15 of Helsinki’s hottest start-ups worth sussing out

14 Sep 2017

The Old Port, Helsinki. Image: Scanrail 1/Shutterstock

Finland’s capital Helsinki is a hotbed of tech innovation. We check out 15 promising Helsinki start-ups that are making waves internationally.

Helsinki, home to some of the world’s biggest mobile game companies such as Supercell (Clash of Clans) and Rovio (Angry Birds), features an eclectic tech scene that is epitomised across Finland in other burgeoning cities, too, such as nearby Espoo (home of Nokia) and Oulu, to name a few.

As well as tech, Helsinki has a world-famous Design District, and Finland is lauded across the world for having an innovative approach to education that puts its young students in pole position for learning.

Within Europe, the Nordic region garners a disproportionate amount of venture capital funding. According to Forbes, the Nordics attract 10pc of all start-up exits in the world.

Helsinki is home to at least 500 start-ups and the city’s own tech event, Slush, (30 November to 1 December) is already surpassing the Web Summit in terms of prestige. Next summer (30 to 31 May 2018), annual tech event Arctic 15 will bring together 450 start-ups, 300 investors and media from more than 60 countries to engage in quality networking.

Here are 15 Helsinki tech start-ups that caught our interest.

1. Singa

15 of Helsinki’s hottest start-ups worth sussing out

The Singa team. Image: Singa

Singa is vying to be the Spotify of karaoke. The company recently hit a high note by raising €1.75m in a funding round led by Initial Capital along with Tamares Holdings, Superhero Capital, Reaktor Ventures and Tekes. Singa caters for iOS, Android, web, Apple TV and Smart TV apps with more than 20,000 licensed songs. It also has a pro version for bars and other entertainment venues.

2. Lightneer

Founded by former Rovio alumni, Lightneer is on a mission to create the best science-learning game on the planet. The Big Bang Legends game has been created in cahoots with some fine minds at Oxford and CERN. Lightneer recently raised $5m in a funding round led by GSV Acceleration along with IPR.VC, Brighteye Ventures and Reach Capital.

3. Proximi.io

Proximi.io is a Helsinki start-up that has created a platform for building mobile indoor and outdoor positioning and geofencing solutions, which are used by 2,000 developers. Proximo.io recently raised funding from Butterfly Ventures and plans to expand its platform around Europe.

4. Sumoware

Image: Sumoware

Sumoware provides web-based tools for the design, customisation and personalisation of individual products. Customers and partners include Google, Rovio and Cajo Technologies. Its consumer market product Sumo Paint, which has more than 30m users worldwide, is an online image editor, photo editor and painting application that works in a browser.

5. Fuzu

Fuzu is a mobile-first platform for career development, recruitment and learning that is focused on serving emerging markets in Africa. So far, more than 1m people have used the platform to get job recommendations, learning and career guidance. Fuzu recently received €1.8m in funding from Finnfund.

6. Armada Interactive

Driven by art and the desire to push the limits of what’s possible with gaming on current and future devices, Armada Interactive is led by games industry veteran Samuli Syvähuoko. The start-up recently raised $3m in a funding round led by Intel Capital and involving Index Ventures, PROfounders Capital, Backed VC, Reaktor Ventures and Sisu Game Ventures.

7. MaaS Global

Focused on the future of travel, MaaS Global has developed the Whim app, whereby all of your transport and commuting needs – from trains and car rental, to taxis and buses – can be catered for with just one app, and with just one monthly fee. The platform is being trialled in Helsinki and plans are afoot for a trial in the UK. Founded by Sampo Hietanen and Kaj Pyyhtiä, MaaS Global received $16.7m in a seed funding round from investors, including the Toyota Motor Credit Corporation.

8. Next Games

Next Games is a free-to-play games developer that has designed a mobile game based on TV show The Walking Dead. The company, founded by Mikael Achren, Joakim Achren, Jaako Jumisko and Kalle Hiitola, has raised $16m in investment so far from investors that include Lionsgate, IDG Ventures and Lowercase Capital.

9. Claned

Utilising Finnish pedagogy and machine learning, Claned is a cloud-based learning platform that helps learners to study more efficiently and intuitively through digital learning. Claned has raised $4.2m in various funding rounds, including $1.5m in grant funding in March this year.

10. Blueprint Genetics

Blueprint Genetics provides genetic diagnostics of rare diseases based on next-generation sequencing technology. It does so by receiving DNA samples from doctors and hospitals. Blueprint Genetics recently raised $15.9m in a Series A round led by Creathor Venture and MedTech Innovation Partners.

11. Jolla

15 of Helsinki’s hottest start-ups worth sussing out

Image: Jolla

Led by ex-Nokia workers, Jolla is a glimpse of what could have been for Nokia. Dismayed by Nokia’s disastrous decision to get into bed with Microsoft, the start-up decided to build smartphones and tablet devices based on its own crowdsourced operating system called Sailfish OS. Jolla raised $12m in a Series C round last year.

12. Futurefly

Futurefly reimagines proven mobile app concepts with fun in mind, developing and nurturing them into successful businesses. Its Rawr Messenger product, launched in summer 2016, is an avatar-powered messaging app that reinvents the role of emojis and animation in communication.

13. Smartly.io

Creator of software power tools for optimising and automating Facebook and Instagram advertising at scale, Smartly.io works closely with the largest online advertisers, such as eBay, JustFab and Skyscanner. The company was founded by Kristo Ovaska and Tuomo Riekki.

14. The Curious AI Company

Founded by AI pioneer Harri Valpola, The Curious AI Company researches and develops unsupervised artificial intelligence. The tech mimics the human brain, and it is envisaged that it could be used in future applications, such as self-driving cars.

15. Wolt

15 of Helsinki’s hottest start-ups worth sussing out

Image: Wolt

Wolt is the Nordic rival to food delivery app Just Eat, and the company has expanded from Helsinki to Stockholm and Copenhagen in the past year. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Miki Kuusi, is also understood to have been a key figure in building the Slush tech conference in Helsinki. Investors in Wolt include Skype founder Niklas Zennström, EQT Ventures and Lifeline Ventures.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years