MicroFundr - Not Just Yet

microfundrYesterday we announced news that a joint group of European blogs, including us, The Next Web, TechCrunch Europe and TechCrunch France were setting up an investment fund MicroFundr™ to invest up to €14,000 Euros (USD $18,500) in Micro blogging start-ups and uses Twitter for funding process.

Some of you called us out on it, and some bought the story right up. Truth to be told it was the mother of all April Fools scams, but the point remains: The VC industry could do with some innovative new models. Even if having a smaller fund means smaller management fees.

Not only that, we also love to co-operate with the great people at The Next Web and at TechCrunch.

Back to the scam. We orchestrated the scam with Boris and the rest of The Next Web, without whom could not have done it. David from The Next Web opened up an Twitter account, whipped up graphics and the ball was rolling. Altogether we got 121 Twitter follower and numerous retweets. The full gory story is at The Next Web.

We apologize to those startups for raising false hopes, but at the same time hope that Angels and early stage funds will take note and look at Twitter not only as a bygone investment opportunity, but also a useful for tool for their trade.

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MicroFundr, First Pan-European VC Fund, Will Use Twitter For Funding Process

microfundr1Small Change Venture Capital is launching MicroFundr which will invest up to €14,000 Euros (USD $18,500) in Micro blogging start-ups and uses Twitter for funding process.

The Invest Fund raised just under €14 million (USD $18m) from a group of small banks and informal investors. A joint group of European blogs, including ArcticStartup(that's us!), The Next Web, TechCrunch Europe and TechCrunch France are happy to announce the launch of the MicroFundr investment fund aimed at European small, mini and micro start-ups. We are honored to be part of such a high quality group of European blogs.

We are also excited about the new innovative way a startup can submit its application - via Twitter! As this was presented ot us it only made sense, since the best startups can communicate all they need to only in a few slides anyway, so why not to use something that helps the startups to be consice. We reiterate what Dick Vogels, VP for Small Change Venture Capital, based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, says:

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Live From TechCrunch Brunch

Reporting live from TechCrunch Brunch in Helsinki the morning following Slush. The theme for the morning's panel discussions are the implications of regionality and unique features in the Nordic startup scene.

The event was kicked off by Mike Butcher from TechCrunch UK and Ville Vesterinen from ArcticStartup, chatting a bit about Slush, its background and the Nordic startup environment in general.

The panelists (from left to right in the picture below):
Kai Lemmetty, Founder of Floobs
Janne Waltonen, Marketing director Fruugo
Mark Sorsa-Leslie, Managing director of Hammerkit
Jussi Laakkonen, CEO and president Everyplay.com
Leo Koivulehto, Co-founder and chairman, TripSay

Mike set the scene asking how the panelists see the startup scene in the Nordics, whether the environment is going to stay a tough place to do a startup due to relatively high living costs, difficulties with angel and VC funding etc. A few highlights below.

Mark stated he moved from the UK three years ago, and has been impressed with enthusiasm people have, the great engineering skills, and the passion to get things done in a practical manner. Janne continued the people in Nordic countries are quite modest, which is somewhat hindering international expansion
.

Janne mentioned the Nordic market's been traditionally about local startups thinking of local markets (Swedes being maybe somewhat different), which should end. As Janne put it, we really have all it takes if we have the will to take over.

Peter Vesterbacka commented the downturn is a perfect time to start a company as you have less competition and could be able to take over a lot of the potential customers in a swift. Furthermore, it's perfect to start in the Nordics, as "if you can make it in the slush you can make it anywhere". The current global economic environment it's actually not even that much different from the "normal" challenges up here.

Mike commented in London the startup world is focusing nowadays on revenues much earlier in the game. According to Janne startups should start marketing as soon as possible, and not really wait until their product is "ready". Traditionally the startups have relied perhaps too much on virality (beta invites etc.). Janne compared his experience between Fruugo and two Swedish startups he's been in, and noted Fruugo has really concentrated on not showing anything in public before they are sure their technical back-end is top notch, whereas the Swedish ones were really open since the beginning without even much knowledge about the technical side.

