It is no secret online dating is surrounded by stories of disappointments and broken hopes. One reason is pretty simple - you never can be sure if the person behind the appealing profile picture is real. Fake profiles, hidden payments, annoying photos of kissing couples, clumsy nicknames is the incomplete list of what makes experiences of those seeking for a partner online so frustrating.
Helsinki-based Audrey has risen to a challenge to put an end to a disturbing faking game and revolutionize online dating experiences. Launched on 1 May in Finland, Audrey calls themselves the first real identity online dating service.
After a successful launch in Finland and Sweden, Grey Area brought their Shadow Cities app to the AppStore in US. Users can download the game for free for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Shadow Cities is one of the first massively multiplayer online games that is location-based. User's location data is emlpoyed to create augmented reality where players can be part of real-time large-scale combat with friends and other gamers. As the company puts it themselves: Shadow cities turns players into mage and streets into game.
The Helsinki, Finland based mobile gaming company Grey Area announced the expansion of their Shadow Cities game to Sweden today. You can download the game from the Swedish App Store (here). This has been an anticipated move as there were leaks (and tweets) about such a launch already earlier this year. Sweden is the second, so called, test market for Shadow Cities before it plans to launch the game globally. Together with the announcement of the opening of Sweden for the game, Grey Area has updated the game client with lots of tweaks and improvements based on customer feedback.
Playmysong is a Helsinki, Finland based startup making every mobile phone a control device for the digital jukebox in a restaurant. Last week the company announced that Overlook NYC bar near Grand Central terminal in New York has become the first venue in the United States to start using Playmysong. The company is tapping into the 160 million Apple mobile device market with their iPhone app. The basic service is free, but for a premium fee of $399 venues can get premium benefits as mood styled playlists and autoplay features.
As a blogger, I have to give kudos to Jyri Engeström for the way he launched Ditto. You see, as a blogger we're contacted by many companies on their product launches and other activities. Some e-mail you once and almost call you back to ask why you haven't written about their company. Then there are people like Jyri who work to build up the relationship and explain in detail what the thinking behind the service is - over the period of couple of months before the launch. I had a chat with Jyri about the things that took place behind the scenes and how the run up to the launch went. This is one of the best company launches and I think it's worthwhile sharing with others.
Back in September we wrote about Jyri Engeström and his team closing $775 000 in seed money for his new startup. Today, we're able to share with you that they're now launching Ditto - a new way to discover places, movies and other activities as well as share what you're planning to do or currently doing. It borrows from many services, but builds them all together in the most natural way possible.
Netcycler is the Finland based startup that developed an online service to help people recycle their goods. In the most basic form, it helps to do this with two people who find something else they're willing to exchange their own good for. This also works on a larger scale, where you may be giving someone else your good and receiving a good from a third person. Last week, the company announced they're opening shop in UK.
HeiaHeia, the Finnish originated service to help those exercising keep track of their developement, has announced the launch of their corporate white label service. The corporate version leverages features from the current service, but will be sold to clients through a SaaS-model. The launch of the corporate version will have no effect on the consumer service and it will stay free in the future as well, according to a blog post by HeiaHeia.
Finnish company Norfello, the developer of the DocScanner app for the iPhone, will be releasing their software for the Mac platform as well. The app was supposed to be made available this month, but Apple has just informed Norfello that they want changes to the app - on the eve of the launch. The app is one of the first and perhaps most useful ports from an iPhone app to the Mac platform.
HeiaHeia, the Finnish service for keeping count of your exercises, has redesigned their website and added some small features along with the update. With the update, the service has also stated that it's leaving their beta phase behind. As a new feature with the update, Stats have been added. These will help users keep track of their long term development.
