Anitar, Icelandic agtech startup, recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance the initial production of their RFID scanner The Bullet.
Author: Kris Hróbjartsson (Page 3 of 9)
Launching this month, Nordic Scalers is a new growth program that connects the most talented entrepreneurs across the Nordics. The initiative is made to bring well-established startups closer to a global market. The program is supported by Nordic Innovation and Icelandic Startups are fostering the project in Iceland.
Influencer marketing platform Ghostlamp announced they had closed a $1m seed round. The investor is Brunnur Vaxtarsjóður, which makes this the second investment announced by Brunnur this week. The investment comes with a commitment of $1m following the growth of the company. Previous investors include advertising agency Pipar / TBWA and Vetrargil. Both invested undisclosed amounts in the company.
“We’ve been following Ghostlamp for a couple of years and believe it will be able to grow fast and be successful internationally,” Árni Blöndal, GP at Brunnur, said in a statement.
Ghostlamp is a influencer marketing platform, where brands and advertising agencies can connect with local influencers and pay them to advertise their products. According to the statement, the company has over 6 million influencers listed, and categorises them based on age, gender, location and more.
“Ghostlamp ensures that influencers get paid for sharing their creativity, in partnership with brands, with their followers. By partnering with Brunnur, we not only get funding to help support further growth, but also access to valuable experience through people that have been in similar situations as we have,” Jón Bragi Gíslason, Founder & CEO said in a statement.
Employee training app Viska just announced a $1.2m seed round led by Brunnur with participation from Investa. Sigurður Arnljótsson, GP at Brunnur, will take a seat in the companies board.
“The investment allows us to speed up product development, onboard more customers, and focus our sales efforts abroad” said Vala Halldorsdóttir, CEO and co-founder of Viska in a statement.
The company was founded by Árni Hermann Reynisson, Stefanía Bjarney Ólafsdóttir and Vala Halldórsdóttir, all early employees of QuizUp. Viska is clearly inspired by QuizUp at Work, a product aimed at the corporate education market that was later shelved when QuizUp decided to focus its effort on the production of the QuizUp America TV show.
“We are very excited with our collaboration with Viska. There’s a great opportunity right now to revolutionise employee training with the advent of new technologies and artificial intelligence. Viska Learning combines this in a new way,” said Sigurður Arnljótsson of Brunnur.
Viska, which was founded in January, has previously received a $450K grant from the Technology Development Fund, totalling funds raised to just shy of $1.7m.
You can read more in a detailed interview with the founding team in Viðskiptablaðið.
“At the start of Q2, we acquired Greenqloud, a private start-up company that created a cloud services orchestration and management platform for hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud environments,” said George Kurian, CEO of NetApp in prepared . “Greenqloud augments our team and accelerates our leadership in hybrid cloud data services by providing NetApp with a scalable architecture, unique technology, and expertise that enhances our ability to integrate and deliver cloud data services.”
Investors in Greenqloud include NSA Ventures, Keel Investments, founders and employees, and Kelly Ireland, who invested $4m in the company last August.
This acquisition marks the first Fortune 500 acquisition of any Icelandic startup company, the second Silicon Valley acquisition of an Icelandic company (last one was Clara in 2013), and the first exit for an Icelandic in some time – which is all great news for the ecosystem.
One more VC fund in the mix, one step closer to an industry
With the announcement last week we have four private venture capital firms in Iceland. These are Eyrir Sprotar, Frumtak, Brunnur, and Crowberry. In addition, we have NSA Ventures, the evergreen, government owned venture fund.
More importantly, this addition doubles the number of VC funds actively investing in new opportunities. As many already know, Frumtak and Eyrir Sprotar are fully deployed. NSA Ventures need exits, and cash, to invest in more companies.
With the addition of Crowberry, we’re one step closer to a VC “industry” in Iceland. (A side-question: when does a group of people doing similar thing constitute an industry?). Maybe we’ll see some sort of VC association formed in the coming quarters (IVCA does have a nice ring to it).
First women-only fund in Iceland
It’s hard to write about the founding of Crowberry without mentioning the obvious. The fund is the first female-only VC fund in Iceland, which makes the Icelandic VC industry probably the most gender diverse in the world. (Haven’t researched that, tell me if I’m wrong). Out of the four funds, two have only male GP’s, one is a mix and one is only female. In addition, NSA’s CEO is female. That means the gender ratio in Icelandic private VC management firms, 44% ( are women and 56% are men. A tiny sample, but good news nonetheless.
The fundraising landscape sounds ripe
Aside from the news itself, there are two interesting facts about Crowberry Capital.
