With Helsinki’s Slush having grown into a behemoth of a startup conference, Finland now has a reputation as a hub for high-tech startups and their financial backers. With great education and a pool of engineering skills still bubbling after closing of Nokia’s previous chapter in mobile, Finland produces a number of interesting tech startups as well.
We thought we’d take a look around and list some of the most interesting companies that we’d love to see succeed in the coming year.
Paptic raises the bar on materials by making packaging and bags less terrible than the current, ocean-polluting crop of plastic bags. We hope to see Paptic put Finnish paper knowhow to the test by producing bags strong enough to replace basic plastics. Chances are these guys will be taking over the world of retail with their 70% biodegradable hybrid material that can be recycled as cardboard.
2. MaaS Global / Whim
Imagine a future where travel and commutes just happen through a service with an app. Need bus tickets for a place you’re visiting? Sure. Need unlimited public transit and taxi access in your hometown? Done. Throw in car rentals? No problem, as long as you pay a monthly fee. That’s Whim from MaaS Global.
This new concept, developed at Aalto University, has reached a trial stage in Helsinki now and is set for a limited trial in Great Britain soon. The idea is to cover all kinds of needs for mobility, hence Mobility as a Service. That’s up to and including car ownership in suburban settings where public transit exists but may be far from perfect.
With the price of monthly plans ranging from zero/pay as you go for single use, to hundreds of Euros, the Whim is ambitious about offering value for money. But that shouldn’t be impossible, since one pretty certain global megatrend is that of urbanization in forms that leave little room for Henry Ford-style possession of cars as personal property.
Soilscout is a major example of how the internet of things has the potential to change all industrial production and logistics chains. No, this isn’t a coffee machine with an app, or a home plant pot that talks to Twitter. Soilscout helps optimize irrigation by making moisture, temperature and salinity sensors, which are buried underground and provide real time feedback and analysis.
If we’re going to find a way to be able to waste water on football fields and other fun things in the future, this might be it. Not to mention the potential agricultural significance of making the environment truly quantifiable.
4. Asmo Solutions
With battery technology being in the news recently with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fiasco, many of us have been asking ourselves just where the electronics industry is on the scale of pushing its luck with potentially combustible components. ASMO Solutions takes extreme measures to put our minds at ease with a special, high quality universal phone charger.
In addition to making sure no power is consumed when idle, the ASMO charger boasts extraordinary good build quality and design. We’re sure this is a niche product, but the niche is pretty huge. Taking extreme engineering measures to remove unknowns and reliability problems from the loop must have a practical use in settings where fire would be extremely undesirable.
Thingsee appears like a potential Lego of the internet of things. The company carries a line of durable wireless sensors that can be attached to any number of things and report back to the mothership. So far, the family includes capabilities for location, impact & acceleration, speed, temperature, humidity, air pressure and ambient light.
Use cases? Well we like this example from Thingsees website: If a cargo container is shaken, alert via SMS. The potential use for this is all over the map.
Being scared of the dark is a perfectly reasonable human instinct. Light is a sign of civilization, urbanization, not having wolves wander the streets and not tripping over while you go the bathroom at night.
Light makes us feel safe, especially when we’re little. That’s where Leeluu steps in.
So, how about plush toys that function as night lights to potentially save mommy and daddy from a few complaints of monsters under the bed? Leeluu comes with dimmable brightness, adjustable by tapping the creature on its back. We just love this idea.
How about AirBnb for spaces you can rent to host events? How about making a commercial space under your control generate more revenue, by becoming easily findable for people with the right criteria?
Well, that’s Venuu. It’s in use around Finland, and hopefully soon, all over the world.
Mobile phones are popular for games, so let’s use a game analogy to explain what Eximap does. Games are often built and monetized on ready made platforms, like the Unity 3D Engine, or the video ad network from the same company’s Helsinki office. Game engines have their characteristics and can be recognizable for game fans.
But what if you take an idea similar to a game engine and apply it to a field where there is an emerging need to quickly build apps, without reinventing the wheel all the time? Eximap’s AutoMopus takes this idea and runs wild with it in the automotive services sector.
After all, every new car is soon going to be partially controllable by an app. As this happens, everything car related without an app is going to look ancient. Yet, software is pretty expensive to develop.
The AutoMopus platform can access things such as vehicle register databases, info about service/gas stations and gas prices. Other capabilities include the magic of importing vehicle and customer information from customer data bases to target advertising, based on service history and car model.
So, in a few years, your phone might have a few apps built on industry-specific platforms like AutoMopus, much like the engines games already share.
Mobile game development is based on testing new ideas, trying to grow a user base quickly to try out ideas. However: app and ad platforms often take 1-2 months to release earned revenues, putting growth on hold when it’s vital to scale quickly.
Pollen removes this strain by allowing you quick, early access to your capital, which you can then transfer into ad spend. In short, you wont have to wait to start growing your app – genius!
To quote someone who’s made a lot of money in tech, software is indeed eating the world. That means more and more of our daily lives are controlled by computers and the code running on them. And we all have experienced quality problems with software, in one way or another.
