You may have already heard that Starttaamo is making some noise over in Oulu, Finland. For a small startup organisation, they are doing remarkably well. Their members have raised a total of 20-25 million EUR, out of which over 10 million EUR comes from non-public sources.
This is especially impressive, considering that Oulu is a small town of 150 000 inhabitants located just 160 kilometers away from the Arctic Circle. We can only guess that this is where the perfect Finnish combination of dire colds, a lot of beer and hot saunas works best. Alternatively it can be Starttaamo’s entrepreneurial spirit, “can do” attitude and no government funding allowed policy, that is helping them achieve these results.
If there's anything Rovio knows, it's how to get their brand out there. Well, they make some fun games as well, but they reach a massive amount of eyeballs across mobile apps, Facebook, Smart TVs, and so on. It all comes down to the "all the screens" strategy that Rovio CMO Peter Vesterbacka has famously promoted for the Espoo-based company. The result is a massive fan base and high engagement. Rovio's Youtube channel has over 1 billion views. And last December Rovio announced it had over 1 billion downloads with 263 million monthly active users.
Now Rovio has put out a press release with the title "Rovio Moving Towards Digital Advertising," which seems to say nothing more than "we hired a bunch of senior advertising people, and we're looking for brands."
The Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen opened Slush 2012 with great enthusiasm about the Finnish startup scene. Katainen has been popping up more and more around the entrepreneurship circles in recent weeks, first touring the renovated Startup Sauna co-working space with Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev.
Onstage at Slush Katainen started off his talk by jokingly showing off his multicolored painted nails, which Rovio's Peter Vesterbacka (who also had his nails painted) later explained it signified how enthusiastic and accessible the Finnish Government was. Katainen seemed bemused about it onstage, but Vesterbacka (sort of) has a point - "When has Obama had his nails painted?"
But it wasn't all a princess tea party. Katainen spoke about €200 million worth of tax proposals his government will implement to make Finland a better environment for startups.
The Finnish Arvopaperi magazine has announced the ownership structure of Rovio, the creators of Angry Birds. The information has not come up in any IPO filing, but through public information in the Finnish governmental registry. The biggest chunk of the Rovio is owned by Trema Holdings International BV, the holding company of Kaj Hed. Kaj Hed is Mikael's father and Mikael is Niklas' cousin. It seems that Accel and Atomico, who together invested $42 million into the company last year, own around 20% of the company.
Rovio's Chief Marketing Officer, also known as the Mighty Eagle, has come out with figures regarding Rovio's financials in an interview by Tekniikka & Talous, a Finnish newspaper. In the interview, he also said Rovio is looking to IPO in Hong Kong in 2013. In 2010 Rovio's revenue was around $10 million. This year the company expects its turnover to be around $100 million.
Rovio has teamed up with Lappset, a manufacturer of park and playground equipment, to build officially licensed Angry Birds activity parks for children. The first activity parks will pop up early next year in Finland, but it comes as no suprise that Rovio’s plan is to introduce these ”Angry Birds Magic Places” in every corner of the world.
CMO Peter Vesterbacka says that Rovio will not build large amusement parks in style of the previously seen Chinese knock-offs. The company wants to engage kids in activity rather than force them to wait in line for 15 minutes in order to enjoy a two minute ride. The new Angry Birds parks will also include in-game features that will bring the game and the physical world together.
It might seem like I've began a holy war against other media corporations out there, but no - I'm just trying to prove how ridiculous the media business is online and just how far it will go for a few more eyeballs. This case in my opinion is a perfect example of such an activity where certain laws become secondary. On December 6th Finland celebrated its independence day and the Finnish president invited the most successful people from various walks of life to the Presidential Palace for a gala evening. This year Peter and Teija Vesterbacka also were invited due to Peter Vesterbacka's work as the CMO of Rovio. Teija Vesterbacka wore a red dress for the evening that had design concepts from one of the birds in the mobile game Angry Birds.
