Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Via The Swedish Wire: Music streaming service Spotify says its active monthly user base had grown to 100 million, with some 30 million paying listeners. Founded in 2006, it’s now the world’s leading music streaming service, with almost three times more listeners than its closest rival, Apple Music. In fact, Spotify has more users than the five largest competitors combined. Reuters said that the Swedish firm pays more than 80 percent of its revenue to record labels and artists and has not yet shown a profit as it spends to grow internationally. Last year, it made an operating loss of 184.5 million euros ($209 million), widening from 165.1 million in 2014.
Monday, June 20, 2016
Via BIN: Geula (redemption) is exceedingly near and we need to make others aware of its impending arrival. These are two core messages delivered last week in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel by prolific author and End of Days expert Rabbi Pinchas Winston to an audience of English-speaking olim (immigrants to Israel). Rabbi Winston compared the urgency with which people need to focus on the forthcoming redemption to having a plane reservation. When a person who has to board a plane at a certain time, everything that day is oriented around the awareness that the most important task of the day is being on that flight at departure time.That’s how concrete becoming focused on geula should be. That’s what it means to have geula-consciousness, he explained. In his lecture, Rabbi Winston made a clear connection between chaotic current world events, such as extreme weather and Islamic terrorism, and the urgent necessity for redemption. “Today, it is so much easier than, let’s say, 10 years ago, to want Moshiach (messiah) to come, because things are out of control… If you step back and look at all the events of history, everything is so ‘Armageddon-ish’. It’s actually quite bad. The world is actually tremendously unstable”. Rabbi Winston gave credit to God for the fact that the world hasn’t already imploded on itself. “The only reason why we are sitting here so calmly right now is not because the world has stability. It’s because HaKadosh Baruch Hu (The Holy One, Blessed Be He) has His finger in the dike”.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Via Business Insider: At the creative conference Symposium Stockholm, co-hosted by Spotify's Daniel Ek, one topic of discussion was that traditional banks are under siege by fintech companies. Some say that 40 percent of global bankprofits are contested by fintech companies. Business Insider met up with Jacob de Geer, co-founder and CEO of Izettle, a fintech company founded in 2010, that was recently named Sweden's fastest growing tech-company by auditing firm Deloitte, having increased their revenue with over 30 000 percent in four years time. For a progressive commission Izettle offers an app and a card reader to small business that have traditonally been underserved by the banking sector eventhough they make up a hefty part of the GDP. ”Banks will not die, but they are in for a bumpy ride, just like the music industry was transformed ten years ago”, says de Geer. Banks have a vital role in the economy but they face an arduous task if they want to keep up, he says. They have failed to create an emotional connection to their brands, which is crucial for the millennial generation. They are hampered by a culture that is averse to change. And their technology is outdated. Some Swedish banks have components dating back to the 1960's that they dare not tinker with. "Changing their systems is like changing the motor of a Boeing airplane while in-flight between Stockholm and New York". Banks still have a tremendous advantage because of their large balance sheets and all the customer data they have collected. But according to de Geer, banks are not using the data properly. ”They only use ten percent of all data the collect. That is like having Spotify and only listen to ABBA. The banks could for instance use the data to make an exact assessment of your riskprofile when you apply for a loan”. When he founded Izettle sex years ago they faced an uphill battle and was met with resistance from the banks, even lobbying. ”At first they laughed at us and told us that no one would be interested in our services, saying that Sweden already had a very high penetration of cards”. After a while though, when Izettle were up and running, the bankers stopped laughing, he says. Soon Izettle heard rumours about banks wanting to what Jacob de Geer and his company was doing. Today, fintech is the talk of the town, and in 2015 global investments in fintech totaled 19.1 billion dollars. ”All the banks are talking about fintech, and have incubators and some even invest in the blockchain. Two years ago this was non-existant”, he says. Izettle is now adding one thousand customers per day and have a solid position in some countries in Europe and in Mexico and Brazil.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
Via Unknown Country: 95% of all UFO videos posted on YouTube are hoaxes. Of the rest, most are either unidentifiable or mistaken identities of known phenomena. In the past month, we have seen one video that might have been a genuine unknown, and now this. Odds are, it's a hoax, but the voices on the video, which are asking what it is and commenting on it, seem to reflect authentic puzzlement. The children heard in the background are also commenting on what they are seeing. Thus, your Out There editor has decided--but hesitantly--to post this. Another factor in my decision is it has not been created by one of the big hoax sites, thus the click-count is low. I'm not grading it in our present grading system. All I can say about it is that it is interesting enough to post.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Via Business Insider: Sweden has a notoriously hot housing market. Steady economic growth and slow interest rates have propelled property prices several years in a row, causing warnings about a debt crisis and a housing bubble from top economists. In the last 12 months, prices have risen 11 % on average in Sweden according to Svensk Mäklarstatistik. The average square meter price for an apartment in Sweden was 38 079 kronor. In central Stockholm the average square meter price was 88 344 kronor. In May however, the cost of buying an apartment in a shared building fell sharply. According to Valuegard, an index compiling data from Swedish real estate agents, prices were down 2.7 %. The prices for houses were down 1.1 %. Why now? Following much debate, on June 1 new rules forcing Swedes to pay off mortgages were introduced. The rules mandate that loans for more than 50 percent of the value of the property will have to be amortized one percent a year. For loans exceeding 70 percent of the value, the requirement is two percent a year. The new rules increased the supply of apartments, since sellers wanted to exit the market before they were introduced. The number of apartments for sale in Stockholm in May is reported to be the highest ever.
