Big news from Templafy: the template management startup from Denmark is leaping up the early stage business stairs with a recent $2.5 million investment led by SEED Capital and Sunstone. Though still in its early form, the ambitious startup is looking go global as soon as possible, an optimism largely shared by the backing VC’s.
I've been hearing a common theme from bureaucrats and economic development folks at Helsinki's startup events - that we need to make Helsinki the hub for the East-meets-west startup scene. We can talk about our closeness to St. Petersburg, or our that Helsinki has "access to western markets" or whatever, but while those are nice-to-haves, what really motivates startups from Russia and Eastern Europe to pick up and start in a new place is access to cash.
A new Vigo accelerator and investor, Helsinki Ventures, is now seeking out the new wave of Russian and CIS startups that are highly educated and skilled, but sometimes lack the commercial know-how for western markets. Their plan is to take early stage startups, get them set up as Finnish companies therefore giving them access to the fast Tekes cash available through their Vigo accelerator connections.
Seriously, a Helsinki-based game and entertainment studio that has yet to release what they're working on, sent us a different press release than most. In it, they describe that they've made a few more key hires, fleshing out their team to 12 people (and one intern) and buried in there they mention that they've raised €1.9 million from Sunstone Capital and Upfront Ventures, also adding Daher Capital as a new investor. Seriously’s total seed raise stands at €3.7 million before getting anything on the market.
Without knowing their idea or roadmap, all I can say is such is life these days if you're basically an ex-Rovio team looking to build off of what made Angry Birds pop.
There’s probably not too many Finns who’ve seen the world as much as CreateTrips founder Juha-Petteri Kukkonen has. He began his travels at a very young age, accompanying his father in his business trips ever since he was child. As he grew older, travelling became a lifestyle of his, and he found himself travelling first with friends, then with a girlfriend who soon turned into a wife and son. The nature of his travelling also changed from a hobby into a business that provided food to the table, similarly to his father all those years ago.
Today, his company CreateTrips announced that it has closed a $600,000 seed round led by Butterfly Ventures, Frontier and Rkapital.
The name behind Finland's next hyped gaming company comes from a classification of Champagne. Like all fine champagne, Grand Cru needed to age a few years before it's ready.
Late last night Grand Cru released their first title, Supernauts internationally. Our Finnish and Canadian readers have had access to the game since before Christmas, but that's not all the waiting we've had to do. The first news about Grand Cru coming together came way back in May of 2011 when they received an initial round of investment from Lifeline Ventures, with the game title released back in 2012.
Did you know that those phone chargers you have plugged into your wall all around your house are eating up energy? It's dumb but true - those mobile phone chargers converting AC current to DC use energy, even if no device is pugged into it. You can test this yourself by touching your average wall charger, it might be a little warm to the touch even without anything in it.
Who's making the games that the game industry playing? That's one question I had at PG Connects Helsinki - PocketGamer's satellite conference that brought together Helsinki's startup scene. Many of these gamers are making games where they aren't necessarily the target audience - I don't think anyone was going around the conference saying "dude, did you see that game where you shoot birds at some pigs' castle." Instead I was expecting to see more hardcore games, or something innovating that got gamers thinking.
This could be a much more exhaustive list, but here's the responses I got after a quick walk:
Sydsvenskan reports that startup Newshubby, started recently by Alexandra Bylund, former co-founder at Foap, announced that they have landed a first investment. The investment is an early investment from the London-based business angel Russell Glenister, who previously has invested in amongst other Tweetdeck. Russell Glenister is investing € 33 000 in Newshubby.
Imagine you’re a kid, your friend is building a brick house made of Legos. You join in and decide to build an extension to his house. It would be only logical you use Legos just like he did, but what if he wouldn't share his Legos? You’d have to come up with another solution to build the extension. This will prove to be time consuming, expensive and worst of all, the result will most likely be less efficient than what it could've been had your friend shared his Lego bricks in the first place.
In all its playfulness, the above described situation is an analogy of real corporate competition. But it is not, however, how things work in the world of open source.