Usetrace comes into play at a department in this sausage factory that relatively few people know about. That’s testing. Yes, believe it or not, professionally produced software is tested intensively.
Part of making testing efficient is automation, and Usetrace offers a system for simulating user interaction automatically. More specifically, they solve this problem in a way that that’s suitable for modern, “agile” methods of software development, where changes happen very frequently.
Be sure to check out the Usertrace’s magic sauce, and you might learn a little bit about how software is made.
Twenty years ago, video was clunky and expensive to record. Editing was even worse in terms of hardware. And then there was the small detail of having to be on a TV network in order to expand your audience beyond friends, family or art school.
Just ten years ago, video remained hard to distribute over the internet. That’s why Youtube was such a hit by making video publishing accessible to anyone.
These days, your smartphone might run social media apps that produce throwaway video for your friends or fans, at no cost. Even if you’re not into Snapchat, you’re likely to see loads of videos on Facebook alone.
So, with the commoditization of video comes the pressure for professional media companies to be even more creative and efficient in how to use their strengths to their advantage.
Professional media companies still carry some aces up their sleeves: huge media asset archives, sometimes spanning decades.
Enter the Valossa machine learning video engine. Valossa can help video providers gain a better understanding of their own libraries by recognizing objects and assigning keywords. Then add voice search, making streaming libraries more browsable. These tools save time and create new opportunities such as helping content editors dig up stuff from the archives when it becomes relevant.
Again, video is everywhere now. It’s redefining how people talk to each other and the ways attention is spent on social media. As we know, the Facebook app can feel a lot like daytime TV now.
Meaning: video is the new hot thing on everything from social media, customer newsletters and learning platforms. With this comes the demand for publishers and advertisers to efficiently make video ads.
However, video editing can be extremely time consuming and tedious. Few of us are even super good at video, and quite frankly, software for making videos can be less than a joy to use. We’re not even talking about having your laptop fans screaming all the time.
Vau makes the impossible possible by taking templates for personalized greetings, product ads tools for live events. Combine this with customer databases, product catalogs and pricing strategies and live video feeds. Magic happens and the right people receive fresh, relevant and personalized video at just the right time.
Collecting info on business processes used to require paper forms everywhere. With Poimapper’s platform, companies can build data collection experiences that are relevant for employees and potentially, customers.
With all the data collected in a sane fashion, Poimapper promises easy and instant analysis. Poimapper transforms ‘TPS reports’ into a few taps on a screen rather than something dreaded to do every week, in the best case, in clunky web forms on a PC.
Liid is another app that makes massive data collection into much less of a chore. Their mobile app can talk to existing CRM systems by logging customer calls. It also handles adding notes with text to speech and getting and mining treasure troves of contact info stored in photos of business cards.
Commerce is all about sales, so we’re glad to see Liid taking this profession and making the daily work routine more focused on getting those numbers up.
Literally all of us are constant consumers of all kinds of infrastructure, like roads and rails. That should make evident the value in having everyone from planners to builders be in touch with the same information. Historically, and even today, this tends not to be the case.
Infrakit takes on the existing idea of Building Information Modeling, the principle of making digital blueprints smarter with all kinds of data. The company boasts the capability to make information available to everyone involved with a project, in sync and with clear lines of communications.
The company says everyone will be doing this in the 2020s. So we don’t find it hard to see the competitive advantage of jumping on this trend ASAP.
Music is wonderful. It mends our souls. It can transform and hypnotize us, especially if we’re playing it ourselves.
Sadly, instruments, like the guitar, require skills that are nothing short of monstrously time consuming to learn. Especially in a saturated media and entertainment landscape that offers so many avenues of instant gratification.
So, Musopia hopes to put existing guitars into more frequent use. Their Fourchords app aims to help would-be guitarists by teaching simplified chords interactively with a rich library of songs, lyrics included.
Musopia even hopes to make the learning process an integral part of selling instruments, by offering branded versions of their guitar and ukulele software to instrument manufacturers. If this can help customers not give up on the instrument they’ve acquired, the world will know more music.
The only bad thing about Musopia we can think of: Fourchords might spawn hordes of dudes carrying guitars everywhere. That is, the type of person who plays Radiohead covers to anyone who will listen politely. Please don’t be that guy.
What’s better than a startup that’s already succeeding? Well, world peace maybe, but the brightest minds at renowned software consulting company Affecto created the next best thing. Namely, spin-off company Weave, under their already profitable and successful parent.
Weave promises to be the holy grail of software consulting: a lean, powerful team that can tackle new products with the latest technologies with the most agility. The Weave crowd is already battle tested in combining the latest, rapid development software technologies.
These new and shiny things include tools like containers, which already are in heavy use in their major projects, like Yle Areena. Areena is the online streaming platform of the Finnish national public service broadcaster.
As you’re reading this, Weave is busy developing product after product: business software and online services that actually look like 2017.
Did we miss any potential movers and shakers? Please let us know in the comments below.
Thomas Nybergh is a Digital Producer and writer for Ink Tank Media. Passionate about user-centred design and culture, he’s spent a decade working at the crossroads of technology and marketing. He can be found sharing his thoughts on both on Twitter
Title photo by Timo Newton-Syms.