Plugg - A Stage For European Startups To Shine

Plugg, one of the better conferences in Europe, is held 11 March in Belgacom Surf House at Brussels. It's a one-day conference with a clear focus on celebrating entrepreneurship and innovation in Europe and raising global awareness for those European start-ups in the Web / Mobile 2.0 field that stand out in the crop.

There's certainly not too much celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation in Europe and we are excited to see Plugg bringing together some of the best thinkers and startups on the continent. Our good friend and established writer at TechCrunch, Robin Wauters is at it again and is going to showcase the best that Europe has to offer. Plugg is a must for anyone who's anybody in the European startup scene.

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Schibsted Set to Give Finnish Media Companies Run for Their Money

Already last year there was a lot of talk in Finnish media circles about how Schibsted, who own, for example, Aftonbladet and Svenska Dagbladet, is coming and taking a big share of Finnish media's most profitable products: classifieds and market places. Now the land grab has started and its called Tori.

Tori has set up the shop quickly and started strong. It's modeled on the Swedish service Blocket. Monthly uniques for the month of January broke 300,000. That is an impressive number given the service had zero publicity and was only gearing up for the launch. The team, headed by the CEO Jussi Lystimäki, drove traffic to the site using Adwords and smart guerilla advertising tactics.

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Gemalto Acquires Valimo Wireless For Undisclosed Sum

Gemalto, provider of end-to-end security solutions, has acquired a Finnish startup Valimo Wireless. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Some of Valimo's investors included Altine Group, Risto Siilasmaa and SpringBank TechVentures.

Valimo has developed a two-channel, two-factor authentication based on Public Key Infrastructure, combining an over the air platform with a software client in the SIM to generate a legally binding electronic signature. What this jargon from the press release means is that Valimo enables mobile phone users to securely authenticate themselves, digitally sign documents and confirm legally binding transactions simply by entering a self-chosen passphrase or a PIN code. Voilà!

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Nutiteq and Mobi Solutions Join Forces For Mobile Location-Based Services

Estonian mobile service company Mobi and mobile mapping firm Nutiteq have announced that Mobi has acquired a 33% stake in Nutiteq. The investment will be used to strengthen Nutiteq's product development and international marketing. Nutiteq’s provides customized white label open mobile mapping applications for developers, service and content providers.

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Linden Lab Acquires Avatars United

The company behind Second Life, Linden Lab, has just announced it has bought Avatars United, a Stockholm Sweden online community for avatars (see our previous story here and here).

Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon tells that when they talk to the users who sign up but then decide not to stay, they say they left, in part, because they had a hard time finding people to hang out with. Either their friends weren't there, or they have a hard time meeting new ones inworld, or sometimes both. Now Avatars United should fix this. I haven't looked at Second Life in a while, but if its anything like it has been before, I think Linden Lab needs much more than just Avatars United to make it work.

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Are The European VC Fund Sizes Going Down For Good? Perhaps, But Who Cares

Just recently Mårten Mickos, former CEO of MySQL, joined Index Ventures as an entrepreneur-in-residence. He also serves in a similar position with Benchmark Capital in US. We of course welcome this as a positive news for the European entrepreneurship.  But just a little earlier in January Fred Destin and the whole Atlas Ventures packed up and moved to Boston, leaving just enough staff to support to current European investments.

What is going on in Europe? Are we going to see the existing VC model literally disappear? Just last week I came back from DLD conference in Munich, Germany where I talked numerous people influential in the industry from Israel, London, New York and Zurich about the situation on the ground and most concurred that what we used to know as A-round-sized-VC-firms are becoming fewer and fewer. The smart ones are either going towards smaller deals and much more hands-on model or gravitating towards private equity sized funds (not least because of the hefty management fees) ...well, or moving to Boston.

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Nokia's New Flagship N900 Dualboots Android And Mac OSX

While there have been doubts whether Nokia seems to be able to get their act together in 2010 with their business, I am confident that at least one part of their company they're kicking butt with their products. The N900, running a totally different operating system compared to other Symbian based phones, has been the subject of good talk in the press recently. Most recently, a Finnish developer, Toni Nikkanen, managed to dualboot Apple's OSX 10.3 on the phone, albeit taking close to 2 hours to the "About My Mac" screen. Nikkanen used PearPC emulator to boot the Mac OSX.

