Disconnect and “Decelarate” in Startup Westfjords, the Startup Decelerator located in fishing village Þingeyri

In stark contrast to the hectic life of startups, entrepreneurs and digital nomads can head to Þingeyri, a small town in the Westfjords of Iceland, to “decelerate.”

“What our ‘decelerator’ really offers,” Arnar Sigurðsson, cofounder of the Blue Bank which hosts the program, “is the rare opportunity to slow down, disconnect from everyday work life, to gain mental clarity and reconnect to projects with a greater sense of purpose.”

The Blue Bank is a community and coworking space in Þingeyri, a once-thriving fishing town in the majestic Westfjords, and now home to only 250 people, founded by Arnar Sigurðsson and Arnhildur Lilý Karlsdóttir. In their new program, Startup Westfjords, twelve participants will be picked from applications to participate in a two week (with two optional, additional weeks) program. For those chosen, the participation is free.

“When we were designing an event to build our own village startup community, we did not want to make a smaller or less interesting version of what was already being done in Reykjavík,” Arnar told Northstack. “We wanted a unique value proposition, and believe we have found that in the ability to disconnect from the distractions of every day life.”

While Traditional accelerators focus their program on product development, growth, sales, marketing and other “startup-y” topics, Startup Westfjords promises that “participants will be invited to get under the skin of Icelandic village life. Scheduled activities include Yoga Nidra, hot tub/sauna sessions and a hike to the top of Westfjords’ highest peak, Kaldbakur.

“While accelerators teach us to launch, grow, and even fail fast, finding a decelerator that shifts the focus to slowing down while starting up is a breath of fresh air,” Þórunn Jónsdóttir, founder of Poppins and Partners, and mentor at the 2019 program, commented.

The Blue Bank has already changed Þingeyri to some extent. “We’ve been running a remote coworking space and creative hub here for almost two years and are now getting the first visitors relocating here permanently,” Arnar said. “They’re working in creative industries for global clients online. When we started out, there was not a single person who worked an office-based job in the entire village, so this is a significant change.”

“What we hope do do is create a beautiful harmony between the traditional ways of life based on farming and fishing, and the digital creative industries of tomorrow”

The Startup Westfjords program is supported by KPMG, and local companies Arctic Fish and Kerecis (which just announced a $16m fundraise and is partly located in neighboring town Ísafjörður).

Applications are open until June 25, head to their website to apply.

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Monerium becomes world’s first company to be granted e-money license

Icelandic blockchain startup, which recently raised a $2m seed round led by Crowberry Capital with participation from ConsenSys – a major player in the blockchain space, has just been granted an e-money license by the Icelandic Financial Supervisory Authority.

A more in-depth report on the license and what it means can be found on Coindesk.

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Kerecis raises $16m Series C

Kerecis, the medical fish skin company, just announced a $16m series C financing. The company sold new shares to the value of $10m, and converted $6m of promissary notes at the time of closing. Investors include Emerson Collective, which was founded by Laurene Jobs, the widow of late Steve Jobs of Apple. According to the statement issued, the fundraise was oversubscribed. After the funding round, founders and related parties retain about a one-third share ownership in the company.

“Fish skin is becoming a mainstream therapy for treating severe wounds, including diabetic wounds,” commented founder and CEO of Kerecis G.Fertram Sigurjonsson. “The funds from the Series C offering will allow us to continue our rapid growth and improve medical care for patients suffering from terrible wounds, which too often lead to amputations.”

The funds will be used primarily to fund sales and marketing efforts in the US and Switzerland.

Kerecis develops patented fish-skin products to heal human wounds and tissue damage. Because no disease-transfer risk exists between cold-water fish and humans, the Kerecis fish skin is only gently processed and retains its similarity to human skin, making it an ideal substitute for human skin. Fish skin also contains Omega3 fatty acids, which enhance wound healing. More than 50 studies have been done on the Kerecis technology.

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Here are the ten participating companies in Startup Reykjavik’s 8th cohort

Startup Reykjavik, Iceland’s main accelerator, is running its eighth batch this summer. The accelerator, owned and funded by Arion Bank and operated by Icelandic Startups, received around 200 applications, ten of which were selected for the program which kicks off this Tuesday, June 11th.

Baseparking: A valet parking service at Keflavík airport servicing over 20,000 customers.

CheckMart: Infrastructure for small and medium-sized companies in e-commerce.

Hvíslarinn: Health tech software solution using smart-tech, automation and AI to simplify documentation process for hospitals and healthcare facilities

Íslensk Gervigreind: Digital employee in the cloud using AI and data to make customer service more efficient.

Proency: Software solution using AI and evidence-based psychological methods to provide mental health analysis and counselling for staff and management within companies.