This internet app story is going to be a little different. We're going to be covering our own little analytics app called Funneld that we've been working on behind the curtains this autumn. The origins of this app go back to problem we've had with understanding visitors coming to ArcticStartup. A lot of our readers come to the site from Twitter and Facebook for example, but the currently available tools fail to show us which stories are the ones that attract visitors. So, we went about and created a little app for that. In doing so, we realised that others might have the same problem and we decided to set it up as an app of its own and develop it like any other startup out there works on a product or a service of theirs.
GigsWiz isn't even a year old and already they have a very solid and impressive track record behind them. I talked to Joonas Pekkanen, the finance guy as their website puts it, about their newly released ticketing service that in all simplicity helps bands sell more tickets. Having had this talk, I finally realised how fundamentally broken the industry has been. One of the main concerns the promoters have had, according to Joonas, is that bands really aren't helping out in promoting their own gigs. Now think about that for a moment, you as an entrepreneur (which artists are, but most probably don't think like it) aren't helping out people to sell your own services that your produce - how crazy is that?
Flowdock, which claims to be the best team messenger out there, has gone into production and paid mode as of this morning. We covered Flowdock back in October 2009 when they were just coming out with their product. They've come a long way since and it makes for an interesting story to cover, especially from a go-to-market point of view. I had a brief chat with Otto Hilska, one of the founders and CTO of Flowdock. During the last year, more or less the whole time of their beta program, they have managed to gather interest from 6000 teams who have used their product.
Back in May we wrote about Signom (full disclosure: Signom is an advertiser with ArcticStartup), a Finnish company looking to revolutionize the way we work with signatures. They've created an online service where you're able to go about and basically sign your contracts within seconds. Ossi Marko, the CEO and founder of the company, used to work as a lawyer before setting forward with Signom.
Finnish web design solution provider Hammerkit has launched a closed beta of the new version of its cloud-based web design tool with revamped UI and features. The company's tool allows web designers to implement even complex websites on their own, without the need for help from programmers. Traditionally web designers have built mock-ups and wireframes, and then transferred these over to programmers to implement and weave in database connections etc. dynamic functionality. Hammerkit aims to revolutionize this old school fashion, allowing creativity without learning complex programming techniques - thus the company's tagline "a tool for the web punk generation."
The Estonian Fits.me, Virtual Fitting Room, has launched. Heikki Haldre, the CEO of the company, has been at work with his team on the concept for quite some time, winning pitches in Tallinn and overseas. A few days ago we received an e-mail from Heikki announcing that they've finally launched their service and have done so with a British customer - Hawes and Curtis.
Swedish startup Anyfi Networks has come out of stealth mode and announced Anyfi.net, a new Wi-Fi roaming solution. The solution allows Internet service providers (ISP) offer consumers the same automatic Wi-Fi user experience both at home and on the go - users can automatically and securely always connect to the same Wi-Fi access point.
The solution is based on a custom piece of software ISP can install (automatically over-the-air in most cases) into their Wi-Fi hotspot devices, to make the hotspots function as a radio gateway (or access point). The access points direct the raw Wi-Fi radio traffic securely over the Internet to a server in the cloud.
This way, when connecting to a hotspot where Anyfi.net software is installed, users will always be virtually in their home network, without having to login to any new local Wi-Fi network (no passwords are asked after the very first login to the home network). This means the users will also have a fully secured connection, even if the hotspot itself would be untrusted or even in an attacker's control. The solution is also very simple for the end users, as it does not require installation of any new software to the consumers' devices, thus working on any Wi-Fi client device (like smartphone) out-of-the-box. Check out the video below for more info.
Kuneri has launched a limited Alpha of Mobile Joomla! as a way to easily mobilize websites made with Joomla!, a popular and extremely extensible open source content management system. Joomla! has a huge developer community and maybe some 30 million websites created using it, including quite a few corporate and high traffic sites.
Kuneri Mobile Joomla! allows out-of-the-box mobilization of Joomla! websites within minutes. The admin interface of Mobile Joomla! allows one to determine the mobile site outlook and optimization methods even handset by handset. One can for example have a higher end graphics and layout for iPhone and smartphones, and more basic site for feature phones.
TimeGT is an Estonian project that is most likely going to spinoff from a software company Codehoop. The project's aim itself is to create and capitalise on the personal task management market. I've been looking for a product like this for quite some so I know the general ups and downs of the tools out there. While the product is still in its early infancy it has a lot of promise in becoming a widespread tool.
Reporting from the second day of MoneyTalks, being held here in Otaniemi, Espoo, Finland I bumbed into a new innovative music startup called Hitlantis. I talked to one of the co-founders Timo Poijärvi about the concept and what they are doing. Poijärvi has worked in the music industry and with some startups before, but has a strong experience from the ways the music industry works. This showed up in our talks and he openly questioned the need of Teosto (Finnish Composers' Copyright Society) and record labels for musicians. The future is about the community around the artists.
The Finnish company Futuremark, who has been previously known to be the leader in 3D, mobile and PC benchmarking, has released a game called Shattered Horizon on Steam. The company has been around since 1997 and was previously known as Mad Onion. Benchmarking is the practice of determining the capabilities of graphical processors in different computer environments. Futuremark has released annually new releases of their 3DMark to test each new feature of the cards to determine how well they run.
Icelandic social music marketplace gogoyoko has expanded their open Beta to cover the whole of Scandinavia. The service now works in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Faroe Islands and Greenland. gogoyoko's tagline is bringing "Fair Play" back into the music business - through the service music fans can purchase music directly from the artists and labels. gogoyoko's service consists of a music store, a social network, and free streaming music player.
Twingly Channels is launching into private beta today, opening up to the wide public later this year. At the moment one has to apply for an invite by suggesting a channel topic.
Swedish Twingly have been building up the hype since early June when they first announced Project Shinobi, the working name for Twingly Channels we then got a sneak preview of for a month ago at the Sweden Social Web Camp. And they certainly are reaching for the stars, or as Martin Källström, CEO Twingly, puts it:
"Twingly Channels lets people cut out the noise of online search and the real-time web — to instantly see what news and content to spend time on. By following topics rather than bloggers or outlets, Twingly simplifies the challenge of RSS, social search, and the real-time web."
Slashdot has an article about a new project coming from very interesting people, the guys behind ThePirateBay, competing against YouTube. Peter Sunde was questioned a few years ago in the Spectrial oral proceedings about a project they were working on that would compete with YouTube. Back then he answered the prosecutor that it was a project that failed. However, it seems that the Norwegian-Finnish computer guru has been working on the project since then. As it happens, TheVideoBay is about to be launched.
So what's the catch behind TheVideoBay? The most notable one is the fact that it uses a totally different technology for the media files than other sites out there. TheVideBay aims to take advantage of the new features in HTML5, more notably the <video> and <audio> tags with the ogg/theora video and audio formats.
The site itself is in its very stages of infancy and you cannot really talk about a functioning service just yet. One is able to browse the material there, but once you click on an audio or a video file, the user is prompted for a username and password.
There is no word on the launch schedule of the site or what other features it will have, compared to YouTube for example. Nevertheless, it is great to see some action coming out from ThePirateBay guys even though they must be going through difficult times.
Severa is a Finnish "startup" that focuses on creating one SaaS-solution to managing company's billing, project management and sales. They have just released a new version of the service - Severa3. I have to admit, looking at their website and statistics - they are doing very well. Severa was founded in 2004 and has grown a staggering 1304% over the last four years.
According to Inoa, their 2007 revenue was around 790k euros with a 121k operating profit. Other stats on their site are also pretty impressive - they help manage 130 000 projects, around 42 000 invoices and 10 million hours of work. Their business model is also relatively inexpensive - 30 euros per user per month and the first person to sign up gets the service for free. I have to disclose, that this is not a paid blog post by Severa, but I seldom am this fascinated by management tools!
