Estonian wireless modem tecnhology firm Modesat Communications has been acquired by Xilinx, a San Diego-based supplier of programmable logic devices. Modesat has previously been invested in by Ambient Sound Investments and The Estonian Development Fund. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Transferwise, the currency transferring service, has raised $1.3 million (€0.99 million) to expand their team and help bring their service to more currencies. The company was started by two Estonian entrepreneurs, Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Kaarmann, and is based in London.
The investment was led by IA Ventures, Index Ventures, Max Levchin (co-founder of Paypal) and a group of strategic investors -- such as Errol Damelin, the founder of Wonga. In an interview with ArcticStartup, Co-founder Taavet Hinrikus, the first employee at Skype, described this fundraising as not only a path to expand, but also a strategic way to get the best team together behind the project.
Transferwise has just come out with an announcement that the company has transferred around $13.4 million in currency exchange in its first year. It is situated in London and offers currency exchange for a mere £1. We covered the company a little over a year ago, when it began operations.
The $13.4 million in transfers was made up of over 5500 individual transfers, which may not seem like a lot but this yields an average exchange to be just over $2300. To me this is a sign of trust if people are willing to transfer amounts this large across the service.
There's been a good run of Skype news lately. Delfi (Estonian) is reporting a change-up in the management of Skype's Estonian office. Tiit Paananen, who joined the company in 2005, will take over daily management of the Estonian office, as well as head of Skype's engineering team and technical training. Paananen was born in Estonia and attended the Tampere University of Technology in Finland. Sten Tamkivi, who lead the growth of Skype's original Estonian office and is the current Site Leader of Skype Estonia, will go to Stanford for a year as part of Microsoft and Skype's investment in the development of key personnel, and will stay with the company. Both Tamkivi and Paananen joined the company at roughly the same time.
It's easy to think that Skype is the only kid on the block, but its VOIP competitors are hitting significant numbers. Rebtel, the world's second largest VOIP network, announces today that it has hit 15 million users worldwide and has increased revenues by more than 55% in 2011 to $60 million in revenue. The company attributes this to its transparency, honesty, and new innovations, such as the KeepTalking technology that lets users switch seamlessly between between WIFI and 3G if the smartphone app senses the connection quality is deteriorating. In comparison to Rebtel's 15 million users, Skype has 663 million registered users as of September 2011.
There could be nothing better than to reach nearly a billion people through Facebook. The social network has become a target for tons of digital entities trying to leverage the social network. We will not talk about brands and business, rather online services and the most recent example is that of Spotify. Yesterday, Skype made a more social move by enabling Facebook to Facebook Calls via the Skype Client.
Skype already had Facebook integration in its clients. However the latest move follows the announcement Skype made back in July regarding powering the Facebook video chat feature. The platform is widely used and offers Facebook the perfect service to roll out or integrate video chat functionality within the social network’s ecosystem.
Gigaom has confirmed that Janus Friis, the Danish cofounder of Skype, is now developing a mysterious service called Vdio that will likely compete with Netflix internationally. Little is know about the company, but the logo simply asks, "Are you watching?"
Skype seems to have speeded up its release of the version for the Mac and the latest update of Skype brings the much needed Facebook integration with Skype 5.4 Beta for Mac. This is similar to the Skype for Windows, and the news is definitely a big plus for Facebook users who own a Mac. Pretty much completes the Skype, Facebook and Mac triangle.
The update will enable Skype users to send instant messages and connect with their Facebook friends, right from their Skype client, giving them the true experience of one stop communication. The update lets users:
Even though this blog post will most likely be a feeble attempt in covering the importance and the effect of Steve Blank's visit to Finland and the region last week - I'll still have an attempt at it. Last week was packed full of action and discussion where Steve Blank talked not only with entrepreneurs but politicians, MPs and academia. He also upped entrepreneurship a few notches on the editorial importance for some of Finland's newspapers as he talked to a group of editors-in-chief (including us) why entrepreneurship is of vital importance to nations' success.
Steve Blank was visiting Finland last week to promote the importance of a working entrepreneurial ecosystem to the region. I have a feeling his visit will go down in one of those turning points in history for this part of the world. Not only did he incite more flames into the "Finnish spring" as he referred to the entrepreneurial revolution taking place in Finland, but he did so in a manner that politicians, mainstream media and academics can understand.
