Many game developers and companies choose the safe route of releasing games which follow a well known pattern. Exceptional games, on the other hand, stand out because they break this cycle; They become widely popular thanks to unseen plots, game mechanisms and ways to win, with which they offer completely new angles from which to enjoy the gameplay.
One of my latest favorites in this category was The Last of Us by Naughty Dog, a console game tinted with dark realism which took the entire gaming community by surprise with its skillfully constructed script.
Being different can bring success, but there are no rules that says new games should always bring something new to the table.
This being said, I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to have more fresh approaches towards games but the issue seems to be both lack of inspiration and courage to try something new.
How to facilitate inspiration and who's to do it?
Competition in the field of photo marketplaces is very high and when we first heard word of PicHit.Me’s investment we were glad for them but at the same time cautious as to whether they could really achieve the high goals set. We have been told that they might do for photos what Spotify did with music and Skype communications. That’s a very high bar to reach in an area where many start-ups have pitched their tents. So what is it about PicHit.Me that has convinced Swedish VC Almi Invest to put its money behind them?
Those movie stars huh? How annoying is it that they always look so perfectly in shape for every role they play? It’s those personal fitness instructors isn’t it, I bet if we could afford them we’d look just as good, no better, than those stars of stage and screen. After all it’s all Photoshop and soft focus lenses right. But of course we can’t, that would be really expensive wouldn’t it, and how would you even go about finding one?
It’s about this point I should stop asking rhetorical questions and introduce you to Vint. If you’ve ever thought the above, or are just curious about a startup that has closed out a seed round then read on.
We all know that gaming has become sort of a "must-do" thing in Finland with Supercell, Rovio, Grand Cru, Fingersoft, Gray Area and many others. That being said, Sweden is not to be discounted as Mojang and King are rocking the boat over there. Mojang has over over EUR 170 Million in revenues and King is getting ready to IPO. But now there is a new player in town - MAG Interactive that is reporting impressive growth and statistics.
As we have recently written, they have hit over 50 million downloads in their main title Ruzzle and recently launched QuizCross which is also picking up speed. Unlike many other mobile gaming studios, they did not go for Free To Play and choose to monetize through ad revenue and premium versions of the games.
Now, a lot of our readers are either working on their apps or are active app consumers, so are able to judge one rather quickly. However when you are in the process of creating one, it is not quite as easy to make the right decisions in order to optimize the user experience.
To solve the issue, a lot of startups focus on analytics, numbers and formulas. However very few of them actually try to see the real deal, complete with thought processes, emotions and visuals.
Shootitlive is one of those startups that has been quietly doing its thing and getting very impressive traction. In case of Shootitlive, perhaps not so quietly, as they have over 75 newspapers from Europe as their customers and their solution displays images to over 300 million monthly unique visitors.
Since we last wrote about the company in the distant 2011, they were just getting started in the market but already had impressive clients such as The Times, who used the solution to cover the Royal Wedding.
In simplest terms, with Shootitlive, photographers can upload pictures directly to the news sites without the need to export them from the camera. Everything is done in-camera using a special wifi transmitter.
HolidayPhone announces it has appointed Emma Heimonen as CEO of the Swedish solution to mobile roaming. Heimonen has replaced Joacim Boivie, founder of HolidayPhone, who has served as CEO since the start of the company in 2010. Joacim Boivie will stay in the company as part of the board of directors.
A new coworking space officially opened its doors late last week in Stockholm. Dubbed SUP46, or Start-Up People 46, the 1272 square meter space is handsomely located in the very center of Stockholm on Reringsgaten 29. To open up the space, last Friday over 300 people threw down with Daniel Ek, the CEO and co-founder of Spotify.
"Our vision is to make Stockholm the number one startup city in the world," says Jessica Stark, CEO and co-founder of SUP46. "Though Stockholm is one of the world’s leading startup hotspots, the lack of a centrally located meeting & co-working space for the startup community has been obvious."
