Editor's note: this is a sponsored post by UK Trade and Investment
Whenever somebody asks me why Nordic/Baltic startups are performing so well, one of the main arguments tends to be the fact that they simply have no other choice. Coming from relatively small home markets, they simply have got to think global from day one. If you are in Finland for instance, you can probably conquer your home niche market in a matter of months if not weeks. This, forces companies to think about expansion early on and hence global success too.
It has been only two months since iZettle entered Mexico and it seems that our speculations about possible rapid expansion through the Banco Santander partnership might not be far from the truth as they have just announced that they are now in Brazil.
At first glance, this news might seem a little blunt, but we really do need to look at the global picture. For instance, you might be surprised to find out that Brazil is the worlds second biggest card payment market, second only to US. Moreover, as Magnus Nilsson, iZettle's Co-founder and Chairman of iZettle Brazil, told us: "99.7% of companies in Brazil are SMEs and micro merchants and [they] want to empower them with a cost-effective way to take payments other than cash, so they never have to miss out on a sale again. From sole traders in remote towns, to micro merchants in major cities, this is the start of a big change for Brazil."
When we wrote about iZettle's partnership with Banco Santander, we mentioned that this is a big step for the company that will open doors to growth and expansion. Today, this is becoming a reality as iZettle announced its launch in Mexico today. Not a big deal, right? Wrong.
First of all, this is their first expansion outside of Europe, meaning that the company is on a path of growth in global markets. Strong presence in Mexico, the worlds 13th biggest economy, gives them the footing that the company needs to quickly spread across the Americas.
Editor's note: My trip to Murcia was paid for by INFO Murcia, but the opinions in this article are my own.
In late February a group of Finnish entrepreneurs gathered from their flights to the Alicate airport in south-eastern Spain. Once we were all accounted for, our van left the Alicante Airport bus depot and a blast of sunlight hit us from the side. All the Finns had a verbal and physical reaction to our first direct sunlight in months.
Our bus was traveling 45 minutes north to Murcia. Despite it being the 6th largest city in Spain with a population a little less than the size of Helsinki's, a before the trip I couldn't put it on a map. Despite its lack immediate name recognition, at the end of the trip, myself and the Finnish entrepreneurs and was sincerely convinced they've got the right climate and attitude for tech startups to set up the Spanish arm of their company.
Editor's note: This article came about on a trip to Murcia, Spain sponsored by INFO Murcia. Find out more tomorrow.
The promise of the internet revolution was that your company instantly has access to every market. While that's true in many respects, there is still friction, uncertainty, and perhaps some boots-on-the-ground time needed before a successful launch in a new country. Just over a week ago I was in Murcia Spain with some Finnish ICT entrepreneurs, where I got a chance to talk to them at this point right as some of them were making their first business footing broad.
It was interesting watching these entrepereneurs ask questions about the best places to hire talent, where to get office space, who to partner with locally, and so on. There are obstacles to overcome - if you're actually setting up a foregin office you have to learn a lot of things from scratch again.
The U.S. is still the land of opportunity for many European startup companies. Having a permanent location in San Francisco or New York can plug you into most of the world's VC and Angel money, and the U.S. is basically one big homogenous market for your startup to take advantage of. Despite the benefits of being there, it's expensive to hire developer talent in the hub cities, and it can be tough to convince your existing team to pack up and move. So many European startups are left split between continents.
Clearly it's difficult to stay on top of everything when half of your team is eating dinner while the other half are just waking up. San Francisco is a 10 hour difference from Finland, while New York clocks in at 7. I find it becomes an big ordeal to even schedule a quick interview with people located on the west coast, so I can't imagine trying to run a business split between the two. To share the best practices of how to manage Team USA and Team Europe, I spoke with Ville Miettinen of Microtask as well as William Wolfram of Dealdash.
Just-Eat announced they have acquired FillMyBelly, UK's third largest player in the online food delivery market. The Danish company has been growing like crazy in recent months, making this acquisition their ninth since the end of 2011. FillMyBelly has 1,400 restaurant partners across the UK. According to Just-Eat, this makes them the largest player in the online delivery market, likely making them the go-to service for food delivery.
Voddler, the video on demand service for movies and TV series, is now expanding outside of the nordics. Since launching in Sweden, Voddler has over the past two years gathered around 1.3 million registered users in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, and is now making Spain its fifth market.
The common pattern that Nordic startups seems to follow is to tackle the home market and then expand to the UK to start targeting the English speaking world. But with competitors including Netflix and Vdio also fighting over market share, it makes sense to target underserved markets. On this, Markus Bäcklund, Voddler's CEO says, "Spain was an obvious choice for us as our first market outside of our home market of Scandinavia. It is a country of movie lovers, with good broadband penetration and an audience that is increasingly turning online."
The news broke out today that Applifier has closed $2M in seed funding. The investors include MHS Capital, PROfounders Capital, Tekes, Lifeline Ventures, and angel investors Jyri Engeström, David Gardner and Lars Stenfeldt Hansen. The terms of the investment were not disclosed. Applifier is also announcing today that they have expanded their ad network into the web gaming space - where pain points are similar to that of Facebook; the market is fragmented, user acquisition costs are high and its becoming expensive to get users. We talked to Jussi Laakkonen about the expansion and they see huge opportunities in the space.
Fortumo, the Estonian wonder startup continues its amazing growth. They have now opened up business in their 48th country, Thailand according to a recent blog post. Thailand is one of the large markets in South-East Asia with its 66 million mobile users. Interestingly enough, only 2% of the population is subscribed to broadband connections and while 12 million of the 66 million mobile users are also mobile internet users. Going head on with a growing, but still very immature market cna be flourishing for Fortumo. As internet usage grows, so does the requirement to monetise it - this is where Fortumo comes in. Furthermore, the huge mobile market presents numerous opportunities for Fortumo and its clients.
Blyk is looking to expand its business to Asia with the opening of its office in Singapore. Blyk, which pivoted some years back from a virtual mobile network operator to a service platform offering companies a way to talk with young adults through different campaigns, has previously built its business in Europe with Vodafone in the Netherlands and Orange in the UK. Susanna Hasenoehrl has been appointed to lead the operations in the Asia Pacific region. She has mobile industry experience from Nokia Siemens Networks, having worked in Thailand, Singapore and Germany.
Spotify has just announced that it will expand its service offering to Netherlands. Netherlands is the seventh country Spotify is available. The other countries are Finland, France, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Dutch people can now sign up to the service using the link on their website.
It seems that Netherlands came before the US in the end, which shouldn't be a big surprise. Clearing rights and getting the legal side of things sorted out is not a light job to do. It might also make better business sense for Spotify to grow their business in Europe before hopping to US - a show of strength that might ease legal issues later on.