The NSA warrantless wiretapping revelations have caused the general public to reconsider how they communicate online, but even if a nontechnical person wanted to communicate more securely it's tough to find a user-friendly solution. Our readers may be reminded of Sweden's Heml.is, which crowdfunded and is currently building a secure mobile messaging app. Also hopping on this trend, a Reykjavik, Iceland based team is crowdfunding a webmail client with a security-focused twist.
The project, called Mailpile, has already reached its $100,000 goal, and currently has over $117,000 raised with 15 days left in their round. They're building a free software web-mail program that you run on your own computer, putting your data into your own hands.
Iceland has been a fun startup scene for us to follow because the ecosystem is still so new. The anchors of a startup scene, like recurring conferences and acceleration programs, have only been put in place about two years ago, meaning the scene is showing those rapid initial steps of improvement.
A few months ago we turned our eyes to Startup Iceland, the startup conference designed to talk about building a sustainable startup ecosystem and attract attention from the the US and Europe. They recently ran their second conference last June, and it looked like a well put together event.
Startup Reykjavik, Iceland's first startup accelerator, is also currently in its second iteration and building up momentum for Investor Day on the 23rd of August. Interested investors are invited to sign up for an invitation, or to receive a link to the online streaming event.
Here's probably the first big acquisition of an Icelandic startup to a Silicon Valley firm. Earlier this week, San Francisco-based Jive Software announced their quarterly earnings, and mentioned that they've acquired the Icelandic startup, Clara. The reported price was approximately €6.8 million ($9 million).
We last covered CLARA four years ago, but their company has obviously taken off since then. CLARA was founded in 2008 by two college dropouts, and produces community analytics tools that allow businesses to understand, monitor, and engage with their members on online platforms. Today they have 16 people distributed between San Francisco, London, and Reykjavik.
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.
Vala Halldorsdottir and Sesselja Vilhjalmsdottir, both documentarians and entrepreneurs, say they began their startup film project because they wanted to motivate young people to become entrepreneurs. So basically they grabbed a camera, set up some interviews, and put the camera in front of the faces of tech entrepreneurs from the U.S. and Europe. The result is , The Startup Kids, a documentary that was revealed at the Palo Alto International Film Festival last September.
Iceland is getting hooked up to Denmark with an upgraded submarine cable connection, which promises faster speeds and greater redundency. Iceland has been growing as an attractive location for datacenters in recent years. The island is conveniently located between Europe and the North America, and is able take advantage of geothermal energy for renewable energy, as well as its icy weather for cheap server cooling costs. In 2011 the Icelandic government has made the region even more attractive to data centers by giving VAT exclusions.
Iceland has a population probably around the size of your capital city's suburbs, but that hasn't prevented it from producing some innovative companies. We invited Datatracker to pitch as "the best enterprise startup" at the Arctic15, we recently covered a fresh lightweight CRM tool, and they are even inventing iPhone games you control with your mind.
In recent news, Icelandic deCODE Genetics got picked up by Amgen, a multinational pharmaceutical company, for $400 million cash. We don't normally cover the biotech scene (although it looks like we should, deCODE is doing some cool things with genetics) but most importantly this is a huge exit for a small country that's beginning to see tighter forming startup scene.
Five Hundred Plus, an Icelandic CRM solution named in homage to the maximum public number of LinkedIn connections, is worth checking out if you ever wish you got a reminder to keep up relationships. I've only played with it for a short time, but I can already tell that I like it - the service maximizes simplicity and usefulness.
You log in through LinkedIn, where Five Hundred Plus imports your contacts. You then see them all listed in your Contacts column - and then it's as simple as dragging and dropping people into the Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, or Annually column, depending on when you would like a reminder of when to get in touch with the contact again.
Iceland just saw the final day of their first startup acceleration program, Startup Reykjavik. The ten week program ended with an Investor Day on August 17, where the ten teams pitched to a private group of angels and VCs.
"Looking back, now that the program is over, I think it was a huge success," says Stefán Þór Helgason of Innovit Entrepreneurship Center. "All the people who participated in making Startup Reykjavík a reality e.g. the mentors, the participants and the general entrepreneurship environment here in Iceland all agreed that this program must go on, giving more entrepreneurs the chance to take part in the 'unfair advantage' accelerators like this give them."
PixPuffin is a new Icelandic service to help small and medium sized businesses manage their digital assets though a web-based interface. For your photos, it offers easy keywording features, sharing of project folders, and integration with licensed photos.
PixPuffin was launched by NordicPhotos, a photo agency based in Sweden, Norway, and Iceland. From this angle, PixPuffin helps companies stay focused on Digital Rights Management, preventing costly mistakes from improperly used photos.
After the financial collapse, Iceland finds itself at a perfect time to embrace entrepreneurship. The country has the education and tech talent needed to support new industries, but being an economy of 300,000 people in the middle of the Atlantic leaves entrepreneurs without much hands-on support. To help kickstart a new era is Iceland's first accelerator, which is taking applications right now and is starting this summer.
