The Nordic Paradox: Entrepreneurship As A Career Choice

Are Nordic countries particularly entrepreneurial? How do our societies perceive entrepreneurship as a career choice?

The perception already exists that the Nordic countries are among the most innovative in the world. The two most recent and comprehensive rankings supporting this belief came from the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Boston Consulting Group, both published in April 2009. The first of these studies ranked Japan as the most innovative country in the world, while in the second Singapore was at the top of the list. Nevertheless, Finland and Sweden ranked in the top ten for both reports, while Denmark and Norway also ranked impressively.

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Thank You Sponsors

This is our periodic thank you note to our blog sponsors to describe what they have to offer.

MicrosoftInnovate!100 to Spotlight World's Most Promising Tech Startups
Microsoft BizSpark is partnering with Guidewire Group in a global competition to identify a group of 100 top Startups from around the world, to be known as the Innovate!100. Winners will get global recognition, media promotion, expert feedback, and access to a variety of resources and opportunities to accelerate their growth. Visit Innovate!100 for more information and to apply. Check out for the local Pitch SlamsHelsinki, Finland – 24 March 2010!

Enterprise HelsinkiEnterpriseHelsinki is an ongoing city initiative for new entrepreneurs and startups. In addition to free basic advisory on starting or growing your business, their mission is to help local startup ecosystem, by organizing and supporting related events, and by providing helpful tools and resources for the ecosystem.
 
 

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If you wish to become ArcticStartup blog sponsor, please see more information here. If you are interested in sponsoring our ArcticEvening events, please contact events (at) arcticstartup.com.

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Ex-Floobs Team Goes After Music Business With GigsWiz

The dust has barely settled since we reported about Floob's ending up in the deadpool on Jan 21st. Now the founding team, Kai Lemmetty and Joonas Pekkanen, is at it again and this times its music gigs they are after.

The new startup is called GigsWiz and is founded by Lemmetty, Pekkanen and  Juuso Vermasheinä who has a background in game retail business.

Lemmetty was responsible for product development and business development in the music industry at Floobs Ltd and had previously seen some of the problems in the industry and together with Pekkanen they had some ideas how to help the music industry build a better business. Vermasheinä had started the company already in the summer of 2009 but after meeting with Lemmetty and Pekkanen the three decided to start working together on a slightly different business plan. In addition to the core management team GigsWiz is building an advisory board including music industry specialists, crowdsourcing and 'intention broadcasting experts', which should hint on the area the company focuses on.

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Northzone Announces The First Close Of € 90 Million Of A New Fund. So What?

Northzone Ventures announced the first close of € 90 million of a new fund, Northzone VI. Targeting € 150 million, the fund will invest in fast growing Euro tech companies. Prominent Nordic and International institutional investors participated in the first close.

This was not only significant because we certainly don't have too much venture capital in the Nordics, but also because this will mean that some of the better venture capital firms are bullish enough to look outside for new investments instead of just trying help navigate their current portfolio companies through the rough economy. I'm happy that the Finnish Industry Investment, whose Advisory Council I sit at, invested a total of € 7.5m in the new fund (consider this as my disclosure). This shows that the institutional players believe in the asset class despite the lack of an IPO market. I agree that I might read this news as a bigger positive sign than most, given how bad the European let alone Nordic venture capital situation is, but what it highlights is that the best startups will always find the money when they need it regardless of geography or economy. For the real pirates now is always the right time to start a company.

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Suntrica Chargers Now Apple Approved

While much of the attention at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is on new handsets and software, Suntrica from Finland silently announced that they got their Solar Strap approved by Apple. Their new Solar Strap, which comes now in four nice colours and got even lighter, is working with the iPhone 3G and 3 GS, as well as the iPod Touch, Classic and Nano. This is a great opportunity for all the Apple fans to charge their iPhones and iPods while away from an outlet, be it in the city or hiking.

For those who don't have an iPhone or iPod but are looking for an environmentally friendly way to load their phones and gadgets, Suntrica still has the normal SolarStrap which is compatible with a range of phones, and also can be loaded up via USB for those rainy days and carried as a backup. Finally, the company is also helping out the people in Haiti, as relief workers are powering their mobile phones with Suntrica chargers - a great sign that they are not only interested in profits, but also in the well being of other people.

