Author: Daði Snær Skúlason

Getlocal adds local advice for global travelers

Getlocal, an Icelandic startup in travel tech, just launched a new service today where the goal is to help travelers get local advice from people with similar tastes and interests that they can trust.

The company was founded by a group of investors and industry veterans including Einar Þór Gústafsson, former VP of Product Management at Meniga and Bokun.

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“This is the year of hackathons in Europe”

Last Sunday a Ultrahack 2016 kick-off meeting was held here in Reykjavík – the first of many events where this year’s Ultrahack will be presented to local startup ecosystems across Europe. We took the chance and met with Mikko Järvilehto, Co-founder and CEO of Ultrahack, to discuss what Ultrahack is all about.

This is the second year that Mikko, Mark Ryan, Ultrahack’s CTO, and their team hold Ultrahack. Last year Ultrahack consisted of a series of kick-off meetings and hackathons held all over Finland, culminating in the Ultrahack finals which were held at Slush in Helsinki last November. Contestants gathered from all over the world, which prompted Mikko and his team to expand this year’s format to cover the whole of Europe.

Mikko has seen a sharp increase in interest and the number of hackathons being set up all around Europe. “This is the year of hackathons in Europe”, Mikko tells us. But Ultrahack’s format is quite different from what one would consider to be a traditional hackathon. Instead of having teams try to get as far as possible in the development of their idea over a weekend, Ultrahack chains together various events in a competition that lasts roughly half a year from start to finish.

Mikko Järvilehto presenting Ultrahack at the kick-off last Sunday

Mikko Järvilehto presenting Ultrahack at the kick-off last Sunday. Photo courtesy of Startup Iceland.

This year’s Ultrahack will be centered around 10 different tracks – themes, if you will. These tracks will be unveiled at a series of events and hackathons across Europe during the next 3 months. The first track, a FinTech challenge in cooperation with OP bank in Finland, was unveiled at the kick-off meeting last Sunday – just in time for Arion Bank’s FinTech party next weekend.

Mikko and his team are launching Ultrahack 2016 today at the Arctic 15 conference in Helsinki. This means that teams can now register for Ultrahack 2016 through the “Ultrahack OS” platform. Individuals looking for teammates can also register, since the Ultrahack team will be working hard on matching people together to create new teams that can work together to bring their ideas to life. “We want to welcome everybody” says Mikko, emphasizing that Ultrahack is open to everyone, not only those who have a technical background and can write code. Everyone with a can-do attitude can join regardless of their background.

This is something that seems very important for Mikko. He stresses the importance of bringing together participants from different backgrounds – students, startups and corporations alike. Ultrahack supports this by helping people network through matchmaking and similar activities.

Mikko is currently doing his Ph.d. on how innovation tournaments can be used for innovation management and he has big ideas for the future. It’s his view that innovation competitions and hackathons can serve an important role in accelerating innovation, but more importantly they are useful in bringing people together. “Contests aren’t about winning, but bringing people together”, Mikko adds.

From August 1st and leading up to the Ultrahack finals at Slush in the end of November is a period the Ultrahack team calls the “Pregame”. During this period teams should work on their ideas and code and post their results through the Ultrahack OS platform. The teams with the best projects are selected to go on to the finals at Slush in Helsinki, where the winners are selected.

CrankWheel receiving an Ultrahack travel grant. Photo courtesy of Startup Iceland.

CrankWheel receiving a Ultrahack travel grant. Photo courtesy of Startup Iceland.

The Ultrahack team has a strong focus on trying to link the participating teams with investors and accelerators, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the main prize is a EUR 100.00 investment, with extra cash prices being given out as well. Further, the Ultrahack team hands out numerous travel grants for teams to get to the finals and Slush in November. The first travel grant was awarded to CrankWheel at the Startup Iceland conference last Monday and another grant will be given to the winner of the Arion Bank FinTech party hackathon.

