Category: News (Page 1 of 13)

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.”

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.

 

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Nortstack – Reporting and analysis of the Icelandic startup scene