Stephen Lee from Muxlim added, as an American who's lived in Finland for 10 years, that the governmental systems supporting startups are built around the concept of startups having to prove themselves in Finland first, before getting further money to go abroad. According to Stephen this model doesn't really work anymore, and the organizations (and startups) should turn their focus on going global from the beginning.

Jussi answered arguing the Finnish game industry has gone global since the very beginning. Nowadays the industry is healthy and buzzing with 50+ companies with over 90% export ratio, so it's been proved already we can make it from here. Jussi continued the process for pitching a game concept to a games publisher is really similar to pitching a company to VCs, so there are people who have been pitching successfully and know their stuff.

The second panel focused around the topics of finding funding and how to cope in the downturn market.


The panelists (from left to right):
Helene Auramo, CEO and partner of Zipipop
Heikki Mäkijärvi, Venture parter of Accel Partners
Mohamed El-Fatatry, Founder and CEO of Muxlim
Joakim Achrén, founder of IronStar Helsinki
Kristoffer Lawson from Scred

The panel kicked off going through the current status of the startups - Scred and Zipipop are bootstrapping and looking for funding. Mohamed told Muxlim got very well seed money from Finnish angels, which are quite active and willing to help, but for big rounds the money is difficult to get and momentum can be lost. Muxlim run through 500 international VCs in 6 months, and finally landed with one from Sweden.

Regarding the economy, Heikki from Accel Partners encouraged startups to look critically their business in the current economic situation - if the customers are not buying, it may be worthwhile to stop and rethink the business plan, rather than waiting for a sale or better times. They've had very good experiences of startups finding a great business model by refocusing this way.

Heikki also commented they are being more careful about the investments currently. He argued in the early stage companies the team is the most important thing, so that the investors can trust the team knowing what they're doing. Heikki also went on explaining one notable difference with Finnish startups compared to Silicon Valley is in the executive team. The ideas are typically good, but the executive teams are much more juvenile than in the Valley, whereas the board is typically very experienced. So Heikki would rather see people like the board members doing the execution, mentioning he'd like to see people learning business in big global firms, and then establishing startups in their 40s. He explained while you can build a good startup regardless of your age, in the end it will take great skill in execution to take a startup from 5 Million to 10M, and futher to 50M in revenues.

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Two Free Tickets To Slush And To TechCrunch Brunch

Slush, an event for startups by startups, will take place next Monday in Helsinki, Finland. We have a whole lot of people already coming, but wanted to give out 2 tickets for two lucky persons who still haven’t bought their tickets.

Also, we have two tickets to give away for the TechCrunch Brunch @ Slush that takes place the day after Slush itself. Mike Butcher, the editor of TechCrunch UK will come to Finland for the first time to host an event for the local startup scene:

TechCrunch UK is partnering with Slush, and we'll be throwing a breakfast brunch event for 100 start-ups, entrepreneurs, investors and key industry players the day after the Slush conference, so you'll be able to come along and network over some great Helsinki coffee. If you're a Scandinavian or Baltic startup, then this should be an event right up your street. It will be on Tuesday, 25th November at 09:30am to 01:00pm.

We will award a ticket to Slush and to TechCrunch Brunch for two persons who come up with the best English translations for the Finnish word Sisu. Every successful entrepreneur has a lot of this magical stuff that gives her the will power to push through against all the odds. Here’s the Wikipedia translation to get you started.  You should write your own version into the comments below.

The description should be a one or two sentence punch line. We will choose the winner sometime tomorrow afternoon, so you have until that to write your version in the comments.

If you rather buy your tickets make sure you do it soon, since Slush is less than a week away. You can buy your ticket to Slush here, and your ticket to the TechCrunch Brunch for the day after here. Hope to see you at both.

