Slush is over for another year and in its wake lies a wreckage of food, drinks, business cards and worn out souls. The two day startup conference in Helsinki brought together a host of early-stage startup companies, angel investors and venture capitalists from across Europe and the US to meet, greet and perform the elaborate mating ritual dances normally reserved for wildlife TV shows. The resultant conflagration was an exhausting experience but well worth the energy expended to meet so many people and be overwhelmed by their ideas and passion.
Since lists are the in thing this month (at least for the purposes of this article) here’s one about the things that stood out at Slush to me.
Here at ArcticStartup, our priority is to write about startups from the Nordic and Baltic region that going after international markets. We have this editorial focus because we write in English, and it makes sense to lead our international readers to startups they can use for themselves, or are at least going places. Day-to-day this means following Twitter feeds and seeing what the buzz is across the region, and an interesting trend has appeared.
In Finland, basically every single startup we come across is building their product to target international markets. It's really hard to find web startups targeting only Finland. But if you look around to the rest of the region, it's easy to bump into web companies that are doing a web or mobile app that is somewhat innovative, but are focused inward onto only their own country and are operating in their native language.
Hey, Finland. Where are your education-focused startups? Schools and the education system in Finland has garnered recognition from parents around the world, but entrepreneurs aren't trying to bleed that Finnish education brand dry, like any group of profit maximizing individuals should be.
Listen, I realize that Finland's education value will not translate magically into an app or web service, and that platforms like Kahn Academy and Code Academy may not be the most golden of geese. But parents around the world will drop plenty of money to get the best for their children's education, and school systems would pay for teaching tools with the Finnish flag on it. Basically anything Finnish would have a head start compared to an identical startup from anywhere else in the world.
Even without the ecosystem around Spotify we've got a lot of hot music startups popping up in the region - whose late nights of hacking are already fueled by Red Bull - so here's an opportunity for a much stronger collaboration. Red Bull has now gotten into the startup accelerator game, plugging music-tech startups into their networks and media properties, all while not taking any equity. The program, called Red Bull Amplifier will be based in London and is currently accepting applications from european-wide startups.
Red Bull already has a music label and eight recording studios worldwide, and is helping up-and-coming musicians through Red Bull Music Academy, so this seems like a somewhat logical step to make sure their brand has close access to the up-and-coming music tech and services that will help market their brand. On top of that, Red Bull is everywhere though events, giving startups access to real consumers.
In this week's Copenhagen StartupDigest, Nick Hawtin writes that a couple guys from Podio put together a website plotting Copenhagen's startups on a map. CPHstartups has a pretty cool take on the mapping concept, breaking down startups by coworking spaces, who is bootstrapping, who is funded, and (because the Podio guys put it together) who has exited.
Below is a dumb screenshot for a quick peek, but run over to cphstartups.com to dig into it yourself.
Start-ups’ have a high need for all kinds of publicity and media coverage but they generally avoid paid advertising channels. Instead they focus on their own and earned channels. This is no surprise considering typical start-ups’ limited marketing budgets. Conversely, they still value traditional media coverage, especially newspaper coverage.
The infographic findings are based on a summary of six case studies of start-up companies’ media purchasing patterns. Idean prepared the study with Project Manager and Doctoral candidate Timo Ketonen from Åbo Akademi University.
One thing I think we should all be surprised about is how few startups in the Nordics go after the Russian market. Startup opportunities abound. Russian internet services haven't quite matured meaning there are still holes to fill and a growing market to take advantage of. On top of that, huge funding round numbers are thrown around all the time, hinting at massive valuations and future payouts.
We have a cross-publishing agreement with East West Digital News, and every now and then we'll try to add in a story from Russia. They have some interesting analysis that we share, but I also try to pick out the big funding stories to show what's happening in the region.
How Are Finnish Startups Raising Large Rounds? By Designing Their Startups For The Largest Possible Opportunity
Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Timo Ahopelto, a serial entrepreneur and Founding Partner at Lifeline Ventures, where he is currently a board member, investor and contributor in ZenRobotics, Oncos Therapeutics, Valkee, Enevo and Arctic Diagnostics, among others.
Finnish startups have recently raised significant funding rounds in relatively early stages. These include Supercell's $12 million by Accel Partners and the most recent €13 million grabbed by ZenRobotics from Invus. What is the secret sauce?
Well, I don’t think there are any secrets. There are just talented entrepreneurs going after large opportunities with credible plans.
What we are seeing at Lifeline Ventures is an increasing number of Finnish teams who, from the very beginning, design their startup for the largest possible opportunity. This starts from finding a large, actionable and disruptive opportunity, building a company that can execute on it, continuously asking how it can be bigger, and not giving up on the large plan.
