The e-commerce craze that started in late 00’s with ThePoint.com and Groupon quickly spread throughout the world, and in the Nordic & Baltic region. Startups such as Cherry Media were quickly established and started fighting for the local market share. However, around the same time a similar e-commerce boom was happening around “members only” shopping.
One of the first and leading players in this space was Vente Privee, a French company that started in 2001 but was expanding internationally starting from 2007 and now has a turnover of over one billion euro. Similarly, there was Gilt from the US, which is now a company with more than 1000 employees and is reportedly looking to IPO.
Which makes our region seem to have been left out, until now. Ooolala, a company based in Estonia decided to introduce this type of members-only flash sales to the Nordic and Baltic region and started in Estonia in 2012.
“Well, of course we should, it is one of the highest investment numbers we have ever heard of” - Screams the crowd. However may I remind you what Rocket Internet really is? A simple, thought highly profitable, copy-paste button. They take unique and interesting ideas and use their assets and knowledge to replicate them in other markets before the original company has the time or money to do it. For instance they took Groupon and created CityDeal in Germany which they later sold it to, you guessed it, Groupon for $126 million. Sure, we can’t argue that it does not take skill or planning to enter these new markets, especially considering that many of them are very unique.
Still when we heard that the Sweden based investment firm Kinnevik disclosed in their annual reports that they have invested over €1.1 billion into Rocket Internet, we could not be as excited as we normally are with large investments.
The idea of disrupting one of the largest industries in the world has become quite popular in our region. After all, even if you get a minuscule part of the pie, you are a billionaire. So companies such as Holvi, Transferwise and Isepankur are trying to do just that - making a dent in one of the largest, inflexible and controlled industries - Banking. But they are not alone, we have gotten in touch with Victor Lysenko a co-founder and CEO of Rocketbank in Russia.
Before we go into the details of how Rocketbank is aiming to take over the bureaucratic banking world of Russia, it is of interest to note that Lysenko is the former CEO and founder of Darberry in Russia. For those of you who do not know, the controlling stake of Darberry was bought by Groupon just six months after they launched. At that point it was renamed to Groupon Russia.
Ditto has just announced that it has been acquired by Groupon. While being registered into the US, Ditto has been founded by Jyri Engeström the co-founder of Jaiku. Jaiku was a Finnish company that was sold to Google in 2007. There is no announcement on the price of the acquisition, but by all factors it looks like an acquihire. In other words, Groupon is acquiring the team behind Ditto. Nevertheless, an exit is always an exit.
According to the blog post, Ditto will be pulling the plug on their applications on April 30th. The Ditto mobile application was available to users on the Nokia and Apple platforms. The service allowed people to tell before hand what they were going to do, as to allow for more spontaneous meet-ups. In addition to this, you were able to leave out the specific place you were going to, which allowed for crowdsourcing of ideas from your friends.
There seems to be at least one daily deal aggregator in each country, and it's interesting to get their take on the local daily deals from their vantage point above the market. According to the daily deals aggregator, Dealfins, the daily deals business in Finland is different from other North European countries. It lacks the niche sites that sell specific deals, and the market is almost completely dominated by Groupon – Citydeal, which holds 89% market share. Dealfins has also noticed that business is also very much concentrated in the Greater Helsinki area.
We talked to Harry Nelis, a partner at Accel Partners, about startups, entrepreneurship and Europe as well as many other topics. When we shot the video, Nelis had just come down from the main stage at LeWeb where he participated in the traditional Money Panel. Accel has been able to discover and invest into some of the most successful startups out there. Some of their portfolio companies include Facebook, Groupon, Spotify and the list goes on.
This news is already a bit outdated by internet standards, but important nevertheless. Yuri Milner, the billionaire chairman of Mail.Ru has sold $59.5 million worth of Mail.Ru stock through his DST Global company. The sale happened towards the end of September, Forbes reports.
The move is significant for a few reasons. Firstly, the company went public in November 2010 so selling so much of his personal stake in the company so soon isn't a very good signal to the market. Furthermore, the stock has been heading downhill more or less since the IPO and this sale further pushed the stock down that day.
Last week saw both Pandora and Groupon file their S-1 documents, meaning they are now on track for an IPO. While many have anticipated IPOs in the tech industry, I believe I'm right in saying that they still managed to surprise many in doing so. Pandora is looking to raise $142 million and Groupon is officially looking for $750 million, but WSJ reports that the company might be looking for as much as $1 billion.
