It’s this time of the year when 20,000 people crowd is rocking the venue of Messukeskus to celebrate startup entrepreneurship and innovation at Slush. For those of you who are not aware what Slush is (although I hardly believe there are any among our readers), it is the world’s leading startup and technology event organized in Helsinki on December 4–5. Check out my selection of the most exciting startups attending Slush this year:
The Tallinn-based Fanvestory team has taken crowdfunding to a new element – royalty rights of music. When an author writes a new pop song, he can put it out for crowdfunding on Fanvestory, receive the royalty payment as a one-off payment, and the investors/fans take the risk and opportunity. If it’s a total flop they can write off their investment, but if it’s played on radios around the world for the next 50 years, the investors will also become rich.
As the name suggests, the team has profiled it as a tool for the music industry to bring fans and artists closer together. “You love their music. Now bet on their songs. Bragging rights. Earning potential. Special goodies,” says their website.
Fanvestory organizes the process of financing artists by giving them cash up-front for their future royalty earnings. The success of the song depends on the possibilities available to finance the promotion (concerts, PR, music video etc). Artists can use money from Fanvestory to pay for the promotional costs of the song before it starts making money.
The young team has tested the market in Estonia, where the first projects were sold out in hours, but the global expansion is still waiting to happen.
2. MPower Ventures
Zürich-based MPower Ventures is onto something that sounds almost philantropic, but they are certain it could also be turned into a financially sound business – namely, it finances and distributes low-cost solar systems to a market of 1.3 billion potential customers in emerging markets, enabling them to power their homes and businesses independently from the electricity grid or fossil fuel-based electricity production systems.
“With millions of people living with no or unreliable access to electricity, the founders believed that they could provide a solution. Combining their expertise in financing, solar and IT, the three co-founders created MPower Ventures,” it says.
MPower’s product portfolio is aimed at households and small- and medium-sized enterprises in the retail and agricultural sectors. Households and businesses can use MPower’s solar systems to power their radios and TVs, charge their mobile phones and light their homes.
“We offer our valued customers mobile payment solutions as well as ‘lease-to-own’ financing of up to 24 months,” it says. MPower’s business is based on local partnerships and it scales by partnering with local entrepreneurs and businesses, offering them a powerful combination of software, hardware and finance.
Electricity to the people is surely a massive problem that needs to be solved. How much of the final solution will be MPower’s is still to be seen, but the success of mobile payment solutions in sub-Saharan Africa shows the opportunity is there.
3. Swedish Algae Factory
SWAF, as we call this company, states it is a visionary algae lab. It was founded in 2014 around unique traits of certain diatom species, namely their outstanding ability to grow well in low temperature and low light conditions. And they are not just growing – they also capture carbon dioxide, nitrogen and phosphorous, becoming a perfect combination of a trap of greenhouse gases and wastewater treatment.
“We cultivate our own algae, based on a circular economic mindset, where carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and phosphorus emissions are converted into valuable products,” it says.
“Through controlled algae bloom we prevent harmful emissions of nitrogen and phosphorus into our seas and oceans. In the process, we also clean water and produce a shell material that can be utilized for things like enhancing the efficiency of solar panels, as a UV filter in sunscreens or for uptake and release of chemical substances in a variety of products,” the company explains.
The goal is to have 100 Swedish Algae Factories up and running worldwide by 2030. They have expansion masters to learn from back home – think Ikea. Algae could potentially be quite an important part of the more environmentally-sustainable world, the question of whether SWAF is the firm to make it happen is a bigger challenge.
How often does your Internet connection suck? Too often?
Turkish startup, Lifemote, is there to help. It claims to identify and fix network issues before customers complain.
Lifemote CPE agent collects home network performance parameters and uploads them to the cloud. Data analytics and machine learning algorithms then detect problems and learn about the best solutions. The AI can then fix most problems, and provide resolution suggestions to the support centre for the rest. Sounds easy?
iFix will learn about your customers’ network, change wireless channels, adjust wireless power, automate a new device setup or handle repeater installations. iFix also keeps refining its choices based on feedback from your call centre about the best solutions to each problem.
selFix enables customers to maintain their own network easily via a self-care app or messaging apps. Because selFix knows – based on their data – what problems users are most likely currently experiencing, a few well-placed questions quickly get to the root of the problem
weFix brings visibility of your customers’ home network problems, and provides actionable insights to fix home network problems. Is your customer experiencing WiFi coverage issues? Is there a lot of interference, or hidden nodes? Are customers trying to watch NetFlix on their iPhone 3G? weFix will tell you before your users do, and show you exactly what’s wrong when they call.
The problems and solutions seem viable at a first glance, but surely it is a sector where many service providers are yet to attack it.
British EdTech firm Teacherly says it’s aim is simple: “to harness the power of technology to improve learning.” In Northern Europe, many sector specialists are more familiar with Estonian startup Tebo, whose story we have covered in previous CoFounder Magazines and who are creating something very similar.
“Our vision is to create a global community of teachers who will use Teacherly to improve learning outcomes and make teaching better for all by sharing content, best practices and using our professional development resources,” Teacherly says. “Our mission is to provide a superlative teaching experience for teachers by being the best technology for teachers and teams to plan, teach and educate the next generation.”
The founder is an ex-teacher, who has personally witnessed how using technology in the classroom can boost learning, but also how difficult planning and applying it well can be for some teachers. His enthusiasm for learning technologies took him to Kuala Lumpur, to be Director of Learning Technologies, and to Cambridge Assessment as a Project Manager. This, coupled with his own teaching experience, helped him develop the idea and launch Teacherly in 2014.