Sulake, the Finnish company behind the successful Habbo Hotel, has opened up Bobba to public beta. Bobba is a mobile only virtual world and is in very early stages of adoption. I was the 113th registered user on the site. This is something we heard of a while back with Sulake's report on their 2008 profit.
Dimest, a Stockholm-based startup, has provided a music store solution using which ABBA has released their entire song library online for people to buy directly from ABBA's official web site. Soon the purchases can also be made on blogs and social media sites like Facebook, as Dimest's solution is based on a music store widget which everybody can copy and place on the website of their choice. This way Dimest allows artists to sell their music without middlemen directly to their fans. Through the widget it is possible for example to browse albums, listen to samples of tracks, and watch music videos. What about the most important question? Yes, DRM-free 320kbs MP3. Try it out yourself, I grabbed the ABBA one and placed it here (purchases only enabled in Sweden so far, though):
The record company Universal states that ABBA is only the beginning, and they will try Dimest's solution with many other artists as well, in quest to "give our artists the opportunity to get closer to the fans". As ABBA's version does not allow buying outside Sweden as of now, below is also a widget selling music from Måns Zelmerlöw, the Swedish representative in Eurovision Song Contest. The song's are priced at 10 SEK (around 0.86 EUR or 1.09 USD; there seems to be also a service fee of 3 SEK added, though).
Dimest was founded by a musician and songwriter Jonas Saeed, other co-founders being Hans Desmond, previous Managing Director Warner Chappell Music Scandinavia, and Sanji Tandan, former Managing Director Warner Music Sweden. Due to these connections the firm has established partnerships with all major labels in Sweden, and is currently negotiating with other Scandinavian countries. Dimest is also working with Aftonbladet, the biggest media group in Sweden, and a number of Swedish blogs. The firm has funding from a few private investors, but is looking to raise more funding to support the growth plans.
Interestingly, the solution of Dimest scales beyond music as well - it could be used for any digital content, like books, games, movies, ring tones, documents, lyrics, and software. The founder Jonas Saeed in fact commented to ArcticStartup that their big goal for this year is to launch a global web service available to anyone to upload their digital content, create customized storefront widget, set their prices of choice, and start selling. Dimest offers 90 % revenue share to artists and content providers.
There have been music store widgets before as well, but Dimest has a good advantage in their close relationships with the record labels, high revenue share, and the fact that they support all types of content by default. Widget solution in general is really good for viral word-of-mouth effect including the commercial side along. It brings the content all over the web, without having to pull users to some specific web site or storefront. It will not be easy to scale the service, though, as all sellable content will reside on Dimest's servers.
Nokia has just announced at Mobile World Congress that the company will launch its own app store called Ovi Store, as was rumored. It was expected that Nokia places this service under its global Internet services brand Ovi.
But it will not be just an "app" store - Ovi Store will serve ringtones, wallpapers, videos, podcasts, applications and games in various languages like Java, Flash lite, widgets. The Ovi Store will thus replace Nokia's previous services like Download!, Mosh, and Nokia Software Market, thus greatly unifying and simplifying the consumer content offering of Nokia. Interestingly, Ovi Store features social discovery, meaning that users will be recommended and promoted content which is used by their social network. Also location aware featuring will be supported by Nokia. The social features will be supported apparently by at least Facebook and MySpace, who both give a statement in Nokia's press release.
Developers are offered 70 % of the revenue share, similarly Apple App Store. However, the net revenue will hugely depend whether the consumers use credit card or operator billing - they will have the option to choose the method. According to Nokia's experience on N-Gage billing, vast majority of the consumers select operator billing when given the choice. It is unsure whether it would be possible to offer slightly lower price for credit card purchases to encourage this option - it is unlikely, though, given Nokia needs the approval the operators to include the store in the operator phone variants.
