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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.

Genki Instruments opens for pre-orders on the Wave, their first product

Genki Instruments, a hardware startup focused on the products that merge technology and music, just opened up pre-orders for its first product, Wave.

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Getlocal adds local advice for global travelers

Getlocal, an Icelandic startup in travel tech, just launched a new service today where the goal is to help travelers get local advice from people with similar tastes and interests that they can trust.

The company was founded by a group of investors and industry veterans including Einar Þór Gústafsson, former VP of Product Management at Meniga and Bokun.

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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.

Uber, Lyft and Iceland: Will they ever come?

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

Transportation Ministry to look into Uber & Lyft

From Vísir:

Jón Gunnarsson, minister of transport, will appoint a working group to look into the possibility of ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft operating in Iceland to meet the growing demand of taxis. The minister has already decided to increase the number of taxi permits.

”We’re gathering data and following that, soon in the fall, we’ll create a working group which will have the task of going through the data and creating suggestions for the future of these issues in Iceland,” says Jón. He says the working group will look specifically at Uber and Lyft, because both consumers and foreign surveillance authorities have complained about the current setup.

To put this into perspective, we should add a couple of facts (borrowed from Hallgrímur Oddsson’s excellent piece on Uber & Iceland from last year).

  • There are 560 taxi licenses in the Reykjavik area, the same as in 2003. Since then, inhabitants have increased by 30,000, and the number of tourists has grown from 320 thousand in 2003 to around 1.8 million in 2016.
  • Reykjavik is the only capital in Scandinavia Uber hasn’t entered (they’re leaving Copenhagen and Helsinki, more on that later).
  • There’s a notorious “grab a lift” group on Facebook for the Reykjavik area, boasting ~37.000 members, and regularly mentioned as a danger to both people and taxi drivers by taxi drivers.

Also, in 2014, Reykjavik reached some minimum number of signatures for Uber to start looking into coming here, and Ryan Graves, former CEO and then SVP of Global Operations promised to bring Uber to Reykjavik. As you know, nothing has happened since (to the knowledge of consumers, that is).

Lyft, on the other hand, is even less likely to show up anytime soon. They have focused exclusively on servicing the United States, apart from partnership dealswith other ridesharing companies like Didi (China) or Grab (Southeast Asia).

Why should they bother?

The transportation market is undergoing very interesting changes. There are three major changes affecting the market at the same time, as explained by Ben Thompson of Stratechery:

  • Consumers moving to Transportation-as-a-service (as seen by Uber users)
  • Cars moving to electric (making TaaS more affordable in the long run by decreasing marginal costs on driving)
  • Cars becoming self-driving (eliminating the need for a driver, and driving marginal costs even lower).

Uber’s long term play (and gigantic valuation) is by most accounts based on becoming a leading force in this shift. Consumers are already using the service a lot, and Uber (as well as almost every other technology company out there) is investing in self driving cars. Enormous growth (in locations and users) of the last several years, has fueled the company.

Which is why I’ve been pessimistic about the possibility of Uber coming to Iceland. The cost (and risk) is too high and the benefit too low for the company to decide to come here. Reykjavik, even with the tourists, is just too small to make a difference. The smallest city on a list of the world’s 300 largest cities has 361.000 inhabitants, and if you count the metro area, it has 2.2 million.

Reykjavik, with its 123 thousand inhabitants (and 220 thousand in the metro area) doesn’t seem big enough for a company like Uber to risk litigation. Especially not now that Uber has left Finland’s Helsinki because of legal issues, and has been declared illegal by courts in Denmark.

Or well, at least until we change the rules around it.

The opportunity in pre-emptive legalising

These news are therefore very exciting. Iceland’s size and remoteness make it an unattractive market for most companies looking into international expansion. Add to that very strong labor unions, an expensive labor force, high taxes, not to mention the turbulent currency, and you have a mix of ingredients that don’t make Iceland attractive to market entrants – especially not when these entrants are directly challenging the status quo.

That’s why Iceland’s strategy in dealing with these technologies and society-changing concepts should be to legalise first, ask questions later. Not only should we legalise it, we should recruit the companies and help them set up shop here, in some cases even look into subsidizing their market entry. We’ve been doing it with huge investments before (a recent example is United Silicon), so why not the consumer serving companies that are ushering a new way of going around business? The consumer surplus provided by companies like Uber, Airbnb, Amazon Prime, Netflix and more, should at least be worth the discussion.

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.

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The winners of the Nordic Startup Awards – Iceland

Today, the winners of the Icelandic finale of the Nordic Startup Awards were announced. “The winners were selected by a panel of judges, each with proven experience and skill in recognising the potential of a startup. These choices were based upon the nominee’s quality and impact within their industry or field,” a statement explains. The event was hosted by Innovation Center Iceland.

Each of these winners will be moving on to compete in the Nordic region’s Grand Finale, which is being held October 18th in Stockholm.

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CCP launches fourth VR installment with Sparc

CCP announced today the launch of Sparc, its fourth VR game. The company, which raised $30m to boost their VR development efforts, has previously released Gunjack, Gunjack 2, and Eve: Valkyrie. Sparc is the first game launched by CCP that’s not part of the EVE universe.

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Nortstack – Reporting and analysis of the Icelandic startup scene