Roaming Will Be Killed By The Nordic/Baltic Region. Roamer From Latvia Joins The Race Battling Roaming
Roaming. The ArcticStartup region is going to get rid of that beast one way or another. Whether it will be Ukko Mobile, Skype, HolidayPhone or the new kid on the block, Roamer remains to be seen.
With Ukko Mobile focusing on data sim-cards only, HolidayPhone sending you a bunch of sim’s by post and Skype demanding internet - in addition to the roaming killing name, Latvia based Roamer also probably has the best promise. If they are able to deliver, that is.
Whether you want to create an exciting infographic depicting beer prices in Europe, your overview of the Formula 1 season or on a more serious note your Nordic/Baltic Investment Survey - look no further than Infogr.am, as long as you have the data, that is.
Infogr.am went through the Startup Sauna accelerator in 2012 and has since been growing at a very impressive rate. As of today, they have created more than 700 000 Infographics and add more than 100 000 every month. They also have over 300 000 users at Infogr.am.
This is the story that will explain everything you need to know about the Baltic investment market, outlining the current trends, introducing the key players, listing major investments and exits. It does not get much more comprehensive than this, so grab a chair, get a coffee and dig in.
HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE INVESTMENT MARKET
Before we start with the statistics and introductions, let us take a look at the Baltic investment market in general. The scene has been changing and developing and over the course of the last 5 years, the number of startups coming from the Baltic States was growing rapidly, most of them requiring seed and early stage investments.
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.
We have recently had the chance to test the Latvian made "Fearless Wheels" at the Tech Chill event in Riga. Fearless Wheels is a motocross mobile racing game that revolves around a story of a boy dreaming to become a motocross superstar, hoping to race at the biggest stadiums in the world. If you are a 70's-80's kid then you might have a very strong nostalgic association with Nintendos's launch title for the NES in 1985 - Excitebike. At least this is the first thing I thought when I started playing, in a good way, it felt good and I wanted to play more.
The first thing that you notice about the game is the production quality, everything feels like it was made by a professional gaming company from the game itself to the fonts and menu design. In fact, many "professional" and long-standing gaming companies overlook this completely. The gameplay is also quite intuitive. It is fair to say that we put the game on our radars at the event.
Cobook, our favorite Latvian address book for Mac, has launched a complementary iOS app for you to manage your contacts on the go. The app ties into some Cobook features and has its own dialer, making it a replacement for your current address book or "phone" app, if you're in to that.
The main draw to Cobook's desktop app is its speed. When you get someone's contact details you just type away in the search bar, and everything is added intelligently. On the iOS app you need to be more selective of which categories you are imputing data, but I suppose it's easy enough. The address book also plugs into your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts so you can easily find your Facebook or LinkedIn contacts' phone numbers, if they share those publicly.
Ask.fm is a service where anybody can ask you questions directly or anonymously, and has seen explosive growth. What is great about the service is that you can only “post” if there is a question for you. So users do not posting every little thing you did today, as many do on Twitter.
I personally first heard about them at Arctic15 this year and we were stunned to find out that a social network with over 21 million users and 9 million uniques was started right around the corner.
Just taking a look at Draugiem Group's Riga modern headquarters you get the sense that the company is still thriving and not slowly dying off, like every other regional social network has after Facebook started dominating the planet. Draugiem.lv still has the most active users for any social network in Latvia, counting 1 244 872 users to Facebook's 327 940 and Twitter's 62 000. Latvia only has a population of 2.2 million, giving Draugiem a very high penetration rate.
Perhaps one way the social network has been able to stay on top has been its focus on fostering the development of several startups, which have turned into their own companies. The Draugiem Group now consists of 14 companies and over 100 employees, providing a range of solutions from SMS marketing telemetry and GPS devices, web applications, and even a television platform with social media integration.
The group's companies include Vendon is one of their companies you might recognize, while others, like Friendly Bracelets make you wonder what they're doing in the bracelet game. But hey, they're diversified and they're doing well. The Draugiem Group's turnover is around €14.8 million.
Sellfy, the Latvian e-commerce platform, announces a seed funding round led by Skype co-founder Toivo Annus, long-time head of Skype Estonia Sten Tamkivi, as well as several telco executives from a leading Spanish cable operator. Sellfy has produced an e-commerce platform aimed at digital goods on social media, allowing anyone to easily sell their digital wares by just sending or sharing a link. The size and details of the funding round were not disclosed.
Getting close to 20 full shows we decided to interview Kaspars Dancis, the CEO and co-founder of Cobook. The company creates an app that goes by the same name and can now be found in the App Store for download. Cobook App is the best, most simple and beautiful address book application out there. As you can see, we at ArcticStartup are quite fond of it. The app has been developed in Riga, Latvia by Kaspars and his brother. They have also joined the European startup accelerator HackFwd just recently and are looking to release a bunch of new things in the coming weeks.
