Category: News (Page 1 of 13)

Startup Guide Reykjavik launched on December 6th

The independent, Berlin-based publishing company Startup Guide is releasing its first guide in Reykjavik. Filled with inspiration, how-to’s, case studies and tips for starting up, the book highlights how to start up a business​ ​in​ ​the​ ​thriving​ ​startup​ ​scene​ ​of​ ​Reykjavik​ ​with​ ​stories​ ​from​ ​local​ ​entrepreneurs.

“Central to Reykjavík’s strategy is a focus on quality of life for our citizens, and embracing a welcoming, personal and warm atmosphere for newcomers, immigrants and our guests,” says Mayor of Reykjavik, Dagur B. Eggertsson. “We want to provide world-class education, an interesting and vibrant cultural scene and a safe city. In short, a place to make things happen, and a place to be. Startup Guide Reykjavik is an excellent overview of the Reykjavik’s startup scene, and we welcome you to use it to explore what our beautiful city has to offer.”

Startup Guide, a creative content and self-publishing company, was founded in 2014 by Sissel Hansen. The company wants to inspire and empower entrepreneurs through creating in-depth guides of startup ecosystems around the world. Other cities they’ve covered include Berlin, Lisbon, London and Tel Aviv.

Small but buzzing Reykjavik has seen a massive increase in the amount of tourists visiting the city in recent years. Its compact but very well-connected startup network enables the startup community to flourish, and this has been captured in the Startup Guide Reykjavik book.

“After being hit by the financial crisis, Reykjavik has mainly regained its current economic power via tourism. The huge number of visitors, a growing housing market and decreasing unemployment are all good signs of a fast-developing country,”Sissel Hansen, CEO and founder of Startup Guide, writes in the introduction. “Reykjavik is often the stopover between Europe and the Americas, and I believe this could become a strong business connection point too.”

She adds: “It’s wonderful to see a small community working so closely together to develop a myriad of new initiatives and projects that reach outside their own country.”

Startup Guide Reykjavik features up-and-coming startups such as Jurt Hydroponics, Aldin Dynamics and Genki Instruments, interviews with local influential people and an overview of the city’s coworking spaces and programs.

The project is sponsored by Reykjavik​ ​City​,​ ​Promote​ ​Iceland​,​ ​NSA​ ​Ventures​ ​and​ ​Arion​ ​Bank​.

The book will be released at the Startup Guide Reykjavik launch event on December 6th, 2017 ​at 4pm ​which ​is open to the public and will take place at Bryggjan Brugghús ​with support from the NSA Ventures​. ​The event is co-hosted by ​the local community partner Icelandic Startups, Northstack and Women Tech Iceland.

The event registration page can be found on Eventbrite.

The book can be pre-ordered at startupguide.world/guide/reykjavik

 

NetApp paid $51m in cash for Greenqloud

Yesterday, NetApp released its quarterly results for the quarter ending on October 27th. Amongst other things, the report included a line on the Greenqloud acquisition:

On August 4, 2017, we acquired all of the outstanding shares of Greenqloud ehf., a privately-held provider of cloud management software based in Iceland, for $51 million in cash, of which we preliminarily allocated $10 million to developed technology, $38 million to goodwill, and the remainder to other assets. (src)

As a reminder, the largest shareholders of the company were the following:

  • Kjölur fjárfestingarfélag, 38.8%

  • NSA Ventures, 15.8%

  • Omega Iceland, s.á.r.l (Novator), 13.4%

  • KP ehf. (Birkir Kristinsson), 11.6%

  • Kelly Ireland, 7.5%

  • Meson Holding (Vilhjálmur Þorsteinsson), 1.1%

All investors made a profit on their investment, former CEO Jónsi Stefánsson said in a statement. (And we apologize for making it look like that was not the case before)

All in all, a decent sized exit (the biggest software exit in Iceland since WuXi’s $61m acquisition of NextCODE in Jan 2015).

(Read our longer analysis of the acquisition here)

Updated on Nov 30, 16:11 with correct information on the profit of investors.

Authenteq raises $1.3m seed round co-led by Initial Capital and Draper Associates

Icelandic startup Authenteq recently received seed funding from investors from three major tech hubs in the world. The company is working on distributing a blockchain based digital biometric ID to all internet users. The funding rounds, which totalled around $1.3m was co-led by London based Initial Capital and Silicon Valley based Draper Associates. Also investing in the round is Berlin based Cavalry Ventures.

“I see great opportunities in what Authenteq is doing. Their business model is sound, the market is huge and the problem of identity is only growing. For me that’s a sustainable investment project that was started by experienced founders” says investor Tim Draper on why Authenteq caught his eye.

“Getting such a well rounded team of seasoned and well known investors as well as former entrepreneurs is a great acknowledgement of what we’ve been working on”, says Kari Thor.

Authenteq describes its process as “a highly secure automatic process of verifying a person’s real identity without the need for human interaction offers a frictionless method for anyone that has a smartphone and a government issued identity document to verify their identity to a high degree of certainty and assurance.”