StartupReykjavik is built in the Y Combinator / Techstars model where entrepreneurs are mentored for 10 weeks and then pitch to investors at a Demoday. Accepted companies are also given 2 000 000 ISK (€12 000) for a 6% stake, a place to work, and free services. The deadline to apply is May 7th, and the program starts the 1st of June.
Anyone who's had to dig for a serious dataset knows it's not always easy to find what you're looking for, even if you know it's out there and is offered for free. DataMarket out of Iceland offers 100 million time series from wide range of public and private data providers, including the United Nations, the World Bank, Eurostat, and the Economist Intelligence Unit. The portal allows all this data to be searched, visualized, compared, and downloaded in a single place in a standard, unified manner. I'm looking at this from the perspective of a university student, but DataMarket is also geared towards business users to find and efficiently publish their data and reach new audiences.
Om Malik, the founder of GigaOm was speaking in Helsinki to a room of media representatives yesterday morning at the Aalto Venture Garage. His visit to Finland is part of a tour to come understand the companies and environment the local startups work in. Before Helsinki, he had visited Berlin and the LeWeb conference in Paris. I managed to talk to Malik about the way he sees these entrepreneurial hubs.
The big part of our discussion circled around the fact that people in Europe always look up to Silicon Valley and how they succeed in everything they do, while failing to see all the potential in front of their eyes. I have to say, while I knowledge the value Silicon Valley has on companies - I wonder how much possibility is wasted when following a given path without truly thinking of the possibilities closer to you. After all, Rovio didn't go to Silicon Valley to succeed - it all started with an innocent tweet by a Swedish athlete in the Nordics (going international I mean).
Currently the only high speed submarine cables leading to Iceland are coming from Europe, creating a roundabout trip for internet connections to hit North America. Emerald Netorks, a new American submarine network company, is building one of the fastest neworks across the Atlantic that will branch from Ireland and Iceland, and head straight for New York.
The new cable will cost around €227 million, and will provide a 100 Gbps connection across the Atlantic. This has great benifits for the high speed trading used by the financial sector-- expected round trip latency between New York and London is around 62ms. But it will also open up Iceland to become a new datacenter powerhouse.
We recently talked about Greenqloud, a cloud storage startup with a focus on IaaS (Infrastructure as a Cloud) services. We took the opportunity to get in touch with Gísli Kristjánsson, COO Greenqloud to get a better insight about the startup and understand what makes them unique. Gísli rightfully thought that it is essential to clarify the understanding of Cloud Computing, and before we post the short Q/A, we would love to share the definition of Cloud Computing as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology:
Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
With everything moving to the cloud owing to the high level of mobility, many startups continue to step forward with new takes on cloud computing to compete with Amazon's huge and popular cloud services. Factors like efficiency, ease of access, and affordability are key, but eco-friendliness is also one of the credentials your service needs to have to keep up with the times. While some users may not know the difference, corporations do see advantages for making more ecological choices. Greenqloud, a cloud storage startup from Iceland comes forth as a user and an eco friendly cloud storage service. In their own words, Greenqloud focuses on IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) alongside putting greater efforts to offer HPC (high performance computing) compatible cloud that academic and scientific communities can use for scientific calculations.
Cloud storage has definitely made life easier. Think of having your data stored on self purchased or rented hardware that was costly, not readily scalable and with hundreds of servers for hundreds of firms across a countless locations, it proved to be quite inefficient in terms of energy. What cloud has done is rid consumers (corporates and individuals alike) of the worry associated to what hardware hosts their data and how to scale the same. With Greenqloud, the focus is on the same idea along with being a lot more environment friendly.
Last week, entrepreneurs (or those wanting to become one) received at least two new tools to refine their ideas. Both Hackfwd, a European level pre-seed investment company and Plan2Biz, an Icelandic company, came out with simple web tools to help people define their ideas and take a step closer to starting a business.
Editorial note: This is a guest post by Kristoffer Lawson, the Travelling Salesman. He's on a 10 000 kilometre drive to meet Nordic startups. ArcticStartup is supporting the project, by covering his travels and findings.
There are very few countries I would consider living in permanently. Places that I feel I could end up calling a home. Iceland is now one of them. The arrival by Smyril Line ferry was immediately majestic with those eery misty cliffs rising gently above the sea as I approached bohemian Seyðisfjörður along that 20km fjord to eastern Iceland. It set the mood perfectly. This was to be followed by travel through boiling earth and volcanos to the heart of the Icelandic startup scene, Reykjavik, where my fiancée also had flown for an all-too-short visit to experience this mystical location.
Last Friday, Microsoft's new Windows Azure Datamarket caught a lot of press as they launched. TechCrunch wrote about how Bing favored the site in their results while Google buried the service altogether. However, there is a company with a datamarket.com -domain in Iceland. That domain holds a service, which resembles the Windows Azure Datamarket quite dramatically. We wrote about Datamarket back in May so it has been around for a while.
