Did you know there was an online games retailer called Viagame that sold exclusively to the Nordics? I didn’t, and hearing about it made we wonder whether there was strong enough demand in such a narrow market to support a business like this. Especially when there’s so much competition in the field from the behemoth that is Steam, and other companies such as Good Old Games, Green Man Gaming, and Origin. Well Viagame, that brave company, have just announced their expansion into the Baltics and have launched stores in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Perhaps they have been thinking the same thing.
Sometime ago, me and a friend of mine were joking that once I get pitched in an airplane, it would mean that ArcticStartup is actually famous. Well, I got pitched on an airplane whilst on my way to the Dublin Web Summit. Too bad that the guy had no idea what ArcticStartup was, but it still counts, right?
The whole situation showed how the startup community is evolving in the region. When Paulius Paskevicius, COO of Stylegrid, took a seat next to me, the first thing he asked was: “Are you going to the Web Summit?”.
Lithuanian startup ImpressPages has recently raised €200,000 to help accelerate their presence in the content management system (CMS) industry. So far the company has more than 42,000 registered users and now looking to increase that user base further.
ImpressPages works on the foundations of making development of websites more user friendly for those that aren’t IT savvy. The biggest USP for ImpressPages is the drag and drop functionality, and their ImpressPages open source platform offers developers a method of monetizing their customized plugins. The company stand by this and state, “There is absolutely no reason why development and management of a website has to be complicated. It has to be as simple as editing a text document, therefore market is ready for such a tool”.
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.
The competition amongst accelerators in Europe and our region in particular is increasing, given the amount of choice that is becoming available. So it is no surprise that everybody is stepping up and trying to improve their offering. After all, an accelerator is also a business and needs to try to get only the very best.
To do this, the Lithuanian accelerator StartupHighway just announced that they are improving their financial deal by decreasing the equity stake from 10% to 7.5% while keeping the investment amount at up to €14,000.
Before we dig into features, we'll quickly start with Lithuania-based project management software Eyelean's backstory, because it's pretty impressive what they've done with four employees. The company started to sell Eylean 2 years ago, but the first version of the software was created it 3-4 years ago. The story goes that the company built it for themselves because they couldn't find anything that fit their needs on the market and after using it for their own work, some people saw it and suggested they try to sell it.
Now it seems they've had plenty of success - they have customers ranging from universities in New Zealand, to IF, Velux, Bupa, L-3 TRL or First Solar, and some weapons manufacturers.
The main problem with most bookmarking tools is that you either need to do a lot of actions to save anything or you end up with a huge clutter later. Dragdis solves all this by allowing you to drag and drop links, images, videos and text to folders that appear on the right side of your browser the moment you start dragging something. With two full days of Dragdis behind me, I am a very happy user as links and smaller pieces of content ar organized and easily shareable.
The Arcticstartup Region has been through a lot of changes in the past 5 years. The startup scene used to be inexistent but now you can apply to an accelerator nearly at any time of the year. Startuphighway, Lithuania based accelerator is now accepting applications for their third batch.
Since their launch in 2011, they have had reasonable success, where around three quarters of all startups in their 2011 batch received funding. One startup from that batch caught our eye and has been doing very well, raising funding and going places. We are eager to see how well the second batch is doing.
I'm calling it, summer is over. The trees outside are losing their leaves as fast as our office's unwatered houseplants, and if you haven't noticed it's kind of chilly outside. But now that everyone is back from their summer vacations, conference and events are dotting the calendar. Vilnius, Lithuania based Lemon Labs has put out a nice little app, called Hashtag App, that allows you to easily follow a mashup of Twitter and Instagram infographics on your phone.
Before heading off for a summer break with our podcast, we wanted to talk to Vytas Paukštys of Eskimi about their business, which isn't all that usual for a Baltic or for that matter a Nordic startup. Eskimi is doing business in Nigeria and Ghana mostly, but has users from other parts of the African continent as well.
And how exactly are they doing? Fantastically, in short. They have some 7.7 million registered users and they're showing more than 1 billion ad impressions a month. In the last month, they signed up a million new users to their service. This company is definitely taking off.
We're also going to be taking a small summer break after this episode. We'll be back with more interviews in August.
While we usually have our eyes on mobile applications that leverage the shiniest new hardware, we shouldn't forget the companies that have tapped markets that are way off our radar. Lithuania-based Eskimi has now grown to 7 million users by creating a feature-phone based social network that has seen huge popularity in parts of Africa. Things are picking up quickly for the social network; last month Eskimi saw their service grow by 1 million users. More than 80% of the Eskimi customer base has grown organically.
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.
Eskimi, the mobile dating service and social network, was founded in Lithuania but sees the vast majority of its users in Africa and other emerging markets. The company has a high penetration in Nigeria, with over 2.4 million of its 5+ million registered users based in Nigeria. In recent news, the company has recently teamed up with Gecko Landmarks, a location-based service provider to deliver location-based dating and flirting services via mobile.
A Lithuanian company has created a Microsoft Kinect-based login system for secure online banking, with the added benefit of minority-report style arm waving to pay your bills. In total it looks like ETRONIKA has built a concise security system. You begin by using a Kinect plugged into a PC, where the sensor's motion-based software will use your face and voice as login information. On top of that they use a phone-based pin code for an extra layer of security when you actually move money aroud. If you were ever to step out of the Kinect sensor's range, the system would log you off automatically to protect your information.