Rafíþróttaskólinn: A platform that serves anyone with the materials necessary to start their own esports training program with the aim to change the way esports athletes are made.

Rebutia: AI stylist software that carefully analyzes its users, classifies clothing according to their body’s figure to help them discover their true style.

SmartSampling: A software making a better and more efficient way to get intelligence from your customers about your product.

Snorricam: Hardware company making a tool called Snorricam for filmmakers to gain a unique camera angle.

TrackEHR: Health tech software solution that helps doctors create treatment plans and share them with patients.

The startups selected to participate each year receive 2,4 million ISK in funding from Arion bank in exchange for 6% equity. In addition the participants get access to mentors, office space and a host of perks.

The program culminates on Startup Reykjavik’s Investor Day where the participating teams get the opportunity to present their company to potential investors. This year Investor Day will take place on August 16th.

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Lucinity raises $2m to build their “augmented intelligence” anti-money-laundering solution

Lucinity, an Icelandic startup working in the anti-money-laundering space, just announced a $2m seed round led by Crowberry Capital, with participation from Preceptor Capital and international angel investors.

“In Lucinity, we saw a team that has tremendous relevant execution experience and an extremely innovative approach that we believe will be a game changer for firms fighting money laundering,” commented Helga Valfells, managing partner at Crowberry Capital.

Lucinity was founded in 2018, to solve the current gap in the anti-money laundering monitoring market. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that more than $2.4 trillion of laundered flow through the market every year, and that only 1% of the financial proceeds of crime is intercepted.

The current solutions are extremely inefficient with 99% of alerts being false alerts, Lucinity claims in a statement.

“Our goal is to bring cloud-ready intelligent anti-money laundering solutions to our clients that will transform their capabilities to fight money laundering activity,” Guðmundur Kristjánsson, founder and CEO of Lucinity remarks.

“This staggering cost and lack of results is largely a consequence of the current rule-based technology and human surveillance efforts not working together effectively,” he continues. “At Lucinity, we adopted a new approach called Augmented Intelligence, which combines the power of Artificial Intelligence and human intelligence through constant feedback loops. Using this approach, Lucinity ClearLens empowers clients to improve detection of suspicious behavior patterns and greatly increase review efficiency.”

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Medical Device company Freyja HealthCare raises $1m Series A

Boston Based Freyja HealthCare, a medical device company founded by Jón Ívar Einarsson, MD and professor at Harvard Medical School, just announced a $1m  (120m ISK) financing by undisclosed, Icelandic investors. The round values the company at 1,000m ISK (~$8.3m) post money. Spakur assisted with the financing round.

Jón Ívar, which Academia.edu describes as “a leader in the minimally invasive gynecologic surgery (MIGS) field” said in conversation with MBL.is that the company is finalising a deal with a big medical company on the sale of three devices aimed at standardising hysterectomy operations.

“This financing allows us to continue development of more devices,” Jón Ívar told MBL.

More on MBL.is

Lessons learned from raising – yet another – round

It’s incredible – even to me – but the fundraising round we at GRID disclosed last week is the 10th time I raise capital for one of my ventures. Admittedly this one was in many ways unique, and also the largest one. Yet.

Hjálmar Gíslason

Despite this, I’m still learning. For one thing, the world has changed since we raised our first round at Lon&Don back in 1997 (Icelandic only)! For another, 10 times is still hardly a statistically relevant sample so it’s natural to still be discovering a few things.

Here are the three main lessons I took away from this latest experience:

  1. Local is dying: I heard this from startups and investors ranging from Seattle to Silicon Valley and Berlin to London: Investors are – less than ever – focused on investing in companies based on geography. Some of them are actively betting on that the Next Big Thing™ may come out of areas you’d least expect. Also, from the startups’ perspective, they’re no longer necessarily going to local investors first. In some cases I heard investment funds complain that they didn’t even see some of the best deal flow in their area because those entrepreneurs didn’t come to them. They went straight to investors they thought would add more value or they thought were a better fit – even halfway across the globe.
  1. The best investors hunt: Success in investing – especially early stage – doesn’t come from waiting for deals to come to you. It comes from networking, plugging yourself into the ecosystem, keeping your ear to the ground and then jumping with conviction on the best opportunities because you spot them before anyone else does. Being one of the few brand-name investment funds in the world may counter that a little bit, as you will be getting good inbound opportunities. But an aggressive hunt will always outwit, outplay and outlast them. A complacent investor is probably not a successful investor.
  1. Thesis and stage match: I paid more attention to the characteristics of each fund this time around than I’ve ever done before. As an entrepreneur you should seek out funds that have an investment thesis that matches what you’re doing. I felt this strongly in this latest raise. Talking to investors who already had theories around modern productivity tools and/or the spreadsheet market was so much more productive and so much more valuable to us than talking to ones where we had to explain our background, research and theories from the ground up. Also, make sure you understand the size of the fund, the typical size of their investments (jargon tip: their “ticket size”) and the funding stage they’re most comfortable with. Convincing a typical Series A or Series B investor to invest in your Seed round will not only be harder, it may come back and haunt you later if they for any reason don’t lead your next investment round. You’ve more or less put yourself on a single track, while working with a typical Seed investor keeps all the doors open for next steps.

