Startup Tourism had its demo day yesterday, Friday March 23nd. As usual, the companies that went through the accelerator pitched to a room of investors, tourism industry executives and others. In addition to the pitches, founder of Couchsurfing Casey Fenton, gave a keynote.
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Today we’re very excited to announce our newest venture: The Northstack Job Board.
The Northstack Job Board will be the one stop shop for jobs in startups and tech in Iceland, making entry into the sector hopefully more open and inclusive to Icelanders and foreigners.
The tech sector is international, both in terms of business and human capital. The tech sectors clients are international. The investors are international. And the people building the companies are increasingly international.
Finding jobs in the sector should be as well.
One of our main goals at Northstack has always been to make the tech and startup scenes more accessible, more transparent, and more open to the people outside of it.
We’ve done this by writing about and analysing the ecosystem, hosting open meetups for people to mingle, but the biggest move was probably when we switched completely to English.
With this launch, we’re making another contribution to building a better, more diverse, tech ecosystem.
We’re honored by the companies that joined as first advertisers, which range from established companies to fledgling startups. We hope that Northstack Job Board becomes the place where people outside tech find their entry into tech, or where people outside Iceland find their entry into Iceland, or people simply find a good job (and companies great people).
Check out Northstack Job Board now (we recommend signing up for the job alerts!)
Klang Games, the Berlin based, Icelander founded gaming company, just announced a $5m investment from gaming VC Makers Fund, as well as Firstminute Capital, Neoteny, Mosaic Ventures, and Novator. Gamesindustry Biz reported. The company was previously backed by notable Icelandic tech veterans David Helgason (Founder of Unity) and Adalsteinn Ottarsson (previously CCP, now Sr. Development Director at Riot Games).
NSA Ventures and Frumtak have sold their 37% share in food processing tech company Valka. New shares were also issued in the transaction, to current shareholders. The shares were sold to a group of current investors – Fossar, Vogabakki, Vortindur (the holding company of founder Helgi Hjálmarsson), and other investors.
Genki Instruments officially launched an Indiegogo campaign for its new device, Wave, today. Wave is a ring that lets musicians control sound, shape effects and send commands with the motion of their hands. Genki Instruments, who are on a mission to make technology and music feel more natura, was founded by electrical engineers Ólafur Bjarki Bogason and Daníel Grétarsson, with designer Jón Helgi Hólmgeirsson and COO Haraldur Hugosson joining later. Genki went through the Startup Reykjavik accelerator in 2015
“Wave adds a new dimension to musical creativity,” says Bergur Þórisson, recording engineer and producer for musicians like Björk, Sigur Rós, Damian Rice and Jóhann Jóhannsson. “It took me a while to realize that the best thing about Wave is not only that it can replace some of the tools you already have to control stuff when you are making music, but that it can make you control stuff in a completely different way, therefore making decisions that you would have never made without it.”
Bergur is one of the musicians that the Genki team has collaborated with closely during the development of their product. “It’s a cool tool for all creatives and I can definitely recommend adding it to your workflow, whether you use it to replace your old techniques or invent new ones.”
Another is David Mash, a former Senior Vice President at Berklee College of Music, who commented: “Wave is an innovative new way to add expression and nuance to electronic performances! Wave is simple to use, and gives me powerful control right from my fingers without having to take them away from my instrument.”
You can read more about their device, the Wave, at their Indiegogo campaign page.
NSA Ventures, the government owned evergreen venture fund, has hired three new people – a director of finance and two investment managers. These hires follow big changes at the fund, when Helga Valfells (then CEO), Hekla Arnardóttir and Jenný Ruth Hrafnsdóttir (investment managers), left NSA Ventures to found Crowberry Capital. Following their departure, the board hired Huld Magnúsdóttir as the new CEO of the fund, who has now built up her team.
Ólöf Vigdís Ragnarsdóttir joins NSA Ventures as an investment manager. She graduated with a law degree in 2001 and since then added a MS degree in marketing and international business. She worked at the Icelandic Patent Office for eight years, and since 2012 she’s been at the University of Iceland as a lawyer at the science and innovation department, chairing the Intellectual Property committee and taking part in the forming of startups coming out of the University.
Örn Viðar Skúlason also joins NSA Ventures as an investment manager. For the last nine years he’s been the CEO of Proact, a wholesale company in Iceland. Before that he was a director at the corporate banking department of SPRON bank, and held various management positions at SÍF and Icelandic Seafood.
Friðrik Friðriksson joins the fund as director of finance. He has a long history in the telecom industry, as a director at Síminn between 1997-2005, and then director and later CEO of Skjárinn, which merged into Síminn in 2015. He’s served on various borads, including as chairman of the board at CCP in 2001-2002, Matís from 2007, and recently joined the board of Vaðlaheiðargöng hf.
Pharmaceutical company Florealis just announced it had closes a $3.9m funding round, led by NSA Ventures. Former investors, Einvala, and other private investors also took part in the funding round.
“Exciting times ahead for us, following the addition to our investor group,” said Kolbrún Hrafnkelsdóttir, CEO of Florealis, in a statement. “Our first products have been received very well in Iceland, and we’re ramping up marketing and sales efforts in the Nordics.”
