Stockholm-based ShapeUp Club got a little bit of a shakeup yesterday after hiring as CEO Henrik Torstensen, ex-Spotify head of Premium Sales, and Marcus Gners, Vice President of Business Development at Stardoll. Their positions will be CEO and Deputy CEO, respectively. Both have a history of being advisors to the company.
The company's founders, Tove Westlund and Martin Wählby, will be heading up product development and sales. “I have been part of a couple of amazing growth journeys before and with the way ShapeUp Club is evolving, both from a product and company perspective, the potential is huge”, says new CEO Henrik Torstensson.
It's been a busy week, but some news just hitting our radar is Spotify's acquisition of Stockholm-based Tunigo. Covering news late really isn't news, but to comment on the deal I think it's more exciting than the rest of the tech press would have you believe given our interview with Tunigo CEO Nick Holmstén just last March. I'm biased, because I'm interested in the area Tunigo has hinted at, but hear me out.
Helsinki has a new music app that's becoming the talk of the town. Started by a group of students from Helsinki, Sydney, and St. Petersburg, Clerkd launched last week to help you find and play new music.
The app mixes together music discovery with a local angle, allowing you to follow your friends and tastemakers, like bands, blogs or whoever you want. On top of that the map view lets you see whats popular nearby by giving each genre its own color. After selecting a location, you can just press play to get a playlist what music has been played in that general location though Clerkd.
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.
Accel Partners yesterday closed a €367 Million fund to focus on Europe and Israel. With Accel London IV, the firm will invest in early-stage and growth stage companies in the consumer Internet, big data, cloud, SaaS and mobile.
The Nordics are a big focus of Accel's new fund, as they seek to focus on their success with Rovio, Supercell, Spotify, and QlikTech, whose listing on NASDAQ resulted in a return of over $400 million to the Accel fund - one of the largest venture returns in Europe.
I've been curious what's happening behind Tunigo since adding it by chance to my Spotify Apps. The app is basically only a playlist directory, and I've been puzzled what's been generating revenue or why someone built it. It's not a hacked-together project - their Spotify and iPhone/Android app looks quite polished, and they offer a large number of professionally curated and user submitted playlists.
Luckily I saw Tunigo has a Swedish flag in the corner, and it's my day job to ask these questions, so I reached out to the company to see what makes them tick.
Spotify has released is web player as a public Beta in the UK, now allowing you to pull up Spotify on your lame office computer or at your friend's house - wherever you've got the internet but the client isn't installed. This added functionality puts them in more direct competition with all the web playing giants, like Denmark's Rdio, Rhapsody, and Grooveshark.
The app is nice to look at, but some notable features are missing - such as apps, playlist grouping, and social features. Much of the navigation and UI is hidden in pop-up boxes, which feel different from Google or Facebook's smoother navigation, but is easy enough to use.
Spotify has just overhauled its iPhone app interface, making it more similar to their Android version. Gone now is the bottom bar that was responsible for much of the navigation. Instead now everything has moved over to the side bar accessable by a button on the top left.
The app feels fast and responsive, making this update an nice addition, even though it takes some getting used to. Despite these updates, the app is still missing some features like Related Artists, and the search results still force you to dig down into tracks, albums, and artists, which is tricky when you only know half of a song's name, but you do know the artist.
There is no doubt about it, the war for online music streaming space is on and its about to get nasty. Prior to today, the competing companies, Spotify, Rdio, WiMP were only getting ready for battle. Counting troops, building war machines and marking territory.
Today, Rdio announced that they have launched free web music streaming in 15 countries, including pretty much every country in the ArcticStartup region with the exception of Latvia, Lithuania and Iceland. Now this is not a big news per say, as we have already covered the fact that they have silently launched first in Denmark and then in other Nordic countries.
I love me some tunes, and I love innovative web stuff (even if they're a little rough around the edges), so I was pleased to see that some of the projects built during Spotify's Music Hack Day last weekend were thrown up on Hacker League to poke around. The event took place last weekend at Spotify's new office in Stockholm, and was Spotify's first external Music Hack Day. I just took a few things that looked interesting to put up here, but browse the full list of submitted (and in progress) projects.
Super Mutroid - As shown in the top image, it's a music/rythym platform game with a Super Metroid theme. Reminds me of Bit Trip Runner. Download is here (if you have Mac OS 10.8). Haven't tried it yet, but will when I get a spare few minutes.
Spotify has gotten rid of purchased download links, but it doesn't seem to matter one way or another. Spotify's revenue is doing just fine from paid subscriptions and ads to its free service. At a press event in early December, Spotify has released some statistics on its streaming service. Spotify counts over 20 million users as "regular users" and has over 5 million paying customers.
