Editor's Note: This is a sponsored post for the DNA Engine Blog by Marc Dillion, head of Jolla's Sailfish development.
Jolla was born out of passion. We saw that we had a chance to make something really unique, and we decided to do it although seemed crazy to many people at the time. We have proven that by being different, doing unlike things and spreading the love, we can create a world class product with enormous demand and support from the world.
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.
Musopia, the creators of FourChords, have launched their guitar karaoke app worldwide. Karaoke is insanely popular in Finland, with near every backwoods bar having a karaoke setup. But instead of needing a karaoke machine, anyone in the world can start strumming along and singing to popular hits, even if they haven't heard the song before.
The iPhone and iPad app makes "guitar karaoke" possible by breaking down songs into simple chord structures, and then tells you when to strum, sort of like Guitar Hero. The app gives you the finger placements of the chords before you begin, so even if you aren't that solid on the guitar, you can still get the right sound and timing.
It seems like a team of Finns decided their single-payer healthcare system wasn't enough of a challenge, so they moved to Silicon Valley to bring order to helping people find new doctors. BetterDoctor's birth story actually comes from co-founder Ari Tulla's personal experience trying to find the right doctor for his family, and has spawned a web and mobile service to help people find the right doctor in America's complicated medical system. We covered their "beta" Silicon Valley launch last May, but yesterday they have launched nationwide covering 600 000 doctors from Primary Care to Dentists and Optometrists.
Nowadays I'm a little disappointed in you if you send me normal text message. Data rates are so cheap these days that I hate the concept of spending money on texts when a slightly different pipe on my carrier's network is basically free. As the world began to ask itself "wait, why are we paying for texting?" free(er) services like WhatsApp, Voxer, and Viber lured us in with cheap one-time fees or completely free services.
Perhaps this is just observation bias, but the market seems to have decided WhatsApp will be the standard. It's not fancy, it's not beautiful but it works. But Jongla, a Finnish mobile instant messaging startup, thinks theres still room in this market.
One company we haven't covered since 2010, but has building a solid community around its product is Sumo.Fm, the service behind Sumopaint. The Helsinki-based company started off when their CTO Lauri Koutaniemi got fed up paying a photoshop license and decided to create a free online alternative. On top of the web-based tool, the company was able to build a strong community around an online gallery at Sumo.fm, which looks familiar to the concept behind deviantART. Users can share images they've created and interact with each other.
Sumopaint was designed to be to a photoshop alternative, so it still can be intimidating and inaccessible to many users who open it up the first time. To bring the Sumo.Fm community to more people, today the company announces an iPad app that is simpler to use, but still offers the basic set of features that will get creativity flowing to a new set of users.
Turku, Finland based TicBits has been growing steadily since we last covered the release if iAssociate 2, their popular word association game. Their team has grown to nine employees without any outside funding, and today announces the release of another title, Cruel Jewels.
The new game can be described as a match-three game with a twist. The evil villain Leonard St. Vile has challenged you to a game alternating between three different modes: regular, timed and versus. The versus mode is where it gets interesting with you taking turns in order to do damage to the opponent.
Helsinki-based Fluid Interaction is using mobile screens to fight a war with the world's leading source of information overload: Twitter. Rather than the endless scroll of tweets, retweets, and replays, they've created a wheel-based UI for Twheel, their Twitter client, that's easy to scroll through while also providing context on how important each individual tweet is.
The Fluid Interaction team has some background in cognitive science, and they base their UI design on the fact that humans can spot differences in round shapes very quickly. On their wheel they provide a relevance bar for each tweet. CEO Kalle Määttä explains, "When you're looking for content, it's not the content but how others have reacted and what's your relationship to your source.
Twheel has now launched on iOS can now be found in the app store.
Rovio's new physics puzzle game, Amazing Alex, hits the streets today in a pivotal moment in the company's history. Rovio has proved that they can print money all day around the Angry Birds concept, but if the company truly wants to IPO and create a media empire, they need to prove to investors they can do a much bigger reach than Angry Birds Space. Amazing Alex looks like a familiar concept, but still interesting for a new and wider audience. Players create chain reactions between various toys, like balloons, dump trucks, and other interactive objects to collect floating gold stars and complete tasks.
The game will launch with 100 levels, where players will have ample opportunity to use 35 interactive objects to create Rube Goldberg style contraptions. The game will also be more social, in the sense that fans can create their own levels and share them with friends or anyone else in the world.
Without getting our hands on the game yet, I imagine it's wise for Rovio to stay within the physics game genre. Angry Birds' real strength was that it gave users a natural sense of how the various birds would interact with the pigs' shoddily built houses, while still keeping a large element of surprise. Without breaking it down too much, Amazing Alex seems fairly similar to Angry Birds at that level. A player lines up and releases some stimulus into the game world, and then waits in anticipation to see if everything was as lined up as hoped, and if not, there's still the chance that the player will get lucky. Angry Birds does this game mechanic very well, and Angry Birds Space proved they can get a little crazier with the concept, while still making it fun.