“Since every common data point currently used to establish an identity was hacked for almost half the US population we’ve received increased interest from US focused companies that have until the Equifax breach relied heavily on the Social Security Number system for online identity verification,” says CEO and co-founder Kári Thor Runarsson.

“Although that in itself is a very insecure and unreliable verification method, the US focused companies now have the incentive to adopt a more rigorous method for identity verification and we feel an increased interest from consumers that are demanding a method that can verify their identity without the need for them to hand over a whole range of personal information,” Kari adds.

Some of the features of the Authenteq ID is that it is a sovereign digital identity, which means that the user owns and controls the information that is collected and verified. Authenteq in fact does not have access to the user’s information which is heavily encrypted on both the user’s phone and on the blockchain.

The startup has so far been funded by the founders and grants.

“I’ve been extremely proud on how far we have taken Authenteq without taking in outside equity financing. So far we’ve built an amazing and talented team of dedicated people that share our vision and mission, but now was the time to shift up a couple of gears and increase our team size as well as benefit from the amazing experience and portfolio network of our investors.” continues Kari Thor.

The company is currently working on pilot projects with a selection of companies it plans to launch with early in 2018.

This funding round brings the total raised by the company to around $2m, the rest of which has been in mostly non-equity grants.

The Nordic Web launches angel fund to invest across the Nordics

The Nordic Web, a long time collaborator of Northstack and one of the main resources for data and analysis on the Nordic startup ecosystem, just announced its angel fund. Neil Murray, founder of the Nordic Web, leads the fund, which is backed by more than 50 investors across the ecosystem.

“I’m proud that The Nordic Web Angel Fund is backed by more than 50 people who wish to play an active role in directly supporting the ecosystem in the Nordics,” says Neil Murray, founder of the fund. “By leveraging the expertise and knowledge of our investors in the fund, we can offer unrivalled support in helping early-stage Nordic startups, with access to a whole community behind them.”

The fund will invest in 10-15 early stage Nordic startups over the next twelve months, which would make it one of the most active funds in the region.

A number of investors in the fund are individuals active in the Icelandic startup scene – including Georg Lúðvíksson, founder of Meniga; Helga Valfells, Hekla Arnardóttir, and Jenný Ruth Hrafnsdóttir of Crowberry Capital, and Kristinn Hrobjartsson, of Northstack.

More info on the fund here.

Disclosure: Kristinn Hrobjartsson (me), co-founder of Northstack, is an investor in the fund.

The first Icelandic Wasabi hits the market

Jurt – formerly known as Wasabi Iceland – just announced its first batch of brand-new Nordic Wasabi has hit the “shelves.” You can now try Icelandic grown Wasabi at restaurants Fiskmarkaðurinn (Fish Market) and Grillmarkaðurinn (Grill Market).

“What most people know as wasabi isn’t really wasabi, but a mix of horseradish, mustard and green food-coloring,” said Ragnar Atli Tómasson, co-founder of Jurt. “Fresh wasabi, on the other hand, is made purely from the wasabi plant, which is what we’re producing.”

The company, which participated in Startup Reykjavik 2015, subsequently raised a $380,000 seed round, and added another seed round in March this year, bringing the total raised to 100m ISK, around $900k in today’s exchange rate. In addition, the company has received a grant from the Technology Development Fund. The company was founded by Ragnar and Sindri Hansen.

“Our product has gotten much deserved interest at the Grillmarket and Fishmarket,” said Sindri, co-founder. “It’s being used in interesting courses, such as Icelandic Minke Whale Steak with Wasabi and in a Nordic Wasabi Martini.”

Nordic Wasabi is grown in high tech greenhouses in the East of Iceland where geothermal heat and renewable electricity are used in the production. According to a statement, foreign chefs have shown interest in the product. “We aim at exporting fresh wasabi under the Nordic Wasabi brand, later this year,” Johan said.

Inspirally raises undisclosed angel round

Inspirally – formerly known as Vizido – just announced it has raised an undisclosed amount from a group of angel investors including Thor Fridriksson, founder of QuizUp and co-founder of Teatime, and Vilhjálmur Þorsteinsson.

“It is an honor to get funding from seasoned tech entrepreneurs like Thor Fridriksson and Vilhjalmur Þorsteinsson,” said co-founder Pétur Orri Sæmundsen. “We are lucky to have them on board and we are both happy and exicted to work with them.”

Inspirally helps creative people collaborate on their ideas. It allows people to take and manipulate pictures and videos to be shared with other people for collaboration. Interior designers and architects are already using the product, according to a statement.

Pétur co-founded the company with Erlendur Steinn Guðnason. Inspirally is currently in closed beta and according to the founders they expect to release it to the public in February 2018.

CCP shuts down VR projects, lays off 100 people

Icelandic news outlet MBL.is reported earlier today that CCP Games, creators of the Eve franchise, are shutting down VR development and laying off nearly 100 people globally. The company’s Newcastle (UK) office will be sold, Atlanta (US) will be closed, and 30 people have been laid off in the Icalandic HQ.

