Last week I talked to Artturi Tarjanne, a venture capitalist and a General Partner at Nexit Ventures in Helsinki, Finland.
You can find the first part of the interview here. In the second part (see video below) we discussed on what kind of companies Nexit is looking for and how you can approach Nexit if you're a startup.
We touched on the quality of current and past deal flow in Finland. Tarjanne told me that even if we may lack in business skills vis-a-vis say the US, our technology skills are very strong even compared the Silicon Valley. This is the same message that for example Richard Allan Horning, a Principal at Fish and Richardson, a very prominent law firm in Silicon Valley, echoed in Tallinn just last week when we met him.
erAce Security Solutions has launched a mobile firewall for preventing SMS attacks on smartphones that could result in an attacker hijacking mobile data connections. The product is called Settings Firewall and it is targeted Symbian and Windows Mobile operating systems (more info, PDF).
There has been a lot of discussion on possible SMS vulnerabilities lately. For example, F-Secure has reported the first ever SMS worm, and just end of 2008 there were headlines about the Curse of Silence denial of service attack. It is often deemed as just a matter of time before the first more serious threats appear.
I wanted to kickstart the week by giving a little heads up on our ArcticIndex and what we've been up to lately. Sometime back we added the jobs part to the website and even though it hasn't been under tremendous use - it has received a lot of attention.
Today - we're announcing an addition to the service, events. We decided to let go of our Yahoo Upcoming account and build it ourselves to ArcticIndex. Actually, the wonderful guys at Kisko Labs did it - do contact them if you're in need of development resources, they do a fantastic job. Anyways, one of the reasons was also that we really want to give all the necessary tools for the community to do this sort of activities without us being a gatekeeper in the middle.
Venture Capital is in flux. Some say it's frozen over and funds are pulling back, and some say it's the best time to invest and find the next Googles and Facebooks. Everyone, including us , has an opinion on the topic.
Earlier this week I talked to Artturi Tarjanne of Nexit Ventures and asked what Nexit is doing in the current down market. Tarjanne has been one of the most active actors in the Finnish venture capital market and pivotal in building the emerging US-style venture capital market in Finland. We talked about how Tarjanne ended up to be a venture capitalist, what lead to Limbo to merge with Brightkite and why Nexit Ventures operates in two very different locations: here in the Nordics as well as in the Silicon Valley. We also discussed Nexit's investment strategy and how they see the current handset market. Check out the video below.
This is our periodic thank you note to our blog sponsors to describe what they have to offer.
Invest Tech Finland 2009, 9.-10.6.2009, Helsinki, Finland
Great fortunes are made during tough times!
Invest Tech Finland 2009 is a venture capital event that brings together in Helsinki the very best young Finnish technology companies from pre-seed to growth stages, leading technology-focused venture capital and angel investors, public funding organizations, policy-makers and leading academic thinkers.
Check out the latest updates at: www.invest-tech.net
The Sun Startup Essentials program is specifically designed to help startups get their business off the ground FAST with the right IT infrastructure at the LOWEST COST possible. This program is available in many countries throughout the world. You can also go directly to your local country's Sun Startup Essentials program web page to learn more.
The Finnish Software Entrepreneurs Association is a non-aligned association for innovative, professional, growth-friven and entrepreneurial software business executives. Association drives the success of software business as an industry and supports individual software companies in their road to success.
Ohjelmistoyrittäjät ry on sitoutumaton, kasvuhakuisten ja yrittäjähenkisten ohjelmistoyritysten johdon yhteisö sekä ohjelmistoalan kehittäjä ja edunvalvoja Kehitämme kasvuhakuisten ohjelmistoyritysten toimintaedellytyksiä. Tavoitteenamme on, että yhä useampi suomalainen kasvuyritys ylittää kasvua rajoittavat esteet ja siirtyy kansainvälisille markkinoille.