Photo by Phineas H (CC:BY).

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Slush Is Just Around The Corner

Slush Helsinki is taking place in two weeks time on 24th November at Korjaamo, Helsinki. The event is a collaborative effort from Helsinki startup scene aiming bring together Helsinki's startups, past and current, and showcasing some of the more interesting startups in the region.

Slush will stop selling tickets on the 19th November, which is next week's Wednesday. If you're planning on attending make sure to buy your ticket while you still can. You buy there here.

Slush party will take place at Helmi on the evening of 24th. This will be naturally included in the price of the ticket. I just heard a rumor that the mysterious Finnish startup Fruugo might be giving away invites to their Beta at the Slush party. (More about Fruugo here)

We have teamed up with TechCrunch UK and Slush to hold a Brunch at Ekberg Cafe the following day (25th November). You need a seprate ticket for this, which can be purchased here. The space is limited so make sure you get your ticket while they last! (Story on TCUK here)

Slush has also combined forces with Access Forum, which is a two-day networking and match-making event with focus on cutting edge mobile technology. Access Forum 2008 will host an Israeli delegation which will include some of the largest venture capital firms from Israel.

Access Forum will also bring FIG Marketplace to Slush. It's a matchmaking event for mobile high-tech firms and takes place at Slush on Monday 24.11.2008 from 13:30 to 16:00. The event provides you excellent possibility to find new business partners, customers and technologies among the participating Finnish and Israeli companies. You can fill in your own Company Profile and search the on-line Catalogue for partners and company profiles. It is possible to request bilateral and pre-scheduled meetings with event participants. The meetings last max. 30 minutes each. The FIG Marketplace @ Slush is free of charge for the companies who participate at Slush. The event is organized by Technopolis Ventures and Enterprise Europe Network Finland. For more information and to register, visit here.

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Slush Startup-Competition: One More Week To Submit Your Idea

Slush, an event for startups by startups in Helsinki, Finland, is this month (24th November) and deadline to submit your idea for a startup is closing in. You will have until 7th 14th November which is this next Friday, so better hurry up if you don't have submitted your 'next big thing' yet.

You can read more about the competition and submit your idea here.

If you think you have a great idea and you are brave enough to test your idea, the Slush team (which I'm part of) might be able to help to get you started. We aim to choose up to seven teams with potential ideas for a successful startup and give them little seed money to work on their project on summer 2009. We hope that we can give 6 000 euro to each team and possibly fund up to seven teams.

At the end of the day the number of teams we can fund depends on how succesful the event will turn out to be. We are not looking into making any profit from the event and all the organizers work for free to make the Slush event happen. We will channel all the remaining money after expenses have been covered to the Slush Fund to fund these startup projects. In essence, the amount of money we can give out depends on the number of people that will buy the ticket and show up, so make sure you'll be there!

So who's coming to Slush? The whole Finnish startup scene, TechCrunch UK, VentureBeat, many of our friends from TheNextWeb if they possible can. Best wishes to Partrick at Amsterdam. We all hope he gets well soon.

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TechCrunch is coming to Slush Helsinki

ArcticStartup is partnering with TechCrunch UK and Slush Helsinki in organizing a brunch for start-ups, entrepreneurs, investors and key industry players the day after the Slush event. Slush will take place on Monday 24th November and the brunch on Tuesday 25th.

Slush is an event for startups by startups in Helsinki, Finland. The event will showcase all the major Finnish Internet-era success stories from F-secure to Jaiku, from Habbo Hotel to MySQL, along with all the hottest Finnish startups.

TechCrunch Brunch @ Slush kicks off with discussions about entrepreneurship and startups in general with Mike Butcher, the editor of TechCrunch UK initiating and moderating the discussions, followed by plenty of networking over brunch.

The event is sponsored by Muxlim, a Finnish born Muslim online community with users from over 190 countries across the world. The site is the official Finland nominee to the World Summit Awards 2009, for the "e-Inclusion & Participation" category.