All this caused a huge stir online as a result of numerous blogs and media sites showing the dress in a photograph. It's all good publicity for Teija and Peter Vesterbacka, Rovio and Finland except for tiny detail - all of the international outlets that published the picture of the couple walking down the isle, did so illegally.
We got an exclusive tip from the Mighty Eagle himself, that Rovio will be announcing something new at this year's Slush. The tip held through, as Mikael Hed, the CEO of the company made the announcement on stage through a video; Angry Birds has now been downloaded more than 500 million times. That's one hell of a milestone.
Only a little over a year ago, the company announced that they will try to reach 100 million downloads in 12 months. How wrong they were (and how crazy we all thought they were).
Earlier this week at Nokia World, Nokia announced that it had partnered with Rovio and Angry Birds. In practice this means that all new Nokia Asha family phones will have Angry Birds pre-installed on it. A little earlier in the keynote, Stephen Elop announced that Nokia is making 14 phones each second. Think about it. It adds up to 1,2 million phones a day. Most of those phones aren't smart phones - they're phones being built for the emerging markets. Nokia Asha will be replacing the Series 40 phones and therefore, most of the phones Nokia makes - will come with Angry Birds pre-installed.
Bloomberg is reporting today that Rovio has announced it is preparing for an IPO in 2012. “We’re not ready to file for an IPO tomorrow. Maybe a year from now.” Peter Vesterbacka, the Mighty Eagle of the company said on Bloomberg TV. He also went on to state that the company is insanely profitable. The valuation of the company is more than a billion dollars, sources close to Bloomberg state.
Angry Birds Magic, which was further announced last night in New York at the RWW2Way Summit, will be using both NFC and GPS to enable new features and possibilities for gamers. Mighty Eagle Peter Vesterbacka and Ramine Darabiha, the product manager for Angry Birds Magic have stated in GigaOM, that the new platform will enable both new revenue streams for Rovio, but also new ways for gamers to enjoy the game.
I gathered a few figures from the web this week regarding Angry Birds and how it has been performing. Rovio, the Finnish gaming company does state sales and download figures every now and then, but more broader figures to understand the game appeal are hard to dig. Peter Vesterbacka, The Mighty Eagle, commented to a blog post on Friday and while doing so, gave out a few figures that are worth sharing.
Angry Birds 2 may very well be told from the pigs point of view, if there's believing what Peter Vesterbacka has disclosed about Rovio's future plans in Virtual Goods Summit in London. Pocket Lint wrote that the Mighty Eagle, aka Peter Vesterbacka, stated that they want to be able to surprise people. David Selle, a participant in the event tweeted Vesterbacka saying "We are not going to do a sequel, we want to surprise people - no one has told the story from the pigs point of view".
Rovio's Mighty Eagle Peter Vesterbacka took to the stage on Tuesday in SIME Helsinki to talk about Rovio and Angry Birds. During his talk, he disclosed a bunch of numbers and Rovio's, so called Tetris strategy, to reach 100 million downloads in 12 months. Tetris strategy is an internal term used inside Rovio for the goal they want to reach. It refers to EA Mobile's Tetris, which has reached approximately 100 to 120 million downloads and is the most sold mobile game, according to Vesterbacka.
Zipipop, a new media start-up that develops web-based services for making everyday life easier, is going to Mobile 2.0 in San Francisco on the 3rd November. Zipipop was selected to present at the conference when it won Mobile 2.0 Europe.
Zipipop CEO Helene Auramo informed ArcticStartup that Zipipop is going to San Francisco to win Mobile 2.0, but that they are also looking forward of seeing many interesting people and are going to spend an extra one and a half weeks over in the US. We believe that the extra week and a half will be spent driving between venture capital firms looking for investors. (Previous story on the topic here)
Why we have reason to believe this is because Zipipop has gone public with its Advisory Board and one of the Board Members who has already unofficially worked for a long time with the company, Peter Vesterbacka, has been making arrangements for the company's trip to US for weeks now. These arrangements have very likely included setting up those magical meetings with the venture capitalists.