I have not been able to try out the actual user experience yet, but if Nokia has taken note from their cumulated learnings with previous services and Apple, this could be a major boost to the company's content business and the S40 and S60 software ecosystem. After all, S60 has been, and still is, the platform of choice for many application developers due to the sheer handset volumes in the market. In the gaming market Nokia has a tough task in competing with iPhone, though.
In the beginning, only selected content providers and publishers are allowed to publish in the store, but Nokia will gradually open up the support to all developers. Developers can register for the Ovi Store at publish.ovi.com.
Fruugo invited a few bloggers to the company's premises this week and demonstrated their service, also handing out beta accounts. (We'll try to get a few shortly also for our readers - let's see.)
Fruugo's Janne Waltonen, VP Marketing & Communication, mentioned that they have not really figured out yet what to call Fruugo; it is not a webstore since they don't own any products, legally you cannot call the company a webstore aggregator either, and it is not a not a search engine. We could settle for virtual marketplace for now. What Fruugo wants to do is to make it simple and safe to sell and buy things online across the Europe regardless of the country borders. The transaction participants should be able to complete the transaction just if they were in the same country, using their local currency and language.
Fruugo is developing the live beta service constantly (with around 60 own employees and 40 consults), so the UI and layout will likely be totally different after a short while . But the first screenshots give some indication of how the service is turning out (more shots in Fruugo's Flickr stream). The priority order for UI is 1) products, 2) consumers, 3) merchants. Fruugo is trying to find the most interesting and successful consumer segments first with a broad, steady approach, and then go after the selected ones with bigger international marketing power. The company does not plan to provide mobile offering anytime soon, as the mobile market isn't yet mature enough, Waltonen commented.
The company depends on the logistics of the merchants, and hence requires all merchants to guarantee certain levels of shipping speed and reliability, with four shipping options at the moment. Non-confirming merchants will be removed from the service. Fruugo's including only 30k-40k products in the early phase of the beta in order to better evalute the usage patterns. Once they have figured out a working layout, gathered enough data, and fixed biggest bugs they will start adding multiple merchants offering the same products. Having none overlapping merchants is also why currently some of the products in the service are considerably pricier compared to some other stores.
Despite any rumors, Fruugo does not introduce any billing methods of its own, they will rather use existing ones. In the beginning they have just the most common credit cards and Finnish e-bank systems. PayPal will be coming only later, which is understandable, given that using credit cards and e-bank accounts is much more common in the Nordics. Fraud management is going to be a huge task to Fruugo, as Fruugo will take responsibility for all transactions, both merchant-consumer and consumer-merchant. The company has reserved the second floor of their office for most part to operational and fraud management activities. Waltonen commented due to fraud issues they have needed to also rule out some product categories due to the requirements by the credit card companies.
So far Fruugo will not introduce any deeper social shopping features, like group shopping. Rather, there are "social traces", meaning users can review products, seek assistance from other users, and see actions of others. Interestingly, the recent product views and searches of all users appear on the front page in real time (anonymously). Registration event of new members will be be shown with the users' real name. Fruugo isn't planning on introducing any sellable promotion slots, rather they expect merchants to rise in the ranks and get visibility due to reliable service, popular products and good prices, and complete product information, which will generate positive reviews.
One major problem in integrating with merchants is that really few Finnish online merchants are used to providing outbound feeds (e.g. RSS), Waltonen described. In Sweden, UK, and Netherlands the situation is much better, as apparently feeding the different comparison sites is more common there. Considering Fruugo takes care of billing fees, fraud management, first line customer support, and managing the customer returns, the 10 % revenue cut the company is taking does not sound bad at all. If they can get the support for the rest of Europe up and running as per their vision, it seems Fruugo might even be the only sales channel a small webshop could need. In that case there could be clear business opportunities open to 3rd parties for helping small e-tailers setting up Fruugo-compatible shops.
Fruugo's CEO Juha Usva did an interview with Finnish MTV3 this morning, you can watch it here (in Finnish).