Taking too long? Close loading screen.
Connect with us

Tech

Helsinki rides the Slush wave toward a booming startup future

Published

on

In September 2020, Helsinki’s City Council approved plans for an expansion of the existing “Maria 01 Campus,” a former downtown hospital complex. Even before it starts spreading its acreage, the facility is already home to 120 startups and 12 venture capital funds. The campus is owned by the biggest startup conference in the Nordics, Slush, the City of Helsinki and Helsinki Enterprise Agency and is slated to become one of the largest, if not — possibly — the largest tech startup campus in Europe, at 70,000 square meters (or 75,3473 square feet) by 2023.

The scale of the project speaks to the confidence and ambition of the Helsinki startup ecosystem, which has grown immeasurably over the last 10-15 years.

The fact that Slush, a conference, is involved is no accident. The event is a nonprofit created by the university. This has enabled it to scale to one of Europe’s largest tech events (pre-COVID) at over 20,000 attendees. Its success has also led to traditionally conservative Finns embracing entrepreneurship. The entire city gets involved, and thousands of university students volunteer for the good of the city and the ecosystem. The collegiate nature of the Slush experience has reflected how Helsinki has grabbed the opportunities of tech with both hands.

Born of Aalto University and its student society for entrepreneurship, AaltoES, Slush originally started as a tech meetup. Indeed, I went to some of the first ones. But with the 2010’s success of local startup Rovio, creator of Angry Birds, as well as Supercell, creator of Clash of Clans, the event took off. It helped that Peter Vesterbacka (previously a pioneer at HP Bazaar Labs) was a tireless promoter of Slush and egged it on from being a meetup into a full-blown conference that could attract the biggest names in tech.

Slush’s ability to attract VCs to a Northern European country in the middle of winter was impressive. The city rolled out the red carpet. That meant inbound VC exploded. According to the Finnish Venture Capital Association (FVCA), VC investment into Finland grew almost five times to €188 million between 2014 and 2018. Finland is now a European leader in terms of venture capital (says the FVCA) as a percentage of GDP, and foreign VC investments grew by 58% between 2017-18.

VC has grown leaps and bounds in the city itself. Crunchbase lists 54 venture funds of various guises in Helsinki. They include Conor Venture Partners, Inventure, VNT Management, Icebreaker.vc, Superhero Capital, Evli Growth Partners, OpenOcean, Loudspring, Norsepower Oy, Tesi, NordicNinja VC and Maki.vc.

Slush has even seen ex-employees go on to found big startups. Food delivery startup Wolt, co-founded by Miki Kuusi an early CEO of Slush, has raised $160 million. Other big startup companies from Helsinki’s ecosystem include Smartly, Singa, Giosg, ZenRobotics and Blok. And let’s not forget it produced MySQL and CRF Health back in the day. In 2018, Small Giant Games, was acquired by Zynga in a deal worth up to $700 million.

Startup Genome marks out Helsinki as one of the top global ecosystems. For 2020, it valued the Helsinki startup ecosystem at $5.8 billion, with total early-stage funding of $511 million, higher than the global average for emerging ecosystems.

Helsinki has around 250 gaming enterprises and 30 of them exceed $1 million in annual sales. In 2017 Finland was the first EU country to publish a national AI strategy and the University of Helsinki created a free AI education program that saw approximately 90,000 people from 80 different countries enroll in the first four months.

Over the whole country, nearly 300,000 Finns work in tech, an enormous amount when you consider the population of Helsinki is 1.3 million.

According to analysts Tracxn top startups include:

  • Canatu (transparent conductive films and touch sensors using carbon nanomaterial): Raised $74 million.
  • Kiosked (smart native advertising technology): Raised $64 million.
  • ICEYE (developer of SAR microsatellite for earth observation applications): Raised $152 million.
  • Varjo (provider of head-mounted display with resolution matching a human eye): Raised $100 million.

To learn more about Sweden’s startup ecosystem, we spoke to these investors:

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
We are a generalist but are keen on deep tech and brand-driven companies both in B2C and B2B. We have been tracking closely new materials-based innovations, as well as breakthrough innovations in quantum computing. Breakthroughs happen also elsewhere and [we] have invested in B2B SaaS as well as one cloud-native massive multiplayer game company.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
One the latest investments is in a Swedish company called Carbon Cloud. They make it easy to discover your climate footprint and show it to the world — they can be found, for example, on the side of Oatly’s packaging. Carbon dioxide impact of consumer goods should be as visible as the nutrition values in food.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Femtech. There’s still quite little competition, but tremendous amount of work to do. Our team is keen to see more solutions on reproductive health, but also going beyond to solutions e.g., in syncing female’s personal cycle with optimal nutrition or training.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
The team is always in the center and we are looking for entrepreneurs that are rewriting the future in global markets.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Free-to-play games is a tough and competitive market. There will likely be new winners, but also even greater number of companies that don’t make it compared to many other industries.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
We have a global mandate, but the Nordics is our home and where we have done most of our investments.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
There are several, but the first on the top of mind is sustainability and new materials. Spinnova is a great example providing the textile industry with the most sustainable fibre in the world, produced with minimal harm to the environment, at a reasonable cost. With the stretch and strength qualities of cotton and the insulation of lamb’s wool, it can suit apparel, footwear, accessories, [and] home textiles to name a few applications. I’m also looking forward to seeing a great ecosystem and several startups being built around quantum computing. There are already a number of promising quantum technology companies, such as the Finnish IQM that builds world-class quantum computers and Bluefors that specialize in cryogen-free dilution refrigerator systems for quantum computing.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
There is strong supporting ecosystem in Finland for startups, strong engineering history and great culture of getting things done.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
The beauty of the startup ecosystem is that is built on innovation. We will most likely see more distributed organizations in the future, but I believe the major hubs will maintain their attractiveness in the future as well.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Travel and hospitality has naturally taken a big hit. It will take time for the industry to fully recover and I would expect innovations in the domain in the future, whether it is in virtual travel or creating confidence in worry-free travel in the future.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Extending the runway has been a general rule for many and making the company stronger and more competitive when things start picking up again.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Customer support agents have been strained during the pandemic. Our portfolio company Ultimate.ai has been well-positioned to scale the customer support with their virtual agents while maintaining or even improving customer experience. I’ve been super happy to see them grow and expand rapidly.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.

Source

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tech

How VR is used by psychologists to profile your personality

Published

on

Virtual reality (VR) has the power to take us out of our surroundings and transport us to far-off lands. From a quick round of golf, to fighting monsters or going for a skydive, all of this can be achieved from the comfort of your home.

But it’s not just gamers who love VR and see its potential. VR is used a lot in psychology research to investigate areas such as social anxiety, moral decision-making and emotional responses. And in our new research we used VR to explore how people respond emotionally to a potential threat.

We knew from earlier work that being high up in VR provokes strong feelings of fear and anxiety. So we asked participants to walk across a grid of ice blocks suspended 200 meters above a snowy alpine valley.

[Read: What audience intelligence data tells us about the 2020 US presidential election]

We found that as we increased the precariousness of the ice block path, participants’ behavior became more cautious and considered – as you would expect. But we also found that how people behave in virtual reality can provide clear evidence of their personality. In that we were able to pinpoint participants with a certain personality trait based on the way they behaved in the VR scenario.

While this may be an interesting finding, it obviously raises concerns in terms of people’s data. As technology companies could profile people’s personality via their VR interactions and then use this information to target advertising, for example. And this clearly raises concerns about how data collected through VR platforms can be used.

Virtual fall

As part of our study, we used head-mounted VR displays and handheld controllers, but we also attached sensors to people’s feet. These sensors allowed participants to test out a block before stepping onto it with both feet.

As participants made their way across the ice, some blocks would crack and change colour when participants stepped onto them with one foot or both feet. As the experiment progressed, the number of crack blocks increased.

[embedded content]

We also included a few fall blocks. These treacherous blocks were identical to crack blocks until activated with both feet, when they shattered and participants experienced a short but uncomfortable virtual fall.

We found that as we increased the number of crack and fall blocks, participants’ behavior became more cautious and considered. We saw a lot more testing with one foot to identify and avoid the cracks and more time spent considering the next move.

But this tendency towards risk-averse behavior was more pronounced for participants with a higher level of a personality trait called neuroticism. People with high neuroticism are more sensitive to negative stimuli and potential threat.

Personality and privacy

We had participants complete a personality scale before performing the study. We specifically looked at neuroticism, as this measures the extent to which each person is likely to experience negative emotions such as anxiety and fear. And we found that participants with higher levels of neuroticism could be identified in our sample based on their behavior. These people did more testing with one foot and spent longer standing on “safe” solid blocks when the threat was high.

Neuroticism is one of the five major personality traits most commonly used to profile people. These traits are normally assessed by a self-report questionnaire, but can also be assessed based on behavior – as demonstrated in our experiment.

