The Finns Are Coming, and They Mean Business
It’s no surprise that there are a wealth of companies across the globe that flock to Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, with the intent to gain access to the entertainment space or a timely celebrity endorsement. However, it wasn't until recently that I attended an event in L.A., the Nordic Summit by BMA Securities, that I realized the depth of international talent coming from one specific Nordic country -- Finland.
It all started when two Finland natives, Janne Kouri, who lives in L.A. and is responsible for business development at BMA Securities, and Jarno Vanto, a New Yorker and partner at the Finland-based law firm Borenius, saw the high-quality companies that started in Finland and were now preparing to make their way to the U.S.
"There are a large number of incredibly talented and innovative startups in Finland that have functional platforms, many of which have gained substantial momentum or are even generating revenue,” Kouri says.
Apparently this means that it’s time to head to L.A. in an attempt to gain some exposure -- hence the Nordic Summit, held at the Consul General of Finland’s residence. There were a number of companies that stood out from the crowd, either due to their enormous amounts of international traction and/or highly innovative models. Let’s take a look at a few.
This Finland-based company provides the ability for mobile users to try their hands in the world of online gambling. However, it’s really not gambling, as there is no actual money exchanged between players. Instead, it has built an enormous “social casino network for mobile,” where users can partake in a variety of games and earn points as they play. If users run out, they can earn points by waiting for a specified duration of time, watch an advertisement or purchase additional points.
How the ads and content are being delivered to the consumer is where the innovation takes shape, which is evident by the fact that the company is generating multiple millions of dollars in revenue within its first year of operations and boasts of more than 1 million monthly users worldwide -- both of which are impressive figures for a mobile app company that hasn’t yet taken on outside investment.
There is a rather serious problem amongst emerging markets, reliable Internet connectivity, which has far reaching implications. There is one area, however, that is particularly troubled by the lack of reliable Internet, which presents a whole series of additional problems -- retail sales.
Imagine living in Nigeria, where the Internet infrastructure is so unreliable that you must pay for everything in cash because the stores can’t effectively process your credit or debit cards. The stores then have huge amounts of cash on hand that they can’t deposit until the following day due to the banks closing at normal banking hours, so they must either trust that nobody “visits” their store in the middle of the night or carry the cash home, both of which are terrible options.
Enter Irofit, a Finland-based company that has figured out how to seamlessly process mobile point-of-sale transactions with the use of a handheld card reader and without the need for Internet. If you’re in an area that allows you to make or receive calls, it just works. Initially targeting Nigeria then expanding throughout Africa, Irofit is in the unique position to innovate within an enormous market, at a level that few are paying attention to.
Picture this: You’re late for a party and need to get a gift from a specific store, but you aren’t exactly sure where the store is once you get inside the mall. You can’t use your fancy smartphone because GPS doesn’t work indoors.
That’s where IndoorAtlas comes in. The company has figured out how to use the earth’s magnetic field and a highly complex indoor magnetic positioning system -- which is downloaded to that fancy smartphone of yours -- that will not only guide you to the store, but also eventually show you to the aisle and location of the actual product you’re in search of -- accurate to within six feet. Now that’s awesome.
Know of any other Finland-based companies? Tell us about them in the comments section below.
Adam Callinan is a founder at BottleKeeper, the fast-paced and sarcasm-infused solution to the warm beer and broken bottle epidemics that have plagued the world for centuries. Callinan is also a founding partner at Beachwood Ventures, a Los Angeles-based early-stage and non-traditional venture-capital firm at the intersection of technology and entertainment. As an entrepreneur, Callinan has spent over a decade building small businesses in and around technology, medical devices and consumer products, which most recently includes an exit in 2013. Callinan lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife Katie.