Skype, now owned by Microsoft, has announced that it will acquire GroupMe, a 16-month old group messaging startup for $85 million. There are no public statements on the price of the deal, but AllThingsD has come up with the figure referring to sources close to the negotiations. The startup was founded based on work done in a hackathon at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York in May 2010. During the 16 months of its existence, GroupMe has raised $850 000 in seed financing and later $10.6 million in venture financing. Needless to say, the payout for the investment in such a short time period is fantastic.
It couldn’t have come at a better time than this. We had been anticipating the official word on the Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype since early morning and word has been rolled out that the acquisition has been finalized and done with. The rumored buyout price was $7 Billion and the tech community across the globe thought it was far fetched. Here’s a shocker; Microsoft paid a healthy $8.5B for its acquisition of Skype, giving it a total control of the company, even the $686M debt on it.
We reported a few days back regarding the possibility of the VoIP service, Skype being acquired by either Facebook or Google. While that rumor was still blazing across the Web new rumors add up, with the latest hinting at Microsoft being a very strong contender in the race to acquire Skype.
What is Skype worth? Financially speaking we will not be able to put the exact amount on record but it is worthy enough to have both Facebook and Google seriously thinking about buying the video calling service after it delayed filing for the IPO. If this by any means has any truth to it, the deal can be valued at a healthy $3 to $4 billion as Reuters reports.
Skype has for the first time reacted to the public fury regarding their new Skype 5 update for the Mac. The app was released earlier this year and ever since it has received a lot of feedback, mostly negative, due to the large redesign many consider a step back from version 2.8. On Friday, April 1st mind you, Skype finally reacted to the feedback with a blog post.
Skype is setting itself to become a center of all attention as it comes to the classroom. The idea is to connect teachers beyond classrooms with its online directory. Again this isn’t about teachers only, but rather bringing a global experience to students as well.
Facebook is one of the biggest online destinations people use globally. Facebook itself has been very careful not to let go of these people too easily. People are extremely engaged with the service and all new features they add, are built around this view. Video chat is no exception. We have been hearing reports of a possibility of Facebook video chat coming soon in partnership with Skype.
Rebtel continues to grow by leaps and bounds and set to continue with the same as per its recent growth. The company announced that it has crossed the 10 million users globally, continuing with its high riding performance lately. As per the current statistics Rebtel is growing almost five times faster than Skype the leading VoIP service provider. Rebtel has increased its revenue by over 120%, exceeding beyond $40 Million in 2010 and given how it has grown, Rebtel is in line to double the same and push the revenue to $75 Million by the end of the current year.
In the previous post with Nexit Ventures we talked about the maths behind venture capital. In the post we basically outlined with the help of very basic level maths and assumptions why venture capitalists aim for ten fold returns on their investments. As the business of venture capital and risky investments is mainly a hit business, similar to the music industry - big hits and home runs are needed every time. In this light, there are a handful of companies in the region that have a huge significance to the valuation of the ecosystem itself.
There has to be a bit of Skype in every communication. It might sound a bit exaggerated given that quite a massive chunk of the world is yet be online or take advantage of the latest innovations in technology for effective communication, but talking about Skype for the moment, it registered another milestone.
I recall mentioning in my earlier post about Skype adding 350 jobs to its firm and how it had a lot of other markets to expand into other than Europe and Asia. Not all markets offer high 3G bandwidth penetration, a reason why many mobile users aren’t inclined to use Skype. People at the firm are aware of this and they have been working out partnerships to leverage all sorts of markets and make Skype a more global mobile communication service.
Who doesn’t want to be a part of a big brand, that is revolutionary, transforming a certain aspect of your life and connects you to millions of users anywhere across the globe? Everyone does, and Skype is definitely one of those brands. Over a 100 million active users, utilizing the communication tool for personal and professional use. And guess what Skype is adding more opportunities for passionate people to be a part of it.
Too much of call or video oriented ventures associated to Niklas Zennström. You can watch our recent video interviews with him here and here. The Skype co-founder recently revealed his passion for fashion as his investment firm, Atomico Ventures made a $500,000 seed investment in Fashiolista.
Rebtel is a very interesting Swedish telephony company. This year, the Rebtel is expecting to make $75 million through VoIP telephony. The company has seen immense growth and it's been a fantastic company to follow. Last Friday, the company released their Blackberry app to further fuel the growth. The reason, or at least one of the, why Rebtel has become so successful is their concept of VoIP calls - they don't require the user to have a working internet connection, but instead transmit the calls through local numbers. This way, it sort of falls in between the likes of Skype and companies offering calling cards. It's pretty much a perfect approach for the mobile generation.
In the interview Andreas Bernström sheds some light on how the company has grown and where they're headed. With $75 million in expected revenues for this year, they want to remain independent and further grow the company.