Europe's a mess right now. Even Spain has been put on European tax payer life support and more countries could be in the queue for aid. Some falsely believe that the aid itself is something that would pull Europe out of the looming recession. But looking at things on a global level, we don't believe Europe is as strong as it could be. Growing companies are the best way to help and we're producing far too few of them on average.
Furthermore, the state of things in Europe regarding businesses isn't too bright either. Fragmented national policies are not helping entrepreneurs opening businesses in multiple locations, nor is immaterial property legislation where it should be to help protect businesses from illegal use of their work.
For this Friday we thought it would be good to spark some office debates about the state of entrepreneurship and how people on the grass roots level could help to alleviate it if not solve it altogether.
Editorial note: this post was originally published at my personal blog, but since it has sparked some good discussion I thought we should publish it on ArcticStartup as well. The post is dated May 31st and thus some of the references to time & date may not be 100% accurate.
I received a Quora e-mail this morning reminding me of the different topics of the service. For some reason I haven't had time to dig into the discussions there. Also, I find something in the service a little odd for my taste and thus haven't really been active in it.
However, e-mail had an interesting question that Evan Williams, the co-founder of Twitter had answered. The question in the e-mail was "What consumer Internet companies had a large number of users but failed to monetize?"
The answer excerpt in the e-mail I saw from Williams was "I can't think of one".
When I go abroad I like bragging to people how much the startup scene is popping in Helsinki right now. Just going to an event or talking to entrepreneurs you get the sense that a bigger movement is happening around you, and you can feel a palpable sense of energy in the air. But after telling someone about the Helsinki scene, I usually get asked what the big startups coming out of Helsinki are right now. And I hate to say it, but I really don't know what to tell them after that. "Uhh, Rovio?"
Is Russia becoming a new frontier for US venture capitalists? With local startups and incubators springing up like mushrooms, a number of foreign tech investors have started to operate in the country, which is striving for modernization.
Exemplifying the invest in Russia trend is Tiger Global Management, a New York-based international investment management firm. Over the past two years Tiger has invested twice in the Russian e-commerce platform Wikimart.ru – $5 million in 2010 and another $7 million in 2011 – and contributed $10 million in a round of financing for online travel sales site Anywayanyday.ru.
We've been quite busy since December putting together our plans for 2012 and naturally that includes Arctic15, the annual conference we're putting together for growth entrepreneurs from Northern Europe. This year, the event will take place over the course of two very exciting days in October. October 17th and 18th to be exact. We've redefined our concept a little bit to better suit the needs of the entrepreneurs in the region. During the two days we'll have more than 50 people on two stages sharing their advice and experience. Tickets and the full program will be available later in the spring, but below is a little introduction to what we have in mind.
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.
Management isn’t just about having to manage your team at work or offices, it is essential everywhere where groups are involved. We at ArcticStartup are always on the lookout for interesting startups from diverse categories, keeping the interest factor in mind. Today we bring Liiqu, a startup that helps team management, for sports.
The startup helps you to effectively manage your sports team effectively. This offers an easy way to track statistics for the team and individuals as well as maintain effective communication amongst the teams. From where I see it, it is more of a tool for coaches of sports, be it football, ice hockey or footsal, to keep track of their team. Lets talk about the features separately and see what package Liiqu actually has:
You have a killer idea with proven demand, but what you don’t have is the right domain name that does justice to your brand. You can hire me and I will charge a hefty sum for consultation without a guarantee that you would even like my suggestions. Or you can try PickyDomains. I will tell you why.
Tech start-ups come up with great ideas and build brilliant products but often lag behind marketing them. Main reason for that is usually lack of resources: entrepreneurs would rather spend their limited funds on developing a product than on marketing it. However, most agree that it’s important for your product to be known and talked about. We talked with one the main PR gurus in Finland Christina Forgård (founder and Chairman of the Board of Netprofile) who shed light on the world of PR and shattered some common myths and misconceptions.
Startups, we're closing the signups to the VC matchmaking event, held on Friday September 23rd, at the end of August. This is because we have to book the meetings with the VCs, many whom are flying in from overseas. Therefore we ask you to sign-up immediately, if you'd like to have the chance to meet international VCs coming to Arctic15.
This guest post is by Tor R. Grønsund. He is the founder of Lingo Social, a lecturer of Entrepreneurship at the University of Oslo, and the writer of the blog Methodologist. Follow him on Twitter at @tor.