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Ideakone Hires Lemmetty, Reveals Future Plans

I had a brief chat this morning with Kai Lemmetty, one of the co-founders of Floobs, a Finnish startup now gone bankrupt. He told me that he has moved on from Floobs to a new startup where he's helping the team with some new product innovations and bringing in new perspectives to running their business. He's joined Ideakone, the creators of Kotisivukone (loosely translated as Homepagemachine) and the international version of it, Moogo.

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Mobile Dev Camp Brings Mobile Developers To Helsinki

Mobile Dev Camp is coming to Helsinki on February 27. The second time this event brings together all the mobile developers across the region to hear about the latest trends, meet the other mobile honchos and, well, to develop for mobile platforms.

The event was born from the realization that the hey days of mobile phone manufacturing where behind us here in Finland. Regardless, or maybe because of it, the country is full know how on mobile service development and people with skills to match.

The two themes of the evening of 27th are cross-platform development and mobile apps versus the mobile internet. A timely topics given the state of the web. This means key note presentations, workshops and a MobileDevCamp-Challenge competition. And a hell of a party if its anything like last year.

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GrowVC Looking To Disrupt Global VC Business

GrowVC has slowly been marketing their concept in various social media networks and today is the date they're finally coming out with the concept and explaining it to the public. Back in December I had a chat with Valto Loikkanen, one of the co-founders of the company, and he told me the concept has been in finetuning for the last two years or so. They've put in a lot of effort to make sure their companies are registered and managed in the right way so that they are ready to scale once things start taking off.

The concept GrowVC is looking to disrupt is the age old venture capital business model. Many have complained that while business models in the online and mobile world have been turned upside down, one model remains loyal to the way business is done and that's the model of investing money into startups. Furthermore, the need for capital has gone down dramatically making smaller private investors more potential investors in startups than larger venture capitalists.

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RedLynx Sells 1.5 Million Games in 2009

Back in January we wrote about the Finnish multi platform gaming house RedLynx surpassing the half a million sales mark for their TrialsHD game on the XBOX 360. Last week they announced that altogether they have sold over 1.5 million games in 2009. Last year, they published four games Trials HD (Xbox LIVE Arcade), Monster Trucks Nitro (PC), Monster Truck Nitro (iPhone) and DrawRace (iPhone).

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Is There An Online Future For Old Media?

The two big Finnish “old media” companies, Sanoma and Alma Media, published their 2009 results yesterday and today, respectively. However, as seems to be the common policy, neither of them was too open about the state of their online business. But luckily Alma still offered some nuggets of information for constructing a picture of what’s going on.

The two online legs of an old media company are typically classifieds and editorially driven news sites. Alma’s classifieds segment, which includes such assets as the housing site Etuovi.com and jobs site Monster.fi, posted a loss of €0.7m with an €27m revenue. Sanoma doesn’t give out any information on its online classifieds.

On the online news side, Alma publishes Iltalehti.fi, the biggest website in Finland by unique visitors. Although the full year figures for the asset were not disclosed today, the Q1/09 report from April states a revenue of €1.2m, so the annual income is likely to be around the €5m mark. Given that Iltalehti.fi relies mainly on journalistic content, the site is – after full allocation of editorial costs – most likely loss-making or, if they’re lucky, posting a very small profit.

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Your Product Needs a Soul

The marketplace is crowded with products with no soul. I've always wondered who creates the masses of these terrible products and why they don't they fix them: startups that run for months or years with horrible user experience.

It just seems that with a little bit of effort it could've been much better. In today's world, you actually might need that extra effort.

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Facebook Has You By The Social Balls

A week ago, Facebook's Zuckerberg said we don't need privacy:

Many posts were written about how he's wrong. He is wrong. I'm sure he knows it. However, framing the debate around the "trend of openness" draws attention away from the fact that FB is bursting blood vessels trying to think of ways to monetize all that information we keep adding, and is thinking less and less about the morality of this option versus that one.

The first volley arrived in the form of updated privacy settings, which gave you the option of sticking to the custom, stronger privacy settings you may have set before, or quickly clicking "accept" and suddenly have most of your content shown to practically anyone. EFF and others have commented quite thoroughly on the less-than-savory methods that were employed.