It will be really interesting to see the ideas start flowing into the Ultrahack OS platform and we are of course hoping to see many Icelandic teams at the finals in Finland.

QuizUp raises $7.5 million from Glu Mobile

Glu Mobile (GLUU), maker of mobile games such as Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, just announced a $7.5 million dollar funding round in Plain Vanilla – makers of QuizUp.

The funding comes in a form of convertible debt. Glu has the option to acquire Plain Vanilla if the cooperation goes well.

Read more on VentureBeat

Norðurskautið covers the Icelandic Startup and Tech scene. Follow us on Twitter or sign up for our mailing list to keep up to date. You can also join our Slack community – http://bit.ly/slack-is

Controlant receives $2.47 million funding

Controlant has received $2.47 million (320m ISK) in a funding round led by venture fund Frumtak 2, which is joined by various other investors through the investment company TT Investments ehf. This investment was included in Norðurskautið’s Q4 2015 funding analysis.

Controlant offers automated cloud-based temperature monitoring solutions for food and drugs that need to be manufactured, transported and stored at a specific temperature range. The company was founded in 2004 and today has offices in Iceland and Denmark.

Last year Controlant acquired many new customers and today has contracts with companies such as the Walgreens Boots Alliance chain in the UK, which uses Controlant’s solution in many of their warehouses. Additionally, Controlant has signed a contract with one of the world’s five largest companies in the field of clinical drug trials. Gísli Herjólfsson, CEO and co-founder of Controlant, says the founders are happy with the progress the company has made in 2015. “I’m not only referring to our growth, funding and the new contracts we’ve signed, but also what we are delivering to our customers”, Gísli adds.

Food and drug safety regulations are becoming increasingly strict, with new laws focusing on preventing food contamination instead of responding to it. An example of this is the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law in the United States in 2011. This increased focus on food and drug safety has proven very important for Controlant’s success. “We seem to have been in the right place at the right time” says Gísli.

Controlant was the 2009 winner of the Golden Egg startup competition and received $695K (90m ISK) in funding from the venture fund Frumtak in 2011. The company has also received various grants from the Technology Development Fund in the past, amounting to a total of $436K (56.5m ISK).

Norðurskautið covers the Icelandic Startup and Tech scene. Follow us on Twitter or sign up for our mailing list to keep up to date. You can also join our Slack community – http://bit.ly/slack-is

Frumbjörg is crowdfunding an innovation center for individuals with disabilities

Frumbjörg, Innovation Center for Mobility, is an initiative started by Brandur Karlsson in cooperation with Sjálfsbjörg, the national federation of the disabled. The initiative is aimed at providing people with disabilities with the opportunity to create their own job opportunities and develop innovations within the healthcare and social sectors.

The social entrepreneurship venture is meant to provide individuals with disabilities with office space and guidance in their innovation and entrepreneurship activities, through partnerships Frumbjörg has already established with Klak Innovit, Innovation Center Iceland and the University of Reykjavík. The idea is that individuals or teams will be able to apply to partake in the venture and receive office space and support in return for a small piece of equity, similar to many innovation and startup accelerators.

Frumbjörg is currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Karolinafund.com, where the team is trying to raise a total of €20.000 (~2,85 million ISK). The funding is meant to kick-start the venture and renovate a space in the Sjálfsbjörg building to accommodate offices. Currently the project has raised just over €5.700 (~810.000 ISK). However, the digital agency UENO has pledged to match every donation made to the project between December 16th and 30th, up to a total of $15K (~2 million ISK).

“There is a need for this sort of Screenshot 2015-12-22 02.12.28initiative and I’m hopeful that we will reach our goal with the crowdfunding before the end of the campaign on December 31st” says Brandur, founder of Frumbjörg. Brandur has been announced as the first speaker at the Startup Iceland 2016 conference, where he will discuss his journey, Frumbjörg, as well as other projects he has been working on.

