Category: News (Page 2 of 11)

Northstack is mapping the Icelandic startup scene

Since we started Northstack, we’ve tracked and published data on the Icelandic startup and tech scene. In fact, it is one of the reasons we started doing what we’re doing to begin with. The reason is simple: Iceland has long been a black box when it comes to data on startups and tech companies.

That’s why we decided start mapping the Icelandic startup and tech scene. We’re going to collect data from 2012 through 2016 (and hopefully going forward) on startups, funding events, people and organisations. This data will be published on industry databases like Crunchbase, Pitchbook and Dealroom. We want the data to be accessible to investors, reporters, analysts, and researchers.

We’re very lucky to have the backing of leading stakeholders in the Icelandic ecosystem. We’re partnering with Invest in Iceland, Federation of Icelandic Industries, NSA Ventures, Frumtak Ventures, and SA Framtak (Brunnur VC) to make this happen. In addition, we’ll get help with the data from the likes of Icelandic Startups and the Technology Development Fund.

The work will take a couple of months, and we see the value to the ecosystem as follows:

a) We’ll have detailed historical data so we can plot the development of trends and key numbers. This means institutions and the government will finally have data to show, and base their decisions on. Collaborative projects (like the University of Reykjavik/MIT project) will have more accurate data.

b) We’ll be able to more accurately compare Iceland to other ecosystems.

c) The data will be accessible on startup databases. This means Iceland will be more accurately represented in these important places.

d) Northstack will be better equipped to analyse and report on the Icelandic startup scene.

If you have any questions, reach out to Guðbjörg Rist Jónsdóttir who is leading the project. You can reach her at

Influencer marketing platform Takumi announces $1.4m (£1.1m) funding round

Influencer marketing platform Takumi just announced a $1.4m (£1.1m) funding round from a number of UK angel investors. This brings total investment in the company to $3.3m (£2.6m) in three rounds.

“We’re excited to bring the Takumi offering to new markets,” said CEO Mats Stigzelius in a written statement. “We have seen an incredible 60% MoM sales increase in Q2 and Q3 this year and our list of 4,000 actively engaged users is growing every week.”

The investment will be used to fuel the companies international expansion. Takumi, which until now has only been available in the UK, is planning on expanding to Germany later this fall and the U.S. early next year. According to the statement, the company has $130k (£100k) in monthly revenue, and clients including Domino’s, Nickolodeon and Socialyse.

Takumi, product

The company has operations in both Iceland and the UK. The Iceland office is responsible for product development, and sales are located in the UK. Jökull Sólberg, co-founder of Takumi, said in the statement: “The funding will allow us to further innovate and continue to drive forward the influencer marketing industry.” Jökull has previously written a post on their experience starting Takumi here on Northstack.

Takumi allows brands to connect with micro-influencers (anyone with more than 1,000 followers) on Instagram. The companies post campaigns on the platform, that influencers can choose to work on, by posting pictures to Instagram, and then get paid by the brand. The app is available on iOS and Android, currently only in the UK.

Seven companies chosen for Startup Energy Reykjavik

The third batch of Startup Energy Reykjavik companies has been announced. The companies will receive $40,000 in seed funding from backers Arion Bank, Landsvirkjun, Innovation Center Iceland, and GEORG. The accelerator is operated by Icelandic Startups and The Geothermal Cluster (Gekon).

The following companies will participate:

  • Arctic Sea Minerals: Salt that is healthier and includes less sodium.
  • Health Snacks: Makes snacks from fishskin.
  • Ískristallar: Are working towards marketing proteins that reduce the formation of ice crystals, leading to longer shelf life for frozen foods.
  • Kjarni: Utilising insects for waste removal.
  • ELF Tech: Develops technology that makes it possible to look under the surface of the earth and listen to the northern lights.
  • Mýsköpun: Using geothermal energy to grow and utilise algae in Mývatn.
  • Zeto: Soap and skincare procuts where algae extract is used instead of water, without filling or added chemicals.

Two previous Startup Energy Reykjavik companies have received further equity funding: DTEquipment and Key Natura.


Plain Vanilla to wind down as TV show is canceled

Following the cancelation of planned TV show QuizUp America, Plain Vanilla will wind down most of operations in the coming months. QuizUp will still be operated.

The company has gone from no revenue to almost break even since the beginning of the year, and while that wasn’t enough to cover costs, hopes were that the QuizUp America TV show in partnership with NBC would increase usage and make the company sustainable.

When the TV show was canceled, raising funds became next to impossible, and a decision was made to wind down operations.

According to Thor Fridriksson, CEO of QuizUp, the plan was always to “go big or go home. This time around, we put too many eggs in the same basket.” He’s grateful to all staffmembers that participated in the journey, and is certain that many good things will “come of this adventure.”

Tempo’s earnings, restructuring, and possible sale

This post was originally sent out as part of The Memo, our weekly newsletter with updates and commentary on the Icelandic startup and tech scene. You can sign up here.