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.
iZettle, the chip card reader that allows anyone to take credit card payments on their smartphone, announces it is launching a test run in the UK. Three thousand mini-chip card readers are being made available for small businesses and individuals who are willing to participate in the beta trial.
We covered iZettle's payment fees recently, as the company just dropped the €0.15 transaction charge, leaving just a 2.75% fee for MasterCard, Visa, or Diners Club. American Express comes with a 2.95% fee. Missing from the UK launch is Visa credit card acceptance.
Wrapp has now launched in the United States, partnering their launch with retailers including the Gap, H&M, Rovio, and Sephora. We've been covering Wrapp for some time now, interviewing COO Carl Fritjofsson on our podcast and hosting CEO Hjalmar Winbladh at our ArcticEvening panel discussion in Stockholm. In both cases they stressed the importance of controlling the United States market, especially against the competition of the German Samwer Brothers' Dropgifts.
At the ArcticEvening event I asked Winbladh if their biggest barrier to entry in the U.S. was selling the concept to large retailers. He said brands can easily see Wrapp's value, but what was more important was being sure to get the right retailers on board for launch. Wrapp is opening in the U.S. with 10 brands, with another 15 merchants joining in a matter of weeks.
Launched today is Fourchords - a new app designed to make playing the guitar accessible, especially for when you want to play and sing songs you're not so familiar with. The main point of the app is to break down songs to their simplest level to make it easy to start playing songs you know, especially when you want to play and sing familiar hits with friends. This isn't some app for precise fingering, the motto behind FourChords is that close enough is good enough.
Co-founder and CEO Topi Löppönen gave a demonstration of the app to me, and says when creating the service he kept two things in mind. "There should be a lower barrier of starting to preform music, as many people could play music as possible. But the app should also connect people."
I swear this is the last Wrapp expansion story (okay, at least until they launch in the U.S.) but it's been interesting to track their growth against the Rocket Internet competitor - Dropgifts. Wrapp is now launching in Taiwan, which heads their first expansion outside of Europe. Wrapp is already present in Sweden, the UK, and Norway, and will soon be live in Germany, France, and the United States. Everyone has their heads turned to Wrapp's U.S. expansion, where gift cards are a huge $100 billion market, but looking east Wrapp can take advantage of the huge gift giving culture present in Asia. Most gift cards in the States are exchanged on major holidays and birthdays, but in Asia Wrapp can possibly see a steady churn from more day-to-day use.
GigaOm reports that Spotify launched in Germany this past week without backing of GEMA, the German Society of Administration of Copyrights. The organization represents the copyrights of more than 64,000 members, as well as over 2 million copyright owners all over the world. Negotiations between GEMA and Spotify are still ongoing, with the final negotiations said to take place later this month. Spotify has always placed weight on the by-the-books legality of their service, which is why it is interesting they went ahead with the launch.
Swedish social fitness startup FunBeat will soon launch outside its home market, where it has found a strong following. The company established itself in 2008 and going to become the largest training site in Sweden, with 200,000 members today, with 6.5M registered exercises in 1,300 sports, clocked in 2011 alone.
The company was founded by Olle Eriksson, who has been joined with former Nordic Google Marketing Director, Thomas Bergbom. He describes it, “In short, FunBeat is a Facebook for exercising, where you can share and compare all your logged activities and training targets with your friends. We also have an analysis tools that is purely addictive and inspires people to keep on going,"
Wrapp has now launched in the UK, allowing users to send and receive gift cards, download the Wrapp app, as well as send gift cards to users in the UK and Sweden. The app has seen a fairly decent amount of traction in Sweden, becoming visible to 1/3 of all Swedish Facebook users during their beta trail. The company has also received over $10 million in two investments from respected investors such as Atomico, Greylock Partners, and Creandum. From here, Wrapp tells us they are beefing up to target the U.S. market.
iZettle has announced that they will begin their Nordic launch tomorrow, and will be releasing 5000 devices in Denmark, Norway, and Finland, each, for beta testing. If you haven't seen our previous coverage, iZettle’s iPhone and iPad app lets anyone take credit or debit card payments on the go, with or without iZettle’s chip-card reader.
The company offers a service similar to the US-based competitor, Square, although Square is built for magnetic strip cards and plugs into the headphone jack. The device has already been beta testing in Sweden since November, a month after the company raised €8.2M in venture funding. We've already gotten our hands on the device, and will be releasing a more detailed review later this week.