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Osuuspankki Says No To Balancion

Osuuspankki, one of the largest banks in Finland has put out a statement reminding people of dangers in using software to query your bank account statement - in essence talking about the pulling of data from the bank with Balancion. They are saying that using such third party applications is against the terms of service as well as dangerous for security reasons.

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EV Technology In The North: Taking Off?

A week after we reported on the THINK City the Norwegians announce that the top US cities in which they are going to roll out the THINK City are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. To top things off they are working with AeroVironment, Inc. to develop a fast charging system which loads the car in 15 minutes, and these fifteen minutes give you a 80% charge. That makes long distance travel with the THINK City possible, given that the charging stations are many and placed at the right locations.

In other news, Better Place, the company which is working on creating the infrastructure for your EV with switchable batteries, announced that they secured USD 350m in a series B round, and have now HSBC, Morgan Stanley Investment Management and Lazard Asset Management among their investors. That gives Better Place a value of USD 1,25 billion, which should give them the funds to develop and roll out their technology. They aim to have their solution ready for 2011 in Denmark, so we can be sure to see some of that money flow to the country on the Jutland peninsula.

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Don’t Go To Sleep Yet Policy Makers, Cleantech Innovation Needs You

COP 15 was a disappointment to many and there is now certainly a risk that policymakers leave the building, metaphorically speaking, leaving markets to take over and solve the environmental problems the best they can. Can they and should they?

Cleantech Scandinavia recently attempted to analyze Nordic cleantech patent application levels. The European Patent Office and OECD’s environmental directorate did a similar attempt analyzing cleantech patent application levels worldwide.

OECD carried out statistical analysis for basically all energy generation technologies showing a marked increase in wind, solar and hydro after the Kyoto agreement was signed. Their analysis also found that cleantech patent activity was dominated by Japan, US, Germany, Korea, Great Britain and France. (87% of solar photovoltaic patents were for instance handed in by Japan, US, Germany, Korea and France).

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Xiha Launches Developer Program

We just wrote about Xiha closing a $1m seed round as well as adding Jyri Engeström (Ex-Jaiku/Google) to their board. If that's not enough now the multilingual, cross-cultural social network comes out with its own developer program. A developer program is nothing revolutionary in itself, but shows that Xiha aims to innovate right on the heels of the fatter cats like Facebook by giving developers access to their APIs and facilitating embedding new products into XIHA Life.

XIHA developers will receive premium support, including customizing API calls to their needs and help with the integration to maximize the success of their app. Once the integration has been finished, XIHA promises to actively promote the new applications.

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What Can AI Startups Tell You About Your Website?

If the writing style of the posts at ArcticStartup.com would be processed and analyzed by an AI algorithm, what would be the outcome?  Read on and you will find out the answer and get an update about interesting Swedish startups that are using AI techniques to improve the automated understanding of the ever-growing web content out there. This is the future so be sure to get a grasp of the basics right now.

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Mobile Publishing Platform Provider Conmio Lands A-Round Funding

Finnish VC Inventure has invested 2 million USD into Finnish mobile publishing platform firm Conmio. The financing will be used to support Conmio's international growth and product development. Conmio sees many opportunities for expansion due to the strong demand for mobile services. Conmio's target customers include media firms, device manufacturers and other companies interested in providing mobile solutions to their customers or end users.

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Jyri Engeström Joins Xiha Life's Board While Xiha Closes A $1m Seed Round

The Jaiku co-founder Jyri Engeström, who recently left Google (see our previous story here), has joined Xiha Life's board. Both Jaiku founders, Engeström and Petteri Koponen have switched into the dark side, namely after founding several companies of their own, they have now moved into investing in new startups.

