Category: News (Page 1 of 11)

Introducing the Community Fund: $18k to support community tech events

Today, we’re excited to announce the formation of Community Fund, a 2 million ISK ($18.5k) fund that will support events and projects in the Icelandic tech community that foster knowledge sharing, networking and discussion about technology and product development.

The aim of the fund is to empower the grassroots of the tech community in Iceland by easing the access to funds and support. It’s created for smaller projects like meetups, workshops, knowledge sharing and conference preparation, that are likely to enrich the tech community.

The fund is backed by stakeholders in the tech community: SUT (Federation of Icelandic IT companies), Investa, Tempo, Frumtak Ventures, Kaptio, Northstack and Lagahvoll (who helped with all the legal stuff).

In his work, preparing and organising Javascript Iceland events, one of the co-founders of the fund, Kristján Ingi Mikaelsson, regularly ran into hurdles securing money for basic things like snacks, drinks and space. A discussion turned into an idea which ended up a project that Kristján and Northstack have been working on for the last couple of months.

The hypothesis is simple:

We have a lot of driven individuals that are interested in preparing meetups, speaking at meetups, and contributing to the tech community. One of the biggest hurdles to executing those ideas is money – people are already giving their time and don’t want to give their money, too. So by making money easily accessible, we can increase the amount of tech focused events.

Our founding partners – SUT, Investa, Tempo, Frumtak, and Kaptio – loved the idea, and we’re structuring the fund as a one year experiment.

In one year’s time we’ll evaluate whether the experiment went in the direction we thought. Did we see more events? Did Community Fund help? Should the initiative continue?

We hope it will, but that’ll be up to the community.

Lucidworks acquire Icelander-founded Twigkit

Twigkit, the search-user-interface company, founded by Hjörtur Stefán Ólafsson and Bjarki Hólm, has been acquired by Lucidworks. Stefán will join Lucidworks as chief strategy officer, and Bjarki as VP of solutions. The valuation of the deal is undisclosed.

From Twigkits‘ announcement:

Today we are taking a leap forward. We have joined forces with Lucidworks, a company that is reshaping the data and discovery industry and the tour-de-force behind Apache Solr, the world’s most popular open source search engine. Whilst we have been busy making it easier to build intuitive applications for end users, Lucidworks has been working from the other side of the fence – on redefining the foundations of search itself.

From Lucidworks’ CTO Grant Ingersoll post about the acquisition:

Thanks to Twigkit’s integration with Lucidworks Fusion and the ability to federate across multiple data sources, this acquisition enables us to further deliver on our vision of intelligent data access via interfaces that are built with the end user in mind.

This marks the first tech acquisition involving Icelander’s since Northstack was founded in 2015. It’s also one of few acquisitions where Icelander-led companies are acquired by Silicon Valley co’s (other’s would be Clara (acquired by Jive), as well as Emu messenger (acuired by Google) and Siri (acquired by Apple), and possibly some more).

TripCreator raises $2m, shuts down B2C product

TripCreator, maker of the AI-driven travel planning solution, just announced a $2m funding round. Investors are undisclosed. Previous investors include Míó, the investment company of Magnús Ingi Óskarsson, founder of Calidris, and Salting ehf.

The company also announced that it will shut down its B2C product to focus solely on developing and selling its B2B whitelabel software.

Head of marketing Bragi Antoniusson says:

“It’s simply a better business model to leverage the technology we’ve already built and get a steady income from our customers.We decided to shut down the consumer site so that we’re not seen as competitors to our current and potential customers and to focus our marketing and development efforts on what is now our main product.

“We decided to shut down the consumer site so that we’re not seen as competitors to our current and potential customers and to focus our marketing and development efforts on what is now our main product.”

According to the statement, Icelandair will be the first carrier to integrate the platform, and other travel companies are expected to start using it soon.

This makes the second funding announcement in a couple of weeks, which could signal an active Q2 in the Icelandic scene.

Meniga raises €7.5m led by Industrifonden

Fintech company Meniga just announced a €7.5m funding round led by Nordic investment fund Industrifonden. Previous investors – Velocity Capital, Frumtak Ventures and Kjölfesta – also participated in the round.

From TechCrunch:

“Today’s banks are under pressure to innovate and improve their customer experiences online and yet they are beholden to legacy processes and legacy systems and are usually ill equipped to provide their customers with world class user experience in digital banking,” Meniga co-founder and CEO Georg Ludviksson tells me.

“Meniga has built a reputation as a strong innovation partner to banks and its software solutions help some of the world’s largest banks utilise their data to make their online and mobile banking more personalised and inspiring”.

Ludviksson’s coining of Meniga as an “innovation partner” to banks isn’t simply startup speak, nor is it bluster (the Meniga founder talks in soft, considered Icelandic tones). The company holds five-day onsite design sprints with its banking clients, and last year it conducted more than 80 user testing sessions in four countries — again, many of them in partnership with the banks.

