VC Per Capita: Europe $7, US $72, Israel $142

In Europe we've come to realise it that while there are certain hotspots, to among which Northern Europe is slowly growing into, venture capital in general is extremely scarce compared to other parts of the world. Jan Müehlfeit, Microsoft’s European chairman, spoke this week in Brussles to TechEurope, in a Microsoft Bizspark summit, about the differences and challenges Europe faces as an area for entrepreneurs. Venture capital is clearly one of them.

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Siilasmaa: Direct Finnish Gov't Investments To Startups Should Be Stopped

Risto Siilasmaa, the F-Secure Chairman and Founder, one of the most well known private investors in Finland, has stated in a recent event that direct Finnish government investments to startups should be stopped. By this he means that the way they are currently done, should be stopped and we should leverage the wisdom in the market to make smarter investment decisions. His basic statement was that Finland has created the Vigo accelerator program which is full of serial entrepreneurs and the government investment funds should beinvested through these entities. He states that Finland should look towards Singapore and Israel, where the government leverages all private investments with certain restrictions.

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So Who's Doing The Shopping In The US? The Big Eleven

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.

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World's VC Blogs Now Listed

For those who have not found this resource yet, I'd like to turn your attention to the wonderful list compiled by Larry Cheng on international Venture Capitalists who blog. He has compiled a list of the top international VC bloggers. The figures are interesting as the lists are created by average monthly uniques. On top of the list is not suprisingly, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures with about 100 000 uniques a month visiting his blog.

Larry has also compiled the RSS feeds of the bloggers into Google Reader bundles/OPML files that help faster subscriptions to the blogs.

Here's the link to Global Venture Capital Blog Directory

Photo by Kris Taeleman

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Great Start brings Israeli SNS to Scandinavia

Great Start, a new company aimed at finding investment capital and projects in Scandinavia for SNS (Social Networking Services) providers, is showcasing their first set of Israeli SNS start-ups in Finland and Sweden in late October. In effect, Great start aims to provide resources, develop and market innovative social technologies. The company seems to also have a strong focus on Israeli start-ups.

Based on the set of names on the website Great Start seems to be more of a loose collaboration of connected individuals, than a full blown company, at least for the moment. Everybody except perhaps Björn Hammar, the founder of Great Start, seem to be working full time in some other company.

The first Israeli start-up Great Start is showcasing will be Sightix (see Mashable on Sightix here). Without going into the merits of Sightix or Great Start itself, it's great to see another effort the bridge the gap between Finland and Israel and bring the two start-up scenes closer together.

Disclosure: I work at Nordkapp, which is one of the Great Start partners.

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IVA conference: the aftermath

As you probably know from our earlier posts the IVA conference was held last week in Tel Aviv, Israel. Now it's time for a recap. I had an opportunity to interview Jussi Harvela, Pekka Roine and Kristian Järnefelt from Concilio Networks who all participated in the event. They all agreed that the whole trip was a success.

The Finnish delegation of fifteen people attended the conference (with total of 1700 attendees) itself and the companies also pitched for a selected VC audience just after the conference. Furthermore, all eight companies had private meetings with potential investors and partners. The advice from the experts (check the video) was clearly followed by the companies as the quality of pitches was described as "very good" or "excellent". The Finnish companies were pretty unknown for Israeli VCs who were anyhow impressed by the absence of "me-too" startups among the pitchers.

Mr. Järnefelt also provided some personal insights on Israeli business as well. He said that Israel resembles Silicon Valley a great deal and many of leading US VCs are also present in Israel. There are quite a lot early stage capital available and a bubbling startup scene as well. One notable thing is the amount of serial entrepreneurs who yet are rare (at least in software business) in Finland. According to Mr. Järnefelt Israeli startups have a strong level of ambition in general and the incubators (that acccept only 3-5% of applicants) encourage such behavior. However, one thing the Israeli ICT segment yet lacks is "a Nokia", so that gives the Finns something to chat about.

One the trip's goals was to deepen the co-operation between Finland and Israel. Thus, representatives from Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy, TEKES, Finnvera and Technopolis Ventures got a first-hand look on, for example, the Israeli VC industry and the incubator system. After the Finnish delegation returns we hope the co-operation gradually deepens and gains momentum. The signs seem promising in any case.