Eskimi, the Lithuanian-based mobile social network based on flirting, has announced it recently hit 5 million users, and is growing at 30 000 a day. The service has grown steadily in popularity in Africa, where desktop-based social networks have not meet the needs of every mobile user. Eskimi's largest market is in Nigeria, where the company counts around 2.2 million users. There is also a growing user-base in Ghana, South Africa,Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, where there are over 250 000 users each. Our last coverage of Eskimi six months ago reported they had 2.5 million users.
Lithuania-based game developer Outlander Studios has signed a partnership agreement with pre-seed investor HackFwd, securing enough funds and support to commercialize the company’s first game, Equilibrium.
Equilibrium is a 3D real-time strategy game for Android. Players are taken into a medieval fantasy world of Chaos vs. Order in which they have to build and defend their village against the opposing force. Reminiscent of tower defense, Outlander Studios promises that the game mechanics and challenges presented in the game are actually quite unique.
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).
Most of us use an array of web-based apps and services each day to carry out different tasks, but have you ever wondered how much time and effort is wasted switching from one app to another while working on a single project? Lithuanian startup BusyFlow aims to rectify the situation with a service that integrates all your favorite productivity tools into a single workspace.
Getting your documents and proposals approved on time by all relevant stakeholders can be a tedious and nerve-wracking task. Easyprove, a Lithuania-based startup, is developing an online platform that could potentially make the process a whole lot smoother, efficient and carefree.
Mobile payments are hot right now, but many services are only offered for certain phones, or certain stores-- like Starbucks' mobile payment app. A Lithuanian startup has a new take on the concept to also reach users who don't have a smartphone. Mokipay uses a sticker with a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip that attaches to the back of a smart or dumb phone, which can be read by a Mokipay reader already present in about 2000 bars, restaurants, and retailers across Lithuania.
Information overload is a big problem online and there are many services that try to solve it: from good old RSS readers to various content discovery platforms like Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon or Reddit to social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook. Two entrepreneurs from Lithuania, Daumantas Dvilinskas and Mindaugas Krisciunas, decided it's time to move content discovery from social to interest graph, making use of all the existing services. That is how Pinevio, a social content discovery platform, was founded a year ago.
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.
I miss out on knowing what I planned last year. How much of it has been achieved and what hasn’t been? While a personal diary with all records and an online to to list there is nothing like a letter from your own self dated from last year. Letter2Future takes care of that.
The startup hails from Lithuania and is a non-commercial project aimed at helping you send your letter to the future. “Thoughts materialize better on paper” is indeed a wonderful phrase and ensures whatever you thought or planned is available anytime without risk of being forgotten or altered. The startup enables you to compose a letter today, on anything you want write, be it a plan, a promise that you make today or just share with your beloved how much you love them today. Once written you can assign a future date when the letter is to be delivered. Great, there is some more news to make it better.
A Lithuanian based social gaming company and developer of such games, Yummi Apps has announced that they are finalising work on their game combining social and mobile features - Wizardia. The game will connect these two mega trends in real-time to create a new gaming experience, according to the company's press release.
Three independent “daily deals” -sites, Cherry.ee, Beta.lt, Grupinis.lt, have today announced a merger to create the largest internet coupon site in the Baltics. The newly created company has over a 50% market share in the region and had a turnover of 0.94 million euro in March 2011. The three companies were all owned by their founders and angel investors. The merger was completed through a stock swap.
We’ve been expecting this sort of activity to take place and it’s great to see companies with similar interests partner to improve customer experience.
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).
Weekend events that concentrate on creating a start-up idea and building a prototype are becoming quite popular in Nordics and Baltics. The latest addition to the recently held events is Startup Weekend Lithuania. It was held for the second time in Kaunas and gathered around 200 guests. One of the key organizers, Justinas Katkus, shared with us the event's outcome. Throughout the 54 hours that the event lasted, 17 teams were formed and at the end 6 best projects were chosen.
Social networks are today's darlings: a lot of us use at least one and many strive to build one of their own around a certain aspect of their lives. Eskimi belongs to the second camp: the company offers a mobile-first social network. Eskimi's main purpose is to help users meet new people. To that end, everything is made simple in the service: creating a profile requires only a username, date of birth, your location and gender. Thus, you are free to chat with other users after 30 seconds of using Eskimi.
You can also share photos and send gifts or private messages. Even though the service works both in a browser and as an app, being mobile-first means Eskimi gets most of its traction from mobile platforms. Most of their users come from the emerging markets like Asia, Africa and Latin America. Founded only a year ago in Lithuania, the service today has 1M registered users who generate over 300M pageviews and 60M messages per month.
MobileBeat announced yesterday that GetJar has raised a whopping $25 million in its third round of financing. GetJar's founder and CEO Ilja Laurs is from Lithuania, but the company has been headquartered in the US for many years. This round of financing came from Tiger Global Management and Accel Partners. Accel Partners also led the two previous rounds. With the third round of financing, GetJar has raised in total $42 million.