Norðurskautið covers the Icelandic Startup and Tech scene. Follow us on Twitter or sign up for our mailing list to keep up to date. You can also join our Slack community – http://bit.ly/slack-is

Meet Solid Clouds’ new MMORTS game Starborne: Sovereign Space

Solid Clouds is a game studio established in the fall of 2013, and is currently developing an online multiplayer grand-strategy 4X game called Starborne: Sovereign Space. New players start with a small space station which they try to grow by investing in new infrastructure and spaceships. During the six months each Starborne game lasts, players try their best to explore new territories and build an empire to dominate the game’s space-based world – where up to 40,000 players can compete on a single map.

11238225_1643678659225149_3611345306125616846_oFor co-founder and CEO, Stefán Gunnarsson, the idea behind Starborne is something that has been growing for almost 20 years. “During the late 1990s I was running a pen-and-paper game, which was based on a similar concept, for around 200 people every week. The pen-and-paper concept was very time-consuming and error prone, so the dream was always to be able to play over e-mail.”

Today, the development of Starborne is in Alpha and interested players can apply to participate on the game’s website. A final version of the game is due to be launched in fall 2016. The game will be free to play, but players will have access to in-game purchases to boost their progress. However, everything that will be purchasable in the game will also be accessible through normal gameplay. “We don’t think that a pay-to-win game is going to have a high retention of players, which is one of our primary goals”, Stefán adds.

sc-okt2015-4

The development of the game is spearheaded by game industry veterans, including Hrafnkell Óskarsson, an early CCP employee and co-designer of EVE Online, and Ásgeir Jón Ásgeirsson, former Art Director of EVE Online. The chairman of the board is Sigurður Arnljótsson, co-founder and first CEO of CCP and current GP at Brunnur Ventures.

To date, Solid Clouds has received approximately $825K (107 million ISK) in funding. Thereof, the company has received $290K (37 million ISK) in grants from the Icelandic Technology Development Fund as well as a $7,7K (1 million ISK) grant from Innovation Center Iceland. Various angel investors have invested approximately $540K (70 million ISK) in the company. Solid Clouds plans on raising another round of funding early next year.

Gracipe challenges the traditional food recipe

Gracipe is an Icelandic startup that plans on transforming the way we read recipes by providing a visual representation of the recipe. The new graphical recipe is perhaps best described as a mix between a flowchart and an infographic, instead of the standard text and ingredients list we all know. To make this happen, the Gracipe team is building a web and mobile app that takes traditional text based recipes and transforms them into an illustration that is easy to understand and follow from start to finish.

“Food recipes have been presented in the same way ever since humans started documenting food preparation information centuries ago” says Gracipe CEO Marinó Páll Valdimarsson. “Instead, Gracipe uses proven methods for presenting complex information in a clear and easily understood manner to make recipes easy to follow.”

Gracipe's product, the Graphical recipe

The idea was born when the founders moved abroad to study and had to start cooking and using recipes for the first time. “We quickly realized how frustrating it was to cook from food recipes. They contained way too much text, they lacked overview and you easily got lost” says Gracipe CEO Marinó Páll Valdimarsson.

Gracipe is already up and running and is in constant development in cooperation with the company’s partners. The team is also working to onboard new partners that are starting to embed the graphical recipes into their own platforms.

“The backlog is full of features for improving users’ experience in the kitchen. Furthermore, we will be announcing some really interesting partnerships in the next couple of months” says Marinó when asked about Gracipe’s near future.

Up until now, Gracipe has been fully funded with grants from the Technology Development Fund, having received approximately $100.000 (13 million ISK) from the fund to date.

