Last week came the announcement that Innovation Norway had appointed Alliance Venture Spring in Oslo and ProVenture Management in Trondheim to manage two new national seed funds. Each of the funds will be about 500 million Norwegian Krone, which works out at a little over €60M each, with a 50-50 split between private investors and the government.
While the ProVenture Management fund is targeted at the oil & gas industry Alliance Venture Spring has been tasked to manage the money that will foster new IT successes. Although the fund is based in Oslo it will have a nationwide reach. In other words small businesses located in other parts of the country will be able to benefit from the investment fund as well as those based in the capital.
Eskimi, the Lithuanian-founded mobile social network that's been booming in parts of Africa, has been making a few important partnerships lately. Most recently the company has partnered with Nokia to launch a new Eskimi app for the Asha range of devices, which will allow them to both provide a better browsing experience for their users, and allow their users to use less data (and therefore less cost) when browsing profiles of their friends and strangers, asking questions in an Ask.fm style forum, or using the company's virtual currency.
Mike Bradshaw and I are on a 4000km expedition covering Central Eastern Europe. 12 meetups and 7 countries in a Land Rover Defender to cover and help startups everywhere, in collaboration with EIT ICT, AppCampus, HankenES and ArcticStartup as our media partner. It is part of our continuing efforts known as The Travelling Salesman project, which started with a massive 13000km tour of the Nordics. Our first week is behind us and we have just passed through the three Baltic States and into Poland.
One of the core elements of the startup scene in the Baltics is the prevalence of the 48 startup programmes, ie. Garage48 and Startup Weekend. The idea is you arrive on Friday with possibly an idea, or a desire to participate with an idea (as a coder, designer or marketer). You then form a team to execute on that idea — essentially a company — and on Sunday there will be demo day for you to show what you've achieved and to pitch the company.
Assemblage aren’t afraid to use fighting talk as they launch the beta of their latest app Same.io designed to compete against the likes of WebEx, GoToMeeting and Teamviewer. Describing others in their field as “dinosaur competitors” and referring to “legacy applications” in their press release when talking about the products they will be facing in the market Assemblage know how to talk the talk, but can they walk the walk though?
Editor's note: this is a sponsored post by UK Trade and Investment
London and UK in general is often a very solid stepping stone for Nordic/Baltic startups. For instance Trasnferwise, Kiosked & Foodie.fm are good examples of startups that have established their second base in the UK. They go there to put their product to the test on the global but yet local market, but what else can you squeeze out of it?
The Nordics are spoiled with strong governmental support for entrepreneurship, especially with initiatives such as TEKES in Finland. However if you start digging into what you can get out of UK, you would be surprised to find that actually it is rather substantial. For some industries it is actually very lucrative, such as in TV & Film and very soon - gaming.
One of the most charming companies we came across at Slush this year was Gigglebug. Slightly confusingly it’s the name of the company, the central character they created, the children’s cartoon series they made, and the iOS app they published. However all share the same heart and soul, a passion to make children laugh and through laughter boost self esteem, deepen an inbuilt love of learning and discovery, develop problem solving skills, and help them bond with their peers.
With the company in talks to make more episodes and applications based on their creation and a plan to corner the preschool market by owning the theme of laughter and cheering up to become number one at making kids feel better, they have grand ambitions. How do they plan to get there?
Doing your grocery shopping online is becoming more and more common. Pretty much all of the major grocery stores have realized that investing in e-commerce means keeping up with today's markets and customer demands.
The benefits of online grocery shopping are many, both for the individual customers and the companies who provide the products. Customers can browse and search for their desired products easily and in the full comfort of their living rooms.
How do you measure if a startup is doing something truly exceptional? What are the metrics that you are going to use? I am not talking about direct economic value per say, but the human aspect, of being a startup that helps to solve a real-world problem and adds real value to the community. Would saving lives count?
On our recent trip to the Dublin Web Summit while eating pizza, we met Andraž Ogorevc, the founder and CEO of iHELP. As is common courtesy during such events, we had to ask: “So what do you do?” and as is also common - we did not expect to hear anything too mind blowing.
Startup Weekend kicked off events all over the world last weekend, so we stopped by their Helsinki event to see what the buzz was. In total, around 15 teams got together on Friday to throw ideas together, find customers, and then build and present the idea. The themes, if you could find a trend, were social networks, Ethiopia, and platforms designed to do virtually what Startup Weekend does in real life.
"The good thing was that we've gotten a lot of people involved that haven't been involved in an event like this before," says Laura Honkapirtti, one of the event organizers. Among them was two high school students who might have come to the event thinking they would just observers, but came up with an idea at the very end of Friday's idea pitching to form teams.
It is fair to say that Wi-Fi has changed the world. In fact we have become so spoiled by it that people are now getting stressed out if they do not have Wi-Fi on airplanes.
Oh and when it fails, it gets even worse. That dropped Skype call or a bad network connection at an event can make us really anxious. Now imagine if that Skype call was actually important, life or death kind of important. This is what happens everyday in Hospitals, where they increasingly rely on technology. You would be surprised to find out that nowadays even some IV pumps are “online”. Nurses and doctors use tablets to communicate with each other and their patients. Some hospitals have emergency buttons operating through Wi-Fi and in others nurses have voice-over-ip devices connected to it. So in that kind of environment - you can not afford any networking errors. In fact, it becomes mission, and life, critical.
iOS games are becoming more and more sophisticated. While the popular puzzle arcade games such as Angry Birds and Plants Vs Zombies are pioneers of their devices, the advancement of touchscreen games is starting to compete with the quality and graphics of traditional video games. The softly detailed pastel world of Angry Birds and say, Clash of Clans, can hardly be compared with console games such as God of War. They compete in two completely different categories.
