Joakim Achren, a Finnish entrepreneur, was one of the first entrepreneurs I met when we started ArcticStartup. He talked about his company Ironstar Helsinki with passion and of all the things they're building. Couple of weeks ago he posted a post mortem on his final touches to shut down the company and move on. He summarises the path they took with Ironstar Helsinki and outlines a couple of reasons why they decided to shut the company down, instead of pursuing other alternatives. We've also written about Ironstar Helsinki extensively, be it their product launch or the fact that Monty Widenius invested in the company in 2009.
The reasons that lead to the closure of the company were a failed acquisition and the failure to raise more funding this year. Nothing new there, but what I really respect with the all the emotional turbulence Achren must have gone through, is the effort he has taken to cover all this in a single blog post.
Ironstar Helsinki is a Finnish game developer that has been previously developing a social game called Moipal, but changed course to developing Facebook games earlier last year. Tiina Zilliacus is the CEO of the company and joined it early 2010 to help the company build new traction. I did a short e-mail based interview with her to learn how 2010 has looked for the company and how they've managed to build their business forward. I had the idea of the interview after having a little chat with Tiina Zilliacus at a recent Christmas gathering in Helsinki. Their recent development has been impressive and is definitely worth covering for our community as well.
The Finnish social gaming firm Ironstar Helsinki has announced appointing a new CEO Tiina Zilliacus and expanding its platform reach to Facebook. Ironstar Helsinki runs a social gaming world MoiPal, which up until now has been available on the web and as a downloadable mobile application. MoiPal has currently 200.000 registered users in Finland along some international ones, and is now looking to accelerate the international growth.
MoiPal, the Finnish social gaming service has signed a marketing partnership with the Finnish music television Voice. MoiPal is the work of Ironstar Helsinki being directed by Joakim Achrén. Ironstar Helsinki also made front page on ArcticStartup when Monty Widenius announced his investment into the company. Voice is the independent Finnish music radio and television channel.
MoiPal, a Finland based social gaming virtual world by Ironstar Helsinki, has introduced widgets for music artists to sell MoiPal virtual goods to the virtual world users. MoiPal is not a localized virtual world like Habbo, which has started their community building from scratch in each new country. Instead MoiPal aims to create a common space where all nationalities mix and thus make the world seem more lively. MoiPal is also mainly intented to be played via mobile phones. According to MoiPal CEO, Joakim Achrén, focusing on mobile phones instead of the browser creates stickiness and users tend to come back much more often.
MoiPal has been working on virtual goods partnership all along 2008. These have mainly been with record labels and Finnish music artists, including Lovex, Hanoi Rocks and Lordi. What this means in practice is that the partnering artists have seen a MoiPal character creation widget appear on their website. If a MoiPal charater has been created through one of these websites, the character that has been created have been able to get virtual clothes and a look that resembles the one of the artist who's website is in question.
Through the partnership the artists get visibility in MoiPal virtual world when characters walk around in t-shirts and clothes that carry the artist logo and name. Artists can also perform a virtual concerts in MoiPal City, which is the center of the MoiPal virtual world. Currently Lordi, a Finnish heavy artist, is actively present in MoiPal and interacting with the users.
The latest development is selling virtual goods via a widget that sits on an artist website. MoiPal has confirmed its first deal that was done with EMI and EMI's up-and-coming new artist, Haloo Helsinki. With a Premium SMS message the users can buy their character a full blown Haloo Helsinki costume set. In addition to the 50/50 revenue share the record label can get visibility to their new acts.
MoiPal is currently in talks with all the major record labels for similar kind of deals. The virtual goods store -widget can also be placed on an artist MySpace profile page via OpenSocial that MySpace has implemented. This has also been experimented with two Finnish bands, namely Stigg Dogg and Notkea Rotta.
MoiPal has currently over 100,000 users. The service was launched in October 2007 and aim to hit over one million user mark by the end of 2009. The two biggest methods in building the virtual world for MoiPal are Facebook apps, of which they already have all together three, and getting visibility in artists' websites. Currently most of the new users come from South-East Asia. The service grows with approximately 600 new users a day.
If you feel a sudden urge to try out the service (here), by writing moilei or snoukka in the promotional code field ArcticStartup readers will get a free virtual t-shirt for their MoiPal character. Go play!
The Finnish based mobile community game builder Ironstar Helsinki has opened a new country for their Moipal virtual world - Brazil. Moipal is a mobile based game that is a mix of Tamagotchi and Facebook. You play the game on your own, but there are interactions between the players.
Joakim Achrén, the CEO, told us that on many occasions there are hundreds of Brazilian players on the US site which confirmed him they need a local site in Brazil as well. The community management is handled from Brazil, but the hosting and other technicalities are still handled from Finland, says Joakim. They are also working on many small aspects to make the service more localised, such as Samba parties at the beach etc.
I had lunch today with ironstar helsinki's Joakim Achrén. Joakim is the CEO and they are building a cross platform virtual world that is mainly played on the mobile - it's called MoiPal. Ironstar helsinki is 9 men strong and they are located in Helsinki.
MoiPal has all the usual aspects of a social gaming application, profiles, personalisable rooms and characters, a facebook like profile page (to link to), virtual currency and lots more. Joakim managed to really surprise me how smooth the character moved on the mobile - no buggines at all. MoiPal could be described as a mixture of Facebook and Tamagotchi (I'd add Sims). The software runs on Java and they have three different versions for different phones.
You take care of your character by feeding her, washing her, exercising, etc to keep all the personal attributes in top notch condition. They've also put a lot of effort into making the whole system scalable. For example, you can do lots of things with the character in her own room without being connected online hence not accumulating a lot of data costs. Also, all the characters are clothable in different types of clothes available for purchase in the online shop. At the moment they have a deals with Warner music for example to cloth the characters in different band attire.
We also talked about the fact that where they see their focus geographically. Middle East, Russia and Far East Asia seem to interest them, which in my opinion is a very good call. There is a lot more competition in Asia, but their mobile usage is on a totally different level.
I was really impressed in the product, being a veteran of the gaming industry. I'm sure they will have lots of success with it.
There will be a special startup developers get together event in Helsinki on May 22. The purpose of the event is to exchange knowledge about technologies and conventions touching startup developers, and also to demonstrate students "how cool it is to run and work in a startup".
There's quite a good bunch of startup speakers participating, including Lare Lekman, CTO of Star Wreck Studios, Jani Luostarinen, System Administrator at Floobs, Joakim Achren, founder and CEO of Ironstar Helsinki (MoiPal service), and Taro Morimoto, CTO of Zipipop. After the afternoon event there will be an evening party as well, place to be declared later.
If you can't make it, you can see the live stream from Floobs. Sponsors are also sought after, so if you're interested, contact Kai Lemmetty @Floobs.
Read more about the event here.