Three independent “daily deals” -sites, Cherry.ee, Beta.lt, Grupinis.lt, have today announced a merger to create the largest internet coupon site in the Baltics. The newly created company has over a 50% market share in the region and had a turnover of 0.94 million euro in March 2011. The three companies were all owned by their founders and angel investors. The merger was completed through a stock swap.
We’ve been expecting this sort of activity to take place and it’s great to see companies with similar interests partner to improve customer experience.
Groupon announced this week that they are going to partner with one of Russia's biggest social networks - Odnoklassniki. This means the social network's users will soon be able to buy Groupon's discounted deals with one-click without having to leave the Odnoklassniki website. Odnoklassniki is owned by the Mail.ru Group, which in its turn is owned by DST, which last year invested $135M in Groupon. With so many overlaps, it is not surprising that Groupon made a deal with that particular social network, even though it is not the biggest in Runet (Vkontakte is).
Groupon has just raised like, a billion dollars in investment money. It's clear some of this money will be used to acquire companies and build market share. In Europe, Groupon has acquired Citydeal, which is the biggest single operator that also has some business in the Nordics at least. However, there are lots of smaller and more active companies in the Nordics and Baltics.
Amid recent news of Groupon closing a $950M funding round, it might be easy to miss that Digital Sky Technologies was one of the main investors. The Russian super VC is on a serious shopping spree. Apart from the Groupon deal it recently invested $50M in Facebook and is said to be eyeing a stake in Twitter, who is likely to be the next web darling to close an investment round soon. Add that to DST's stakes in Zynga, Vkontakte, Nasza-klasa.pl (leading Polish social network), HeadHunter.ru (Russia's largest jobs website) and a complete ownership of ICQ, Mail.ru and Odnoklassniki and you'd see a meer part of DST's might.
Cherry.ee, the largest Estonian Groupon-kind site, had a big offer on earlier this week. They were selling Estonian Air travel vouchers worth 1000 EEK (64,30 euro) for 600 EEK (38,60 euro). They sold over 6500 vouchers, before they had to stop as it was a little bit too much for Estonian Air. Despite the early stop in sales, they plan to do another flash sale next year.
Yesterday we covered Deal24, a company doing local discount coupon sales, similar to Groupon's concept, in the Nordics and Baltics. Unfortunately for us, this wasn't an Estonian company and certainly not the largest as our readers rightly commented both in Facebook and in the article comments. The real Groupon of Estonia is Cherry.ee which is the largest by both deals done and amount of business. This time we talked to the investors behind the company and there's some interesting data to back this up.
Groupon has sparked up a lot of similar concepts, if not exactly the same, in many local markets as it has not been able to expand as fast as it should have to satisfy the market demand. In Estonia, Deal24 has taken advantage of this and has launched their own version with a similar concept. The service offers one deal a day and there are no limits to how many people have to purchase it for the offer to become valid.
Digital Sky Technologies, a Russian holding company that owns shares in various web properties, is looking at Twitter with a possible investment in mind, according to SFGate. Digital Sky Technologies, or DST, previously spun off Mail.ru from it's holdings into a company of its own and sold 17% of the company at a valuation well above 5 billion USD.
The Finnish restaurant site Eat.fi has partnered with Offerium, a Finnish Groupon-kind flash sales site, to offer diners cheaper meals. People looking for places to go out for dinner/lunch on Eat.fi will be now able to spot those restaurants with offers with a little "deal"-icon next to their name. I haven't bought yet anything on Offerium, but putting the restaurant deals into a need based context fits in perfectly and I'm guessing will result in more people finding Offerium as well.
A US based startup Groupon offers users deep discounts on products and services from local businesses, but you need a minimum number of users to sign-up into a deal before getting the discount. And you have only one day to do this. TechCrunch knows that Groupon is on track to generate $100 million in gross merchandise sales in 2010 of which they take a 30%-50% cut. That sounds like a real business.
Now Offerium has opened its doors in Finland. In short, Offerium is a localization of the Groupon concept. The founder of the company, Oskari Lehtonen, was running MyButler before founding Offerium. MyButler asked users what they are interested in and then negotiated two-for-the-price-of-one deals from the given advertisers for the users.