Norðurskautið covers the Icelandic Startup and Tech scene. Follow us on Twitter or sign up for our mailing list to keep up to date, with Norðurskautið and it’s Slack Community – http://bit.ly/slack-is

Strimillinn helps consumers “master their shopping basket”

Meet Strimillinn, a new service that aims to help you monitor your day-to-day shopping and help you make smarter decisions as a consumer. Strimillinn provides consumers with an app which they can use to scan receipts from grocery stores and other retail stores people visit on a day-to-day basis. The scanned receipt is then automatically analyzed by Strimillinn and users can use the service to compare their purchases to those of other consumers and optimize for the best prices and offers available at local retailers.

In addition to providing consumers with an insight into their own shopping and the ability to easily compare prices and offers between retailers, Strimillinn plans to provide retailers and brands with information on consumer purchasing behaviour and the ability to offer consumers highly relevant offers at the right moment.

strimillinn-demo1@2x

Strimillinn won the 2015 Golden Egg business plan competition and launched a beta version of the service last summer. According to Lee Roy Tipton, Strimillinn co-founder, participating in the Golden Egg helped the team shape their idea and raise interest in the project, both from the public and the media.

The team behind Strimillinn runs the software studio Loftfarið parallel to developing the service, which helps finance the project. Additionally, Strimillinn received a grant from the Technology Development Fund amounting to approximately $54,000 (7 million ISK) in 2015 with a chance of the same amount being issued in 2016.

“We’ve had a great reception to our launch and received 617 receipts the first day” says Lee Roy, commenting on the release of Strimillinn last month. At the time of writing, almost 15.000 receipts have been scanned into the system by almost 2300 unique users (you can follow the project’s growth on their website.

There are exciting times ahead for Strimillinn, who will be pitching at Slush 2015, held November 11-12 in Helsinki, Finland. Strimillinn is also actively looking for potential retail partners to help develop the service and are aiming to update their mobile app with more functionality soon.

Norðurskautið covers the Icelandic Startup and Tech scene. Follow us on Twitter or sign up for our mailing list below to keep up to date.

Deloitte presents Fast 50 list and Rising Star finalists next Friday

Next Friday, October 23rd, Deloitte will present the Icelandic Technology Fast 50 list as well as six Rising Star finalists selected from a pool of 24 applicants. Rising Stars are promising technology companies that do not yet fulfill the requirements to be included in the Fast 50 listing.

The six startups that have been selected as Rising Star finalists are Activity Stream, Flygildi, geoSilica, Kúla, Solid Clouds and Authenteq, which was recently invited to participate in CTIA’s Startup Lab at the 2015 Super Mobility Conference in Las Vegas.

Each of the Rising Star finalists will get three minutes to pitch their company in front of the Rising Star Jury, which will select two winners during the event. The two Rising Star winners, as well as the top company on the Fast 50 list, will be awarded a trip to Dallas to meet investors at the Deloitte Entrepreneur Summit on November 5th.

The Rising Star jury consists of Almar Guðmundson, Managing Director of SI; Bala Kamallakharan, Investor and founder of Startup Iceland; Guðrún A. Sævarsdóttir, dean of the School of science and Engineering at Reykjavík University; Helga Waage, CEO and founder of Mobilitus; Hilmar Bragi Janusson, Dean of the School of Engineering and Natural Sciences at University of Iceland; Sigríður Ingvarsdóttir, Managing Director of Innovation Iceland; and Þórdís Lóa Þórhallsdóttir, Managing Director of FKA.

This is the first time the Technology Fast 50 list is compiled here in Iceland, but the list is presented each year in over 30 countries. National winners have the chance to be recognized in the Deloitte Fast 500 list, which represents the fastest growing companies in the each geographical region (EMEA, USA and Asia Pacific). Deloitte’s Fast 50 initiative has been previously covered by Norðurskautið here and here. Norðurskautið is excited to watch pitches from all the finalists and will report on the winners after the event.

Norðurskautið covers the Icelandic Startup and Tech scene. Follow us on Twitter or sign up for our mailing list below to keep up to date.


Nortstack – Reporting and analysis of the Icelandic startup scene