There are mixed reports on the communication platform provider, Skype showing willingness to acquire Qik, the video streaming service for an undisclosed amount. The indications of this first sprung when Skype’s CEO, Tony Bates agreed on Skype having intentions to do so. Though the price is undisclosed, it is reported to be in the $100 Million range with the deal expected to close by the end of January.
Skype founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström recently created Rdio (pronounced ar-dee-oh) - an unlimited, on-demand social music service in US and Canada. The service is very similar to Spotify, though there is no way to use it for free (apart from a short trial period). Rdio offers a vast music library (> 7 million songs) from all major labels (EMI Music, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group) as well as top indie labels and distributors. It's got social features akin to Twitter: users can see what is currently popular among other users and create and listen to collaborative playlists. The company promises to 'take the work out of deciding what to play next'. All that for $9.99 a month for unlimited web and mobile access (including the offline mode) and $4.99 a month for Web-only access. Rings a bell?
According to Reuters and its sources, Skype IPO will take place in 2011. Skype is still assessing a number of factors before making the decision to go ahead with the IPO. Last month, Skype named Tony Bates, a former Cisco executive its CEO. Bates is expected to make the decision on the IPO once he gets more acquainted with the staff and the products.
Last Friday, 100+ people gathered in a converted workshop in Otaniemi to witness the results of the latest AaltoVG Bootcamp. After the traditional welcome words, the teams were lined up and delivered the latest version of their one line/sentence summary of their idea, and having seen them just one week ago the transformation was remarkable.
SA Insider has listed its own 100 most valuable digital startups. The list is pretty US oriented with only a few companies from other parts of the world. From Nordic and Baltic region, you can find 2 companies - Skype and Sulake. The list immediately sparked lots of good debate about who's missing the list and why. One of those opinions can be found from Ben Black. He argues that, in my opinion correctly, that there are lots of social gaming companies valued over $100M that didn't make the list ($100M seems to be the cut off line more or less for the last companies on the list).
Listhings.com is a new Estonian "eco-friendly" online web tool for storing sticky notes about anything from To-Do lists to grocery lists and phone numbers.
The man behind the project is Martin Tajur, also Creative Director and co-founder of United Dogs and Cats (see our previous coverage). Martin has also worked as a graphical and user experience designer at Skype.
Martin told us that the service has gathered a bit over thousand registered users since the beginning of the public sign-up period in mid-September 2009, in about one and a half months. He also continued that the amount of registered users seems to double in about a month's time, or even faster. It is also possible to use the service without signing up, and apparently many do. Just this week Listhings passed 100,000 saved notes.
According to Martin, the service started from a hobby project. He has been developing the service gradually, responding also to user feedback. Martin also emphasizes that Listhings is hosted in a 100% carbon neutral way, meaning that for all energy consumed to keep Listhings' servers running, Emission Reduction Credits are purchased. Thus the tagline "store notes, save trees".
The look and feel of the service is really nice. One can start creating notes right away and writing, resizing, changing color, and moving the notes around all work smoothly. It is also possible to create multiple canvases to get more space and add categorization for your notes. There aren't too many features for now, but just enough to efficiently do the trick.
There is a lot of potential in the service, and Listhings could a be great tool for creating and keeping track of notes at daily work, also on multiple computers. But to really unleash its potential and to consider giving up a physical notebook, a mobile app or access is clearly needed. Luckily, Martin has already indicated that an iPhone synchronization app is on the way and available soon.
We all love Spotify here at ArcticStartup and use it everyday to listen our favorite tracks. We also know that it was not cheap to begin with for the VCs to invest in Spotify even though it was (and still is) the early days, since the founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon had plenty of experience, capital of their own and know what they were doing. But if you thought it was expensive before, the Times Online reports that "Spotify is trying to drum up a valuation of close to £200m (roughly €230m) as it seeks new investment of between £20m (€23m) and £30m (€35m)."
Times Online further reports that If it Spotify achieves the valuation it aims for, the company will have almost trebled in value since it sold a £13m stake last autumn to Nordic investors Northzone Ventures and Creandum.
We are excited and for once, think the high valuation is for a very good reason. Just recently in an investor forum I heard a VC who had invested in Spotify proudly stating that Spotify is the next Skype, meaning that it will be the next big Internet service success story coming from the region. They certainly have the right direction and I don't think I have seen any company have the same potential since. Regardless of whether Spotify ever reaches a $2.6 billion exit (with current exchange rate some €1.87 billion), or exit at all for that matter, I, for one, would invest in a heart beat.