As expected, Tempo continues its double-digit year-on-year sales growth this quarter. Announced by Finnur Oddsson, Nýherji CEO (Tempo parent company), at the company’s quarterly earnings call, Tempo had 40% revenue growth in Q2 2016, compared to Q2 2015. Based on back-of-the napkin calculations, this would mean that YTD revenues stand at around $6.4m, compared to last year’s $4.6m, and Q2 at $3.4m compared to $3m last year. That, however, wasn’t the most interesting news from that day.

Finnur told investors about an agreement that has been reached with AGC Partners LLC – a M&A consultant from Boston – about the possible sale of Tempo. Finnur stressed that no decision had been made whether to sell, and if, when. However, this obviously sends signs that Nýherji is interested in selling. The question remains who are more interested – Nýherji, to cash out on their goldmine, or Tempo to be spun out.

Tempo would likely be interested in being spun out to operate on its own. The difference in perspective and market is massive. Tempo has zero interest in the Icelandic market and is going through hypergrowth. Nýherji, at the same time, is an old Icelandic IT company focused on the local Icelandic market and hardly growing at all – numbers even suggest they might be in decline. After all, one of the company’s main business has been providing on-premise servers, which we all know, isn’t the most future proof business to be in.

Nýherji has already attempted, and bailed on, a sale of Tempo. They announced that sale a year ago, at the 2015 Q2 earnings call. The plan was to sell 25% of the company, but investors weren’t interested. Surely, it wasn’t lack of growth or opportunity, but probably terms from Nýherji – too high a price, too small a stake, or requirement of additional investment in Tempo, all possibly played a role.

One year later, I’d guess that the board would be open to a bigger sale. A majority is probably needed for investors to be interested, and I doubt the buyer will be Icelandic.

Also included in the earnings call, was a mention of a restructuring of the company,that included eight layoffs. At the same time the company is opening offices in Montreal and San Francisco. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone – as Finnur all-but said they were planning this in the last earnings call. The question is, will they continue moving operations overseas? Companies that can afford moving need a really good reason to stay in Iceland – which often is just the sentamentalism of the founders.

It’s obvious that the Icelandic tech ecosystem benefits greatly from a company like Tempo operating heavily in Iceland. Let’s hope the financials also make sense.

Northzone VC on Startup Reykjavik companies: “I will have at least two follow-up calls immediately”

“Absolutely. From the pitches, I will have at least two follow-up calls immediately,” said Marta Sjögren, Principal at Northzone Ventures, when Norðurskautið asked if she was planning on taking meetings with any of the companies that were pitching today.

Marta Sjögren

Marta Sjögren

“Their ability to communicate their bigger vision was great, and also not to oversell where they are. And that’s really rare, so I had a great time,” she added.

Today was Startup Reykjavik Investor Day, where the participants of Startup Reykjavik 2016 pitched their companies to a room of investors and startup people. This time around, the Arion bank conference room was almost completely full. Marta Sjögerd, Principal at Northzone Ventures, gave a talk on the Nordic startup scene.

Marta’s comments, as well as a general consensus on that the pitches this year around have never been better, strongly suggest that experience and know-how is being built up at Startup Reykjavik. The fact that an international VC is reaching out to companies after the pitches is a massive improvement, especially considering that last year’s guest didn’t think the companies were optimal VC cases.

If Northzone invests in any of the companies, it would be the first company in Iceland that Northzone invests in. “My mission is, while I’m here in Iceland, to make sure I understand the market, and make Northzone visible,” Marta said. “We want people to know when to reach out to us, and that we’re fairly easily reachable. Our interest is to support ecosystems around the Nordics and Europe.”

Also, just for fun, a video of a man pouring 1300°C hot lava onto ice, courtesy of Icelandic Lava Show (they were pitching).

Mint Solutions raise €5m Series B

Mint Solutions, developer of the medication safety system MedEye, just announced a €5m Series B round led by Brabant Development Partners and LSP (Life Sciences Partners), and Seventure Partners. Other shareholders, including Icelandic NSA Ventures, and smaller private shareholders, also participated in the round.

“This investment comes at a crucial time for our MedEye product,” Gauti Reynisson, CEO of Mint Solutions said in a written statement. “We are experiencing strong demand from Dutch hospitals and we see ample growth opportunity in other care segments, including long-term care, as well as international markets.”

Mint Solutions is an Dutch-Icelandic company that was established to improve medication safety. It’s main product, MedEye, uses computer vision to ensure that patients get the right medication, in the right dosage, at the right time.

Meniga announces €7.3m investment led by Velocity Capital and Frumtak Ventures

Meniga just announced it raised a €7.3m ($8.3m) round led by current investors Velocity Capital and Frumtak Ventures earlier this year. The funding will be used to further expand its white label personal finance, personalization and data-driven marketing solutions for retail banks and merchants, according to a statement. Following the funding, Willem Willemstein, Chairman and CEO of Velocity Capital, joins Meniga’s board of directors.

Georg hjá Meniga

Georg Lúðvíksson, Co-founder and CEO of Meniga

“For the past seven years we have focused on honing our digital banking products,” Georg Lúðvíksson, co-founder and CEO of Meniga said in a written statement.  “Now, in addition to supporting banks in helping their customers better understand and manage their finances, we can further help banks engage with merchants and be compliant with upcoming regulations, such as PSD2.”