On a related note the company has revealed that they have a new partner, Robert Aarts. Aarts worked previously as Director of Engineering at start-up Trustgenix which was acquired by HP at the end of 2005. Earlier on Robert was a Senior Architect for Nokia Web Services for seven year.
All this looks very much like the company is getting itself tidied up and presentable for the investors. All well, except that as we all know venture financing has dried up almost over night due to gloomy predictions and the general downturn in the global economy. Let's hope that Zipipop can assure the wary investors that they have what it takes to make Zipipop's flagship product, Zipiko, the next Twitter or at least a nice quick exit.
Zipiko is a SMS based social intention broadcasting application. I believe that Zipiko has potential since it is build from simple enough elements which potentially make it easy enough to use by anyone in the larger public, unlike many other web 2.0 services which just dazzle you. Having said that, when it comes to predicting success, how I go about it is by trying out something at least a couple of times and if after a while notice myself using it, even every now and then it can be a success at least for a niche. I don't use Zipiko even after having tried it out a few times, which is a sign that it needs more work. Twisting the service and letting the users decide which variations work and which doesn't might do just that, since the right elements are there.
Have you tried the service? What did you think?
There has been much talk around Slush lately. Yet, it has not yet been very clear at all what is happening and I'm partly to blame. Now I try to shed some light onto the issue and at the same time invite you all to Slush.
In a nutshell Slush is a new Helsinki originated event for startups by startups. The whole process started when I along with a few others passionate about the subject were trying to brainstorm on how to give a boost to the Finnish startup scene, home and abroad. We had an idea that a bigger annual event might be the answer for the lack of visibility among Finnish startups in the global arena. If nothing else, we saw that such an event was missing from the Finnish startup fabric.
After throwing ideas back and forth for while I, Peter Vesterbacka (of Mobile Monday fame) and Kai Lemmetty (of Floobs) came up with an event that would show the best Finland has to offer, once a year every year. Later on Helene Auramo from Zipipop jumped along to bring her positive energy to the team and give it an even stronger startup perspective. Peter came up with the name Slush and so it started.
Finnish summer can be an amazing experience with its nightless nights, but there's also the dark winter we live with the other six months. Thus, any startup born in Finland have equal number of slushy and dark Novembers in their DNA as they have those warm sunny Julys. Many say the one quality a startup needs above all is perseverance against adversity and out of all the languages Finnish is the one that has its own word for describing just that. The word is Sisu and I believe that it has much to do with Finns pushing through those dark slushy winter months. Thus, an apt name especially for a startup event. Having said that, I believe this is the case with startup DNA all over the Nordic and Baltic countries.
After finding the right people to take on the challenge we were ready to start working. What we really aim to do is light up the startup scene, namely by showing students what entrepreneurship can be at its best, and show the international crowd that there is much more to Finnish startups than the tip of the iceberg they've seen so far. Naturally big part of the whole event is to enable the Finnish entrepreneurs meet not only each other but also investors and other businesses from home and abroad.
We know there's a plethora of events that are not working as well as they could for the entrepreneurs themselves, and thus we decided that everything we do should be done in the interest of the startup scene in mind. If something is in conflict with that focus, it will be scrapped from the agenda. For startups by startups or nothing.
Now we are at a point where the website is up and running so we can tell people about the event, invite them along and spread the word. Even the fact that the website leaked out half ready turned out to be only beneficial, since many people wanted to help out. For example the nice guys at Valve volunteered to help out right away. I've also heard that the Bolder guys are ready to do their part and Scred has promised to make the actual platform for selling tickets for the event.