We've received news that tomorrow Blaast is launching "the world's first cloud-based mobile platform" in Jakarta, Indonesia in cooperation with the mobile operator XL. The Helsinki-based company is throwing a press event and hackathon designed to catch the attention of the local press and the local developer community, who are encouraged to create apps for the entirely cloud-based platform. Finland's Foreign Minister, Alex Stubb, is also in Jakarta and will likely attend the launch.
Blaast has been operating in stealth mode for some time, but what's been public is that the company's cloud based platform will essentially allow 'dumber' feature phones to behave like smartphones by running the complicated background processes in the cloud. Android already incorporates some of this ideology, but Blaast has built its entire platform on this concept.
Finland-based Cabforce launched officially at the Nordic Travel Fair last week. The service allows business and recreational travelers to book a taxi up to two hours in advance, and pre-pay with a credit card online. This saves the stress of being "taken for a ride" on a longer route in an unfamiliar city, and simplifies payment and language hassles with local drivers.
At the end of last week, Tripl announced it is travelling out of private beta and is hoping to find people to connect with in the real world. We covered their $300,000 funding round last May, but if you don't remember their service, they're another Swedish startup in the social travel sphere. Tripl searches your and your friends' connections and check-ins from Facebook to help you meet the locals whenever you're in a strange city. And when you're just at home, I suppose Tripl is sort of like Couch Surfing. You get to meet with new people who come visit your city, except without some stranger staying the night.
The beta of Foodie.fm is already running in Finland and the UK, but yesterday TechCrunch reported that Foodie.fm will be launching in all countries at LeWeb this year. The service provides recipes which you can save in the app, which in turn will give you a shopping list to use at the store. Foodie.fm also has a deal with the S Group in Finland, so it gives you the prices of items on your shopping list as well. In UK Foodie.fm product assortment is linked to Tesco.com through their API.
Slidefy is a new Finnish service that targets a niche need with their offering. In essence, it's a slide sharing solution, but targeted at conference organisers and the like. Slidefy will work in such a way that conference organisers collect attendees' e-mails before the event and send them a link to the material the speaker has provided in advance. Then, during the presentation, users can focus on the actual presentation and not jot down points the speaker makes.
Applifier has just announced that they have launched "Games On Applifier", essentially a Facebook app to help users discover and find new interesting games. Applifier is Facebook's largest cross promotion network with 55 million monthly active users (MAU). Previously, Applifier has enabled game publishers to promote their games through their banners, but this takes game discovery and recommendations to a completely new level.
For the third time ever Mobile Dev Camp will take place on Saturday 26th February in Helsinki, Finland. The event is a special treat for 200+ developers, business people and proud geeks who want to find out the next big thing on mobile. Mobile Dev Camp is known for launching new platforms and products before they are out in the mainstream. For example, at its first event in 2009 the organizers presented Android platform when it was not even out in Finland. Last year Rovio and Windows 7 were the highlights. Back then few people knew about Angry Birds and no Window 7 phones were around. This year Applifier and Samusung Bada will be at the center of attention. On top of that, the event includes a competition for developers to create a simple and fun application for different mobile platforms in 48 hours. Each platform has its own category and a great prize, like a new Wave mobile phone in Samsung's Bada category. Best part: the event is completely free, though you should probably register to let organizers know how many people to expect.
Tattletech has a story on a new 150 million euro fund to be launched in Finland during Q2 of 2011. According to the article, there are three individuals behind the initiative - 2 telco pioneers and a Finn working in the European Investment Bank. I got in touch with the people behind the article and they confirmed this, working in PR, but were unable to give out anymore information just yet.
It's been quite sometime in the making, but it is finally time to launch the new site with some neat features that enable us to make ArcticStartup so much more it used to be. Let me explain what we've developed and why.
The new ArcticStartup has been designed to give more tools to the community. We wanted to reach out to the community and give you more ways to initiate discussions and share material (news, links, press releases, etc.) on our site. Our article sections is still there, but we wanted to add more ways for the community to discover new, interesting and most of all relevant content.
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.
Last week, I got to see something really cool. The first time I heard this pitch I knew the problem it would solve and the immediate value it would create. The company we're talking about is Signom Ltd. It's a Finnish startup founded by Ossi Marko (disclaimer: he's an advertiser with ArcticStartup in OMLegal and ArcticStartup has signed an advertising agreement with Signom for later this year too). By background, he's a lawyer so he doesn't share the technical point of view that many tech-oriented entrepreneurs have nowadays.
Partied too hard and lost your stuff? There's a cool new Finnish startup looking to help you out with your lost belongings - FinderBase.com. The was launched only a few days ago, on the First of May in Helsinki, Finland. The launch was handled in junction with the First of May celebrations, where most of the country goes out to celebrate in parks with their friends. Needless to say, a lot of stuff is lost.