The company, which produces herbal medicines, recently closed a deal with leading pharmaceutical chains in Sweden, that will carry Florealis’ products. The funding will be used to support marketing and sales efforts, as well as developing more products later in the year.
Huld Magnúsdóttir, CEO of NSA Ventures, said in a statement: “Florealis falls well in line with the fund’s investment strategy and are excited to lead a group of investors to this deal.”
The past year had several interesting highlights when looking at the funding landscape. The $240m monster round invested in WuXi NextCODE, the first investment from Index Ventures, and the first Icelandic startup (that we know of) to receive investment from only foreign sources – Authenteq. In this funding report we’ll go over the highlevel datapoints and discuss the developments in the ecosystem.
Note: Although based on Icelandic innovation, we decided not to include the WuXi NextCODE funding round in our analysis.
A record number of investments
This year surpassed 2016’s record in terms of tracked investments, with 22 investments on record. The number of investments is growing, albeit slowly, but whether that is due to more investments or better availability of data is uncertain.
But amount invested has declined
At the same time that we’ve never recorded as many investments, the amount recorded has declined. The total investment amount this year was around $35m, down from roughly $57m last year and ~$190m in 2015, which included three big investments that skew the comparison.
Never as much capital in early stage
Probably the most telling graph of this report is the following one where we look at the amount of capital that comes from smaller early stage rounds ($2.4m or less) and bigger, later stage round ($2.5m and up).
In 2017, almost half of all invested capital was in smaller rounds. This is massive change from earlier years where most of the capital invested came from larger rounds, often made by international investors.
This also shows when we break down the number of rounds per year into size brackets. In 2017, the overview is very much skewed to the left: that is, most rounds are small and we don’t have bigger rounds to balance it out.
This is echoed in the fact that only four (~19%) of the investments made in 2017 included foreign investors: Meniga, Teatime Games, Authenteq, and Takumi.
Another interesting point is that Investa, the early stage investment fund run by the likes of Hjálmar Gíslason, Hilmar Gunnarsson and Jói Sig, was the most active investor in the Icelandic ecosystem. They invested in three companies: Teatime Games, Viska Learning and Travelade.
Five investors’ first investment in Iceland
Although we saw fewer rounds with international investors, we added to the list of foreign VC’s that have invested in Icelandic companies. In addition, we saw (to our knowledge) the first seed round entirely funded by foreign investors, when Authenteq raised $1.3m. The new investors can be seen below:
No signs of seasonality yet
We’ve tried to use the data to build up some kind of projections or high-level overview of when investments happen in Iceland, but haven’t been succesful. We can’t see any seasonality in the data, which suggests that summer is just a good a time for raising money as winter. However, we have too little data for any analysis on this to have real meaning.
One of the most important stories of the year, was of NetApp’s acquisition of Greenqloud for $51m in cash. It profited all the investors (one of which has already invested in another startup), and the fact that NetApp looks to further develop the office in Reykjavik is great news for the tech ecosystem.
Another, smaller and less publicised exit was the sale of audiobook publisher Skynjun to Swedish Storytel for €200k.
What it means in the bigger picture
A lot of small, early stage investments in one year suggests that – if the companies are successful – we’ll see more bigger rounds in the upcoming 12-24 months. This, in fact, is already showing. In the first two weeks of 2018, three investments were announced: Oculus’ $20.3 Series B, Solid Clouds $2.5m Series A and a convertible bond by Kerecis. All three had previously raised smaller amounts from Icelandic investors.
Other “Icelandic” companies in the wild
Apart from the startups and tech companies in Iceland that we track, there are Icelander founded or co-founded companies that raised capital this year:
- Klang Games, maker of the endless runner ReRunner, and now working on Seed, a simulation where the goal is to ensure the survival of humanity. The founding team includes Oddur Snær Magnússon, Ívar Emilsson and Mundi Vondi.
- Catapult, a on demand staffing platform that helps people get temporary work and companies get workers, co-founded by Óli Johnson
- Vitro Labs, a biotech company that’s working on 3D tissue engineering and went through Y Combinator in 2017. Co-founded by Ingvar Helgason
Note: While we try to catch all investments, we never can. We mostly look to specific funding rounds, and don’t go after things like bridge loans or funding extensions, although we do cover them when the data is readily available. We time the investments based on their announcement, not the date of signing. Our methods and rules are there to try to ensure compatability with other databases and data sources.
Solid Clouds, the game developer working on Space MMO game Starborne, just announced a $2.5m (270m ISK) funding round led by Kjölur fjárfestingarfélag. Other previous investors also participated in the round. In addition, the company received a $475.000 (50m ISK) growth grant from the Technology Development Fund.
“We’re happy to have closed this financing, and being joined by as experienced an investor as Kjölur,” CEO and co-founder Stefán Gunnarsson said in a statement. “The investment will be used to fund marketing and growth, as well as a mobile version of the game.”
Starborne is a real-time, massively multiplayer strategy game played by thousands of players at a time. “We’ve been watching Solid Clouds for some time because of their revolutionary game that looks very promising,” says Guðmundur Ingi Jónsson Manager of Kjölur fjárfestingafélag. “We’re excited to share our experience with the team on building a tech company.” Guðmundur takes a seat on the board of directors following the funding.
Kjölur is known in tech circles for being one of the lead investors in Greenqloud, that was sold to NetApp last year.