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.
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.
Last week Dmitri and I took the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn, gave a short presentation about startup media tips at Garage48 HUB, and then made the 4 hour drive down to Riga. Now that we've gotten some time to sleep on it, I think it's time for a retrospective.
In essence, the Tech Chill Baltics conference did everything it was supposed to. The talks were inspiring, interesting people were in the crowd, and it was a lot of fun to see Riga startup scene firsthand. And most importantly, the beer was good.
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.
Startup Sauna is going on tour this spring as well with their warmups. Warmups are short events that take usually a day, where local entrepreneurs in the cities they visit get to pitch to the Startup Sauna coaches and organisers for a chance to get accepted into the program. The winner of each warmup will receive €1500 as prize money to cover travel and accommodation for the program in Finland. The six week program is taking place in April and May this spring. Based on the quality of the applications, the program will select 10 to 15 companies to participate. Each company will further develop their product or service during the 6-week intesive and present it at the end of the program at the demo day.
During the coming one and a half months, Startup Sauna will visit 11 different places from Shangai to Warsaw as well as Moscow to Kuopio. Below is the schedule as of today:
(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.
Allan Martinson, one of the most best known and experienced investors from Estonia (currently the founding and managing partner of MTVP), has cast concern about the amount of new accelerators and different support programs for startups. He states a valid point, that if every town and your brother has an accelerator they will fail to attract critical mass to support their functions. Martinson states that Baltics really need one big accelerator with strong financing and a strong team to make a splash in the global pond of startup activities.
There really cannot be too much discussion around this topic, and therefore we have included Allan Martinson's original statement from his public Facebook status below.
Twenty-five teams came together at the latest Garage48 hackathon in Riga, where the focus this season was primarily on mobile apps. Of the 25 teams, 13 were able to prototype an app, and last Friday the teams presented a variety of interesting projects. The winner of Garage48 and the audience favorite was Mustache Ninja, who put together a location-based Pacman type game that uses the streets around you.
TechHub, the co-working space for technology startups in the 'Silicon Roundabout' area of London, announced yesterday its first international expansion. The new Riga co-working space will offer offer 400 square meters of much of what's already available in London; it will provide a dedicated co-working space, community gathering point, and international network to product-orientated technology start-ups. TechHub Riga will be opening in January.
Organizing a travel plan or a trip is a definite nightmare. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons why we are always seeing one service after another attempt at tackling the problem. Planify is one more that emerged as the winner of the Garage48 Riga. The idea? It emerged from need as the Silver Hage, Co-founder of Planify made plans for his Tokyo trip and couldn’t find any tool useful enough. This led to the creation of Planify.
Garage48 is one of those startup weekend type events, where people gather together for about 48 hours and develop something that could potentially be founded into a startup. The concept isn't all that old, but the people behind it have been active. This weekend Garage48 will take place in Riga and in the coming months, a lot of other cities will also see a Garage48 event take place. In April (15th-17th), Garage48 will take place in Tallinn, at the end of August in Tartu. Later in the year Garage48 will most likely be visiting Stockholm and Helsinki as well. Additionally, the team will have 5 events in Africa this year.