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Metallkraft Attracts € 17 Million As Climate Change Capital Enters Nordic Cleantech

Norwegian company Metallkraft has a new part owner in Climate Change Capital, the UK based cleantech fund now making their first (but I imagine not last…) entry into the Nordic cleantech space. The € 200 million cleantech fund led the investment round and subscribed to € 10.3 million of the total € 17 million in convertible bonds that where issued. Current owners also took part.

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Transformational Thursday

The other week I had the privilege to participate in Benjamin Zander's (homepage and bio) excellent presentation. Benjamin, or Ben, among other things is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and has an extensive speaking career. He has, for example, appeared four times as a keynote speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos. After witnessing his passion and talent, I cannot more highly recommend going to one of his keynotes (or concerts for that matter) if you get a chance.

What makes Ben's message so inspiring and original is the way he uses his background in classical music to reflect on the topics of leadership, strategic management, creativity, and positive thinking. He truly takes the audience on an extremely interactive journey through stories and music. And even though most of us are not that much into classical music, he certainly is able to light a spark thereto.

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Swedish NFC Payments System Developer Accumulate Lands $2m Funding

Swedish university students are to begin using a near field communication payments system (NFC) developed by payments processor Payex and secure mobile solutions specialist Accumulate.

For this,  PayEx along with existing investors have invested US$2m of venture capital in Accumulate. The money will be used to further develop Accumulate's mobile payments and mobile security business.

20,000 students are expected to be enrolled on the system by the end of this year, with a total of 100,000 students at a number of universities going live over the next six months, beginning with Uppsala University and Linköping University.

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Scope Invests € 7 million In Footbalance

As Swedish private equity company Scope has invested a whopping €7m in a Finnish company Footbalance System Ltd.

The investment will enable the company to further accelerate the growth and sales of its custom insole concept (see videos below). The solution is sold through Road Runner Sports in the US and Intersport International Corporation in Europe. Here's a more in-depth take on the investment from Technopolis.

Footbalance's solution is a 100% customized insole, which it creates through its computer-aided foot analysis and in-store production units. Footbalance's concept is also a means for sports stores to increase their service level by helping the estimated 75% of all consumers who suffer from incorrect foot positions, such as overpronation and supination. Footbalance insoles support ideal foot and ankle alignment while preventing and correcting malpositions.

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Eqvitec Gives Voddler A 2.5 Million Euro Boost

Eqvitec Technology Fund III has invested a hefty 26 million Swedish Kronors (about 2.55 million euro) into Voddler, a Swedish startup looking to disrupt the way we watch movies at home. Hadar Cars, a partner of Eqvitec will join the Voddler board with the investment. This is great news for the whole ecosystem as consumer internet had been a little less active in terms of investments in the recent quarters. Also, another sign of this investment for the ecosystem is its size, if there is potential - investors are willing to invest and with Voddler's 26 million Kronor investment it has been proven.

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Sofanatics is Social Videochat Around Sports, Works With Finnish Broadcasting Company

We've done our share of guessing what Sofanatics, a new Finnish stealth startup, is up to with their concept and it seems that finally there's some light being shed to their work. It comes from an interesting source, one of the blogs hosted by Finnish Broadcasting Company. The blog post is titled "Videochat combines home couches during the Olympics".

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Foodie.fm Helps You Grocery Shop Smarter

Foodie.fm is that obvious thing that I always knew I needed but could not think of. There's about a million different ToDo list apps and cooking apps that help you do partly what Foodie.fm does, but not really.

Foodie.fm enables smart grocery shopping by allowing the user to browse different recipes and then add that meal to their shopping cart. It lets me see different meals and then breaks them down into the needed ingredients in just the right amounts and once I tab 'Add to cart' it ads it to my shopping list on my phone. Now, here's the beauty. Foodie's back end is connected to all the stores in a given chain (They just announced a partnership with S-Ryhmä in Finland) and the server technology learns from what I like to buy and starts to ...wait for it... make recommendations to me when such ingredients or products are on sale in my local store (iPhone lets the service know where I live and recommends me to choose a store as my local shop). You can get the iPhone App here.

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Mobile Premier Awards At Barcelona's Mobile World Congress

ArcticStartup is an official media partner of this year's Mobile Premier Awards (MPA), the biggest open and global startup competition in the mobile industry. (The event went by the name Mobile Peer Awards last year.) The event is organized in collaboration with the industry's largest networks such as MobileMonday, Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF), MEXMobileActive.org, and Women 2.0.

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