Huld Magnúsdóttir announced as new CEO of NSA Ventures

Huld Magnúsdóttir

Huld Magnúsdóttir

The board of NSA Ventures has hired Huld Magnúsdóttir as the new CEO of the investment fund. She’ll replace Helga Valfells, who left NSA Ventures to found Crowberry Capital last January. She’ll start at NSA Ventures on May 1st.

The board sent the following in a statement:

Huld is an experienced manager with a diverse background from both the private and the public sector. From 2009 she was the Director General of the National Institute for the Blind, Visually Impaired and Deafblind and was the acting director of the Social Insurance Administration between 2015 and 2016. Between 1993-2008 she worked at Össur in Iceland and abroad in various management positions, including as director of production and distribution for North America, account manager, communication manager and quality control manager. Alongside her work at Össur she was a project manager in Bosnia-Herzegovina in a developmental project in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry.

Huld holds a BA degree in International Communication from the University of Sussex in the UK, MIB in International Business from Bifröst University and a diploma in public administration from the University of Iceland.

According to Almar Guðmundsson, chairman of the board of NSA Ventures, Huld is a great catch for the fund. “Huld has extensive business knowledge and experience in innovation, strategy and international operations after working world wide. She has the experience we’re looking for now that the next steps of the fund will be formulated.”

 

CCP posts record revenues, announces new game

CCP just released its financials for 2016. The company grew revenues by 31% and posted a record year of roughly $86 million in revenues with EBIDTA of $39 million and profits of $20.7 million. This means the company has around $260,000 in revenue per each of their 330 employees.

This suggests that the now 20 year old gaming company has been able to rebound from its two years in the red in 2013 and 2014, after the notoriously expensive write-off of the Werewolf gaming franchise.

Hilmar Veigar, CEO of CCP, credits these numbers to three things, in a recent interview with GamesIndustry.biz:

It was the opening up of skill trading at the beginning of the year, then the release of Citadel, and the transition to open access, all of which were phenomenally successful.

CCP’s main title, Eve Online, is now a free-to-play game, with in-game purchases (skill trading). Hilmar Veigar has also said previously, that the CCP’s venture into VR is “on path to break even.”

CCP’s spokesman didn’t comment on how the revenue is split between sources, that is, how much is Eve and how much is VR. This comes to no surprise, as the VR industry as a whole has been mostly silent about revenue and sales numbers.

Sparc: Full Body Virtual Sport

CCP also announced their next VR game: Sparc. The game, which has been under development under the name Project Arena and available to test at last year’s Fanfest, is a two player, full-body VR game, with gameplay similar to the classic Pong. 

Players stand face to face in a long corridor, armed with the ability to throw projectiles try to score points by landing shots on their competitors. At the same time, they have shields they can use to deflect shots. Apart from that the game offers single player training and other multiplayer game modes, as per the announcement.

This is the first VR game by CCP outside of the Eve franchise. The game is due later this year – no definite release date has been given.

Nordic startup organisations announce strategic partnership

Late last week, a group of seventeen startup organisations in the Nordics announced they signed a manifesto to form a strategic partnership.

The partnership, which according to a statement is to “creat[e] a channel for strategic cooperation and decision making,” has not been formalised yet, and exactly what shape it will take hasn’t been decided.

The group, collectively known as the Founding Partners of #Nordic Made, includes Icelandic Startups, SUP 46 and other similar organisations from around the Nordics, media like the Nordic Web and Arctic Startups, conferences like Slush, and more.

What are they committing to?

The manifesto states several things:

We agree to make strategic and collective decisions about:

  • International presence
  • Key marketing messages
  • Tangible measurements of success

Founding Partners of #NordicMade commit to:

  • Formalizing a #NordicMade organization.
  • Exploring opportunities for fundraising for a #NordicMade organization.
  • Establish a #NordicMade committee consisting of representatives from every Nordic countries.
  • To maintain transparency in all aspects of operation.
  • Create an open and inclusive community platform.

While not completely clear in the announcement what this means in practical terms, based on a conversation with Salóme Guðmundsdóttir, CEO of Icelandic Startups, I can say it’s the following:

  • The group will look into whether they should formally create an organisation, that has a CEO, a board / committee and more.
  • One of their long-term objectives is to market the Nordics as a collective region. Basically wrapping the activity in the many ecosystems in Scandinavian and Nordic cities under one Nordic brand, to the benefit of all.

This follows a collaboration that has been ongoing between many of these organisations already.

SidekickHealth maker Goodlifeme raises $1.5m round led by Frumtak Ventures

Frumtak Ventures just announced a $1.5m investment into Goodlifeme AB, maker of Sidekick Health. Other participants in the round include Tennin ehf. and other investors.