Again. Despite having been around this block a few times now, my experiences are still anecdotal, so take them with a grain of salt, but I hope this may be of help to some of you fellow fundraisers out there.

The author is founder and CEO of GRID. He previously founded (and exited) DataMarket.

Lauf Forks raise $2.5m led by New Business Venture Fund

Icelandic bicycle manufacturer Lauf Forks has just announced a $2.5m (300m ISK) funding round led by New Business Venture Fund (Nýsköpunarsjóður). The funding will be used to grow in the United States.

“The bicycles from Lauf Forks have been well received in the United States, so focusing on growth their is a logical next step,” chairman of Lauf Forks, Erla Skúladóttir, said in a statement.

Lauf Forks was founded in 2011  around the invention of the lightest bicycle fork in the world. The company has since developed into designing and manufacturing full blown bicycles. They paved the road with Lauf True Grit, an award winning Gravel bike, and now also offer Lauf Anywhere, a mixed terrain bike.

“It’s been a pleasure following the development of Lauf Forks and we believe the company is poised to grow even more,” commented Huld Magnúsdóttir, CEO of the New Business Venture Fund. “Lauf Forks is an example of a successful innovation, and with added funding the company gets the opportunity to grow in new markets.”

GRID raises an additional $3.5m seed round led by BlueYard capital

GRID, the SaaS company with the goal of “freeing the spreadsheet,” just announced a $3.5m seed funding round, only five months after their initial $1m angel round. The funding round is led by Berlin-based BlueYard, with participation from Slack Fund, Acquia Capital and angel investor Charles Songhurst. Previous investors, including Brunnur Ventures, also participated.

“We are happy to work with this group, as they add a lot of value to our mission other than their funding,” the company said in a statement.

“This investment – on top of our $1M angel round in October – fuels current plans well into 2021,” the statement continues. “It gives us breathing room to focus on building the initial version of our product, take it to market, and hone our commercial approach before raising capital for further growth and expansion.”

GRID is the second company, led by a repeat founder, to raise substantial money from foreign and local investors in a short period. The other, Teatime Games, raised over $10m in a 6 month period – both a sign of a maturing ecosystem.

GRID are hiring, check them out on Northstack Job Board.

Avo becomes first Icelandic company to be selected for Y Combinator

Avo, the SaaS company preventing human error when implementing analytics, is the first Icelandic company to be accepted into Y Combinator, widely regarded as the world’s best accelerator. As part of the program, Y Combinator invests $150,000 in the company. Avo (then as Viska Learning), previously raised a $1.2m seed round from local investors Brunnur and Investa.

The company was founded by several former employees of QuizUp, which raised more than $40m in venture financing from investors including Sequoia Capital and amassed 100m users before being acquired by Glu Mobile.

“Every company is already or will soon be using analytics through tools like Amplitude, Segment, Looker, Google Analytics or even their custom pipeline,” comments Stefania Olafsdottir, co-founder and CEO of Avo. “The problem is, humans suck at implementing analytics.”

According to Stefania, the team ran into this problem at their previous workplace QuizUp. “We ended up building our own, in-house analytics validation tool to help us alleviate that.”

The Avo team: Stefanía, Sölvi, Þóra, Árni Hermann

Later, when the team had founded another company they ran into this problem again. They couldn’t believe they would need to build internal tools for this again, so they started investigating what friends and colleagues were doing.

“We found that a surprising amount either had this problem and hated it, or fixed it by building similar tooling to what we had done at QuizUp,” Stefania adds. “To us that meant we had something.”

And seemingly, the partners at Y Combinator think they have something as well.

“I always wanted something like this at Airbnb,” Gustaf Alströmer, former growth lead at Airbnb and currently partner at YC commented in a statement.

“The constant problems we had was analytics implementation being mistakenly removed while refactoring or launching new flows, misspelled event-names leading to incorrect funnels that took until next release to fix, and poor knowledge of where you look up the meaning of events for other teams. Avo solves all this!”

While Avo is the first company from Iceland to be accepted into Y Combinator, they’re not the first Icelanders. Ari Helgason, currently principal at Index Ventures, participated in YC with his company World on a Hanger (Winter 2012), and Ingvar Helgason was at YC recently with VitroLabs (Spring 2017)

Avo was recently featured on Product Hunt.