Category: News (Page 1 of 13)

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.”

Icelandic audiobook publisher Skynjun acquired for estimated €200.000

Skynjun, Icelandic publisher of audiobooks, has been acquired by Sweden’s Storytel. The purchase is payed for with shares in Storytel priced at a 30 day weighted price point. In the end of 2019, an additional, performance based earn-out payment. The total payout is estimated at €200K.

Storytel’s acquisition of Skynjun is one of three recent acquisitions of local audiobook publishers, Breakit reports. The others are from Bulgaria and Turkey.

More on Breakit.se

Klappir Green Solutions listed on Nasdaq First North

Last Thursday, Klappir Green Solutions (KGS) was listed on Nasdaq’s First North market. After two trades, the company’s B-shares were priced at 14.5 ISK per share, valuing the total available B-shares at roughly 960 million ISK, ~$8.8m. The company also has A-shares outstanding that are not listed. The main difference between the shares is that B-shares don’t have any voting or pre-emption rights.

KGS provides “consulting and software solutions to facilitate sustainability and responsible environmental operations.” Last year the company acquired two other companies: DataDrive and Ark Technology and added their offerings to KGS’s mix of products. According to their annual report for 2016, the company is currently working on merging the operations of the companies.

DataDrive participated in Startup Reykjavik 2015 and later received an undisclosed amount of funding from Klappir. Ark Technology received investment from Brunnur in 2015, but was then acquired by Klappir a little over a year later.

The listing didn’t include any additional share offerings.

More on Kjarninn.

WuXi Nextcode closes $240m Series B funding round

Genetic data platform WuXi NextCODE just announced a massive $240m series B financing round. The company extended and completed the Series B round with investment from a consortium led by Sequoia China and including TemasekYunfeng Capital and 3W Partners. Temasek, Yunfeng and 3W also participated in the initial Series B round in May alongside Amgen Ventures and other existing long-term investors and partners.

Read More

Influencer marketing platform Ghostlamp closes $1m seed round led by Brunnur

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 and investors.

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 raises $1.2m seed round led by Brunnur

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.

Viska Learning team

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.

Fortune 500 company NetApp acquires Greenqloud

NetApp, a Fortune 500 company that provides solutions for hybrid cloud environments, has acquired Greenqloud maker of qstack hybrid cloud management software. The acquisition amount is undisclosed.

“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.

Crowberry Capital has raised $38m for its debut fund

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.

Sign up for the Memo – commentary and important news about the Icelandic startup scene.

Page 1 of 13

Nortstack – Reporting and analysis of the Icelandic startup scene