THIS MONTH'S TECH HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE NORDICS/BALTICS
by Fredy-Edwin Esse
The Nordics along with the Baltic states are still truly the most active startup scene in Europe and the last month has been a great example of the entrepreneurial spirit this region carries. Let's take a quick look back, shall we?
It's been a very busy spring for Denmark's young companies with so many news coming in it's impossible to fit them all into one newsletter! One of the hottest names at the moment is Realm, an innovative database that runs directly inside your phone, tablet or smartwatch. The company already has tens of thousands of app makers all over the world with names like Zynga, Intuit, Groupon, etc.
At the end of March Realm closed a ?18 million Series B investing round led by Khosla Ventures along with new investor Scale Venture Partners. The company has raised ?26 million in funding so far and has grown to over 20 employees. Money from the investment will be used to support iOS & Android developers and help Realm add support for more mobile platforms.
A few weeks ago Denmark's most active venture capital fund SEED Capital announced record profits for the 2014 business year. The company has over 70 startups in its portfolio and last year it had four exits - Contera Pharma, Libratone, Sense and Endomondo, which was sold to Under Armour for ?75 million. The fund made ?32 million in profit last year, much of it coming from the Endomondo exit, no doubt.
On a quick note it is worth mentioning that real estate platform Just-Sold raised an investment round from Hellerup Finans. Though the exact size of the investment wasn't disclosed, it was a six-digit euro investment. For a flat rate fee Just-Sold offers homeowners a way to sell their property with ease and for the best price.
Sweden lately hasn't been as active in the news as normally, but nonetheless one of their young startups Flo announced a ?650,000 angel investment just last week. Flo's app aims to unite calendars, to-do lists and e-mail to provide a better overview of a persons tasks. According to the company the funding will be used to bolster marketing for it's product.
There is a real monster growing in Finland. Gaming monster, that is. Finnish gaming company Supercell released their 2014 financial results, which were, simply put, huge. The maker of Clash of Clans, Hay Day and Boom Beach raked in ?1,54 billion in net sales with a pre-tax profit of ?515 million. Compared to a year earlier the company tripled their net sales, which were in the same range as this years profits - namely ?519 million. To retain player base the company is spending a huge amount on advertising. Last year's advertising budget, which included their Super Bowl ad for Clash of Clans starring Liam Neeson, soared to ?400 million.
Another month passes and another Estonian company raises money. Testlio, a startup that provides development teams with dedicated quality-assurance testers, recently raised $1 million in seed funding. Though the company has only 10 permanent team members of its own, the money will be used to accommodate more testers and more clients.
Although they have two of the three founding members from Estonia, Teleport probably wants itself to be portrayed as a company without borders, rather than an Estonian/US company. The Andreessen Horowitz backed startup supports knowledge-workers to freely migrate around the world and be nomads. Teleport recently made a huge step forwards by launching a set of iOS and Android apps that help tech workers find the best place to live out of 100 startup friendly cities around the world.
Viva Labs has taken on the mission to build a fully integrated smart home and a ?400,000 seed funding in March takes them a step closer to that goal. The funding came from Oslo co-working space Startuplab's Founders Fund and Investinor, an investment company owned by the Norwegian government. Viva's solution uses smart plugs to control lighting and heating. Lately the company has added a lot of hardware products that can be more permanently installed when building homes. Additionally Viva is working on electronic door locks, home security, etc. The funding will be used to hire people to assist with business development and sales.
There's a new startup from Latvia that has been turning heads and at the moment is a real hot commodity. Airdog, who makes auto-follow drones for filming action sports, raised a $2 million seed round led by Seraph Group. This is the largest openly announced startup funding round in Latvia to date. Airdog has a few other records to its name. The company exceeded their initial Kickstarter goal 5 times by raising over $1.3 million in July last year - another record in Latvia. Being voted the best drone at CES 2015 this year, only time will tell how high this company will soar.
At the same time Latvia's government is making a big push to help small business owners, including startups. A big step towards that goal was made last week when the Latvian parliament introduced a new law that enforces major tax cuts for startups and small businesses.
According to the new law all new businesses who's yearly revenue is between ?7,000 and ?100,00 have to pay only 9% value-added tax. In addition these companies are exempt from paying income and social taxes. This is a bold and welcome step from Latvia to encourage new startups to think about setting up shop there.
TutoTOONS from Lithuania is a really interesting company that seems to have a bright future ahead of it. Just a few weeks ago the company celebrated it's 10th million download for its games. Since October the company has doubled the number of published games from 50 to 100 and more than tripled the number of daily active players from 100,000 to 350,000.
The startup enables artists and designers to bring their creations to life in the form of video games. Their engineers handle all of the backend stuff while the artist has to create game graphics and the story. It's free for personal use and so far over 2,500 artists have created their own games. The best 100 games are published and available on the App Store, Google Play and Amazon.
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