The title says it all - a Quartz source leaks that the Stockholm-based company is so close to an IPO that the management have started preparing for quarterly earnings calls by going through the motions in practice. Lots of hints have come out of Spotify that the company is preparing for an IPO, such as hiring an External Reporting Specialist in February, and gaining a recent $200 million line of credit from a group of bankers including Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Deutsche Bank.
Identity software company ForgeRock has been through what you could call a turbulent quest for treasure. Today based in Silicon Valley, ForgeRock roots its origins in mountainous Norway, where the company first saw daylight under the leadership of current CTO Lasse Andersen. The now all-American tech firm is challenging its big market competitors with a new type of open source Information Rights Management (IRM).
In recent news, Stockholm-based Pingdom has been acquired by Austin, Texas-bases SolarWinds. Pingdom provides website monitoring, making sure your ops team or developer is the first to know about any downtime through a text message, instead of getting tweets, emails, or even worse - silence - about your downtime. Pingdom has been killing it with over 500,000 customers including giants like Instagram, Twitter, Ebay, GetHub, MailChimp, and more.
Over the years, as initially free apps reach the point where they need to monetize, many have gone the simplest path of in-app advertisements. For users to continue using the app this means either paying for the add-free version or viewing the ads for free. However, with the rising negative user sentiment about disturbing advertisements and no apparent signs from developer side of fixing the issue, ads have eventually become a tool of converting free users into paid ones.
What do you do when hiring people to do even the basic stuff becomes really expensive? With the crashing economy, most Finns will know the answer: you outsource production to a country where work is cheaper.
At least that’s the idea.
“Shoes, glorious shoes!” Oliver did not sing, but he had been a fashion conscious woman passionate about finding the perfect pair of shoes to match every outfit she owned... well then that would have been a very different musical. But it is the sort of music I could imagine playing every time someone opened SoSho, the self described ‘Tinder of shoes’. The free fashion app has just secured 70,000€ funding and its creators are ready to sing about it.
Editor's note: Ville Vesterinen, CEO of Grey Area, is a founder of ArcticStartup
It's been a while since we've heard any news out of their Helsinki office, but Grey Area is back with a new title launched today - this time a tactical card game dubbed Hero Hunt. The gameplay is straightforward, the graphics are nicely designed, and the game has eaten up a good chunk of my morning since Grey Area CEO Ville Vesterinen passed the link my way.
Whether to tap into American consumers, investors, partners, or workforce, reaching the US is a common goal for startups throughout the Nordics. But the leap across the Atlantic is tricky for a lot of young companies, and finding a soft landing in New York, Silicon Valley, or anywhere between can be tough.
Earlier this week, ArcticStartup set up its mobile office in Helsinki’s Wanha Satama where the PG Connects: East Meets West mobile games conference took place. Apart from talking to a bunch of game publishers, indie game developers and art designers, we downed tons of coffee and test drove some really cool touchscreen games.
So kick back and take your mind off of the grim weather outside by taking a journey with us to explore the global and local mobile games scene. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover what’s your new favourite tablet or smartphone game to play inside, if mother nature decides that winter isn’t quite over yet after all.
“Many entrepreneurs say they want to be global from day one, we wanted to build a sustainable business from day one.” Lauri Lehtovuori, the young co-founder of ProPlaza, looks relaxed as he jokes about start up life but his comment reveals an understanding of one of the biggest pitfalls start ups face. Without a credible plan for how they will make money many start ups fall before their great ideas have found a market. Together with three friends Lauri is intent on building a company that will not just survive but also blossom, and they’ve started well. Revenue began coming in on day two. "We began by building a sustainable business model and solving a problem we saw on the market. It seems like a good start for us and we are really happy there is value in what we are doing."
Since launching in 2008 Spotify has had plenty of chances to blow your mind when it comes to their user interface. They've figured out that hooking up a music library to the internet is something people want, but they've played the user interface side of things stupid conservative, sticking closer to 2001's Winamp than a service that wants to blow your mind because it's 2014 and we can do crazy things with technology and music. Spotify is comfortable, but don't you think over the years they could have done more for interaction among friends and strangers than the follower bar? For instance, when was the last time you dug through Spotify's UI to see what playlists your friends have made?