After years of game development and specialization in 3D visualization technology, the founders of Expivi focused on bringing 3D disruption into e-commerce.
The offering sounds extremely useful for online stores – a 3D product configurator with technology for real-time visualization inside any browser, VR and AR. 3D inside the browser in an online store is something which offers quite a new opportunity to look at the world. At the same time, its revolution could be a bit tamer than some 3D enthusiasts might think – we are very much used to buying products from online stores based on 2D visuals. For example, we have not yet left anything on the virtual shelves of the stores due to the lack of good 3D visual on the page.
“Embed Expivi in your current e-commerce solution and grow your business with 3.5 times higher conversions,” says the sales promise of the company. “Web-technology that changes e-commerce forever!“
Awards do not tell the real story about any startup, so the fact that in 2017 Expivi won Major StartUp League by Dell is a much less significant detail than the fact that the company is in business, with clients using their software and claiming to make money from using it. We are yet to be convinced, but who are we to doubt?
7. Basis ID
Basis ID is an all-in-one SaaS platform that allows onboarding of users, management of data and being completely compliant with personal data protection regulation. The last of these is an increasing worry for managers, as their end-users request that they delete personal data, because of fragmented data storage and system access levels within the company.
“The tears of managers fall, creating a river of tickets, communications, additional areas of responsibility and delays, which affects the loyalty of the end-users and managers feelings,” the startup describes the drama around the process, and (of course) says it has a solution.
“Be it international, state, intra-corporate and even inter-corporate; BASIS ID helps companies pursue compliance within any standard of work with personal data. An easily-implemented solution for business engineers and compliance managers to collect, store and enrich data, as well as providing analytics and access to updated data in an optimal way.”
Initial traction clearly shows that the team is onto something rather useful for its clients, and hence it is in a good position to make it into a real growth company. Shooting for the moon is surely built into this startup, almost before it was founded, the founder was already chasing its first big clients on the other side of the world.
Even when knowing only a little about the health and environment effects of different packaging materials, one can surely claim that Styrofoam cannot be among the most environmentally healthy solutions out there. Researchers say that it may take anywhere between 500 and one million years for styrofoam to naturally decompose.
No More Styrofoam is a project that aims to raise awareness about the high threat that expanded polystyrene foam poses to the environment. It has resulted in a small, purpose-driven startup that offers an alternative to the use of expanded polystyrene foam in the food delivery industry.
The funding would allow the team to begin serial production of The WooBox, a 100% recyclable packaging alternative to expanded polystyrene foam boxes. The WooBox is intended to be used to transport all sorts of foods, making it a key element of the food delivery industry.
The WooBox team uses leftovers from the wool industry – as naturally processed wool is a reliable insulation material – to make the inside of their case. The exterior of the WooBox is made of wood, another recyclable, natural material that makes sure the food placed inside is secured.
As with many other startups, the need and the solution are out there. Will food delivery companies be ready to pay for these boxes? Or asking the wider question: can the WooBox team execute? This is the main question that the team will have to answer in front of the jury at Slush100.
With 8 years journey already behind them, some would surely rule Finnish Eeedo out of startup competitions, but this also gives Eeedo an edge over some of the younger rivals. Its clientele includes ministries, among others.
Eeedo is a Finnish startup company which develops cloud-based software solutions to fleet maintenance management, internal communication, and large-scale employee advocacy. For example, the largest Finnish inter-city bus operator OnniBus.com uses Eeedo to manage its fleet. Other customers include Finnish companies operating trucks, lorries, and railway maintenance machinery. The software helps companies to be more cost efficient by decreasing maintenance times and costs.
“Often, the biggest competitor in the fleet maintenance management is still a notebook and a pencil.” Eeedo’s CEO Arttu Kalli has said, describing the current rivalry in the sector. “Our most important principle when developing our fleet maintenance management software was that it has to be easier and faster than the traditional way when the driver reports the defects to the logistics manager by phone. Our solution allows the operator to report defects with their mobile phones and attach photos and video to the report.”
This is a lovely sales promise, but of course for Eeedo to grow, it also needs to make this sales promise resonate with clients in the Nordic countries and elsewhere in Europe. The results are yet to be seen.
Jules Verne sent Phileas Fogg to travel around the world in 80 days back in 1889. This story still tickles the minds of the adventurers among us more than 100 years later.
Almost all online ticket services work well for return tickets from point A to point B. There are a few, like kiwi.com, which enable wider searching if you are flexible enough to jump to a neighboring airport and can then fly back to a third airport.
However, that is pretty much it.
Eightydays.me says it is the first system in the world designed to build multi-city trips in a few clicks, in a few seconds. Around the world. The promise is so interesting for adventurers like us that we tried it.
And the result is really positive. It’s built for adventures! Next holiday – booked!
“What if you do not need to spend hours opening hundreds of browser tabs, but can get your first travel idea in just a few seconds? Eightydays can help give travelers a better idea of price points for different journeys, while potentially introducing them to destinations they may not have previously considered,” it says.
I have been known to spend days looking for a good saving on flights (yes, I know my time is worth more). Eightydays.me is now the first place I will search. They have won a client – who has already told the world on social media that he loves this service – it can only be another small step to build a massively successful travel platform.
However, there is a lot of money in this industry, so Eightydays.me can be certain that there will be more competition coming.
Read more stories from Tarmo Virki here or find the printed copy of the CoFounder Magazine at Slush.