Evolver.fm "did the math" and estimates that Spotify would be churning in an annual revenue of $621 million if it grew no further this year. With Spotify's exponential growth (as shown by doubling its user base last year) they predict that Spotify will hit above the $1 Billion revenue mark for 2013.
Since I upgraded to Spotify Premium I haven't been reminded every five minutes that Spotify needs money with a "Hi, this is Johnathan from Spotify..." advertisement. But the financial numbers also paint a clear picture.
We're always interested in numbers on Spotify, and PrivCo, a company that sells data on non-pubicly traded companies, has released a financial overview of Spotify. The 2010 and 2011 numbers paint a picture of what we already know - Spotify faces high costs and is operating at a pretty substantial loss. Record companies demand a pretty significant share of the revenues to allow streaming rights, and meanwhile Spotify's personnel costs have jumped up as they scale to new countries.
Spotify may have a leg up in the Nordics, but they must realize that users will happily leave if a competitor comes along with a service that brings their favorite movies, TV shows, and music under one roof. It appears Rdio and Vdio might be joining forces, but Spotify is also churning up rumors that it is partnering with HBO Nordics.
Even though Rdio was founded by the Swedish and Danish Skype co-founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis in 2010, by focusing on the U.S. market they still haven't made the same cultural dent in the Nordics like Spotify has. Still, they offer solid competition through a browser-based music streaming service (much like what Spotify is rumored to be working on).
Spotify is rumored to soon launch a browser-based version of their streaming service, "multiple sources" tell TechCrunch. Currently the Spotify service can only be accessed through their desktop client or through their mobile apps. The downloadable clients work well enough for most people, but a browser-version will likely help Spotify expand by reducing friction - it's hard to show off Spotify when you're on your friend's computer.
This move puts Spotify in more obvious competition with Rdio, the browser-based music streaming service created by Skype founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis.
You know how a song or playlist just fit's a certain spot? You might listen to a completely different playlist when you're walking along the water, when you're at the gym, or at the office. Tunaspot is a location-based music discovery platform that provides a map that lets you zoom into anywhere in the world and find out what playlists people are listening to and have shared there. Yesterday they launched an app on Spotify in their native Sweden, as well as Denmark and Norway.
Tunaspot CTO Christian Nilsson tells us they're doing a rolling launch to be sure they can scale and respond correctly, but the service can also be reached outside the launch countries by going to this link.
As soon as it was announced that Spotify was opening up their API to users, Playmysong CTO Timo Kari did not sleep until he had a working prototype that would integrate their service into Spotify's collection. This was apparently jumping the gun, Spotify wants developers to first submit their ideas to confirm that the Swedish music delivery service finds the idea interesting before letting developers know to proceed, but Kari was a man inspired. Today, after much more polish, Playmysong has been accepted into Spotify's small, but growing list of apps.
We've covered Playmysong plenty in the past, but if you're unfamiliar with it, essentially it's a modern update to the jukebox. At supported bars, restaurants, hotels, and other locations, Playmysong lets users pull up their smartphones and pick the next songs to play off of the location's music library.
The most basic use-case is for the new Spotify app is for house parties. Spotify seems to be the main method of music delivery but for the house parties I've been to in recent years, but it's not perfect. A playlist usually keeps a party going, but when a partier wants that one song played, they usually search for and start the song off the playlist and you're left hearing that artist's b-sides on random for too long. Or sometimes a few people will just huddle around a computer to have their song played next, so all night you end up hearing just hearing half of every song.
Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise since they're working in the music industry, but Spotify is having a tougher time than expected monetizing its users. The number of paid users has been smaller than predicted, but currently Spotify is focused on growth and on making their program indispensable in users' lives. Spotify claims they are making money on each new user they get, whether they're free or paying, making all growth positive for them. In total, the company is shooting for around €690 million in turnover this year.
Still, country by country growth is expensive for them due to the licensing fees individual to each country. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company has paid around €200 million to labels and publishers since the service was launched in 2008.
Forget linking to some low fidelity Youtube video next time you want to share a music track on your blog. Spotify has now launched a Spotify Play Button widget generator that can get visitors to your blog or website jamming to your tunes of choice with just one click of a button. Currently the widget offers a pretty simple integration -- no live following of a user's playlists or anything, but it should be enough to spice up music blogs with it's easy playback and nice big cover images.
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.
It's expansion season for seemingly every music streaming service from the Nordics and beyond. With Spotify's rapid grabbing of market share, competing services are differentiating themselves and aiming to get an early hold on users in countries where Spotify has yet to launch. What's remarkable is how many of these services are coming out of Scandinavian and Baltic entrepreneurs. Here's the rundown of the major players' growth plans:
Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis (The Estonian and Danish founders of Skype) recently announced they have plans to take Rdio to the whole of europe in the coming months, potentially hitting countries in which Spotify has yet to launch. PaidContent says that Rdio recently added Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Australia and New Zealand to its U.S. and Canada availability as well as quietly soft-launching access in Denmark.