Wired UK's next issue focuses on the top ten startup capitals in Europe, and lists ten of the hottest startups from each city. Helsinki and Stockholm were selected out of our region, and we feel they've done a fair enough job.
Here's their list, with links to our (AS) coverage of the startups. Pick up the issue when it hits stores!
In Helsinki, they list:
Internetdagarna (“The Internet Days”) has long been one of the highlights of the Swedish tech calendar. Last year, I recall meeting a number of amazing start-ups at Internet Discovery day. Some, like Memoto, have since gone from small Swedish fry to global sensations. Apart from meeting a number of ICT entrepreneurs, I was also privileged to hear Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard law professor and one of the founders of the Creative Commons, speak.
As equity crowdfunding is starting to become more widely accepted, even newer ways of funding and starting a company emerge. Take a look at the recently announced partnership between the originally Swedish crowdfunding company FundedByMe and the Danish accelerator program - Accelerace.
The two companies intend to both “push and pull” startups from and to one another. In other words, you could go through the Accelerace accelerator program and then immediately jump onto the FundedByMe crowdfunding platform in a few easy steps. Alternatively, you could go to FundedByMe directly and then take part in the accelerator program after you are done. You could even include you intentions in your pitch, for example.
Despite how much I love the platform, I've come to terms with the fact that Spotify's social features really aren't that good on a basic level. I was interested to read headlines the other day that the Swedish music streaming service is adding chat to the platform, as it's a sign that they're still trying to do something with "social". But I've got plenty of ways to talk to friends, and with 20 million + tracks, the only way to make sense of the catalogue is to put together playlists, and share some of them with friends.
And there, what can you do? You can organize your tracks, give it a title, and put it on your public Spotify page, but I'm hungry for the low hanging fruit.
It should be the perfect storm: take one hotbed of ICT start-ups, a culture of entrepreneurship and a culture of early adoption when it comes to the latest tech development, and add reward-based crowdfunding. ICT entrepreneurs should be flocking to crowdfund their latest app, game or innovation. And yet they’re not; while arts and culture has embraced crowdfunding as a way for filmmakers to stay independent, Swedish ICT entrepreneurs aren’t as interested – when it comes to the local sites, that is.
Instead, big names like Volumental and Memoto are flocking to Kickstarter. On the face of it, this might be because the reach of the platform is larger – and, indeed, that perception exists. According to a recent report on the state of crowdfunding among ICT entrepreneurs in Sweden, ICT entrepreneurs do think that there is more money to be made on American platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Not so long ago, we wrote about the amazing technology behind Volumental. Basically it allows anyone with a depth camera, like the one on Kinect, to create 3D models of just about anything. All you have to do is simply record a 360 degree view of the object and their web-based solution will do the rest.
The problem is, there are limited ways in which you can use this. Of course there is gaming, 3D art, 3D modelling, etc. However the real attraction is to be able to scan an object and instantly print it on your 3D printer. This is what Volumental wants to achieve and to do so, they turned to Kickstarter. They are looking to raise a total of $20 000, which should allow them to hire a full-time developer to build the web-based scan-to-print app.
As it stands, it would take you a lot of work to make a printable 3D model. Basically you need to isolate the object you want to print from the background and all the other captured objects. Then you also need to make sure that the figure would sealed and waterproof, the edges need to be smoothed out and more. Volumental, tells us that all of this can be done automatically and they know how to do it.
The 3D printing revolution is on the rise and as research suggests, you can save up-to $2000 a year if you have a 3D printer at home. Being able to scan objects will not only make your life easier but will allow open a lot of doors even if you do not have any 3D modelling skills. Imagine being able to scan broken household items, fixing them in 3D and printing them out. Alternatively you can make a copy of you kids favorite toy or perhaps extra sets of your kitchen appliances?
In return for supporting the project, the backers get anything from a T-Shirt to a license for unlimited printable models. This hints at the final monetization and pricing idea that the team has for the future.