Thursday, June 09, 2016
Via The Swedish Wire: For anyone who listens to music on a laptop or smartphone, there’s a good chance a Swedish firm has been behind the technology. It’s well known that Spotify and Soundcloud are firms that started life in Stockholm. Less well known is that other services, such as Apple Music, also have their roots in the capital. Aside from the companies who allow people to stream music, Stockholm is also home to companies providing music electronics, digital music production and new firms developing smart new ways of managing music rights. These companies are now starting to attract international attention. Indeed, Stockholm’s music tech companies attracted investments of $555 million last year. That’s more than half of all investments in the entire tech sector. EU’s Cluster Observatory, which analyzes clusters across the region, ranks Stockholm’s music tech as one of the most competitive grouping of firms in the world. A new report, called “Stockholm – the Powerhouse of Sound” highlights the influence Stockholm has when it comes to combining music and technology. The report presents 25 startups in five different sectors (Digital music production; Music instruments, aids and equipment; Music publishers and rights management; Streaming and other forms of music and audio entertainment; and Music accessories). One example is Auxy, an iPad app for creating music. Within one month of its launch two years ago, it was downloaded 500,000 times and was awarded Apple’s “Best of 2014”. “We’re set on the goal to build the best music studio for the mobile generation. It gets really exciting when you start thinking about what enabling millions of new creators will mean for the development of music as an art form,” said Henrik Lenberg, one of Auxy’s founders. “The Avicii’s of tomorrow will make tracks that change music using only their phones. And they will bring radically different ideas to music, I think”. Asked what made Stockholm a good place to run a music tech startup, he offered an answer that Swedes from all walks of life often give: He wanted to have the freedom to combine building a company and having a family. “Now I have a son who’s five months and I’m working half time while staying home with him the rest of the time. I think Stockholm and Sweden is the only place where it’s both financially feasible and culturally accepted to do that”, he said. One of the other music tech startups identified in the report was Auddly, a music management tool. The system basically gathers all information about a musical piece in one place, as an independent bridge between the music industry’s copyright owners and master owners. Niclas Molinder, founder and CEO of Auddly, said that one of the biggest strengths of being based in Stockholm is the innovative climate, with lots of interesting start-ups, and the willingness to collaborate. “All the inspiring and successful music-tech firms in Stockholm builds a creative wave that inspires start-ups to believe in themselves and their dreams”, he said. “Another central point is that Stockholm is outstanding when it comes to music production, which creates great opportunities for tech companies to get involved in the music industry”. The undisputed king of Stockholm’s music tech startups is, of course, Spotify. Founded in 2006, it’s now the world’s leading music streaming service with some 30 million active users, almost three times more than its closest rival, Apple Music. In fact, Spotify has more users than the five largest competitors combined. Apple Music, as we know it now, also began life in Stockholm. In 2010 serial entrepreneur Ola Sars launched the streaming service Let’s Mix, which two years later was acquired by headphone producer Beats. Beats Music was bought by Apple, and is known today as Apple Music. Pandora Music also has Swedish connections. Last year, it bought music subscription service Rdio which was co-created by Skype founder and Stockholmer Niklas Zennström. Before the acquisition, Rdio was operating in more than 85 countries. Stockholm has, after Silicon Valley, produced the most startups valued at over one billion dollars - also known as unicorns - per capita. They include firms such as Skype, Mojang (Minecraft), Klarna, King (Candy Crush Saga) and Spotify. Today, every fifth Stockholmer works in the tech sector and “programmer” is the most common job title. Sweden is also the third largest music exporter in the world behind the U.S. and the UK – and the capital is at the heart of it. Stockholm is a well established hub for songwriters, as well as one of the world's most successful cites in global, chart-topping music relative to size, which in large part is thanks to its exceptional songwriting talent. Producer and songwriter Max Martin, with more than 20 Billboard number ones to his name, is the world’s third most successful hit maker after John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Stockholm’s success in music and technology has not gone unnoticed by the international media. ”A weirdly large number of the music and audio related companies that you have heard of came from Stockholm. The capital of Sweden not only has a curiously large number such companies operating there, but it also gave rise to some of the most important”, British Sunday newspaper the Observer said. ECS Today went as far as to say that Stockholm is “a hub for contemporary music acts and birthplace to a new type of music scene – Music technology”.
Saturday, June 04, 2016
Via EUobserver: If German MPs vote to formally recognise a 1915 massacre of Armenians as genocide, the country's relations with Turkey will be damaged, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned. "If Germany fell in this trap, it would damage our future diplomatic, economic, political, commercial and military relations", Erdogan said on Tuesday (31 May), noting that Germany and Turkey were both Nato members. The German Bundestag is due to vote on Thursday on a resolution that says that the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces during World War I was a genocide. "The fate of the Armenians is exemplary in the history of mass exterminations, ethnic cleansing, deportations and yes, genocide, which marked the 20th century in such a terrible way", says the resolution, which is non-binding. It adds that Germany, an ally of the Ottoman Empire at the time, "bears partial responsibility for the events". A vote on the resolution was planned last year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the events but it was postponed for diplomatic reasons. The Greens put it back on the agenda and the text is backed by the Christian Democrats (CDU) of chancellor Angela Merkel and the Social Democrats (SPD). Merkel's foreign minister, social democrat Frank-Walter Steinmeier, however said it would be "unwise to jeopardise from the outside" the dialogue between Turkey and Armenia on the issue. Erdogan phoned Merkel on Tuesday to express his "concern" and tell her he expected "common sense" from Germany, according to German and Turkish media. On Monday, Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim said that Germany's Turkish community was concerned by the Bundestag's "baseless and unfair" action. The vote comes as the EU, and especially Germany, increasingly depend on Turkey to keep refugees from coming to Europe through the Greek islands after an agreement made in March.