Holiday time is seen as a chance to get away from thinking about business ideas, but for Kai Lemmetty, his time spent traveling in Southeast Asia turned into Tutor Tigers, a new edutech company now getting off the ground. As the story goes, after a lot of time spent in Vietnam he realized that the locals know plenty of complex words and grammar, but many have trouble pronouncing the words.
This has real-world problems. For example, Southeast Asians looking to use their language skills to get employment, pronunciation can play a big roll in how a person comes across. As an example he shares these videos of two heads of state you normally don't hear speaking English - Vladimir Putin and His Majesty The King Carl XCI Gustav of Sweden, which paints them in a different light than what they are on paper.
Oslo’s MESH is the undisputed pin-up for Norwegian co-working, but this past year has seen a flurry of activity elsewhere in the country. Each new space takes inspiration from the success of MESH and combines that with what’s needed in the local community. Arctic Startup takes a whistle-stop tour around Norway to bring you bang up to date.
Hardware hacking over coffee in Trondheim
So well in fact, that they’re about to expand the 60-member co-working space into a ground-floor cafe and event space, and a basement makerspace for Trondheim’s emerging maker movement.
Digs was originally designed to stem a major “brain drain" in Trondheim. where each year thousands of talented graduates from Norway’s main technical university move away, taking their skills with them. Digs provides a place for those talents to flourish and remain in Trondheim. The expansion takes things a step further, aiming to connect the new group of entrepreneurs and innovators with the general public. Co-founder Arnstein Johannes Syltern explains:
“The makerspace will give anyone who wants it access to tools and gear, and a meeting place for makers. We think if you give people a place to meet then things will happen. The cafe is intended to be a public meeting ground for people interested in innovation. We’re already hosting events such as TEDx, IxDA, and other tech and hardware meetups. This new facility will enable us to do much more.”
Finding your flow in Tromsø
The trend for four-letter co-working names continues high up in Arctic Norway thanks to Flow.
Tromsø may be small, but it’s long punched above its weight in cultural circles, with a busy calendar of events all year round. It’s much the same in the technology world, with the newly-renamed Arctic University of Norway at the centre of a hi-tech environment including a Microsoft Development Center and a biotech cluster. The university runs a Business Creation and Entrepreneurship masters degree that seems designed, at least in part, to help them commercialise their research.
Much like Trondheim, there was a gap between the university, private sector, and budding entrepreneurs, something that co-founder Kim Daniel Arthur wants to address:
“We were inspired by Digs and Mesh, how they both provide a more informal place for startups to meet and work, with all services included. Beyond some specific incubators there was nothing available in Tromsø with a low barrier to entry. We have been open for 3 months we already host over 20 people across 17 businesses. Because Tromsø is small we have to provide a broad offering. The biggest proportion of our membership is in creative tech, but there’s even an artist who paints in the corner!”
Arthur cut his entrepreneurial teeth as co-founder of Playfish, a Tromsø-based social gaming company bought by Electronic Arts for $400m five years ago. The gaming spirit is still alive and well in the town, with four companies specialising in games and initiatives such as a Design Thinking lab at the University opening up.
Could Tromsø be the new Oulu? Watch this space.
An alternative to oil in Stavanger
A mere three-hour flight away from Tromsø, Stavanger's Mess & Order opens this week with a waiting list of 20 members raring to go. Much like Flow, the owners are keeping things broad to begin with, as co-founder Osman Amith explains:
“At launch, we will aim at entrepreneurs within innovative and creative fields. Our founder members include IT developers, graphic designers, photographers, architects, sales & marketing people that target startups, and a gaming crew that tests and blog about games.”
Mess & Order has captured the imagination of the local media, chiefly because not many organisations are in place to support people and businesses outside of the city’s oil & gas based economy. As first movers they are well placed to make their mark in Stavanger.
Whether talented entrepreneurs choose their own path instead of the moneybags on offer from the black gold remains to be seen, but places like Mess & Order are a necessary step in getting there.
It’s generally accepted Norway lags behind the rest of the Nordics when it comes to entrepreneurship. With developments like these, the right building blocks are finally being put in place.
David Nikel is a freelance journalist living in Trondheim. He writes about Norwegian startups and entrepreneurship and helps Norwegian companies market themselves in English.
Do you have a need for more mindless "quantified self" hardware and push notifications in your life? If so, here's an invention. This Helsinki and California based team invented a motion sensor that straps to your water bottle and connects to your phone, just to bug you to drink more water.
Walt Disney once said: “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
Cheesily true as it may be, Finland-based online dream service Dreamdo has always known that most of us also need a bit of help and support to muster up that courage to truly chase our dreams.
Here's an article I haven't written in a while. Oulu, Finland startup Mekiwi is shooting to raise $50,000 though a rewards-based crowdfunding round preceding the launch of their product, Wimble, a time management platform. According to the company, the Android version will be coming out in Autumn one way or another, but this further funding will help speed up Wimble coming to iOS and Windows Phone.
The heat is still cranked up outside, but we can all feel it in our bones that soon this summer is coming to a close. With a few precious weekends left to crack open a book at the cottage or beach, it'd be good to share any business books we read over the summer that has gotten you thinking about your company.
So! If there are any books you read this summer (or ever) that you want to share with the community, let us know in this form right here. We'll package up all the responses into a nice clean article on Friday.
Home-printing is growing bigger with every passing day: Anyone with a couple of thousands of euros to spend can buy a decent 3D printing machine capable of printing anything from toys to spare parts for your weapon.
Now to add up to the list of stuff you can get 3D printed from the comfort of your living room, Finnish startup Versoteq has launched a £3000 kickstarter campaign to create 3D printed lampshades called PicShade.