Yet, recent gaming industry has provided touchscreen devices with such feats of design such as Infinity Blade III and Horn. These games have changed our image of what touchscreen games can and will become: Highly playable full-scale adventures with stunning graphics.
Swedish music streaming service Spotify has pulled in another $250 million (€185 million) at a whopping $4+ billion valuation, The Wall Street Journal reports. The round was said to be completely led by Silicon Valley-based Crossover Ventures, which has purchased convertible bonds from TV and movie streaming service, Netflix, and owns a stake in major tech companies like Facebook and Zwillo.
A hot new piece of technology hitting the Indiegogo's is Copenhagen's AIRTAME, a wireless HDMI dongle that lets you display your screen and sound onto any other tv, projector, or monitor. To put it simply, AIRTAME basically does the heavy lifting of a gold plated HDMI cable without the cable. Instead of a wired connection you just have a wireless dongle on each side. The technology supports different screen resolutions, up to 1080p.
You know that vague feeling of dread you get when you have to transfer money abroad, the realisation that you need to start comparing exchange rates, transfer fees and time scales, and your brain starts to spin at just the thought of all that work and distraction from a host of things you’d rather be doing. Well perhaps you need to go take a look at TransferGo. A group of Lithuanian entrepreneurs working from the UK who faced these problems and developed their own solution.
Presentations are a big part of our daily lives. We have to make and suffer through them at work, events and sometimes even at home. The suffering part can be due to the content itself but very often it is because of the limits of technology.
For instance you might be limited to using Keynote or Powerpoint when you could have used a multitude of other programs to create the slides and movies. If presenting on a big screen - font size might be an issue. Then there is the whole problem of compatibility. Do I have the right USB stick? Can I use my own computer or do I have to use the one provided for me? Will the fonts look the same? Is it a Mac or a Windows machine? Will the clicker work? Oh and one thing that is often missing completely is an ability to make the same presentation to people in different locations, all over the globe, at the same time.
The console, computer, and touchscreen gaming revolution is happening all around us with a tremendous velocity. For those who never grew up with electronic games, it is a strange and confusing phenomena that raises many questions and concerns. Despite that, a group of Finnish gaming professionals have taken the task to educate parents in the most neutral and objective way possible.
The one truism all travelers can relate to is the need for as a chemically induced coma that would last the exact time of flight. The conscious mind, on the other hand, knows very well that the only way to escape the boredom is good old-school sleep. Sleeping in any transportation has been a common challenge ever since long distance travel was created. There are, of course, ways to improve a travelers sleep catching performance, one being the inflatable travel pillow.
Personally, I have run into such a device, and they don't work. Not once have I slept with such a thing without waking up to an ache in the back of my neck. The salvation has arrived though, and with great national pride, I write to tell you that the clever Finns are not only talented in creating games for touch screens.
Stockholm's hot startup Instabridge has been winning awards and has had no trouble making it onto the top Swedish lists, but we haven't heard much from them in recent months. Now we've received word they're taking over Amsterdam with 300 WiFi hotspots designed to get people using their Android app and offload their 3G or LTE usage to WiFi.
Instabridge cites a Cisco study last year that says that over 80% of users prefer to use WiFi rather than 3G or LTE when browsing on their mobile phone. By reducing the friction of connecting to a WiFi network through their Android app, then operators see much less data going through their network. Instabridge plans to monetize this reduction through partnerships with operators.
Today's the day! It's the ArcticStartup / Future Female Christmas party tonight! featuring Digital Media Finland and Jolla. Bring your coworkers, friends, whoever. We'll be kicking off the party at Kaiku at 18:00, so drop on by. Again, we'll have a live band, some bubbly to kick off the night, and a great crowd to spend an evening with. Hit up the Facebook event so you have no excuse not to go.
If you haven't been there before, probably the easiest way to find the building is to pretend like you're going into Siltanen on Hämeentie 13 B. But before you get to the door to go inside, take a right and go down the stairs there. You'll find Kaiku following the length of the building.
By this time I don't know if Windows Phone users ever thought it would happen, but Instagram has finally released its app in the Windows Phone marketplace. Just to make you still feel like you're on the Windows Phone platform, Instagram is still working on video support, however an official app is better than nothing.
One app seems so trivial to make or break a phone, but in my recent experience it did affect my purchase decision. My old iPhone had too much fun kayaking and choked in the briny deep (RIP), and more than missing the ability to call people, I really missed having a camera in my pocket. Surveying the handset landscape I had my eyes on the Nokia 1020, whose monstrous camera is basically designed for fauxtographers like myself. But what's pictures if you have no one to share them with? Instagram has grown up to be more than just silly filters; I use it to check up on what my friends around the world are up to since few "a day in the life" pictures make it on Facebook, which is reserved for baby pictures and wedding photos. So Finland, if I killed Nokia by buying another iPhone for a stupid camera filter app, please accept my apologies.