This investment gives our team of physicians, psychologists, public health professionals and game developers the opportunity to deepen SidekickHealth’s global reach, particularly in the United States,” said Tryggvi Thorgeirsson, co-founder and CEO of Goodlifeme said in a statement.

sidekickhealth_banner

Sidekick Health is a lifestyle companion app, utilizing insights from behavioral economics, artificial intelligence, and evidence based guidelines from the US CDC, to enhance the effectiveness of lifestyle education and coaching.

According to the statement, the app has shown great benefit to its users:

To date, companies and health organizations that have augmented in-person Diabetes Prevention Programs (DPPs) and employee fitness initiatives with SidekickHealth have seen an 82% retention rate among participants over a 4-month period, 76% increase in participant weight loss, and a 65% reduction in soda consumption.

Eggert Claessen, managing partner of Frumtak Ventures: “SidekickHealth’s solution … presents a significant opportunity to positively impact the wellbeing of employees and patients, while also reducing health-related overhead costs for enterprise companies and organizations globally.”

Picture is of Sidekick Health co-founders Tryggvi Þorgeirsson and Sæmundur Oddsson.

Paula Gould joins Frumtak Ventures as Principal

Paula Gould, who has worked with startup companies in the US, Israel, and Iceland on marketing, branding, and business development, will join Frumtak Ventures as a Principal to spearhead international brand and marketing initiatives.

paula-gould

Paula Gould

“I’m thrilled to be joining Frumtak’s team and looking forward to working with their exceptional portfolio companies to help deepen their international network and strategize growth opportunities,” said Paula in a written statement.

Paula previously led marketing at Greenqloud, Dohop, and Oz, as well as serving on the board of directors at Clara.

“Paula’s experience working with startups on brand and market growth as well as her passion and advocacy for the Icelandic innovation and startup community fit well with our objective to create a role on our team that brings international awareness to our portfolio of companies,” said Eggert Claessen, Managing Partner of Frumtak Ventures in a statement.

This hire marks a first for the Icelandic VC business, following in the footsteps of the world’s best VC funds that routinely have specialist support on staff to help portfolio companies. Icelandic VC has until now solely had full-time employees in the form of investment managers or administrative staff, so this is what

The companies funded by the Technology Development Fund

Mid-December is an important time for the Icelandic startup community, because the biggest financial supporter of startups announces what companies receive funding. 25 projects will be offered a grant, for a total of 450m ISK (~3.75m). The grants come in several types, Company grants, which can range from 20-70m ISK (~$160K-$580K) over two years, and Marketing grants, up to 10m ISK (~$85k) for marketing purposes.

Sproti (20m ISK / ~$160K over two years)

  • Blásúra  – We don’t know of this project, but the contact is for Sigríður Suman, a chemistry professor at the University of Iceland, which suggests it’s related to research.
  • e1 – Marketplace for electric car charging stations. It allows people and organisations that have charging stations to register their station, to allow other car owners to charge their car and the station owners to make some extra money. More here.
  • Travable – travel companion for those with special accessibility needs More here.
  • Yellow beetroot snacks – Founder of Crowbar Protein (Búi Bjarmar) wants to create snacks from yellow beetroots.
  • Platome – One of two Startup Reykjavik 2016 companies receiving a grant. Platome creates nourishment for stemcells.
  • Snakerobots – No info on this company.
  • Travelade – Former Linkedin Product Lead, Andri Heiðar, and his travel startup. More here. 
  • Chess-app – to train the mind.
  • Wasabi Iceland – Previously raised $380k from private investors, growing Wasabi in the east of Iceland.

Vöxtur (50m ISK / ~$420K over two years)

  • Omega Algae – Optimizing EPA-rich algae-oil.
  • Lauf Forks – The company behind the Lauf Forks bicyle forks is continuing development on their product.
  • Flow VR – Meditation in VR, Startup Reykjavik alum.
  • Aldin Dynamics – VR analytics, to analyse user behavior in virtual reality apps.
  • Frostmark – Creating refrigeration products for fishing boats.
  • IceWind – Developing wind turbines for communication masts.
  • InfoMentor – The company behind edtech solution Mentor receives a grant for what they call IM Insights.
  • Gagarín – Developer of exhibitions and shows, for a project they call Mapexplorer.
  • Sæplast – Creating new transportation vessels for fresh foods.
  • Oculis Pharma – The pharmacompany that raised 500m ISK earlier this year from Brunnur.
  • Valka – Fishing-tech company Valka receives a grant to develop their fish processing automation products.
  • SnapStudy – A team of ex-QuizUp people, including former CRO Vala Halldórsdóttir, receive a grant for SnapStudy.
  • asco Harvester – A “street-sweeper” for the oceans. More here (Icelandic).
  • GeoSilica – Creating health-supplements from silica. More here.

Marketing grants (10m ISK / ~$420K over two years)

  • Handpoint – maker of POS software for mobile devices receives a grant to expand to the USA.
  • TARAMAR – Maker of skincare products from algae, Taramar is expanding to the US.

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Nortstack – Reporting and analysis of the Icelandic startup scene