There is limited capacity for attendees at TechCrunch Brunch @ Slush, so TechCrunch is asking for a €20 cover charge to minimise no-shows. The brunch will take place at Cafe Ekberg, from 09:30am to 01:00pm. You can register for the TC brunch here, and for the Slush itself here. Hope to see you in the Slush on the 24th as well as at the brunch the day after!

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Muxlim building Muslim virtual world

muxlimAccording to TechCrunch UK (blog post here) Muxlim, the Finnish born Muslim social network, is launching a virtual world especially Muslims in mind.  This will be much like the other virtual worlds we are familiar with such as The Second Life apart from the Muslim specific features.

TechCrunch UK reports:

The idea is that something tailored to the Muslim world would be allowed through the IP-blocks of countries like United Arab Emirates which currently stops access to virtual worlds and online games considered unsuitable or offensive to Muslim culture. The virtual world is said to launch in 4-6 weeks

[...]

The revenue model will be VIP accounts, virtual gifts, virtual furniture/clothes, themes/styles, profile applications, advertising, branded communities and physical merchandise like t-shirts.


Muxlim has been very active lately. In addition to the new virtual world, they are planning to open an office in the UK and a big UK launch event at the end of January 2009 to go along with that.

If you look at the TechCrunch UK comments it clearly shows that religion is much more sensitive topic in the UK than it is over here in the Nordics and Baltics. Very few, if any, of the comments actually deal with the product itself, but rather with the fact that the virtual world is for Muslims. Mike Butcher, the Editor of TechCruch UK, decided to shut down the comments since the blog post created so many racist comments. I have not seen such negative approach here in the Nordics or Baltics even though Muxlim has been in the headlines quite a bit. It seems that UK has much more to learn from us than just financial regulation.

Edit: Here's also Wired's take on the Muxlim virtual world.

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Spotify rumoured to have raised €15m round

TechCrunch UK just reported (here) that Spotify, a Swedish startup offering a lightweight software application enabling on demand streaming of music, is rumoured to have raised €15m round (massive €71.6m pre-money valuation) from a Scandinavian VC fund Northzone Ventures.

As TechCrunch UK commented "Northzone themselves have declined to comment, but Creandum, another of Sweden’s top VCs, is also understood to have taken part in the funding round."

ArcticStartup met Creandum at Seedcamp in London and a partner at Creandum told us that he is very excited about Spotify when we asked what are the most interesting Swedish startups at the moment. On the face of it this would support the rumor, even though we can't confirm it either.

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Mike Butcher Of TechCrunch UK Talks About The Euro Startup Scene

I interviewed Mike Butcher of TechCrunch UK on the European startup ecosystem and how he sees it versus the US one while I was visiting Seedcamp in London. I told Mike that we need to make entrepreneurship sexier here in Europe and get more role models for students and young guns to look up to. See what Mike told me and what he thinks of the Scandi startup scene in particular.

We will be discussing the state of the European startup scene here in Helsinki tomorrow night at the ArcticEvening (see more here). Come meet the local startup scene and enjoy a laid-back evening with us.

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Seedcamp 2008 Winners

Seedcamp winners have been announced just a few hours ago in London. This year 7 companies were picked for a 50k€ investment and a three month mentoring period. The winners this year are:

uberVU: Tracking comments on your social media content
Kyko: Casual gaming inside MSN / Live Messenger
Basekit - Make building complex webapplications easy.
Soup.io - Personal publishing on the web made easy
Toksta - Provide instant messaging systems for social networks
Mobclix - Iphone analytics
StupeFlix - Smart video slideshows from photographs

Via The Next Web


Neither Scred nor Saplo made it all the way to the winners' table this year, but I'm sure they have experienced a lot of valuable things that will take them far next year.

Edit: Here's TechCrunchUK's take on the Seedcamp 08 winners.

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