Our findings show how users of VR could have their personality profiled in a virtual world. This approach, where private traits are predicted based on implicit monitoring of digital behavior, was demonstrated with a dataset derived from Facebook likes back in 2013. This paved the way for controversial commercial applications and the Cambridge Analytica scandal – when psychological profiles of users were allegedly harvested and sold to political campaigns. And our work demonstrates how the same approach could be applied to users of commercial VR headsets, which raises major concerns for people’s privacy.

Users should know if their data is being tracked, whether historical records are kept, whether data can be traced to individual accounts, along with what the data is used for and who it can be shared with. After all, we wouldn’t settle for anything less if such a comprehensive level of surveillance could be achieved in the real world.The Conversation


This article is republished from The Conversation by Stephen Fairclough, Professor of Psychophysiology in the School of Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Source

Continue Reading

Tech

Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee dies at 78

Published

on

Samsung Electronics has announced the death of its chairman, Lee Kun-hee. The company says he died on October 25th with family including his son, vice-chairman Lee Jae-yong, at his side. He was 78.

A cause of death was not given, but Lee had been incapacitated for many years after suffering a heart attack in 2014, causing him to withdraw from public life. Jae-yong, also known as Jay Y. Lee, has been widely assumed to take over upon his father’s passing and has been viewed as the de facto leader in recent years.

Lee Kun-hee was a controversial figure who played a huge part in pushing Samsung from a cheap TV and appliances maker to one of the most powerful technology brands in the world. He became the richest man in South Korea, with the Samsung group contributing around a fifth of the country’s GDP. In its statement, Samsung says that Lee’s declaration of “new management” in 1993 was “the motivating driver of the company’s vision to deliver the best technology to help advance global society.”

Lee also often found himself in legal trouble. He was convicted of bribing President Roh Tae-woo through a slush fund in 1995, and of tax evasion and embezzlement in 2008, but was pardoned twice. The second pardon came in 2009 and was made “so that Lee could take back his place at the International Olympic Committee and form a better situation for the 2018 Olympics to take place in Pyongchang,” South Korea’s justice minister said at the time.

Lee’s passing will reignite inevitable speculation over the succession process. While Lee Jae-yong has long been groomed to become chairman, he’s had legal issues of his own since his father’s incapacitation, spending almost a year in jail for his role in the corruption scandal that brought down former South Korean president Park Geun-hye. South Korean law also means that anyone assuming Lee’s assets will face paying several billion dollars in inheritance tax, which might force them to reduce their stake in the company.

Source

Continue Reading

Tech

Samsung chairman dies at age 78

Published

on

Lee Kun-hee, the long-time chairman of Samsung Group who transformed the conglomerate into one of the world’s largest business empires, died today at the age of 78, according to reports from South Korean leading news agency Yonhap.

The story of Samsung is deeply intertwined with the history of its home country, which is sometimes dubbed “The Republic of Samsung.” Lee, the son of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chul, came to power in the late 1980s just as South Korea transitioned from dictatorship to democracy with the political handover from military strongman Chun Doo-hwan to Roh Tae-woo. Under his management, Samsung spearheaded initiatives across a number of areas in electronics, including semiconductors, memory chips, displays, and other components that are the backbone of today’s digital devices.

Lee navigated the challenging economic troubles of the 1990s, including the 1998 Asian financial crisis, which saw a near collapse of the economies of South Korea and several other so-called Asian Tigers, as well as the Dot-Com bubble, which saw the collapse of internet stocks globally.

Coming out of those challenging years, Lee invested in and is probably most famous today for building up the conglomerate’s Galaxy consumer smartphone line, which evolved Samsung from an industrial powerhouse to a worldwide consumer brand. Samsung Electronics, which is just one of a spider web of Samsung companies, is today worth approximately $350 billion, making it among the most valuable companies in the world.

While his business acumen and strategic insights handling Samsung were lauded, he faced troubles in recent years. He was convicted of tax evasion in the late 2000s, but was ultimately pardoned by the country’s then president Lee Myung-bak (no relation).

Samsung has also been under fire from groups including Elliott Management over chairman Lee’s attempts to secure the financial future of Samsung for his son, Lee Jae-yong, who took over effective leadership of the conglomerate following the elder Lee’s heart attack in 2014. Lee Jae-yong has suffered his own run-ins with the law, having been found guilty of bribery and sentenced to five years in prison, which was ultimately suspended by a judge.

After his heart attack, Lee Kun-hee remained hospitalized in stable condition according to Yonhap. Rumors of his condition have percolated in the six years since.

According to Bloomberg, Lee leaves behind roughly $20 billion in wealth, and he is the wealthiest South Korean citizen. He is survived by his wife as well as four children.

Source

Continue Reading

Trending