- kokemusta ja mentorointia liiketoiminnan ammattilaisilta
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ArcticStartup with its passion for entrepreneurship is media partnering with the Entrepreneurship Forum in Stockholm, Sweden. The Entrepreneurship Forum initiative, co-founded by Daniel Blomquist at Creandum, aims to promote entrepreneurship and create a meeting place for everyone (students, entrepreneurs, investors) interested in entrepreneurship.
The topic at this second annual event is How to Monetize Digital Content and they've got a really interesting set up for panel including absolute top players pushing the new Internet economy forward.
Ville is coming over to moderate the panel so get ready for some good time and great insights!
See you there!
Estonian Development Fund has launched new seed business incubator, SeedBooster. The purpose of the incubator is to help develop early-stage businesses to get them mature enough for venture capital financing.
However, the leader of the SeedBooster project, Andrus Oks, comments that the new incubator is actually nothing that much new - it is in fact part of activities Estonian Development Fund has performed already for some time, now just productized and branded. Targeted firms are ones operating in Estonia with a strong desire and possibilities for fast international growth.
So far SeedBooster has taken in for example programming analysis firm Programeter (which just won the runner-up prize in the elevator pitch contest) and website platform developer Edicy (our previous coverage) under its wings. The incubator is looking to include further 5-6 new projects within the next month.
TechCrunchTalk Nordic was held yesterday in Stockholm. The event was sold out and gathered many familiar faces from the startup and VC communities for panel discussions, presentations and pitches followed by drinks and networking.
The panels and presentations had a good mix of representatives from the entire region and discussed topics covering the Nordic and Baltic startup and VC culture. In my opinion the most memorable message sent was by Pär-Jörgen Pärsson from the VC firm Northzone Ventures. He presented some hard figures and facts just to state how the Nordics is the best exit market in the world with 36% exit rate, Skype excluded. So - the startups in the Nordics rock!
Yesterday Videoplaza, a Swedish startup focusing on video advertising solutions, announced that the four of the largest print publishers in Denmark, Berlingske Media , Ekstra Bladet, Jyllands Posten and Børsen and 4 big advertisers, De Gule Sider, Nordisk Film, Nykredit and SAS, have come together to kickstart the online video advertising market in Denmark. (Read the story in VideoPlaza blog here).
Online video advertising has been coming for years, but has never really arrived. At least not yet. Similarly it's not an overstatment to say that most of the content creators, namely news medias, are fighthing what many see as a losing battle to stay alive. Videoplaza has taken a small step closer to solving their biggest problem, how to make money with content online, by monetising online videos through prerolls, overlays and companion banners. However, Videoplaza founder and CEO, Sorosh Tavakoli, admits it's not as easy as it might look. Actually it's damn hard. Here's a story he shared with us:
For a cleantech view in 2009/10, economic stimulus packages have moved to centre stage. USD 396 bln in stimulus funding is going to green investments announced by G20 countries, of this about 50 % of amount will be invested in 2009, according to Cleantech Group (an article). Interestingly, many areas formerly called "infrastructure" have been now rebranded as "green" (like for instance electric transmission lines, smart grid and metering, power system automation)!
Swedish electric transformer company Hexaformer is an excellent case example for a company benefit from the ongoing "green" or electric infrastructure opportunities (when the old technology or ageing infrastructure in many countries, especially in the US, require updating). The company, founded in 2004, closed second round of EUR 3.3 million last week backed by Swedish cleantech investor Sustainable Technologies Fund and the first round investor, Innovations Kapital (which invested EUR 3,3 in May 2007) (a press release).
I'm writing this on a ferry over from Tallinn to Helsinki coming back from a pitching event we organized in collaboration with Enterprise Estonia as part of the second annual International Technology Law Association conference in Tallinn, Estonia. The pitch competition was held with support from Connect Estonia. I very much enjoyed the conference as it mixed nicely technology law and venture capital finance. There was some interesting comments from a top-of-the-line Nordic and Baltic VC panel, but I'll get into that in another post. Here's about the line up of companies that pitched themselves to the jury.