Cobook, the address book for Mac, has now officially launched their 1.0 version in the app store. The app quickly gained notoriety among the tech and "lifehacking" press, and hit 20 000 downloads in their first week alone. In the roughly three months Cobook has been in beta, the application hit around 120 000 unique downloads, with around 25 000 active users per week these days. Now the Latvian team tells us that in addition to their 1.0 launch, they are also joining HackFwd, one of Europe's top accelerators.
Riga-based Molport wants to do for molecules what Amazon has done for books -- make it easy to search and receive the chemicals you need for research and industry. According to the company, approximately seven million unique research chemicals are sold worldwide by thousands of companies, many of them small labs. Searching for and sourcing these chemicals is a major pain point for researchers. MolPort brings these independent retailers together to form a rare chemical compound marketplace.
We were talking today at the office about all the different applications we use on a day to day basis only soon to realise the most of the applications I use on a daily basis are from the Nordics and Baltics. In this post I've done a short analysis on each of the applications and services I use, but they really make up the most important applications outside of my e-mail client (Sparrow) and browser (Safari). One could assume that since I'm working on a Mac there wouldn't so much options out there, which of course couldn't be more wrong. I find the most beautiful apps to be on Mac and to my surprise many of them are made here in Northern Europe.
My work involves writing content, recording audio, e-mailing and sales work - just to name a few different tasks. I also invite you to add your own applications in the comments below - would be great to see how people in different functions use different applications. Oh, and if you're wondering why these products get to be on the list? They create amazing products. I've paid for all the programs below, meaning I haven't received any free licenses for any of them.
If you run your own business, you've probably got an old Excel file somewhere that tries to keep track of employees' days off. It works, but it could be so much easier if it were more self-managed and actually a calendar. A team from Riga (but now working out of the UK) is trying to make HR functions for SMEs easier with Cake.HR. The service is currently in private beta, but they are giving free accounts to companies until they turn on payments sometime in early March. The team also tells us they're giving free-for-life accounts in return for feedback on the service.
BaltCap has invested in Clusterpoint to the tune of €1 million, TechCrunch reports. The Latvian company produces its own, designed from ground up database software product-- Clusterpoint data base management system (Clusterpoint DBMS) and related application software. Their software allows customers to simplify database design, and scale out big data in clusters without performance loss.
(Article edited to correct that Wiseguys does take 8% equity)
Hot and fresh out of an event in Riga is a new Tallinn based accelerator: Startup Wise Guys. The accelerator is built in the modified Y Combinator model with a similar setup to Startup Sauna in Finland. Getting accelerated involves a 13 week program, demo day in Tallinn and London, and €5000 of funding per founder for 8% of equity. To build some hype, Wise Guys is also offering €500 for any startup referral that makes it into the program (this is my get rich quick scheme-- you heard it here first). The application process is open from 9th of February until 11th of March and the program starts on 25th of April.
Latvian-based Cobook is seeing a good deal of news hype and downloads in its first week of release. Yesterday on their blog they announced they've seen 20000 downloads of the application, which is essentially a better address book for OSX. The application sits in the menu bar, and opens a drop-down window when selected. A key feature seems to be the fast search and contact updating that happens through the same text box, where the app automatically updates new contact information to the correct location.
Seedcamp London is kicking off this week, and with it they announced for this round they've received a record number of applications and are hosting a record number of teams. For those who aren't familiar with the program, Seedcamp is a European startup incubator that employs many of the same principles as Silicon Valley's famous Y Combinator startup incubator. Of the selected 22 companies, Finland, Estonia, and Latvia are each represented with one company who will compete to win the London event. Winners will receive a year long support with mentors, and Seedcamp will invest around €50000 for 8-10% in the winning companies.
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).
RentMama is focused on helping you find the right car for your convenience. While assisting users with car rentals, RentMama looks for big and small rental companies who have your specified car available. And it isn't limited to cars in just one region-- the big idea is to save travelers the few extra hours they spend searching for best deals on Google to find the best car rental deals during their visit. RentMama achieves this by bringing all car rental companies under one banner. Users benefit by having to visit one place to find the best deals.
Success often follows where service providers or vendors improve their consumers’ experience. By gamifying the process of interaction with their brands, merchants can reward customers with points that can be redeemed as bonuses. This processes already exists on smartphones, bit currently other products aren’t interactive enough. Amooz steps in by improving your experience at cafés, bars and restaurants.