Engeström has started to do angel investing in a chosen few companies, while Koponen co-founded Lifeline Ventures, one of the Finnish Vigo accelerators (see more on the Vigos here)

This might not seem like a big deal, but it is. Finland has been suffering from a deficit of investors that believe in and understand the consumer Internet. Just recently we wrote about the state of the Finnish venture capital and the picture was quite clear: We need more entrepreneurs that have succeeded in the consumer internet to share their experience, inspire(!) and invest in the young guns who want to reach for the stars, but don't have much more than a boat load of energy to start with. Jyri, along with Petteri, are clearly on the right path.

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Motivational Monday

I wanted to take a different approach to start your week this Monday. Being an entrepreneur is considered sexy by many, but very few people realise the amount of energy and work entrepreneurs invest in their ventures on a day-to-day basis. Working for minimal pay, with extremely high risk of failure while aiming for that nonexistent chance of success and making a dent to the way we live our lives - it's not easy. Sometimes a little push is needed and here's my two cents for that motivation.

Your work is important - keep at it, stay hungry, stay foolish and start your day by watching the legendary Al Pacino's inspirational speech in Any Given Sunday.

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THINK Has Your EV Car Ready. Now.

THINK is not a start-up anymore, though it was one in the beginning of the 1990s when the world experienced a similar recession. Their history is fascinating, with USD 150m invested by US car giant Ford during the companies ownership of the Norwegians, struggling after Ford sold them out in 2003, until in 2006 Norwegian Investinor and other investors bought the company. Under new management and with new strategic goals the company is ready to become a major player in the growing electric vehicle market.

Their vision is to provide a better way of moving, which is carbon and carefree. The result of their vision is an electric city car with a Scandinavian design and modern technology under the hood. The THINK City is manufactured in Finland by Valmet Automotive, who is also a shareholder and strategic partner. It seems the Finns are establishing themselves slowly but surely as a major player in the EV manufacturing segment, a very smart decision. But back to THINK.

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Valkee Projects Light Onto Your Brain. Literally!

In the Arctic latitudes we have a condition that most others closer to the equator don't know of, its called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or winter depression for the rest of us. It is mainly due to the lack of sun light we get in these latitudes during the winter time.  According to the all knowing Wikipedia in Northern Europe 2% of the population suffer from winter depression and roughly 10% feel slightly down beat during the dark winter months. I personally only need a bit more sleep during the winter time, but I'm pretty hyper anyway, so perhaps a bad proxy. That said, Wikipedia also tells us that Symptoms of SAD may consist of: difficulty waking up in the morning, tendency to oversleep as well as to overeat, and especially a craving for carbohydrates. Other symptoms include a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating on completing tasks, and withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities. Some might think one is just describing the average Finn.

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Floobs Files For Bankruptcy

I got a call from Kai Lemmetty, one of the co-founders of Floobs, that they are filing for bankruptcy either today or tomorrow. Not a very pleasant call to get by any means, as they've been one of the most passionate guys in the ecosystem and been doing a lot of good for the startup scene itself by helping out with organising and live streaming events. The simple reason behind the bankruptcy is that their sales did not ramp up quickly enough to support their current burn rate.

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Get The ArcticIndex iPhone App Now!

ArcticIndex, our directory for Nordic and Baltic startups, people, startup jobs and events, just got iPhoned. ArcticIndex iPhone app is developed by Arun Prakash Rajendran, a passionate mobile entrepreneur living in Göteborg, Sweden. You can check out the App at Prakash's app gallery, or get it directly here.

I have used the app for couple of days now and love the ease I can check out the new events listings. Similarly, if you're looking for a startup to join its a whim to check out the latest jobs at ArcticIndex and see what the company is all about from the Index.

We will introduce more features for ArcticIndex soon, so make sure you have your iPhone App ready when that happens.

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MySites Gathers Interest While IRC-Gallery Shows Lower Usage

Ramine Darabiha, the founder and CEO, of MySites blogged about their service growth statistics. He's finally managed to get the growth curve to remind the commonly used hockey stick figure. In August 2009 they reached just a little under 2,5 million hits to their services and this has nicely grown through Q4 of 2009 to about over 6 million hits in December 2009. In January 2010, while the month is not over, they have managed to receive over 25 million hits to their services.

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