There were discussions that an Israeli delegation consisting of VCs and government officials would visit Finland sometime during the Autumn. It would be great if Estonian and Russian startups could attend such an event along with Finnish companies. We will keep you posted if and when we hear more of this kind of plans.

In conclusion, an excellent event and we hope to see a more deeper interaction between Israel and Finland in the future.

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Learning from Israel

I interviewed Mr Pekka Roine last week about the initiative, that we've written here, to take Finnish startups to Israel to learn their secrets of success. Mr Roine has been sitting in numerous company boards both in Finland and in Israel. He also has an understanding of the differences between these two countries many would crave for.

I personally wondered why the initiative was put forward by individuals such as Mr Roine, Mr Juha Ruohonen and Greater Helsinki Promotion and not the members of parliament. After discussing for a good half an hour I understood why.

To understand the backgrounds of this exchange, one must understand Israel and what they have gone through in the last 15 years or so. Israel is one of the leading incubators and accelerators of startups in the high tech industry. During the last 15 years, Israel has "sent" more than 100 companies to Nasdaq. They also have a very systematic way of doing this and it does not rely on assumptions such as the "connections between the jews in Israel and America" or any nonsense of that sort.

However, the story goes further back. In 2004, an event was organised in Finland, followig the signing of an Agreement of Understanding between the two countries on the government level. The agreement creates the framework to work together to increase the chances of cross border co-operation and eventually, success. Needless to say such an agreement did not work very well.

In May 2006, Erkki Virtanen, the permanent secretary of TEM, together with a delegation of business and government executives visited Israel to further deepen the understanding. After the visit the understanding and keys to success began to unfold.

February this year, the chairman of the Israeli Venture Association was over for a visit in Finland and invited Finnish companies over. The visit is timed in sync with the IVA's annual conference which gathers a lot of people from many areas of business.

The goal of the visit for the Finnish delegation this time is three fold; 1) there are lots of Israeli startups and knowledge to be shared, 2) Israeli investors are present and 3) many international investors are at the event as well.

When the program for the visit was announced in February, Greater Helsinki Promotion received applications from about 20 companies. Seven have been considered qualified for the visit. The companies travelling to Israel are, Concilio Networks, Eniram, EpiCrystals, Ramblas Digital, SenseG, and Whatamap.

These seven companies will visit Israel in two weeks time. IVA's conference is held on the 19th and 20th of May. After the conference the Finnish startups will have a chance to pitch to some Israeli startups and investors and get feedback from them, perhaps land an investment deal as well.

The program is primarily funded through sponsorship from Greater Helsinki Promotion and Technopolis Ventures BornGlobal, but there is a lot of work put in place pro bono.

Arctic Startup will be following the event very closely and we'll be reporting on the outcome of the conference later in May.

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Finnish startups can now pitch on funding from Israel

Greater Heksinki PromotionsI and Miikka had a chat yesterday with Tatu Laurila, CEO of Greater Helsinki Promotions about a venture they are organising for Finnish startups and prospects to Israel. Greater Helsinki Promotions is co-organising the event with Technopolis ventures.

Ten of the finest Finnish companies eligible for this venture will be sent to Israel to the IVA Hi-Tech Conference 2008. The event is held in Tel Aviv 19.-20.5.2008. The Israeli Venture Capital Association (IVA) has offered the Finnish organizers an opportunity to bring 5-10 promising start-ups plus an accompanying delegation to Tel Aviv for IVA’s annual conference, which attracts about 1,500 global players from the high tech industry, including VC and Corporate investors. Large number of global VC’s will attend the conference. The estimated cost for the whole program is a maximum of 5000 € at the maximum, a more exact budget will be available in the next couple weeks.

Deadline for enrollment is 2.4.2008. If you're interested, contact Will Cardwell of Technopolis Ventures for more information on how to apply.

For those who are unaware with the startup and entrepreneurship environment in Israel, it is a lot more effective than it is in Finland. The countries themselves are similar in size and population. With a focus on entrepreneurship and a 15-year strong track record, Israel has managed to enlist over 100 companies to Nasdaq and there seems to be more in the pipeline. There's definitely a lot there to learn. Arctic Startup will try to cover the process, preparaion up to the event and the event itself as thoroughly as possible. Stay tuned!

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