The campaign was launched yesterday and so far they have gathered $4 310, which is about 20% of the funding goal. You can check out the project here and watch their Kickstarter video below:
Top Image Courtesy of Shutterstock // 3D Printer
Noah, who recently turned 17, is the youngest board member at Stockholm Makerspace.
Makerspaces, Hackerspaces and FabLabs seem to fit much the same mould: a communal space where like-minded, creative folk can share space, machinery and, most importantly, ideas. The two key characteristics of such a space are, first, the community and, second, the gadgets.
We live in a world where people are starting to do just about anything by utilizing the power of the crowd. We have come to call it crowdsourcing and it is definitely picking up speed with startups at the forefront of the movement. For example Innopinion is using “gamified crowdsourcing” for running idea and feedback competitions and already had such clients as the Finnish Ministry of Transport and now announced a partnership with her majesty, Queen Silvia Of Sweden.
The digital entrepreneurs we cover just need a laptop, electricity, internet, and a roof over their head. You hear about some people taking extended working vacations, maybe going to Thailand for a little bit to get some sun and some work done, but Thomas Backlund, a Swedish entrepreneur, has taken to the Swedish forest to work on his project, staying in a tent and connected to the rest of the world by 3G and portable solar panels.
The world learned about his adventure about a month ago when he won the random chance to write something to The Listserve, where one person a day gets the chance to write something to it's 23,000+ subscribers. There he wrote,
Everyone loves a good map, and one crowdsourced initiative is Swestartups, a startup map attempting to cover the whole of Sweden. We've seen other startup maps pop up, like StartupLocation covering Stockholm and Helsinki, as well as CPH startups covering the Copenhagen region and StartupNorway's coverage of Norway.
We're a fan of these initiatives because it's good to know your neighbors, and it's useful for showing outside investors and entrepreneurs where the clusters are. We're currently revamping the "Startups" tab of our site to build a much more useful product, so someday soon we'll collect and present the whole region better in ways like this.
When we wrote about iZettle's partnership with Banco Santander, we mentioned that this is a big step for the company that will open doors to growth and expansion. Today, this is becoming a reality as iZettle announced its launch in Mexico today. Not a big deal, right? Wrong.
First of all, this is their first expansion outside of Europe, meaning that the company is on a path of growth in global markets. Strong presence in Mexico, the worlds 13th biggest economy, gives them the footing that the company needs to quickly spread across the Americas.
Before Martin Borgs joined the crowdfunding scene, the largest amount raised for a Swedish film was 393,646 SEK (€45,000) in a month. On FundedByMe, the largest amount raised for any project on the “classic crowfunding” site was 257,914 SEK. Borgs made more than that in the first 2 weeks that his latest film project was on FundedByMe. He raised 550,000 (€63,000) SEK in total to “granska slöseri med skattepengar” or examine the waste of tax money in Sweden.
Every publisher struggles how to present videos with pre-roll ads at the right moment when a user is ready to see them. One solution is to embed the related video content into the site’s context manually. It is, however, very costly for publishers. Sprinkle, a Sweden-based start-up, is trying to help publishers automate the process of putting video content into context by publishing automatically context-based videos to visitors.
Creating and sending postcards from your own images is by no means a unique idea. There are a lot of companies offering the service. So when we first talked to Postify, it seemed like they were doing something that has already been done and then some.
However at a closer look, it seems like they do have a hidden gem in there. Instead of focusing on the end-consumer, they want to create a new marketing channel for companies.
Event app Vamos is adding more functionality than crowdsourced Facebook events, plugging into services like Eventbrite, Ticketmaster, and Ticketfly. The reasoning is pretty straightforward - there are more events out there than what's on Facebook, and plugging into paid events can generate some revenue.
I find Vamos to be one of the stickier apps out of all the apps I've reviewed, but it's likely because I fall squarely into their demographic of bored 20-somethings. Their app provides an easy way to see what's going on at the moment, and the Facebook integration gives you an easy way to see what your friends are up to.