Based on the application process five startups had made their way into final pitch competition. Here's some thoughts on each of them.
Apaja, a Finnish Social Gaming company and the creator of Aapeli and Playray communities has launched a spinoff company by the name of VirtuToy. The news was reported by the Finnish Digitoday.
There are rumours circulating around the new company as to what it will be up to, but so far nothing has been confirmed. The CEO of the company, Ilpo Kuokkanen, is the former founder of Saunalahden Serveri, an ISP service that later went public at the end of the Finnish dotcom boom. Sources inside the company did not disclose any information, but they were told to be very busy at the moment. VirtuToy has a 2 man board at the moment and it consists of Ilpo Kuokkanen, the CEO and Ilkka Vesterinen, the Chairman of the Apaja board.
According to Kuokkanen, talks are in final stages with partners and financiers. Furthermore, he reveals that the service will be launched in September this year - not sure if fully, but partially at least.
The name VirtuToy can be rolled around with various concepts. One of the most obvious ones is a virtual toy - something of a fully digital tamagotchi.
Disclosure: I used to work with Apaja from 3/2006 to 10/2007.
Photo by Leo Reynolds (CC)
Venture Cup Finland has chosen the seven finalists that will compete for the million euro prize money. We rumoured of this back in October 2008 and the competition, along with the amount of prize money. The prize itself won't be an immediate million euros in the bank account, but an admission to the Finnish Tekes' innovative young companies -pipeline.
The jury that has done the picking includes Risto Siilasmaa (F-Secure), Hannu Järvinen (Tekes), Will Cardwell (Technopolis Ventures), Moaffak Ahmed (Veturi), Pekka Roine (InnoSpa), Heikki Mäkijärvi (Accel), Petri Laine (Vera Venture), Michael Panaccio (Starfish Ventures), Margus Uudam (Ambien Sound Investments), Tsvika Ben-Porat (Maayan Ventures) as well as Daniel Blomquist (Creandum). A pretty comprehensive line-up indeed.
The companies that have been picked as the finalists are in no particular order ClaroVision, Ekogen, Entetrainer, Navigil, Oncos Therapeutics, Pixpolar and ZenRobotics. Unfortunately many of the companies have decided to neglect their web presence so it is very difficult for the public to know what they are after.
The companies come from multiple industries. They divide into entertainment, hardware manufacturers, clean tech companies as well as medicare companies, just to mention some. The winner of the competition will be announced on June 9th in Ravintola Sipuli, Helsinki.
Update: The event is organised on June 9th - this has been corrected to the text as well. Apologies for that.
Every company needs to grow and evolve or die, and so do we. Similarly no matter how many readers one has, she should always aim to improve the publication. And since we are writing this for you guys we would like to know what you'd like to read on ArcticStartup in the future, what you'd like to see more of and what less of. To walk to talk, we follow Neil Patel's advice on TechCrunch and ask you directly:
- On a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is most likely), how likely is it that you would recommend this blog to a friend or colleague?
- How did you hear about it?
- What led you to become a subscriber, versus just reading an article and leaving like everybody else? (Or, if you’re not a subscriber, what would it take to convince you?)
- What do you hope to see here in the future?
Do let us know what you think in the comments or email us at info [at] arcticstartup.com. Even though we do have our own vision on where to take the blog, every opinion counts and we value your feedback tremendeusly. Along with all the startups out there, you're the reason why we write this blog so please let us know where you'd like to see it evolve. Be vocal and lound. Now's the change to influence what your getting in the future. Thank you! ...and yes, we do love our job :)
Whether you're running a business or organizing a tech conference today, it's all about the cloud. I talk to startups talking to venture capitalists, and there's no way of pitching without having ones solution running in the cloud. As hard it's been to agree on a proper definition for cloud computing, it's been the thing for both service providers and businesses to move on to. Even the telecom companies are now getting into the game of cloud computing.
