There's much talk about the new Aalto University in Finland, which is what came out when Helsinki School of Economics, Helsinki University of Technology and Helsinki University of Art and Design were molded into one school to rule them all. A lot of potential I'm sure, but wait, there's more!
There's a new kid in town. Many of our readers felt the waves from Aalto Entrepreneur Society last year. The student group headed by Kristo Ovaska hasn't been resting on their laurels. Now they are coming with a new Y Combinator-esque university accelerator program, Aalto Bootcamp. It's a five week program for students and researchers to get a feel for the joys of entrepreneurship and build a company. And yes, become a bona fide entrepreneur.
Picmeleo is a new Finnish photo startup that recently got in touch with us. They're developing a new kind of service which in essence is a photo editing tool, but positioned in the market in a wise manner. The tool itself is sort of an external application that companies providing services online can add on top of their own service, instead of having to come up with their own tool.
TNS Gallup, Finnish subsidiary of the biggest industry market research expert TNS Global, has teamed up with a mobile customer experience management startup QAim to provide Finland wide tracking of mobile website usage metrics.
Three Nordic and Baltic companies have made it to the group of finalists in the Plugg.eu Startups Rally 2010. In total, 116 applications were left to the competition and of these the 20 made it to the final. Plugg.eu is a very entrepreneurship focused conference organised in Brussels, Belgium and we're happy to one of their media partners promoting the event. The three companies making it into the final are Estonian Fits.me the two Finnish startups Lumo Research and GigsWiz.
Fuugo is a new kind of television product created by Axel Technologies, a company based in Turku. You can't really call Axel Technologies a startup as it has been registered way back in 1988. However, Fuugo is a very interesting concept that requires more analysis into it. Fuugo claims to be the next generation TV application for mobile and handheld devices.
We recently argued that Schibsted will give Finnish media companies a run for their money in classifieds and market places. Now Schibsted Classified Media Finland's CEO, Jussi Lystimäki, tells us that Tori.fi just passed the one million unique visitor water mark last week. This comes from a firm who just opened their Finnish site in December.
Lystimäki further commented that they are adding tens of thousands of products a month. No doubt, this traffic has not been cheap, but it comes to show that that digital marketing is fulfilling its overdue promise and that ROI is superior compared to the traditional channels. If marketing's focus is moving online, it should also be the media's.
Finland is not protected from what has been happening in other markets for some time and it's high time for the Finnish companies to wake up to reality. I might be overly optimistic here, but perhaps they may even start innovating on their own and who knows, maybe we will see quality content emerge beyond classifieds. Never have Finns been as innovative and performed as well as when the crisis has been the deepest. And deep it is.
You must have wondered what happens to the gazillions of batteries (or 200 000 tons in the EU to be more exact, to quote the Finnish environment minister) that are increasingly used in the things we play around with. Finnish expansion company Akksuer knows. We talked to CEO Jarmo Pudas about the expanding battery recycling market.
What kind of batteries do you handle and why is the way you do it unique?
Basically everything... We handle laptop and mobile phone batteries (polymer), Li-ion, Ni-Mh. We do it without chemicals, without heat and without water. We have our own factory. We have an online sorting system and use dry technology (crushing and gas treatment) to recycle the materials.
Those who say there are no interesting opportunities in the Nordics clearly don't know what they are talking about. An ideal place to start the exploration is our job board at http://www.arcticstartup.com/jobs/. This is invaluable destination for those who are not yet confortable setting up their own shop, but want to learn to the ropes with a solid team that already know what they are doing, but still want to be in the eye of the storm.
Working in a startup is ultimate experience and much more. You are running against time with too little resources, a boat load of passionate people who just absolutely love every little bit of their product, team, people and purpose. And everyday single day is different, very different. How much more fun can one have while still not breaking the law?
Scred, a house hold Finnish startup who we have used to seeing tracking debts and shared expenses is now shifting their focus towards more comprehensively managing money.
They start with managing money for different groups such as bands, indie film crews, event organisers and associations. The point is to offer a solution for communities which often don't have good online financial applications and don't know about accounting.
Along with the new focus the guy have also redesigned the site. Kudos to the team for learning the design tools as they went along. As Kristoffer from Scred told me "We ended up learning how to do design ourselves as we couldn't find anyone sufficiently skilled and available to work with our bootstrapped approach". Whether that was a good choice, I left to the user to decide herself.
The debate on the tax code for entrepreneurs in Finland is becoming more surreal by the day. The origins of the debate lie in the tax code working group set up by the Finnish Parliament. This group, headed by Martti Hetemäki, is to devise a new tax code for areas such as capital gains, options and carried interest for VC funds. The biggest verbal and rhetorical battle is waged around the double taxing of dividends in non-listed companies.
Just as with any tax code, the more transparent and simple the tax code to understand, the better it incentivizes people to invest in a risky and uncertain future. The tax code should make it easier to see how the future plays out for businesses, not make it more difficult. All the scenarios the working group is considering are rather complex and won't help the state of entrepreneurship in the country.
According to the EU's climate and energy package, Finland is expected to increase its share of renewable sources from the present 28 per cent to 38 per cent of energy production by 2020. Fulfilling this obligation require a significant increase in Finland’s use of wood-based energy, waste fuels, heat pumps, biogas and wind energy during next years.
This is no easy feat, especially given the rather modest Finnish feed in tariffs in the sector (premium tariffs and investment subsidies amont annually to roughly € 30 million). Nevertheless, the market can be potentially really really big and the need is dire. We've already seen some groundbreaking news surface this week in cleantech sector from the US. But make no mistake, Silicon Valley is not the only place where cleantech blossoms. Far from it. This week Wärtsilä came out with news that the world's first solid oxide fuel cell unit, running on landfill gas, has successfully concluded the first phase of its validation programme.
We've been looking closely at the startup scene in the Nordics and Baltics for the last two and a half years and I have to say, the amount of events on the market these days is very attractive. There are a lot of different kind of events and I'm sure there's something for everyone. While these events have their own functions and drive their own agendas, there's no getting round it - they're great fun and will surely improve your business if not by any other means than at least by networking with the other visitors there.
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.
This is our periodic thank you note to our blog sponsors to describe what they have to offer.
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EnterpriseHelsinki 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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.