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As industries are becoming increasingly digital, connected and consumerised, enterprise startups are on the rise. This was reflected at Slush 2015 in Finland, Northern Europe’s largest startup event, where thousands of business-focused startups attended.
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“The amount of Nordic enterprise software and B2B [business-to-business] startups has clearly grown,” said Andreas Saari, head of startups at Slush. “There are particularly more analytics focused companies, which use analytics for every function imaginable.”
From the wide array of enterprise and B2B startups at Slush 2015, Computer Weekly picked seven upcoming and rising Nordic startups using technology to make businesses work better.
The early stage contestants
At the centre of Slush is its annual pitching competition for 100 early-stage companies. This year the participants were selected by a jury of 40 investors from almost 1,000 startups, and from them four Nordic B2B startups caught our attention.
Helsinki-based Leadfeeder is one of the few enterprise software companies that pitched its way to the semi-finals at Slush. Leadfeeder turns B2B website visitors into sales leads by identifying which companies visit their site and exactly what they do there.
It is not a unique proposition, but what makes Leadfeeder interesting is its claim to be the only lead generation tool powered by Google Analytics. This makes it easy to implement (more than 53% of all websites use Google Analytics) and the tool can be integrated into existing customer relationship management (CRM) systems and other sources, such as LinkedIn, to provide actionable lead data.
It remains early days for the two-year-old service, but with 80% of its customers already coming from outside Finland it is off to a good start.
ReVibe Energy is a Swedish startup focusing on B2B hardware. It aims to eliminate the need for batteries and power cables in industrial environments by transforming vibrations into electricity.
ReVibe Energy’s portable devices (prototypes vary between a small cylinder and a smartphone-sized rectangle) can harvest vibrations in the nearby environment and use them to provide power for low current applications, such as sensor systems.
ReVibe Energy has great timing with the industrial internet of things (IoT) boosting the need for sensors everywhere. The startup claims its beats other energy harvesting technologies over the lifetime of the device and in the electric output it can produce in relation to its size.
ReVibe Energy’s products are currently being tested with early customers and with industrial partners such Saab Defence and Security behind it.
Valossa Labs has a very different B2B offering: artificial intelligence (AI) powered video search. The technology is a spin-off from Finland’s Oulu University and analyses and indexes video file contents using a combination of text and pattern recognition AI. This is used to power a voice-controlled search which makes it possible to describe the videos you are looking for, such us “non-violent movies with animals”.
As Valossa Lab’s search goes far deeper than metadata, it claims to also offer a new level of accuracy. Content providers and distributors are an obvious target group, but Valossa explained that the technology can also be used for autonomous insertion of relevant ads into video content. The company was officially founded in October 2015, but it is quickly gaining traction after winning a pitching competition in Silicon Valley and raising €600,000 in seed funding.
Companies are always looking for ways to improve productivity, which is why the last early-stage startup deserves a mention. Icelandic company Breakroom developed a virtual reality (VR) workspace that hit open beta in December 2015.
How it works is simple: A user puts on noise-cancelling headphones and a VR headset. After entering the VR world the user can choose their own work environment (created in collaboration with environmental psychologists), open displays and uses the world around them as their desktop.
“Right now there are three factors that dominate the wellbeing of employees in the physical office environment: The employee’s feeling of control over the environment, the employee’s feeling of privacy and distractions,” said Didrik Steinsson, CEO at Breakroom. “VR can give the user the ultimate control over these factors.”
The company, founded in June 2014, claims to offer a cost-effective way for companies to provide their employees with a private, quiet space to focus without distractions. It is a tempting proposition for anyone working in an open plan office.
The potential big growth companies
Slush 2015 listed the top 25 growth stage startups at the event. Below are our top picks of enterprise software companies to keep an eye on.
Helsinki-based Oppex closed a $2.3m funding round, which allows it to expand its global search engine for public tenders, just in time for Slush. Its online tool aggregates tenders from around the world and enables users to search and set alerts for interesting bidding competitions. The company is not without competitors.
“Our biggest differentiator is the amount of data we have. We collect the biggest amount of data, at the moment around 1.5 million public tenders per year,” said Ville Heinonen, CEO of Oppex.
Furthermore, all tenders are automatically translated into English for ease of use. This strategy seems to be working. Since the service was launched at Slush in 2014, Oppex has reported 20% month-to-month growth on companies using the service (which it describes as “tens of thousands”) and has customers in 150 countries.
Norwegian startup Xeneta is another company leveraging big data. It aggregates crowdsourced contracts in the ocean freight industry and transforms them into real-time price data. Anyone who ships containers can use the platform to see how their contracts compare to the wider market and make changes where necessary.
Xeneta is a rare startup in that it can claim to have no direct competitors – at least to its knowledge. Since the company was founded in 2012, it has raised $8m in funding and has around 600 corporate customers, primarily from the US, UK and the Nordics. Ocean freight is only the first step for the company, as it is aiming to go on to air, rail and road shipments.
Our last pick is another Finnish enterprise software company, TrademarkNow. Its cloud-based platform is used by enterprises, law firms and branding agencies for trademark search, monitoring and analysis.
An analysis tool assesses the risk of new names or brands in relation to existing trademarks, while its NameWatch tool helps enterprises detect any potential trademark infringements.
TrademarkNow takes on traditional trademark databases and law firm services by bringing automation into trademark management. It is easy to see the appeal of its claim that a full trademark search takes only 15 seconds when the more traditional route can take days.
Since closing a $3.5m funding round in May 2014, the company has opened an office in the US and grown its customer base by 575% to include companies such as Google, VMware and Hard Rock Cafe International.
Read more about the Nordic startup scene
- Finland’s Slush startup event is one of the biggest in the world and 2015 was its biggest ever.
- Startup support network Tech London Advocates is launching a sister organisation covering the Nordic and Baltic countries.
- Consumer-focused technology is just the tip of the iceberg in the Nordics, with some of the most exciting startups in the enterprise sector.
- Nordic bank is the latest finance firm to turn to startups for digital innovation.