As inventors of the object-oriented programming language and the modern GSM technology, you would expect Norway to have the perfect ingredients for a vibrant startup scene. If you, however, search this or any other notable tech blog for news on early-stage Norwegian startups, you would find next to nothing. While Nordic and Baltic startups seems to thrive, why don’t we see any ventures emerging out of Norway, several Nordic and European professionals questioned me. After talking to a handful of entrepreneurs, investors, and scholars about why this is the case, I discovered seven symptoms of the Norwegian start-up ecosystem that might explain why Norway’s tech innovation is lagging behind that of its neighbors.
Sweden based Witsbits, a cloud computing company in the Nordic and the Scandinavian region recently announced an update to their Go Cloud product. This includes a new “Boot from CD-ROM” functionality that enables physical servers to remotely connect to the Witsbits' external Go Cloud management system. System administrators can then manage their physical servers and virtual machines from any web browser.
Microsoft BizSpark European Summit released the names of the 14 finalists from the whole of Europe. The competition involved hundreds of startups from all over Europe and making it to the top means that the selected startups had great potential to impress the selectors. Each of the finalists had to battle their way to this spot against numerous companies and two qualification rounds to grab a chance to pitch their ideas live in front of an audience of investors and a panel of expert judges. This final event will be held on June 14, in Brussels. Impressively, 4 companies are from the Northern European region.
When you mention startups, funding, mentoring and networking are the most essential ingredients needed by each aspiring founder. There are great ideas waiting to be put into practicality and the only thing that keeps them from shooting from their roots has been the absence of incubators and accelerator programs. Things have been changing and a number of startup accelerator programs and incubators have surfaced, this is where ideas are carved into reality, founders are provided guidance, the essential tips to direct them towards success and the ever needed funding.
Russian firm, Yandex is waking up to assist startups with funding with the initiation of Yandex.Factory. Yandex.Factory is a startup investment program that will provide funding to startup projects in Russia as well as those from the International arena and this investment is by no means small.
We at ArcticStartup heart the Garage48 event for all the rush and enthusiasm that comes forth in the 48 hours of pure innovation. But the weather at the events here in the Nordics and Baltics was perhaps just a bit too cold and needed some equatorial treatment, which is exactly the treatment Garage48 will be getting. Garage48 has announced that they will be holding 5 events in Africa.
Founder2be, a start-up that built a network that helps entrepreneurial-minded people find each other, has recently added some mighty force from overseas to its Global Alliance Program. First came the announcement of Startup Weekend joinning the network and this week Founder2be announced Your Story, the biggest online platform that shares stories about entrepreneurship in Indian, joining the Alliance Program. The program includes light-weight cooperation and promotion on both sides: Founder2be can help entrepreneurs find the team for their start-up and allied partners can further support the team to implement and develop their business. Founder2be's goal is to have at least one partner on all continents by the end of this year.
I might sound a bit too judgmental and far fetched when it comes to putting Sofanatics as being one of the most interesting startups from Finland. Primarily because it brings all football fanatics onto one platform that has the potential to be the buzzing stadium within a browser. Do I make sense?
Freespee, a Sweden based cloud communication startup with a focus on Pay per Call solutions and call tracking launched a revamped website a short while back. The startup has been around since 2008 and it has been growing ever since. I thought about going over a few statistics and they were quite impressive.
When you succeed at first, you have every reason to expand and take up newer and bigger challenges. That’s exactly what Startupbootcamp is doing after the very successful first edition, which was launched as a quarter long program in Copenhagen between August and November, 2010. It brought 10 teams of 32 selected entrepreneurs from 12 different countries, face to face with 75 top mentors in the industry. All that came with thanks to Startupbootcamp’s co-founder, Alex Farcet who put a good number of months to find the right mentors to guide these entrepreneurs.
As far as web conferences go, French LeWeb is the biggest happening in Europe so far. With an average ticket price hovering around 1700 EUR, it attracted 3000 participants this year. The guests ranged from Google, Facebook and Twittter executives to latest start-ups from around the world to investors to students and loads of press. Apart from hosting presentations and discussions with dot.com gurus, the conference is known for being a great place to network. How to justify this exquisite but costly experience for a Nordic or Baltic start-up? Depends on what you’re looking for. If it’s publicity you’re after but you’re not part of the Startup Competition, I’d recommend against going to Le Web. The size of the conference is so big that chances of being noticed are quite low. Not impossible but low.
Helsingin Sanomat ran a story on Mari Kiviniemi, the Finnish Prime Minister, who has expressed her thoughts on European state of affairs regarding digital media. She states that, "it's no co-incidence that the digital superstars, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, are all from the US, where they share a large, functioning domestic market". What she's saying here is that the European non-functioning markets should be better built for both consumers and online companies generating value.