Not surprisingly cloud computing was also one of the buzz words at the recently held Mini Seedcamp Helsingborg, where Witsbits caught my attention when pitching their new business model.
Witsbits, a Swedish startup company, is the first and so far only actor in the Nordic and Scandinavian region providing cloud computing services. They started already in 2004, in the era when cloud computing still was called utility computing. The journey into cloud computing began in 2003 when running Render Planet, an automated render farm service offering free, remote, distributed rendering over the Internet. Rendering 3D images required a lot of hardware resources, which resulted in developing their own utility management software. The first cloud computing service saw its daylight, and Witsbits today is a profitable business with number of customers in their storage cloud. Now with cloud computing booming the company feels it's time to refocus on their core competence, the software development.
This is a relatively interesting move and possibly a trend may follow if this picks up more momentum. A few days ago Hammerkit took to the web designers to try out their service and challenge the traditional web principles. In other words, they are trying to get a dialogue going between designers and that sort to leverage their knowledge and also market the possibilities Hammerkit has to offer them.
Hammerkit is a Finnish company based in the Techonopolis Ventures incubation pipeline. They are developing a framework for web development to leverage modules for faster web application production. With the dialogue with designers - they will be holding webcast sessions to futher untie possible knots in the co-operation and perception people may have towards their service.
This is a very wise move in my opinion for Hammerkit. I'd argue that they should be positioned more in the crowdsourcing space to tap into the knowledge of the web designers to better suit their product to their use. However, Hammerkit is not the only working in this front. A few weeks ago Nokia announced together with Technopolis a Nokia Technopolis Innovation Mill project to open up their patent registry to startups.
Despite of our arctic geographical location in Finland, we have a technology link for a global solar energy market. The advanced coating technology companies like BraggOne, Beneq and Picodeon offer solutions also for thin film PV and cell industry. It is worth pointing out that based on nanotechnology, all of these companies have wide-range of applications also for other industries than cleantech.
Picoden Coldlab laser deposition technology is a disruptive coating and thin film deposition technology. It can deposit virtually any type of layer onto any material. The company sells a solution which is a combination of licenses (IPR), hardware tailored for the application as well as engineering and coating services.
We were surprised by the news and called around to see what was the case and found out that the guys at Comeks were equally at ave after hearing the news. Clearly there had been a misunderstanding of some kind.
To be sure, we wanted to let the dust settle and see whether Comeks is still in business after couple of months.
Couple of days ago I talked with the Comeks co-founder and CEO Arto Viitanen and he answered from the Comeks office and told me that he did not have much time to talk as he was hacking away on Sunday night for the looming deadline. Clearly Comeks was and is still in business.
QAim, a Finnish mobile startup, has gotten Series A funding from Veraventure along with private investors Tapio Heikkilä and Olli Oittinen (press release in Finnish). QAim focuses on improving mobile services usability.
QAim will use the funding to finalize the piloting of their CEM4Mobile product and begin the foreign sales focusing heavily on five European countries within the next three years. (QAim has been looking for new talent also through the Job Board on ArcticIndex.)
To kick off the week, I decided to write a short piece on how to get your company into the mind of bloggers and other niche media representants. This might very well work with larger media companies, but since I have experience mainly from ArcticStartup I can't guarantee how they work in the end. The reason for writing this is two fold - we want to help startups get their share of the visibility and also help ourselves get better quality material. Furthermore, this is no bible to the way the system works, but a view into it.
An introduction to the ecosystem
To start off with, we need to get everyone on the same line and understand how the ecosystem of bloggers and niche media people works. The main difference between traditional, larger media conglomerates, and bloggers is that much of it is non-commercial or very poorly capitalised. This of course determines the motives behind the writers and is a key point in trying to understand how the bloggers relate to their work. It's not really work, as in ArcticStartup, many of the writers are passionate and are willing to spend many hours of a perfectly sunny afternoon glued to their laptops weekend after weekend to keep writing those stories (thanks to the whole AS team for doing your share!).