On our way to Slush

The Nordic startup scene is hotter and more exciting than ever! Silicon Valley is of course tough to beat, but Stockholm has become the second most prolific tech hub in the world on a per capita basis, much thanks to success stories like Spotify, Skype, Klarna, King and Mojang. According to research conducted by Atomico, Stockholm has 6.3 billion-dollar companies per million people (compared with Sillicon Valley who has 6.9). The Finnish startup event Slush brought together over 14 000 attendees, 700 investors and 1 400 startups last year and is now one of the leading events of its kind in the world. The Nordics is also becoming more and more a technology leader in the world. The success rubs off and through recent client engagements we have seen the importance and impact that startups could and do have on the ICT industry as a whole. Not only do startups have an impact, they are essential for continued growth.

To support this development, we launched a Business Acceleration program called Upstream last year. With experience from launching our own startup, and fostering several others, we know the value of getting advice early on from people with experience in your target market or industry, without draining your precious cash, and that’s exactly what the Upstream program is all about. This year we have met with leading VC/PE players, incubators and startups. We have received a lot of positive feedback, while at the same time we have learned that engaging with startups and identifying the most business critical scopes for the program has been quite a time consuming exercise, yet a very exciting one! We have come to realize (although it ought to be obvious…) that our experience-turned-to-advice has been very valuable to the companies in the Upstream program, both when it comes to strategy and idea/product tuning, as well as the potential exposure to the contacts we have in the industry.

An area that has been very interesting to follow lately is fintech, in other words: companies that use software to provide financial services. On one hand, you have Klarna, a 10-year-old Stockholm-based company that provides payment services for online storefronts. Their idea is to increase conversion rather and to date, 35 million consumers have used Klarna across the sites of 50,000 merchants. On the other, you have mobile payments; A long-lived dream that is finally gaining some momentum after Apple released their version, ApplePay. Others followed swiftly, and GooglePay, AndroidPay and SamsungPay have now all started rolling out their services. Another interesting company in this mix is Swish that lets you securely transfer money between individuals using a mobile app, and which was actually started as a collaboration between the six major Swedish banks (quite far from what one would call ‘startups’). In this hyper competitive market, Scrooge, a Finnish startup who’s part of the Upstream program, has managed to find their niche. They have created an app that lets you keep track of costs and settle debts between friends. It remembers who paid for what, does the fair splitting and reminds you to pay back the money you owe. Something we all do anyway, but now there’s an App for that! (downloadable on either AppStore or Google play).

The variation of startups that have been in touch with or part of the Upstream program has been amazingly broad. Besides Scrooge, we’re working with Big Data company Xoanon Analytics, and they’re bridging the gap between big data logic and the power of advanced market research to create rich customer data on an individual level. Through a comprehensive set of models, tools and applied algorithms, Xoanon lets organizations monitor end user behavior, consumption patterns, inertia, drivers and needs – in order to innovate operations, products and communications. Another company that we’re working with is Ukkoverkot, a Finnish startup that has launched a data-only LTE network in the 450 MHz band (quite unusual for LTE!). The relatively low frequency of 450 MHz is perfectly suited to vast low densely populated areas where base stations are few and far apart, and with 99.9% coverage they have gained clients such as VR (Finnish national railway) and Erillisverkot (State Security Network). For each of these (and other) clients, Northstream has found an area and a scope of support where our strengths in telecoms, ICT and startup arena come in useful and have been proven a value-add to the companies in the Upstream program.

Last year we made our debut on the Slush scene. We had the opportunity to meet with very interesting startups, some of which have also been a part of our Upstream project, and some that missed out(!). We are excited to once again attend Slush and find new partners and startups suitable for the Upstream program. If you plan to attend Slush and want to meet up, please reach out! The Northstream team on site will be Bengt, Joonas, Lei and myself, and we would be excited to discuss your ideas and how we can possibly help you taking your startup to the next level.

/Caroline

Caroline is Marketing Manager at Northstream

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