The Latvian startup partners with restaurants, bars and cafés to help users receive credits on their smartphone. The procedure is pretty simple and focuses on making the user experience interactive and can be explained in a few steps:
Update (3.11.2011): We've updated the information regarding Estonia to better reflect the market situation. After analysing a 3rd party data source (Refresh.lv) we realised Zizu's figures were wrong. They are now portrayed correctly in the data below. Please note that we have not changed the overall market situation of the Baltics, even though it would change slightly due to the change in figures from Estonia. Samad Mukhamedov from Zizu Project contacted us and we've discussed this over e-mail. According to their figures, they are number 2 in the Baltics in September, but due to the sheer difference in figures between Cherry's and those of the research site Refresh.lv's we are unable to replicate this. However, we wanted to bring this up as to make the figures as transparent as possible.
This post is a very comprehensive look into the daily deals, group buying market in the Baltics. We've also talked to the market leader, Cherry Media Group about the situation on the market and how they see it develop in the future. Despite being a fairly established trend in the world of e-commerce, the daily deals industry is far from saturated in the Baltics, but we're going to see consolidation among the players in the future. Cherry Media Group is the largest player in the market by far. According to calculations from the company themselves (that are available to the public, based on the deals the companies have sold), they have 49% market share in the Baltic market. Cherry Media Group operates in all three, Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian, markets.
Artists, designers, developers and other creative individuals who are looking to sell their digital product online often lack the time and resources to set up an online store. Latvian startup Sellfy plans to make the selling process as painless as possible with its streamlined “drop & sell” application.
Managing work and teams at your workplace is quite a daunting task. Factors like communication, collaboration, and management rely heavily on the effectiveness of whatever system you use. Choosing the right office system is important, because the more efficient this system is the more productive your team can become. The Latvia based startup, TeamLab, comes with a similar agenda; to connect teams, improve efficiency at work and speed up the the management tasks.
Every one of us lost some time at work browsing through social networks, reading news or checking out that cool website your friend recommended. Those distractions can eat up a lot of time and cause inefficiency - that's the premise DeskTime, a start-up from Latvia, was founded on. Their application measures how much time you or your employees spend on your computers at work and can provide accurate metrics on that time's productivity. Once the app is installed on the computer, it automatically tracks employee's total desktime and work time. Productivity is measured with the help of a modifiable list of programs and websites you spend time on. For instance: time spent on Photoshop would be registered as 'productive' and time spent on Twitter would be put into 'distracting' category.
It's been a tough run up to the Arctic15 conference for startups competing for the chance to pitch on stage. The finalists have now been chosen by the secret jury and they are listed below. Close to 100 companies applied to the competition by the end of July and over the course of August 33 companies made the so called semi-finals and from those, 15 companies came out on top as finalists. The 15 finalists were chosen from video pitches the companies made. This is for two reasons. First, we wanted the companies to have good products and secondly, they would also have to be good in selling and explaining those products.
Customers today have an increasing number of ways to interact with brands or physical venues. They can participate in online communities in social media, voice their feedback on Twitter, check-in almost anywhere and benefit from discounted coupons. There is also a growing number of companies that help traditional industries and physical venues interact with their customers. The latest example from this region is Reach.ly, a Latvian start-up that has just launched a service for hotels to reach out to potential customers through Twitter. Their idea is fairly simple: tweets about travel are one of the top themes on Twitter; by capturing specific tweets that feature a town of destination and delivering them in a real-time stream to hotels Reach.ly help hotel administration easily reach out to prospective customers.
The Helsinki based Aalto Venture Garage is putting together in international incubation/acceleration program for very early stage projects that should turn to startups later this summer. In total, 17 teams from the region were accepted into the program from around the Baltic Sea. 3 teams were from Russia, 2 from Latvia, 1 from Lithuania and Estonia as well as Sweden and the rest were from Finland (9).
A few weeks ago we put out a post promoting the Mini Seedcamp event in Stockholm taking place on May 4th. Yesterday, it was announced that a record number of companies had applied to the event and Seedcamp also listed 20 of the companies taking part in the event. Like in other cities, there is a mix of companies from a wider region and this time as well, a few companies from elsewhere in Europe are attending the event.
MyCash, a new start-up from Latvia, has launched a service that helps manage personal finances. Setting financial goals and budgets, receiving timely alerts on bills, finding savings and seeing your spending all in one secure place. Sounds familiar? No wonder - that's exactly what Mint does in US and Canada. Latvian MyCash is not as comprehensive a servivce as Mint, but it's clearly trying to get there. Unlike Mint that directly monitors your bank accounts, you'd have to put every spending and income manually into MyCash. The interface is not as smooth as Mint's but it does not have any obvious flows either: it's clean and simple. MyCash is only available in Latvia, in Latvian and Russian languages only.