Wearing a "media" badge is a blessing and a curse at a conference. On the one hand, it means you get access to a quiet space to relax, escape, arrangea and consolidate your notes, hold interviews etc. But on the other, it means you cannot take more than twenty paces wihout a budding entrepreneur stepping in front of you to tell you all about their "awesome crazy new iPhone game man!"
In amongst these sorts of ideas were some really standout companies. I can't possibly mention all the startups I found interesting, so here's the ones that most stayed in my mind:
Winner of the Best Social Entreprenuers at the Nordic Startup Awards. I must confess I hadn't heard about this company until I was pitched by one of the team at the awards, moments before they won! I was really impressed with not just the concept, but the execution. It's easy to come up with ideas in the social entrepreneurship space but turning them into reality is a whole other story.
Be My Eyes is an app that connects blind people with volunteer helpers from around the world via live video chat. For example, if a blind person is struggling to read instructions on a particualr gadget or is concerned about a reading on a meter, they can use the app to get instant reassurance.
It's perhaps unsurprising to hear the founder himself is visually impaired. He presented the idea at a Danish startup event in 2012 and quickly assembled a team of people willing to help. The app only launched at the beginning of 2015, but already boasts hundreds of visually impaired users and thousands of sighted volunteers.
This is a very young Finnish startup that reminds me very much of what I see here in Trondheim. CAP was created by some PhD candidates from the University of Jyväskylä and is very much founded in hardcore science and maths.
The premise of the system is simple - it spots inconsistencies in data, but not the inconsistencies you might expect. "It's designed to detect the unknown unknowns," co-founder and CEO Tuomo Sipola told me.
What I love about this is the potential. I saw a teriffic tool for fraud detection in the financial sector, although the CAP team is focusing on e-billing for now.
VibeCatch provides companies with an easy way to poll their employees on a regular basis. It's designed to give senior management a snapshot of job satisfaction.
Lately, I've been doing a lot of writing work about employee engagement surveys for large companies. These tend to be held annually and the results take time to process and understand. By polling employees once a month with one simple question, negative trends can be spotted and dealt with much earlier. VibeCatch is a spin-off from the consulting company Rakettitiede who developed it for their own internal use, then realised the potential wider interest.
As the world accelerates towards a cloud-hosted future, those with security concerns are being left behind. In steps Varaani with their personal cloud solution. The Varaani Cloud Hub securely stores and automatically backs up all your content and allows it to be accessed from any device.
CEO Kimmo Lahdensivu told me they are not trying to compete with Google Drive and Apple's iCloud:
"Although everyone is talking about storing data in the cloud, when you get into the details it's only around 10% of our personal data that's in the cloud right now. There are solutions similar to what we're doing but they are very technical and targeted at power users. Our solution is for everyone that wants to own their data."
The winner of the OP Pitching Competition, FourDeg is a distributed smart energy system for buildings and district heating networks.
Here is their winning pitch: