Tech giant Google has made a €450 million investment into their datacenter in eastern coastal city of Hamina, Finland.
The company has announced the current datacenter is to triple in size. This means it will provide work for over 800 Finnish engineers and construction workers, as well as being a motor to reinvigorate the sleepy industrial region surrounding it.
If you updated Chrome, you might have noticed your 'new tab page' looks different. Gone are the apps you probably never really used, and now hitting that ctrl+t you see your new tab screen populated with your most visited pages, just in case you needed a reminder to visit them. Like any widely adopted platform, the loudest consensus among users is "change is bad" no matter if it's a positive or negative direction, and as StartHQ found, that momentum can be taken advantage of.
It's such an obvious metaphor for Finland's economy it seems to reach into cliche. In 2009, Google bought an old paper mill in Hamina, in Eastern Finland, and threw a datacenter inside. As Finland transitions from a tree-based to internet economy, new partnership are forming to make the best of Google's investment for South-Eastern Finland's regional economy, which has become somewhat economically depressed after the pulp and paper industry has moved out of town. The two biggest cities of the region, Kotka and Hamina showed unemployment rates of 17.2% and 12.6% respectively (compared with the Finnish national unemployment rate of 7.8% and the Eurozone's 11.4%).
The Helsinki-region's Aalto University and Startup Sauna are no strangers to creating new clusters. Their student entrepreneurial revolution has helped create quite the startup scene in the suburbs of Helsinki, and now the two organizations are working with financial support of Google and Cursor, the Kotka-Hamina Regional Development Company to organize new activities and contribute to the region's entrepreneurship scene.
Microsoft Owes Denmark $1 Billion While Google, Facebook And Others Do Everything They Can To Avoid Taxes
In the recent news it was uncovered that Microsoft owes Denmark 5.8 billion Danish Crowns (Around $1.015 Billion) in back taxes as a result of Microsoft’s acquisition of Navision in 2002.
According to the Danish tax authorities, following the acquisition, the Navision’s money making assets were sold to Microsofts Irish subsidiary below market value. That company is in turn owned by companies in Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands. Which is why Microsoft is often targeted by tax authorities worldwide, as their network of affiliated companies worldwide makes it extremely easy for them to channel profits into tax havens where the corporate tax is virtually non-existent.
Helsinki-based Web Of Trust noted on their blog yesterday that Google has changed its policy to disallow WOT and other website reputation services from showing reputations of the sponsored links shown before the search results. As lauded in this blogpost on the official Google blog, Google took down or disallowed 130 million malicious ads on their network in 2011 -- a 50% increase from the year before.
This is fantastic, but malicious ads do continue to slip through the cracks. In January of this year the BBC reported on Google profiting from ads sponsored by illegal Olympic ticket resellers, as well as illegal services such as fake ID cards, fake passports, and cannabis.
Something doesn't sit well with Google's policy change to control what external browser plugins can do with their search results. Google clearly decided that the marginal decrease in user safety was worth the money they could bring in from clicks to websites with a poor reputation on Web Of Trust and other website rating services. How does this fall in line with their "Don't be evil" mantra?
In September we covered the news that Facebook might be looking to place their server farm in Luleå, Sweden. Tomorrow, it will be confirmed as Facebook's company representatives will be holding a press conference together with local city representatives. The confirmation ends months of debate and rumors which have been circulating since last summer.
Google announced last Friday that they will be shutting down Jaiku and Buzz, which comes with little surprise as the web giant focuses its attention on its new social network, Google+.
Jaiku, the Helsinki based mobile social service that allowed you to send short updates to your friends, was acquired by Google in 2007. But after gaining over 40 million users on Google+, Google has shifted away from Jaiku, which never gained much traction after its initial core of users.
Anil Hansjee, former head of Corporate Development at Google EMEA, joins Creandum the Sweden based Nordic VC firm as an investment advisor. Creandum also recently announced the hiring of Hjalmar Winbladh as a Venture Partner. The team continues its growth in knowledge, but also in the breadth of its networks.
“As Creandum seeks to build the leading venture firm in the Nordics, we strive to build a network of leading individuals to work with. These individuals should have superior deal flow, company building and investment experience, and international network. Anil ticks all these boxes. Needless to say we are thrilled to work with Anil to build global businesses.” says Johan Brenner, Creandum General Partner.
We reported a few days back regarding the possibility of the VoIP service, Skype being acquired by either Facebook or Google. While that rumor was still blazing across the Web new rumors add up, with the latest hinting at Microsoft being a very strong contender in the race to acquire Skype.
What is Skype worth? Financially speaking we will not be able to put the exact amount on record but it is worthy enough to have both Facebook and Google seriously thinking about buying the video calling service after it delayed filing for the IPO. If this by any means has any truth to it, the deal can be valued at a healthy $3 to $4 billion as Reuters reports.
Nokia has just taken a big step forward with its Ovi Maps. Instead of going the obvious way of adding a Google-type Street View to its service that other similar kinds of mapping services have done, Nokia has added 3D aerial view to it maps. This enables anyone to go about a certain cities and fly around and see what the cities have to offer. It has to be said that 3D in this way is more picturesque and for sure something different to the more traditional "Street View".
In App payments seem to be catching the flare off late. While we have seen its implementation on certain apps but Google seems to be finally taking steps to initiate web based in-app-payments. This is great of course for developers on the Android platform, but will also enable better apps for consumers over time as capitalisation isn't a problem anymore.
One of the reasons we like working with companies such as Nexit Ventures is that they offer a ton of quality material to us that would previously be available for only the selected few. This time, we'll be taking a closer look at the M&A activity geographically on a more closer level. You should also read our articles in this series Why Being Sold To The US Is A Big Deal and So Who's Doing The Shopping In The US? The Big Eleven.
When we think privacy concerns what usually comes to mind is either Facebook with their messy and ever-changing privacy policies or Google with their vast amounts of user data from the many services they offer. However, a recent study by Wall Street Journal revealed that mobile apps pose a bigger threat than previously thought. Out of 101 most popular mobile apps tested, about half sent unsolicited private data, like your location, email, gender, age, your phones identifiers and in some cases even ethnicity and sexual orientation to outsiders, usually ad networks. Those networks are in the business of passing on that data to advertisers who can target more and more precisely their potential demographic. (Un)surprisingly, the biggest online ad networks are Google, Facebook and Apple - the very same companies that provide platforms for the apps.
While being very careful about this - as the facts are somewhat questionable, Fortune's Tech blog Google24/7 suggests that Google's Andy Rubin might know something more about Nokia and their view on the Android platform. At yesterday's AllThingsD -conference the Google VP let out a few things regarding a possible Nokia's venture into the Android platform.
Issuu, the Danish e-zine startup that serves billions of pageviews monthly through its content, has faced the wrath of Apple for the third time. They've tried to get their app approved to the AppStore, so people would be able to browse about 2 million publications for free on their mobile devices. Apple has constantly disapproved their app, 3 times in total and today they've taken the step to stop trying. Why does Apple care? I see it crossing their strategy a bit too much.
Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, said in a recent interview on stage at Web 2.0 Summit that NFC technology will see 500 startups working with it in the coming years. While doing so, he gave a strong hint that Google will be very interested in the findings of this space. NFC, or near field communication, is a short range wireless communication technology that enables the exchange of data between objects at around 10 cm in distance. While it seems this is new technology, now that Google has begun to talk about it openly as well as RIMM, it has actually been around for quite a while. Nokia has been testing out with this technology for quite some time, but all big companies to date still lack any high scale consumer applications for the technology.
Anil Hansjee, the director in charge of Google's acquisitions, has given an interview to Swedish Dagens Industri about their recent acquisitions. In the interview Hansjee says that they've gone through their 70 recent acquisitions and how they've been able to integrate the business into Google's. One of the takeaways from the interview is that, they failed to integrate Jaiku into Google's strategy.
In our last post in the Nexit Ventures supported series we covered "why being sold to the US is a big deal". This time round we cover the companis and the M&A activity in more detail. Basically, there are eleven large companies who do the majority of the buying. These companies are Apple, Cisco, Dell, EMC, Google, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle and Qualcomm.
The big eleven are called the big eleven for the reason that their size and cash reserves enable them to do the majority of the acquisition activity in the States. There are a few key things that entrepreneurs should understand when looking at the M&A activity in the states.
Aalto Venture Garage is putting together a busy two week program they call Bootcamp. Bootcamp is to be held four times a year and it's an intensive program aimed at speeding up already existing early stage ventures. The first Bootcamp is to be run between September 17th and 30th. They are now accepting applications, but be quick - the deadline is September 8th. A mentoring program wouldn't be anything without high profile mentors and well enough, Aalto Venture Garage has managed to secure a good lineup of Finnish startup professionals. Mind you, the program isn't only aimed at Finnish startups - it's open for everyone around the Baltic rim.
There's an interesting TechCrunch post a while back on the amount of money different people made on the Google acquisition of Slide. Slide was the maker of different Facebook applications, perhaps best known for its Funwall before Facebook took over those features and made the service redundant. The reason the post is interesting is the fact that it shows how different investors get their returns in a case where the valuation is only 36% of what it was 2 years ago.
Check, check... mike working, reporting from the Mindtrek conference from Tampere where some 800 people are networking, discussing internet and digital media at large. The day has been action packed and there has been a lot of different content to consume. Furthermore, the audience saw some top notch speakers at Mindtrek this year, especially Chris Messina and Jyri Engeström, who were keynote speakers continuing on the post they wrote for ArcticStartup earlier.
The day began with a keynote by Chris Messina. He talked about identity as a platform. Judging on the amount of comments from people on the aisles in the conference, Chris hit top on with his presentation. Although there were some illogicalities, which he admits, it's always great to hear news from The Valley on the trends that are pumping there.
Somewhat surprisingly, one of the most efficient wind turbines on the market is coming from Finland. A good reason for us to shed some light on WinWinD and their excellent products. Jari Varjotie, the COO of WinWinD, took some time out of his schedule to answer my questions.
WinWinD was established in 2000 in the city of Oulu in Finland. The founder, Jouko Tiuraniemi, has a long career in the field of energy. In 1995 Tiuraniemi started to think about a new, highly efficient wind turbine, as he realized that the key to success was not to try to compete on their terms with the Germans and Danes who were dominating the market, but to create a turbine that would be technically superior. WinWinD chose the Multibrid technology as basis for the WWD turbine, and going forward with the Multibrid low speed technology was the first strategically important decision for the company. In 2001 the WWD-1 wind turbine pilot project was completed. The WWD-3, a 3 Megawatt turbine, followed in 2004.
During this economic cycle, energy efficiency is the name of the game. 2009 Green IT Report released last week by Symantec shows that even 45 % of firms globally are adopting green budgets. The companies, which can offer energy efficiency solutions with quick paybacks in terms of cost-savings attract customers (and investors) right now. Last Friday, only 18 month energy and environmental management software startup Hara raised USD 6 million from Kleiner Perkins. Energy efficiency technologies can reduce both costs and carbon emissions and also, these technologies are less capital intensive and can be brought to market quite rapidly. ICT and internet industry like Intel, IBM, Cisco and Google has seized the energy as a significant revenue opportunity for some time. For instance, Google's three step approach to being carbon neutral includes in-house efficiency programs, the actions for producing electricity (cheaper than coal) through renewable energy ( RE<C ) and finally, investments in Carbon Offset projects. As a part of efficient computing, Google introduces CO2 emissions of some everyday activities and compared them to Google searches (a link).
Seems like innovation is diminishing at least on some level, since now the Russian search giant Yandex has launched their own Q&A service. Yandex Answers is similar to many of its rivals in the western world, like Yahoo Answers. Yandex Answers is not alone however - Google has its own service as does Mail.ru.
Yandex Answers has an added value to the service however. It has readily indexed more than 4.5 million questions and 14.4 million answers from various blogs and forums. This should give it a head start compared to its rivals. On top of these, the regular Yandex member can answer the questions as an expert on the topic. Currently the only visible business model on the site is advertising.
Google announced that they're closing or ceasing development of variety of services, including Jaiku.
As mentioned eariler, Jaiku has been in process of porting to Google App Engine and there have been some rumours of opening the Jaiku platform. Official release now states that Jaiku Engine will be open sourced under the Apache Licence, and supported by volunteer team of Googlers.
This probably means that Google will not have any plans of integrating or bringing Jaiku to other platforms like Android. Jaiku will transform into a general microblogging platform and the open source efforts will help keeping Jaiku.com development alive. Other than that, this is a huge hit on the Jaiku.com community, brand and service. There are benefits of building platforms, but usually a more intense community is not one of them.
It will be also intresting to see what kind of changes App Engine will need to run the full feature set of Jaiku.
We recently wrote about Jaiku losing users and subsequently got strong response from the Jaiku community telling us differently. Partly the reason why some users (link in Finnish) have moved to Twitter was Jaiku's feature pack was seriously couching: feeds not coming through and SMS messages were disabled.
Soon after Jaiku community stood up for their service the Jaiku team also woke up and already the next day feeds were back up, even if still a bit slow, and today SMS was also reactivated. The community effectively made itself heard and it worked at least to some extent.
There's also new feature's coming for example regarding the API that supports OAuth, but the gravest of the concerns' has yet to be answered by the Jaiku team, namely when are we going to see these changes happen and especially where is the service going.
Jyri Engeström commented in Jaikido blog way back in August when Jaiku was being ported to Google App Engine, "We appreciate your patience and can’t wait to open up Jaiku to everyone", but is Google's corporate wheel too slow to turn and is Google's silence policy regarding it's products development slowly pushing the Jaiku community's patience one step too far?
The same Jaikido blog entry talks about how 3rd party developers will have greater control over the system and can write applications that provide richer features to their users. This clearly shows that there are plans for the future. One could even speculate that Google has all along had a clear plan on what they are going to do with Jaiku. As Antti Akonniemi speculates, " Jaiku’s location based and phone profile features pre-installed on Google phones could change everything."
Now, if one wants to see this happening one easily could: Petteri Koponen has been working especifically on Android in Google's London office, while Jyri Engeström is in Mountainview working on Google's strategy for the social web. Has Google just waited until Android is ready to ramp up Jaiku development? Then again, last April Teemu Kurppa told (In Finnish) the Finnish crowd that Jaiku was being developed on the Google's infamous "20% time". Google would hardly make developers develop the corner stone of it's mobile strategy on their 'extra 20%'. Or would it? Jyri's silence despite the lively conversation and many requests regarding an update on what's happening could indicate that something's up.
This is not a new idea, but could the time start to be ripe for the launch as Jaiku's porting to Google App Engine is nearly finished which allows a rapid uptake of new users, and as Android is fully functioning and just starting to go after market share?
Edit 17.12.2008 at 3.36pm: Jyri Engeström posted today a new blog post in his blog where he carefully tells us about the future of Jaiku. Among other updates he says that "I regard the Jaiku community as friends, and your concern about the future of the service is legitimate. It warrants a response."
To indicate what is to come, he goes on by saying that they "[...]plan to open up its development to the user community more in the future." and that "People should be able to post and follow status updates across servers just like they send email. No single service, no matter how large and powerful, is the platform. The Web is the platform."
The best indication on what's to come is at the end of the blog post. I quote: "In spite of the decision to not throw resources at building Jaiku into an independent Web brand, recall that the acquisition announcement stated that 'Activity streams and mobile presence are important areas where we believe Google can add a lot of value for users.' Of course this statement still holds true, and you can bet your Android that there are completely new Wow!'s in store."
At ArcticStartup we believe that we will soon see something that involves Jaiku's microblogging model, Android and the Open Stack nicely mixed into a working solution for those handset manufacturers that decide to take upon Google's open offer.
I recently wrote about the Finnish Jaiku community moving to Twitter en mass. This got the community on barricades ready to defend their service teeth and nail against my claim. What is interesting here is the intensity with which the community defended its service against my argument and choice of words. They even came after me on ArcticStartup's journalistic standards. I got the same treatment as TheNextWeb contributing editor Zee M Kane, even if for different reasons. After the points have been made it is up to each and every individual to make their own judgement regarding the issue. The comment tread is here and a Jaiku thread here (In Finnish).
Regardless whether the wording was misleading or not, and I'm ready to pull my weight and stand behind the argument I made, what is true is that even if users are leaving Jaiku the service is not dead by no means given the resistance and passion ArcticStartup just witnessed. The users send a loud and clear message that, the ones that are staying with the service are really sticking up for their tight-knit community despite Twitter's or anyone else's international dominance.
This makes me very proud to be a fellow Finn as it probably does make the Jaiku founders Jyri Engeström and Petteri Koponen. They have all the reason to be proud with a community like this. I have never witnessed the power of online community this close, even though some examples across the Atlantic like Facebook Beacon come to mind. Now we only have to make Sergei Brin and Larry Page to understand what kind of dynamic community they are letting to fade. The only wish that the Jaiku community has is to know what is about to happen to their service. @jyri, do you hear us?
Image by Tambako the Jaguar (CC: by-nd)
Teemu Kurppa, a mobile software developer and a member of the founding team of the activity stream and micro-blogging service Jaiku, is leaving Google. He joined Google with the rest of the Jaiku team when Google acquired the startup in October 2007.
In his blog, Teemu tells that the main driver for his departure was an illness in his family which subsequently brings him back to Helsinki, Finland. However, he is up beat about seeing his loved ones back in Helsinki and also mysteriously comments that: "on work related matters, I’ve some exciting plans. More about these later".
ArcticStartup wishes the best to Teemu and his family and excitedly expects whether Teemu will set up a new mobile startup when he moves back to Helsinki. Welcome back to the Arctic region Teemu!
Here’s another startup in a run down of startups that I saw at the Nordic Venture Forum couple of week ago in the beautiful city of Copenhagen, Denmark. All the startups present at the forum were seeking either financing from the investors or partners for their business.
Mobispine, a Swedish startup founded in in 2005, delivers mobile Internet and messaging services.
The company provides services for operators and end-users. The services include eSMS (Executive Short Message System) service enabling users to send messages from PCs to mobile phones and aggregation of news and content via Really Simple Syndication (RSS) based news reader.