The company has become known for its white-label personal finance management solutions, that they integrate with the online banks of their customers. Last year news broke of a deal with Europe’s leading bank, Santander. In addition to PFM software, the company has been developing solutions that leverage the massive amounts of data they have access to. In what the company calls “Card-Linked Offers and Consumer Spending Analytics platform” they offer analysis of consumer trends, and give merchants the ability to target people based on their consumption behavior. These products have been live in Iceland under the name Kjördæmi for some time.


The Memo: Funding rounds and Startup Reykjavik’s term sheet

Last week was eventful. Two funding rounds announced and Icelandic media wrote a lot about startups. Norðurskautið was also working on some interesting news – we’ll get to that later. Before the memo, a short request.

We would like your term sheet 🙏

We’re researching how the term sheet culture is in Iceland. To do that we need, you guessed it, term sheets. Anything from angel rounds to growth rounds. We’re focusing on Icelandic term sheets, from Icelandic investors.

We understand some of the things in the term sheet are sensitive. Feel free to black out anything that is either identifying or confidential. We won’t publish anything without talking to you first – and if we publish anything it most likely won’t be terms heets. More just interesting findings, if there are any. If you don’t have a term sheet yourself, please help us by spreading the word 🙂 Just send me a message if you can help.

Sign up for the Memo, weekly commentary on the startup scene.

Now, on to the Memo:

The Startup Reykjavik term sheet

Viðskiptablaðið wrote an article titled “Controversial term in Startup Reykjavik’s term sheet.” (link) The article sprung up from a discussion in the Slack group about a anti-dilution clause. The article is pretty good, discusses the concerns that were raised, and gives Einar Gunnar of Arion Banki a lot of space to explain.

Most of the points make sense, but there was one point that stuck out to me. Einar says (translated from Icelandic):

This clause is meant to protect minority owners, in this case [Arion bank]. The issue could arise that someone is upset about something following the Startup Reykjavik investment, and decides they don’t want Arion bank as a shareholder anymore, and sell auntie Sigga a 94% share of the company for 100.000 ISK. That way they could dilute us in an abnormal way.

The clause in question ensures that Startup Reykjavik Invest keeps its 6% stake if the investment is 40 million ISK or lower (~$340K).  Many angel investments are well within that range. That means that startups that receive an angel investment after SR will often need to deal with the clause. Also, there are many ways in structuring the term sheet to protect small investors, that don’t involve giving that investor free shares in a small financing.

I applaud the debate, and thank Viðskiptablaðið for reporting on these topics. We as a community need to start talking about these things openly.

Two fundings

Last week we saw two announced funding events. Oculis Pharma raised an undisclosed amount from Brunnur Ventures and Silfurberg. Greenqloud raised a $4m investment from Kelly Ireland, who joins the board.

Sign up for the Memo, weekly commentary on the startup scene.

Great news for the ecosystem. The Oculis Pharma investment reminds us of the vitality of the pharmaceutical industry in Iceland. Sadly, we haven’t covered it much. The reason is simple – we don’t know or understand that industry enough. So if you want to help, by either writing or just giving us tips about interesting things in the pharma space, send us a line.

Greenqloud had its struggles a couple of years back, when they switched out their CEO. Following that, the company pivoted away from providing infrastructure as a service. Their focus now is selling Qstack, cloud management software. The investment suggests that that bet is paying off.

Oculis Pharma raises Series A led by Brunnur Ventures and Silfurberg

The pharmaceutical startup Oculis Pharma announced a Series A financing led by investors Brunnur Ventures and Silfurberg. The amount is undisclosed.

“We are delighted to receive this support from Brunnur Ventures, Silfurberg and their co-investors to progress our development of DexNP,” Páll Ragnar Jóhannesson, CEO of Oculis, said in a statement. “In addition to providing financial resources, these experienced investors bring Oculis a wealth of operational and industry expertise.”

According to a statement, the new capital will support continued development of the company’s patented solubilizing nanoparticle (SNP) drug delivery platform and the company’s drug candidates, including the first topical eye-drops for treatment of diabetic macular edema. In layman’s terms, the company is both developing a patented technology that increases the effectiveness of eyedrops and solves some of their limitations, and drugs that use this technology. Their diabetic macular edema drug has been approved for treatment in both Europe and the United States.

“Our investment to support the development of Oculis is based on Oculis’ strong scientific research, combined with a great market potential for the company’s drug candidates,” said Árni Blöndal in a statement, GP at Brunnur Ventures, who joins the board following the investment. “The option of drug treatment of DME with self-administered eye-drops, rather than having the only option of surgically injecting drugs into the eye, would by a major advantage in the global battle with this common and severe diabetes complication.”

Stefán Jökull Sveinsson, former head of global R&D at Actavis, one if Iceland’s leading pharmaceuticals, also joins the board in connection with the financing.

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Nortstack – Reporting and analysis of the Icelandic startup scene