- Success Stories - This is were we have the Finland's finest web entrepreneurs lined up. Risto Siilasmaa from F-Secure, Petteri Koponen from First Hop/Jaiku, Ilkka Paananen from Sumea/Digital Chocolate, Asmo Halinen from Apaja only to name a few of the entrepreneurs that have started small and made it big.
- Technology track - This is modeled on the Startup Developer Gathering (SDG), which was put together by Kai Lemmetty. For Slush Kai is putting together a tech presentation bar none. This track will go on all day and have many Finnish heavy weights like Teemu Kurppa (Jaiku/Google) presenting their insight for the Slush attendees.
- Thirdly, a showcase where up to 40 local startups can show what they have, be it products, services, their team, philosophy behind the concept and what not.
- Fourthly, probably the most important reason pulling the event together in the first place, we have seven pre-screened teams presenting their business ideas to the audience. These teams will be funded by the Slush Fund. The Slush Fund will be in effect just as big as the combined sponsorship revenue plus the proceeds from the sold tickets will allow it to be. In another words we will channel all the money from the event (minus cost e.g. rent for the venue etc.) to the seven teams. If you are a student with an idea for the next big thing you should apply. Instead of writing code and making coffee at one of the big corporations next summer, you could spend the summer of 2009 working on your own idea and have the expertise of most of the Finnish startup community to draw from.
In a nutshell this is Slush Helsinki. An event for startups by startups.
If the website seems that it does not give out all the details yet, it is by no means because we want to keep you in the dark but rather because we are working on the agenda as we go along to make it as good as resources and time allow. ArcticStartup will be naturally reporting what is happening at the event itself but also how the event is developing from now until the day itself in late November. Welcome to the Slush everybody!
Edit: There was a mistake saying October instead of November. The correct date for Slush is NOVEMBER 24th.
Star Wreck Studios, an open source movie making platform or rather a community of passionate movie loving individuals that produced the Star Wreck, a movie with eight million downloads from all around the world, has been featured in the VentureBeat.
The article is quite thorough in explaining what Star Wreck Studios is doing and it sounds very promising indeed, even though already the first comment to the actual article questioned the long term prospects of the open source movie making model. I am sure all open source models have their own problems and hurdles to over come but just like with the software business I believe the model can be made to work better than most of the industry heavy weights can predict. After all, it is hard to argue with eight million downloads achieved with a mere $20,000.
Regardless of the Star Wreck Studios' operating model's credentials it is absolutely fantastic to see another Finnish startup featured in a media such as the VentureBeat. Now, I suspect that Star Wreck Studios' board member and a personal friend of mine Peter Vesterbacka had something to do with the fact that VentureBeat's reporter Tanja Aitamurto took note and eventually wrote the piece. I'd hope more people that have similar connections to the Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley or even to the Silicon Roundabout in London would recognize the opportunities and contact the promising Nordic start-ups and start evangelize them on their trips over seas or over the canal. If such a culture would born it would benefit everybody, not least the evangelists themselves.
Going back to the article, here's a few tidbits that I found particularly interesting:
Star Wreck Studios isn’t just about collaborative movie making, it’s also about collaborative movie viewing. [...] For example, if you’re watching a horror flick, as a part of the plot, your phone rings, and when you answer, the person on the other end of the line is the main character of the movie.
[Peter Vesterbacka] says that the goal for the project is to wreck the Hollywood model of film making.
“StarWreck easily generated more than 10 times return. The numbers are small, but the cost, $20,000, was minimal as well”, Vesterbacka says. “And when your movie costs only 20K to make, you don’t need to have an audience of millions or tens of millions to reach your goals. But if you spent a hundred million on the production, the expectations for the size of the audience grows, too.”
Star Wreck Studios is bootstrapped so far, and the company is hoping to get a first round of funding in a year and some angel led funding in the next few months.
We here at ArcticStartup are fans already and looking forward to Star Wreck Studios' future productions. Let us know if you know any other promising open source projects going on in the Nordics. We'd love to hear what else is cooking on the open source front.