"There comes a time, when silence is betrayal" proclaims a Swedish anti-human trafficking website. It is one of the first projects to attempt to publicise their campaign using Swedish crowdfunded advertising site Take Space.
Nordic countries have been among the cutting edge few who’ve embraced the democratising potential of crowdsourcing in governance. Finnish Avoin Ministerio or “Open Ministry”, for example, crowdsources proposals for laws and agenda issues for consideration in the Finnish Parliament. The crowdsourced Icelandic constitution (and its current limbo) has become legend the world over.
The problem of finding the right "fit" in online shopping is difficult but challenging. We haven't covered Stockholm-based Virtusize yet, which is a shame because it's an interesting solution to solving online fit. Rather than the robot-based solution we've covered with Estonia-based Fits.me, Virtusize offers a 2D measurement solution. Measuring a flat t-shirt with a tape measurer isn't as cool as a robot, but they claim scales better and offers an easier solution for their customers.
"The big difference that separates us is that we start with the garment rather than the body," says Peder Stubert, co-founder of Virtusize. "It's much more intuitive and clear for the consumer."
Stockholm-based Volumental is one research spinoff that's going to be fun to watch. It's roots go back to Kinect@Home, which made a lot of noise in the news recently with their tool that allows anybody with a Microsoft Kinect camera, which was created for the Xbox, to create 3D models of people or objects in a matter of seconds. To do so, all you have to do is make a circular video of the object with the Kinect camera, and then you can share, download, embed the model for online or 3D printing use.
The project was started as a research project by two Ph.D. students and a professor at the Centre Of Autonomous systems, a research centre at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.
With a phone in everyone's pocket, there still seems to be too much friction when you're trying to get rid of your old bike. So to bring a peer-to-peer marketplace to iPhone, Stockholm-based Osom (think "awesome") has launched a polished app that will get you selling or buying in no time.
Co-founder Anton Johansson tells us that the company got its start after the founders decided to start a company after working for Videoplaza and Twingly. The idea came up as the three founders were sitting down and going through their favorite apps and all realized that Instagram has the best stickiness and "epicness" out of their phones. From there, they started to think about how that interface would respond in the e-commerce environment, and realized it was pretty optimized for a marketplace already.
Let's face it, we are overwhelmed with data. On a daily basis we get bombarded with tweets and Facebook posts of our friends. Then there are news feeds, e-mails, youtube, blogs and so on. Because of this ever expanding amount of new data coming in, most of us have developed internal filters that help us navigate in this jungle. For instance, I rarely notice cat pictures on Facebook anymore. However in certain industries, it is your sole responsibility to dig through this data and make sense of it, otherwise you will not make any money.
One particular industry is the financial trading sector, where your only hope is to act fast on available information. We could go into a very long debate about whether trading is based on luck, skill or internal trading but let us leave that aside for a second and assume that if you get information early enough, it can give you an edge. This edge would be useless if you got the information in its current format: thousands of tweets, blogs, news articles and Facebook posts. The time it would take to dig through it would would be so long that the market would simply adjust by the time you are done. The trick is to read all of this information in a sort of a visualised summary without the need to go into the specifics.
Nordic media publishing giant, Bonnier, is getting into the accelerator game. Or something like your idea of an accelerator, at least.
Digging into the website details, the feeling is more like aquahires at the concept phase, or a cheap idea sourcing for Bonnier. Rather than the standard taking a standard fixed percentage for a fixed amount of money, they're providing you with a salary, office space, and a mentor. And from you they're taking potentially your IP - the questionable paragraph from their FAQ reads:
The inanities of trademark protection has reached the frozen shores of Sweden, as Google's trademark protection lawyers reportedly gave the Swedish Language Council enough of a hassle that they decided to not to include the word "ogooglebar", or "un-googleable" into the new list of Swedish words.
The logic on Google's end was likely that they need to protect their trademark from becoming a generic term for web searches. But it only seems to highlight the inanities of trademark law, and sets up Google for all sorts of jokes about Google not wanting the concept of "ungoogleable" to exist in dictionaries.