Arctic15 boldly claimis to be “The most exciting startup launch event in Europe”, and exciting it certainly was. The event itself was actually a competition of 15 startups, max one year old that pitched their ideas to a jury. Roughly 100 startups applied to the competition alltogether. The pitching was done in sets of 5 and paced out through the day with great keynotes in between. In this post I’ll be going through the participants and keynotes and sharing some personal opinions on them. I’ll also include any and all related links I can find so get ready for a bit of a twitter barrage (word-of-mouth and exposure, you see).
Disclaimer: All opinions here are mine and mine alone.
Late August I stumbled upon a tweet about Arctic15 looking for volunteer workers to help out with the event. So being the broke-ass student, that I am, I saw a way into the event without having to cough up the 79 euros for the student ticket. A full price ticket cost more than 200 euros. Later it turns out, my school had offered to buy tickets for some 3rd year students in our school and only two had accepted, shame on you Haaga-Helians! Anyway being a volunteer I did have to do some ‘hard labour’ to earn my dues, but when they were sorting out the stuff that needed doing I volunteered for the mic-runners job. This meant I got to spend most of the event in the main hall and obviously got to see every keynote and pitch. So basically I was an attendee who spent half-an-hour in the morning at the reception desk and handed the mic to people with questions.
Keynotes and pitches breakdown:
The morning began with Antti Vilpponen (@vilpponen) hyperventilating over the lost keynote speaker Richard White(@rrwhite), who was scheduled to kickoff the event. After some delay the day got started with Microsoft’s Ruud de Jonge (@ruudj) instead giving a speech about what’s new with the most innovative IT and of course about the BizSpark- and WebSiteSpark-programs, Ruud being responsible for Microsoft’s startup-related stuff in Western Europe.
First up, the first five startups got up to make their pitches. The set started with Stagecraft’s presentation of their product Velvet sundown, a story driven MMORPG for girls and women. They advertised to have no grinding in the gameplay and the story breaking down into 1h sessions. The first slot must have been really nerve-wrecking, not to mention the technical issues with some video and the presentation. Luckily they managed to show off some great looking graphics to convince the crowd.
The Second presenter Conferize (@conferize) had a bit more of a professional feel, however their product didn’t exactly blow me away. Basically it’s a networking tool for confrences and events such as this.
The first round-up was followed by a German games-company Wooga’s Jens Begemann (@begemann) giving a speech about the very basic startup philosophies and Rebtel’s Patric Blixt giving a very business oriented speech about the big business being ripe for some serious disruption. He also made very funny remark about Microsoft+Skype resulting in Sky.net. Very basic stuff in both their keynotes, but they were very inspirational still.
The afternoon pitches were kicked off by Mancx (@MancxAndMore), who turned out to be the winning company later in the day. They pitched a patent-pending service making it possible to purchase knowledge from other users of the service. The service included some very ingenious features like the negotiation for the price. The economics and trustworthiness of the service left me a bit puzzled but I suppose it’s up to the users to vote with their wallets then.
Streamtainment (@streamtainment) offered some sort of IPTV-solution and streamed applications, demoing the guy playing quake in the cloud through the service. A very difficult market with the OEM’s and other big players competing over the same turf.
Kiosked (@Kiosked) was offering means and tools to monetize content like blogs and stuff. They had an interesting and a lucrative target audience but their actual solution did not convince me thoroughly.
Finishing the second set was the other audience favourite Graduateland (@Graduatelandcom), an employment service connecting the student, the university and employers looking for fresh meat to the grinder. Nice, not very disruptive but nice.
Before the last batch of startups there was a keynote by Felix Petersen, seemed more like a pitch though. He talked about his service Amen, which was a bit like twitter-kinda thingy. There you pretty much shout out opinions and other people vote yay or nay.
The first of the final five was meetin.gs (@meetin_gs) and as the name hints, they offer a solution for no-password easy to set up online meetings. Product was pretty neato, but the presentation needs some serious work.
Holvi (@HolviCom) offers a collective payment and banking solution with parterships in all major Finnish banks and being regulated by the Finnish financial supervisory authority it’s essentially a small bank for fundraising and such. This was really my personal favourite, with grat possibilities in further development.
Achoo presented a service to create a real-life portfolio for your personal achievements. Seemed to be pretty early stage in development and facing a lot of challenges before being viable for monetizing.
Mepin came forth with a solution to manage passwords. Neat – however not mind-blowing.
Following the last pitches it was Steve Huffman’s turn. Steve was the co-founder of Reddit and more lately Hipmunk (@thehipmunk) –no pain flight and hotel finder. He told a really great story about perseverance and hard work paying off. Included was again some very basic stuff about finding good and trustworthy co-founders and not expecting to get ridiculously rich over night.
At the very end of the event Richard White (@rrwhite), founder and CEO of Uservoice had sprung up under some rock and breezed through his 30 min set in something like 15 minutes. It was really hectic but he did make some good remarks offering a counterbalance to Huffman’s set. It would have worked great if he had made his points at the start of the day, but hey, I guess you shouldn’t plan too definitely with these entrepreneurial guys. No business plan survives the first contact with the customer – or something such.
To summarize what I walked away with after the event; the keynotes had some hits and misses, but offered a very broad view of the personalities behind these startups. There was a certain very similar vibe to all the people who had reached that position and situation in their careers. Experience without regard to age and enthusiasm without regard to their product was certainly a common feature in all of them. There is nothing more motivational than being around truly inspiring people and hearing what they have to say, because it seems very much like they want you to make it too.
Jesse (@JesseSanttila) is an IT student at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences. He loves technology, gadgets, design, punk rock and videogames. He has been lately very excited about the upcoming Finnish startup-scene and brilliant ideas people come up with.