Category: News (Page 2 of 13)

Minister for Innovation appoints working group about NSA Venture’s future

Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir has appointed a four person working group about NSA Venture’s future. She announced her intention to do so at NSA Venture’s annual meeting this May.

In a press announcement, the ministry discusses the move:

NSA Ventures, which started in 1998, was created because a lack of availability of startup funding which the government needed to address that market failure. The fund has played an important role as an early stage investor, and been a part in bridging the gap between grant-giving governmental funds and later stage investors.

The startup funding environment has changed drastically since the fund’s inception, most notably by the emergence of new investment companies and venture capital funds. The fund has also been in a tight position, partially because the sale of assets has been slow, and fresh investments therefore few and far between.

The future framework and allocation of the fund’s assets have been under review for several years, and the purpose of the working group is to review underlying data and make suggestions.

The working group consists of:

  • Guðrún Gísladóttir, chairman, Director General in the Ministry of Industries and Innovation.
  • Almar Guðmundsson, chairman of the board at NSA Ventures.
  • Guðrún Ögmundsdóttir specialest at the Ministry of Finance
  • Tryggvi Hjaltason, Producer at CCP.

The working group is asked to deliver their suggestions before September 30th of this year.

A mostly straight-forward announcement, and right in line with what the minister discussed at the annual meeting.

The composition of the group is also mostly straight forward. Two representatives of the government and the two ministries that are directly involved with the fund. Almar Guðmundsson most likely sits there as a representative of NSA Ventures, knowing its workings and assets, while not directly employed by the fund. Tryggvi Hjaltason comes in as an independent advisor. Researched the operational environment of tech and startup companies in Iceland in his Master’s thesis.

NSA Ventures will be the topic of the next Memo – you can sign up here.

Lawrence Lessig to design politics in Klang’s new game, Seed

Lawrence Lessig, law professor at Harvard and founder of Creative Commons, will assist indy game studio Klang with designing the politics of their upcoming massively multiplayer online game Seed. This is reported in Venture Beat.

Lessig happened to meet Mundi Vondi, CEO of Klang, and start talking about games.

“After talking for a while, we moved on to how they were going to govern these places, the structure for governing,” Lessig said in an interview with GamesBeat. “It was clear that no one had really thought through that much. That’s what began our conversation about whether there was something fun to experiment with here.”

Seed is a continuous, persistent simulation where players are tasked with colonizing an exoplanet through collaboration, conflict, and other player-to-player interaction. Using unique gameplay based on managing multiple characters in real-time, communities are built even when players are logged off, allowing the world of Seed to be a living, breathing entity.

“We’re building a virtual world filled with vast, player-created communities where every player-action has a repercussion in the game world,” Vondi said in a statement. “For example, a player might chop down a tree, which affects the planet’s ecosystem. This wood can then be sold on, which has an impact on the economy, and if the player chooses to, use the money to bribe another player, which affects the balance of power. We create and provide the tools and incentives to build these communities…the rest is up to the players.”

Klang Games, which is based in Berlin, was founded by a group of Icelanders. They previously released ReRunners, a multiplayer endless runner. The company has raised an undisclosed amount from Greylock Partners, MIT Media Lab founder Joi Ito, and Unity’s Davíð Helgason.

CrankWheel launches 2.0 which introduces Instant Demos

CrankWheel, the Icelandic SaaS company working on instant visualisation tools for inside sales teams, just released version 2.0 of its solution. The most notable addition is the new Instant Demos feature, which allows sales teams to go from smart lead capture, to phone call and screen share within seconds.

Lead enrichment provided by CrankWheel

“When preparing for a conference, we saw that many of the companies we wanted to approach had call-to-actions like Request a Demo on their websites. We’d been telling our clients that they could use CrankWheel for those meetings, but realised we hadn’t been delivering a complete solution,” says Jói Sigurðsson, founder and CEO of CrankWheel. “With Instant Demos the idea is that you can go from request for demo, to phone call, to screenshare in a matter of seconds.”

Instant Demos provides a conversational lead capture and has automatic lead enrichment based on data found in online sources about the lead. When a potential customer makes a request for demo, all available sales agents are pinged, and the first to respond gets to make the call.

“We created a prototype to bring to a trade show last February to show the concept. Seven companies signed up at our booth to be first adopters, and they’ve been working with us on developing the feature since then,” Jói says.

Mink Campers raise $450,000 seed round

Mink Campers have just announced a $450,000 seed round from undisclosed investors.

The company specializes in providing quality travel experiences in nature through the use of their signature Mink Camper and the Mink Travel Guide App. Their aim is to connect adventurous travelers with interesting Icelandic locals, such as artisanal farmers and avid hiking experts. The Mink Camper boasts unlimited 4G wifi, a Bose sound system and a queen bed, among other things.

“We at Mink Campers are excited to be joined by this group of investors, who are not only interested in the growth opportunities, but also in creating a strong Icelandic brand in the camping and outdoor activities space,” says Kolbeinn Björnsson, CEO and co-founder of Mink Campers.

“The investment will be used to manufacture and market the campers that will be rented out this summer in participation with Avis car rental.” The investors will take board seats and be active participants in the development of the company. Helga Viðarsdóttir of Spakur and Finnbogi Jónsson facilitated the funding round.

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This is the first round of funding the company receives. The plan is to produce 50 campers for the summer, both as rentals and for sale. Production will be ramped up by the end of summer to prepare for 2018.

Mink Campers want to take the hassle out of camping, increase the comfort, and make tenable new kinds of travel for people interested in close connection with nature.

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“We recently signed a contract with Avis rental cars, and they will help us with customer service and renting cars to accompany the campers,” Kolbeinn says. “Avis has service centers all over Iceland, which will help us provide first class service to our customers.”

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.

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Nortstack – Reporting and analysis of the Icelandic startup scene