros (USD $18,500) in Micro blogging start-ups and uses Twitter for funding process.
The Invest Fund raised just under €14 million (USD $18m) from a group of small banks and informal investors. A joint group of European blogs, including ArcticStartup(that's us!), The Next Web, TechCrunch Europe and TechCrunch France are happy to announce the launch of the MicroFundr investment fund aimed at European small, mini and micro start-ups. We are honored to be part of such a high quality group of European blogs.
We are also excited about the new innovative way a startup can submit its application - via Twitter! As this was presented ot us it only made sense, since the best startups can communicate all they need to only in a few slides anyway, so why not to use something that helps the startups to be consice. We reiterate what Dick Vogels, VP for Small Change Venture Capital, based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, says:
This year's Red Herring 100 finalists from Europe were announced last week. The competition is held annually to find Europe's most promising tech companies. This year the list is nicely populated by companies from the Arctic area. More than 40 of the finalists this year come from the geographic area we cover - nicely done! Sweden, Norway and Finland are most represented and after that come Denmark and Estonia. Latvia and Lithuania still shine with their absence.
Plugg, the European one-day conference on celebrating of entrepreneurship and innovation announced today the 20 final nominees for the Startup Rally. Finalists also include three arctic startups: Burt and Senseboard from Sweden and Hammerkit from Finland. Plugg is taking place on March 12 in Brussels. If you're interested to see the most promising European web and mobile startups, TechCrunch is offering a 15% discount.
HammerKit(from the ArcticIndex): is a web application service platform that has been developed to make it easier and faster to build dynamic, data-driven web sites. The platform allows an entire web site or application to be designed, assembled, deployed and managed online from reusable components in minutes.
Burt helps marketing agencies to perform better in the new read-write web. They want take advertising and analytics past the cost-per-click methods and banners. Current product offering includes: Copybox - "a Photoshop for copywriters", basically a smart text editor, Mememachine - cloudcomputing for marketing data, and Rich - an analytics tool for campaigns.
Senseboard develops cool wearable technology on for hand gesture based computer interaction. Two hand bands or glovers enable a method for capturing, analyzing and interpreting hand and finger movements.
Total of 133 European companies registered to the competition and 20 were selected from these. ArcticStartup congratulates all the chosen startups and wishes extra luck for the arctic startups!
The web erupted in a fierce conversation (see especially the comments) on European* vs. US entrepreneurial culture after the Le Web in France. The conference itself was a disaster in terms of organization, even if many people dislike admitting it, even though the speakers were of high quality. I won't go into ranting about it, since the 'few hiccups' have been well documented by others. Helene Auramo, the CEO of Zipipop, summed it well on her Tweet on why she got a very high fever and cold after the conference: "...cold and not getting any food in LeWeb for two days... What can you expect?".
That said, I personally enjoyed the conference, largely because of the great people who showed up. I also believe that is the most important bit so, despite Loic Le Meur got a lot of shit for the organizing, I believe he got the most important bit somewhat right.
I don't believe I have ever enjoyed any panel as much as I did enjoy the Gillmor Gang panel at the end of Le Web's second day (see video below). This was mainly thanks to Michael Arrington, the infamous editor of TechCrunch, calling it as he saw it. He gave Loic a run for his money when Loic tried to tell different truths to different audiences. A minor disappointment was how the panel ended in loud music and everybody tapping each other on the back and all the important issues were talked only half way though. After what was very refreshing stance from Michael Arrington during the panel, he also got soft at the end and started praising the organizers. That said, as I told Mr. Arrington after the conference, it was very very refreshing to see someone brave enough calling it as he sees it, which at the end helps everybody improve their game.
A more serious point in this storm-in-a-tea-cup discussion was the stage of entrepreneurship in Europe versus in the US. I believe there is a cultural path dependency in Europe, which has set the course for generation after generation regarding the working culture. Thus, people who work over 60 hours a week are pitied and seen as unfortunate. In effect, not having life. Whereas in the US the opposite is true. They are seen as having the time of their life when they go after their dreams with all they have, not counting hours. I remember living in London, which is surely the most Anglo-American city in Europe (in fact, some people don't count UK in Europe at all). In London you could 'taste the blood' in a sense that people were willing to sacrifice something to get the other, whereas the sentiment in Helsinki is that you should be able to have the cake and eat it too. People believe, right or wrong, that you work to live, not live to work, and doing the latter is seen as unacceptable social behavior. I don't think either one's any more right than the other and that we're all different in that respect. Only the path dependency that I talked about earlier has shifted the culture to be very critical for those that choose to live to work. This is very unfortunate as we many people I know love their work and want to make it big whatever the cost and are thus looked down on or criticized. In fact, most of these people who work beyond 80 hours a week don't even consider it work. They love what they do and are grateful for every hour they can spend on doing it.
I, for one, like to have more life than just my work and personally struggle with the trade off as does Robert Scoble (see video here), a famous American video blogger who says it's really hard if not impossible to have a healthy balance, let alone manage it, if you want to be on top of your game. That said, I know people who are willing to pay the price and build the next big European success story and I very strongly believe we should respect these people for their choice in life instead of criticize and look down on them. The culture needs to change. Europe is a patch work of countries and national cultures. Therefore, we should not impose one working culture on the continent either by thinking we know what's best for everyone. There are room for both: Those who value the quality of life as defined by leisure, free evenings and weekends as well well as those who define quality of life by being able to work 80 hours a week to build something bigger and follow their dream.
Even though some of us, not least the LeWeb founder Loic Le Meur, might have had his ego bruised in the process, I believe the panel at Gillmor Gang and especially Michael Arrington's stone cold comments did us a great favor by bringing an important conversation to the fore.
I am, yet again, dumstruck by how easily the local media here in Finland dismissed all the efforts by us and by the whole Finnish startup community to raise the awareness of the local startups and the formation of a startup culture here in the Nordics. First we set up the biggest startup event Finland has ever seen which was a big success and now we took a whole Finnish Sauna (video here and here) full of startups to Paris with Tommi Rissanen of Digibusiness.fi, just so the Finnish media can ignore all of it. This happens while at the same time tens of millions of euros are poured into programs to help Finnish startups, but most of this money go to those who know how to game the Finnish system and have the time to go through the endless rounds of red tape. Tommi Rissanen, who was pivotal in bringing the sauna to LeWeb, is the only person working for one of the supporting institutions in Finland, who I have met who knows and is interested in what is happening at the grass roots level in the Finnish startup scene and is willing to bust his butt to help out the startups. And I follow this space every single day.
Another sign to get the pulse: Christine Lagarde, the French minister of economy came to visit Le Web 2008. She actually came even to the stage to have a chat with Loic (previous years French President Sarkozy himself has visited the event). We in Finland, on the other hand, got an email from the Finnish President's assistand telling us that the president is too busy to visit the Finnish startups.
*Where I talk about Europe, I mean what we know as the Western Europe. I can't speak of the Eastern Europe, since I have not lived or worked there.