Scandinavia has given rise to some giant startups. Despite a relative lack of VC funding compared to places like Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs in countries like Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark have developed companies that have changed the world.
You probably don’t realise that some of the world’s biggest video games, streaming sites, and hardware manufacturers hail from the cold of Scandinavia – but they do.
Yoogaia is one of Finland's newest and most interesting startups. Founded in October 2014, CEO Mikko Petaja has a small team of four people, but has clearly found a niche in an increasingly popular pastime. Yoga is huge, and he's made it accessible and cheaper online. It brings live instruction to people anywhere in the world by conducting classes over web cam. Yoogaia has been given $US630,000 in seed funding to launch the first online, interactive yoga company.
Bungalo is an Icelandic accommodation service that focuses on providing cottages through local families who can help visitors explore the area and culture. It offers a more personal B&B-style experience. It was founded in 2010 and last year expanded to launch in the Canadian market. CEO Haukur Gudjonsson leads a team of seven staff.
Blendin, founded in 2013, secured $US100,000 of seed funding in April 2014. It's a new social networking app from Iceland that aims to connects friends who are going out. It pools together information for popular night spots and connects friendship groups all together so that everyone knows the evening plans instead of having to call or message people on WhatsApp, for example. It was nominated for the Nordic Startup Awards last year.
Founded in 2009, Norway's Stay.com is a tool for building personalised itineraries and guidebooks for holidays.
Users can put together their own map and plans and then access them on their mobile -- or make use of the thousands of public itineraries already created by the community. It is not known how much funding Stay has taken to date.
Cokonnect was founded in 2012 in Iceland and is describes itself as a real-time, cloud-based tally counter. It's a clicker counter, guest list and footfall analysis monitor for bars, nightclubs, and other venues. Cokonnect uses Google Analytics, and means that venues don't have to resort to paper guest lists or count entry numbers by hand. It received a $US115,000 grant in December 2013 and before that, $US100,000 from an angel investor.
It helps banks and finance companies to compile raw data and information. Its aim is to help them improve online and mobile customer experience, as well as ads and marketing.
Norway has a thriving Education technology scene -- more than 40 million people worldwide use Norwegian EdTech products, according to Arctic Startup.
One particularly prominent Norwegian education tech startup is Kahoot!, an in-class tool that lets users create games and quizzes. Students can compete to answer them using tablets and smartphones. In October 2014, it announced it was adding 900,000 new unique players a week.
With Danish startup Issuu, anyone can curate and publish their own online newspapers and magazines.
Since its 2007 launch, its grown to have more than 85 million monthly readers, and has worked with Vice and the New York Times. It's raised a total of $US21.5 million in VC funding.
iZettle is a Swedish company making waves throughout Europe and in the US. It produces a mobile app and card reader that allows businesses to accept payments on their phone and tablet, just like Square does in the US. But one thing that iZettle does different is supporting chip and pin - an extra security measure that hasn't been rolled out in the US yet.
iZettle has bought in investment from some well-respected VC firms. Its most recent round of funding came in May 2014 and saw it raise $US55.5 million.
'Beacons' are, their proponents say, the future of advertising -- and Norwegian startup Unacast is one of the most exciting companies in the space. Beacons mean that users with a retailers' app on their phone receive notifications as they move around a store: With Unacast, this data is then transferred online, so shoppers may see ads for products they were looking at weeks down the line.
The team behind Unacast were also responsible for Aspiro -- Norway's incredibly successful music streaming app. BI Intelligence forecasts there will be 4.5 million beacons active in the US by 2018.
Orphazyme may not be one of Denmark's most recognisable startups -- but it's definitely one of its most exciting.
The 6-year old biotech startup develops innovative treatments for life-threatening genetic disorders, and is making serious cash in the process. In January of this year it pulled in a $US24 million Series B funding round, on top of a previous 2011 Series A round ($US20 million).
As TechCrunch notes, the fact that sea freight sees '300 million transactions per-year and over $US150 billion in turnover' makes it a 'great candidate for disruption.' And that's exactly what Xeneta is trying to do
It's a sign of the Norwegian economy's focus on heavy-industry that one of their most exciting tech startups isn't a social network or a dating app, but a price comparison tool for sea freight.
In 2013, Veneta raised a $US1.6 million seed round to fund operations. It now has users on six continents.
Vivino wants to make sure you 'never pick another bad wine.' The mobile app aims to achieve this by building a huge user-submitted database of wines, offering reviews, average prices and ratings for almost 6,000,000 wines.
It was launched in 2010 in Copenhagen by Heini Zachariassen and Theis Søndergaard; today, the company has 80 employees not just in Denmark but also in San Francisco, Ukraine and India. In July 2013 it raised $US10.3 million in VC funding.
Cabforce, from Finland, has just been boosted by a $US1.7 million round of funding and is 'on a mission to make the door-to-door travel experience agony free,' it explains. The startup offers fixed price quotes for taxi and private hire services across Europe. Don't be fooled, though -- it's not Finnish Uber. Instead, it allows people to book taxis in other countries ahead of their trip aboard through an online, secure payment system.
Winner of CES's Best Startup award in 2014, Denmark's Airtame is a crowdfunded streaming dongle that lets you easily and wirelessly broadcast from your computer to any screen or projector with a HDMI port. It launched on Indiegogo asking for $US160,000, but breezed past the target, closing with more than $US1.5 million in January 2014.
It hasn't been clear sailing: Backers responded angrily after the device failed to ship when planned back in October 2014. Investors poured another $US1.4 million into the startup earlier this month, however, and 3,000 of the 15,000 Indiegogo orders have been shipped, according to a TechCrunch report. The company now has 17 full-time employees.
Danish startup Fitbay is a fashion-driven social network that aims to 'find you clothes that fit.' It does this by matching you with other people that are your body type. You can see what they're wearing and follow people that match you, and grow your own following in turn.
Founded by 6'2' Copenhagenite Christian Wylonis in 2014, it has tens of thousands of users and raised $US2 million in VC funding in June 2014, Fortune reported at the time. It also has an office in New York.
Iceland's CCP Games is probably most famous for Eve Online, a multiplayer role playing game. CCP Games was founded way back in 1997 but is notable because it's still going strong. It creates interactive, multiplayer games that are, it says, 'virtual realities.' The startup's most recent funding was for $US20 million in August 2012 and it has around 500 employees.
Finland's Rovio Entertainment shot to fame after creating one of the most popular mobile games of all time, Angry Birds. If you haven't heard of it, it's the number one downloaded app of all time, according to CrunchBase. Founded in 2003 and led by Thomas Gronholm, the company has received more than $US76 million in two rounds of funding since conception, and employs about 700 people around the world. It has revenues of about €156 million per year.
Norway has all but solved the problem of music piracy. In 2009, 80% of Norwegians under 30 admitted to illegally pirating music; in 2014, that plummeted to just 4%. This is in large part down to the success of music streaming platforms.
The most successful of Norway's streaming companies is WiMP (also known as Tidal), which is developed by Aspiro. Aspiro's success hasn't gone unnoticed: in January, it was acquired by rapper Jay Z for $US56 million.
Swedish company King is the digital studio behind some of the world's biggest casual video games. Chances are you're aware of Candy Crush, King's biggest hit. But the company isn't stopping with just one hit game. It has a vast portfolio of apps and games - and it isn't showing the growing pains that plagued Zynga, the other well-known casual games giant.
CEO Riccardo Zacconi has been in charge of King since starting the company back in 2003. He's seen King grow from a small startup to an international games giant. King's March 2014 IPO saw stock fall initially, but it's been performing well since. The company booked $US2.3 billion in 2014 revenue.
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