First, half of the fund’s shareholders, and 20% of the total capital in the fund, is from individuals. That’s new in Icelandic VC. (Sidenote: Eyrir Sprotar is 1/3rd owned by Eyrir Invest which is owned by individuals, but the owners of Eyrir are active in its management). Apart from that it’s mostly pension funds. (I’ll do a detailed, updated LP analysis later when all documents have become public). This suggests that the LP market is growing, at least somewhat. Maybe we see an insurance company investing in VC next (as I discussed in my previous analysis of the LP environment).
Second, the founding trio of Crowberry left their posts at NSA Ventures in December 2016. They closed the fund mid July – just over half a year later. That is a (very) quick turnaround time. It suggests that Iceland’s main LP’s – the pension funds – still see at least some glimmer of hope in this asset class. I hope that glimmer will stay alive for the next quarters, because there are two management firms (Frumtak and Eyrir) that will need to raise a new fund if they plan to continue and grow.
We can expect 20-25 fresh investments in total
Based on what we know now, we can expect somewhere between 20 and 25 fresh investments, just from the two active funds (Brunnur and Crowberry).
Brunnur aims at investing in 10-15 companies, and has invested in four. Crowberry sets their sights at 15. That means that these two funds will invest in 20-25 companies during their active years, which will be the next 3-5 years.
What do you think about the newest addition to our VC landscape? What effect will it have on the startup scene, & the VC industry? Message me with your thoughts.
Crowberry Capital – the new early stage VC fund founded by former NSA Ventures veterans Helga Valfells, Hekla Arnardóttir and Jenný Ruth Hrafnsdóttir – just announced they had raised $38m (4bn ISK) for the funds first close. Final close is at $48m (5bn ISK).
“We’ve been working on preparing and raising the fund since December 2016, and are grateful for the trust our investors have shown us,” says Crowberry Capital cofounder and GP Helga Valfells, former CEO of NSA Ventures. “Our investors are both individuals and pension funds, with individuals contributing around 20% of the fund, and pension funds 80%.”
The fund has a lifetime of 7-10 years and will invest in up to 15 startup companies during its investment period. According to the press release, the founders see much potential in investing in startup companies in Iceland and will focus on tech companies – foodtech, fintech, B2B enterprise solutions, videogames, and more. According to Helga, they foresee their first investment to take place this fall. “We’ve already started getting pitches,” she added.
Jenný Ruth Hrafnsdóttir, previously an investment manager at NSA Ventures and cofounder of Crowberry said: “We look forward to creating value and participating in the growth and development of the companies of the future, by investing in Icelandic innovators. Our hope is that Icelanders will not only use technology, but participate in creating the technologies of the future.”
The fund will become part of a growing ecosystem of private investors in the Icelandic startup scene. It will most likely be a welcome addition to the four funds that have been active in the past years, as three of them are mostly unable to participate in new investment opportunities.
“The cooperation between entrepreneurs and investors is important to success, and the benefit can be great for all participants, not least the society as a whole,” said Hekla Arnardóttir, cofunder of Crowberry and former investment manager at NSA Ventures.
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The second quarter of the year brings the first funding report we do in 2017. The reason: we only recorded one investment in Q1, so there’s no need for a special report on that. This report also is the first one since we started our big Icelandic startups scene data project which means that the data we’re using now is augmented with data from Crunchbase.
Four funding rounds, $14m
This quarter was much more active than the one before (which only had one investment – Goodlifeme / SidekickHealth), and has the same amount of investments as the year before (Q2/2016).
The main difference between the years is the amount invested; the amount invested increased by over 240%, mainly due to two rather big rounds; Meniga and Takumi.
This leads to a (rather obvious) next chart: the majority of capital invested came from outside the country; around 70%.
The bigger picture
In 2015 we had a big influx of capital; three funds that started and were very active in the first quarters. Those rounds were in general fairly small (never above 500m ISK or between $4-5m) and early stage. As we’ve talked about for some time now, two of those funds have stopped investing in new companies, which leaves only one active Icelandic fund at the moment.
Naturally, the rate of investment will slow down. Hopefully for the ecosystem, the sizes of rounds will increase (because the companies that raised before are raising follow-on rounds). In fact, three of the four companies that raised money in Q2 2017 had at least 2 funding rounds before the one they announced this quarter.
There are also some interesting takeaways in regards of the capital coming in. It’s mostly foreign – when our startup companies need growth money they venture abroad to get it. Which makes complete sense; the Icelandic funds aren’t big enough to be able to go as big as the bigger foreign funds.
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