Call me a whippersnapper if you have to, but when I was a teenager, Facebook wasn’t the social media place to be. We used IRC-galleria, which in all sincerity was a horrible hotspot for adolescent headaches, but at least it was handmade by Finns, for Finns. Now everywhere you go, Facebook has taken over.
Except in Latvia.
What better way to enjoy the delightful summer than a weekend of camping and nerd-talk in Southern Sweden? Previous years SSWC, the Sweden Social Web Camp has fulfilled this need, with plenty – having attracted over 450 participants earlier years. However, this year the organizers announced they would not be able to host the highly appreciated SSWC. A small group of SSWC fans got together to save the say, and got the blessing to organize G33KC4MP instead! Not at the same spot, but with the similar theme: geeks and nerdy people, meeting up in nature for what is a large unconference. The agenda is entirely up to you and what you want to discuss and learn more about, so you won’t be bound by a strict schedule or boring conversations.
Gaston Lavén, Sweden's Inventor of the year (2011-08/2012-08) thanks to his environmentally beneficial work as an organic chemist, found himself heartbroken after a breakup and in dire need of comfort. As with many startup founders, little did he know his pain would later turn into a business:
Practica Capital tells us they've now invested into Tokia.lt, a Lithuanian online marketplace that allows users to find make-up artists, nail art, hairdressing, and other beauty specialists by digging into their "looks", video lessons, and reviews to book appointments. It sounds like what Stockholm's Vint is doing for personal training, Tokia is trying to do for beauty services. Vint raised $1.8 million in seed funding, but who knows where Toika is on that spectrum.
How would you feel if your phone’s Wi-Fi was secretly being followed around the airport?
However it makes you feel, you better get used to it, because it’s about to happen anyway.
Your average smartphone game might challenge your reflexes, memory, and use up a little of your brain's processing power to figure out how to attack that base, but realistically plenty of games out there are mindless. Now a Danish app launched globally helps out its users with attention, memory, problem solving and planning by putting out challenging minigames developed by brain scientists from the University of Copenhagen.
If you happen to be a Norwegian, Danish or Swedish journalist or any other type of content rich text manager, you’ll want to pay close attention to Orbit.
Orbit is a new startup from Norway which just launched a unique text analysis technology platform that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to recognize and understand languages (in their case that would currently be Norwegian, Swedish and Danish, though more are sure to follow). Orbit aims to facilitate the integration of background context, leaving the journalist more time and energy to focus on producing better content for their articles.
Double announcement from the Baltics: The new player in the Latvian VC sector, FlyCap, kicked off its portfolio with a half a million seed investment in fellow landsman start up Mailigen. The round was led by FlyCap with participation from investors from Europe, Asia and the US. According to FlyCap's website (only in Latvian) the firm is investing from a €10.5 fund.
The round will oil up Mailigen’s development machinery, which aims to produce more innovative marketing features and to create a one stop marketing platform for companies to automate their campaign strategies. In-depth data analysis, event management, responsive email templates, mobile version of the platform and video integration are just some of improvements Mailigen is after in the course of 2014.
For many hacked-together startups, security is an afterthought. But for bitcoin-related startups, and other companies where money is moving through their system, security is a make-it or break-it factor. There are plenty of white-hat security firms out there that will run some tests on your project, but you're relying completely on one firm. To help startups run more of a bug-bounty program (like what Google and the other big companies do) and to make security more accessible, Denmark-founded Crowdcurity crowdsources these security tests and just announced it has raised $1 million.
You can find good insight about a country's alcohol culture by digging through their app store. In the Nordic countries, independent developers have gifted their programming prowess to help their fellow countrymen navigate the government's control of alcohol in order to help import it into the country, find the best deals, or just to find the nearest store.
On this slow news day, we've gone through the app store to help our readers find apps to improve their lives.
Editor's note: At the end of June while everyone was preparing for summer holidays, the FIN-FSA regulatory body published its new guidelines for equity crowdfunding in Finland, which were near opposite what they presented only a month before that. This sudden change in new guidelines have a huge impact on Finland's crowdfunding industry, which in many ways has been at the forefront of the world's equity crowdfunding scene. Below is a guest post by Antti Hemmilä of Attorneys at law Borenius, who has previously written for us on crowdfunding here.
During the last few years, equity crowdfunding has been a fast growing activity in Finland and in the rest of Europe. Equity crowdfunding has proved to be an attractive funding option for entrepreneurs. While still in the pioneering stage, the largest Finnish equity crowdfunding platforms Invesdor and Venture Bonsai alone claim that approximately EUR 3.5 million of funding has been raised via their platforms. Until now, the Finnish crowdfunding platforms have been operating on the widely accepted consensus that they act as a “media”, and thus no regulated financial services are provided.
Imagine you, as an individual, purchase a car for €5000 from a private person. Money changes owner, so does the car, but before you know it, the car breaks down and turns out it’s nothing the vendor has promised it to be. Worst yet, the vendor refuses to pay you your money back.
Another example. Imagine your company signs a contract worth €5000 with another company (sound more familiar?). Contract agreements are not met and boom, a full blown dispute is at your hands, along with a million other things you need to worry about since you're running a business.
In cases such as these, and cases below €20 000 in general, the incentive to go to court is low. Why? Because the law is insufficient or unavailable when smaller amounts are involved. Besides the shallow legal protection, it’s worth noting that taking a dispute to court is excruciatingly time and energy consuming, and very expensive. Well, unless you give Swiftcourt a try.
Big acquisition news from Denmark: healthcare information technology supplier Cetrea has been acquired by Swedish medical tech giant Getinge and as a result, the Danish startup will be integrated into Getinge under the Maquet brand. The acquisition price amounted to SEK 110 million, which translates to approximately €12 million.