According to Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, CEO of CCP, market conditions don’t allow for more investments in the space, probably laying to rest any ideas of Iceland becoming a hotbed for VR development. It’s also a bad sign for the fledgling VR market, as CCP had become one of the biggest players in producing interactive content for the technology.

“We’re going to focus on PC and Mobile games,” Hilmar Veigar said in a statement, referring to (at least) Project Nova, the company’s second venture into the First-Person shooter territory.

Read more on MBL.is or PC Gamer.

How a media personality’s change of jobs might influence the tech industry in Iceland

This post is from the Northstack Memo, our newsletter and commentary on recent happenings in the Icelandic startup ecosystem, written by @kiddiarni.

Yesterday, Kjarninn reported that Icelandic media personality Logi Bergmann would be barred from starting a new media job at Árvakur – publisher of Morgunblaðið and owner of K100.5 radio station – for twelve months. The reason? His former employer, 365 (owner of Stöð 2 and Fréttablaðið) is suing, because Logi had a 12 month notice period, as well as a 12 month non-compete after the termination period, barring him from working at another media company.

How does this connect to Icelandic startups? One word: Non-competes.

If this decision will be upheld by courts it could set a dangerous precedent that makes non-competes not only legal but enforceable.

Non-competes bar employees of a company from working for a company in a similar industry for a certain amount of time after their departure from the current company. And they slow down innovation. And are bad.

The claim that non-compete clauses chill innovation should not catch anyone by surprise. Think of Silicon Valley, the world’s technology center. California law forbids Silicon Valley firms from using non-competes, and employees are largely free to move. Workers’ mobility creates knowledge spillovers across firms and throughout the industry, all of which stimulate greater innovation. It was Bob Noyce, the founder of Intel, who hailed “the mobility of our personnel, which quickly diffuses knowledge of new techniques in design, production, and marketing.” (from Fortune)

The clearest example of this is between Silicon Valley in California and Route 128 in Massachusetts. Research suggests that the difference in how the two states deal with non-competes (in California they’re not enforced) had an impact on the growth of Silicon Valley and deterioration of Route 128 (relatively speaking). From the abstract:

[Professor Gilson] contends that legal rides governing employee mobility influence the dynamics of high technology industrial districts by either encouraging rapid employee movement between employers and to startups, as in Silicon Valley, or discouraging such movement, as in Route 128.

Because California does not enforce post-employment covenants not to compete high technology firms in Silicon Valley gain from knowledge spillovers between firms. These knowledge spillovers have allowed Silicon Valley firms to thrive while Route 128 firms have deteriorated. (source)

So, if this issue goes to court and the non-compete will be upheld, it might set a dangerous precedent for Icelandic industry.

Granted, there’s a difference when a company wants to stop a media personality to bounce between media outlets and when engineers move from one tech company to another. But if the findings of the court are very open, it might impact the enforcement of such contracts in Icelandic law as well.

Google’s Pixel Buds will translate 40 languages into Icelandic in real time

At today’s Pixel 2 launch event, Google unveiled their answer to Apple’s Airpods: The Google Pixelbuds.

Northstack doesn’t normally cover the tech giants, except when it is specifically related to Icelandic tech. And this time it is. The Pixel Buds will include real-time translations, where you can talk in one language and the phone will speak in another.

The good news: Icelandic is on the list. This might open up some interesting innovation possibilities, and should make our minister for education, that recently revealed a new speech-technology plan, very happy.

The demo starts at 1:28, and you can see Icelandic in the rolling list afterwards.

QuizUp founders’ new company Teatime raises $1.6m seed led by Index Ventures

Teatime, a new startup founded by four ex-QuizUppers, just announced a $1.6m funding round, led by London based Index Ventures. Other investors include David Wallerstein, SEVP at Tencent, and David Helgason, founder of Unity. Teatime had previously raised $200k from the founders.

“I am incredibly excited to work with such an extraordinary team, helping them bring to market a completely new concept. Teatime is our first deal in Iceland, a country with a growing tech scene, especially in the games sector,” said Guzman Diaz, investor at Index Ventures, that previously backed successful games companies King and Supercell.

The Teatime founding team is made up of four veterans from the mobile gaming industry: Thor Fridriksson (prev. founder & CEO of QuizUp), Ýmir Örn Finnbogason (prev. CFO of QuizUp), Gunnar Hólmsteinn Gunnarsson (prev. founder of Clara and COO of QuizUp) and Jóhann Þ. Bergþórsson (prev. CTO of QuizUp.

“This all happened incredibly fast,” says CEO and co-founder Thor Fridriksson. “After QuizUp was sold early this year, a long awaited vacation ensued. After a couple of months you started getting the urge to build something again.” He says that the founding team met during the summer and got this new idea that everyone became excited about.

“We pitched the idea to several of QuizUp’s early investor and got great feedback. Later, Index Ventures joined, which not only gives us capital to work with but also very important connections that will help us succeed. This investment will help us work faster towards our mission, which is to reinvent how people play mobile games.” Next up is hiring the first employees and starting production. “We’ll hopefully have something to show within the next months.”

Page 1 of 13

Nortstack – Reporting and analysis of the Icelandic startup scene