The Nordic Tech Tour, organized by the independent not-for-profit organization The European Tech Tour has kicked off today. During two and a half days, the selected 30 promising early and later stage growth companies based in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, and the Baltic countries will gather together with the leading cross-border venture capital and global corporate firms.
During the event, the companies have twenty minutes to present their business plans to 70 international delegates, consisting of senior partners, VPs, and CEOs from the global venture capital and technology industry, as well as advisors and academics. The investment capital present at the Tour is said to be worth over €10 billion.
Meniga, the Icelandic personal finance management service, has signed Applicon as its partner in Scandinavia to offer its service to banks. Meniga is an Icelandic startup founded in January 2009 with a very similar plan in mind compared to the famous US company Mint.com.
With the signing of the contract and the press release associated with it, it has become clear how Meniga plans to position their product and get it to market. They have signed the contract with Applicon, which is a Swedish company closely affiliated with banks. Applicon offers its customers a combination of standardized IT software with the help of its 50 strong organisation.
Datamarket is a new Icelandic startup that has just launched their service - a website that gives people access to structured data from private and public data sources. At the moment, they have data only available from Iceland, but they are looking to expand to other countries and areas as well. They have 6 employees and the company was founded in June 2008. The service took 18 months of development before they were able to launch.
We've been looking closely at the startup scene in the Nordics and Baltics for the last two and a half years and I have to say, the amount of events on the market these days is very attractive. There are a lot of different kind of events and I'm sure there's something for everyone. While these events have their own functions and drive their own agendas, there's no getting round it - they're great fun and will surely improve your business if not by any other means than at least by networking with the other visitors there.
From Google over Apple to the Start-up next door, nearly every company today uses web hosting services or has huge server farms at their disposal so that their services can run smoothly. That much of this energy to run these data centers comes from fossil fuels or even nuclear energy is probably known, but ignored. However, "green" web hosting is growing at a rapid pace to become an important category, so its no surprise that more and more data centers and web hosting providers are looking at opportunities to green their services. Verne Global from Iceland is looking to shake up the game and provide a reliable, cheap and 100% green data centre solution starting from 2010.
During my visit to Iceland a few weeks ago, I had the chance to visit one of the greatest "startups" in a while - CCP Games. CCP Games has its offices in the Silicon Docks area of Reykjavik. While the other startups are doing the proper bootstrapping and sharing offices next door, CCP Games has grown to cover three stories employing some 450 people at the moment. Those who aren't that familiar with CCP Games, they are the developer of Eve Online one of the most popular MMORPGs out there. In short, there are over 300 000 registered players on Eve Online and almost everyone is paying about 15 USD a month for the membership (some have 14-day trial accounts). This in turn sky rockets their revenue well past 50 000 000 USD annually.
Uppspretta is an Icelandic startup focused in social lending. At the moment Uppspretta is only available in Iceland. It was co-founded by Ragnheiður Magnúsdóttir, one of the panelists in the ArcticEvening Iceland. The site works in such a way that it works as a facilitator between people who want a loan and people who are willing to lend some money. For the time being, the site is concentrating on smaller companies and startups as their market.
During my visit to Iceland earlier this week I met with a local VoIP company called Global Call. While there are many VoIP companies around, Global Call had managed to arouse some serious interest and hate towards them. First of all, many of their clients like them for their low rates where as the other telcos seriously hate them for competing with them. I talked to Benedikt Bjarnason and Höskuldur Darri Ellertsson about their business and how they're doing.
I'm in Reykjavik, Iceland, hosting an ArcticEvening event for the local startup scene tonight. I thought I'd do a little write up of the thoughts and discoveries regarding the startup scene up here. First of all, to put things into perspective, you need to understand the size of things we're talking with. Iceland has a population of around 320 000 people and that's scattered across the island. On the other hand, they're a relatively wealthy bunch of people, despite the current economic crisis, with a GDP per capita a little over $40 000 USD for 2008. Talking about the econmic crisis, it is definitely the biggest subject in discussions these days. On my way to meet up with some local entrepreneurs last night, the cab driver said that he's sure there will be something happening in the coming months. According to him, "regular people are tired of paying the mess of the large companies." I can understand his rage completely.
A quick reminder before the weekend regarding our ArcticEvening in Reykjavik coming up Tuesday the 12th of October. We'll have a very interesting show planned for you so I strongly suggest all the locals and foreigners who happen to be in Iceland next week join in. The show will begin at 8pm at Grandagardi 2. You don't have to sign up or anything, just show up!
Icelandic social music marketplace gogoyoko has expanded their open Beta to cover the whole of Scandinavia. The service now works in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Faroe Islands and Greenland. gogoyoko's tagline is bringing "Fair Play" back into the music business - through the service music fans can purchase music directly from the artists and labels. gogoyoko's service consists of a music store, a social network, and free streaming music player.