Spotify is reportedly trying to raise funding at a $3.5 billion valuation. The music streaming service has blown up since expanding to the States and partnering with Facebook, but still many are skeptical with the high valuation when comparing to other services. Hulu, the U.S. TV streaming service, was going to be sold for $4 billion last fall, although they have exclusive streaming rights to many TV shows and movies.
GigaOm reports that Spotify launched in Germany this past week without backing of GEMA, the German Society of Administration of Copyrights. The organization represents the copyrights of more than 64,000 members, as well as over 2 million copyright owners all over the world. Negotiations between GEMA and Spotify are still ongoing, with the final negotiations said to take place later this month. Spotify has always placed weight on the by-the-books legality of their service, which is why it is interesting they went ahead with the launch.
The Estonia based Garage48 is organising a music focused event in a couple of weeks in Tallinn together with the Tallinn Music Week. The event is held on the weekend between the 23rd and 25th of this month. Registration ends a week early on Sunday the 18th. The goal of the event is to make people focus on the potential of good services in the entertainment space.
Jüri Kaljundi, one of the people behind the successful events tells us "music and entertainment is our first try to do industry-specific events. We believe that the actual business problems are among the common people, non-tech crowds. Technology is just an enabler, so we want more people from other areas of life to come to the events to get their ideas executed. Focusing on real life problems is very important."
According to reports by IFPI and some other data available, it seems that Spotify doubled its market share in 2011 as compared to 2010. And by market share we mean the global streaming music market as followed by International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
Also, according to public records the company had filed in the UK we can tell Spotify's revenue was $99 million in 2010. Towards the end of 2010 they also shared that they had some 750 000 paying subscribers world wide. According to IFPI estimates, the global market for subscription services had about 8,2 millioin paying users. This yields Spotify a market share of around 9,1% in 2010.
An OSX developer from Spotify's labs came out with a new third party desktop client for Spotify to show off the power of the libspotify and CocoaLibSpotify API features. The client, called Viva, is only runnable on Mac OSX Lion systems and with those with a Premium Spotify account. It can be downloaded from here, or you can view and build it from source on Github. With it, you get a quick and buggy version of Spotify, but with some notably missing features from the standard version such as a visualizer. To be honest, Viva really didn't work for me at all. It told me that every normal track wasn't playable in my area, but as a concept it does point to an early 2000's Winamp era of customization of features for Spotify.
A market survey conducted by Norstat for the WiMP music streaming service shows that roughly 3 out of 10 Norwegians and Swedes have listened to music by streaming in the week before the questioning took place. The survey was collected in January of 2012. In Norway, this proportion increased 20 to 29 percent from June of the past year, while Sweden saw a jump of 27 to 29 percent, showing the early saturation of the market. Danish users are behind the times, with a jump from 14 to a current 20%. This low penetration can likely be explained by Spotify only launching in Denmark in October.
Helsingin Sanomat wrote an article on A.W. Yrjänä, the head of a successful Finnish rock band CMX, and how much money they made on Spotify and through record sales. Yrjänä is a multi-talent. Not only does he write and sing the vocals for their songs, but he also writes poems and books. He shares with us that Iäti, their album that came out in September 2010, wasn't really a huge success financially even though it shot to number one on the charts.
Daniel Ek has just been named by Forbes as the most important man in the music industry, and will be on the cover of Forbes' 30 under 30 issue going out on January 16th. It's not hard to see why he's receiving the hype, considering Spotify's disruption to the music industry and the explosion of growth the company has seen since it has expanded geographically. But one thing that struck me in the article was when Lorentzon had just quit his day job and put up 2 million in seed money, and Ek had already made his money but shed his riches. Steven Bertoni writes, "Lorentzon and Ek were in a unique place: The former no longer needed the money, and the latter no longer cared about it. So they decided to ignore the dollars and aim for disruption."
We talked to Harry Nelis, a partner at Accel Partners, about startups, entrepreneurship and Europe as well as many other topics. When we shot the video, Nelis had just come down from the main stage at LeWeb where he participated in the traditional Money Panel. Accel has been able to discover and invest into some of the most successful startups out there. Some of their portfolio companies include Facebook, Groupon, Spotify and the list goes on.
Anyone who has used Pandora, Last.FM, or any other online radio knows that Spotify's radio features have been "lacking" to put it politely. I'm sure not too many people used the genre / decade buttons to build a station, but those who did likely noticed the same ten songs played over and over again. I appreciate how I can find every type of music imaginable on Spotify, but sometimes I just don't want to be in the driver's seat. Luckily, today Spotify has announced it has beefed up its radio features so you can build radio stations around the tracks or artists you select.