Monday, October 31, 2016

Swedish Authorities Finally Declare "The Swedish Schindler" Raoul Wallenberg Dead

Via Business Insider:

The Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg saved the lifes of tens of thousands Jews in Hungary during the Second World War. For this he was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by the USA in 2012, recognizing his heroic actions during the Holocaust.

He was awarded the prize in absence, because his whereabouts have been a mystery for more than seven decades.

Raoul Wallenberg served as a special envoy for Sweden in the Hungarian capital of Budapest in the end of 1944. In this role he issued passports and sheltered Jews from the Nazi regime and fascist collaborators.

In the chaotic ending phase of the war, he was arrested by Soviet troops, on suspicion of espionage, and he has been missing for 71 years.

Soviet authorities have stated that the Swedish diplomat died in prison in Moscow in 1947. But many people, including his family, have questioned this.

Legally, he has been considered alive in Sweden, since he has never been officially declared dead.

On the 26 October 2016, though, the Swedish Tax Agency declared Raoul Wallenberg to be dead, according to the Swedish news paper Aftonbladet. The Swedish Tax Agency writes that they consider him to have died on July 31, 1952.

Raoul Wallenberg was an Honorary Citizen of the United states, the second person after Winston Churchill, to receive such a designation. He was also an honorary citizen of Canada, Hungary, Australia, and Israel.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Blockchain Is Empowering The Future Of Insurance

Via Tech Crunch:

The embers of innovation are beginning to char the massive $1.2 trillion underbelly of the largest industry in the world. Every segment of insurance is under competition by entrepreneurs touting new ways to underprice risk, creating new types of premiums and servicing consumers in a tightly regulated on-demand economy. While most startups attempting to gain traction in the insurance market fall under incremental innovation, Blockchain for insurance could be characterized as disruptive.

The underlying technology of the world’s most adopted digital currency, bitcoin, is quickly becoming one of the hottest topics across a number of industries. More than just a distributed database for bitcoin, Blockchain’s ability to send, receive and store information has the underlying power to disrupt the way businesses process digital transactions.

The implications of decentralized ledger technology (DLT) are astounding: Digital trust is now an ever reasonable possibility; meaning online and offline assets can now be assigned ownership and the transference between those parties can be proven both linearly and cryptographically. Specific to insurance, Blockchain technology has the power to simplify the claims process, alleviate high premiums, help insurers create niche coverage and, most importantly, benefit those who live in catastrophe regions.

Peer-to-peer insurance

Blockchain adoption has the power to transition new and existing models of insurance, including P2P insurance, parametric insurance and microinsurance, into a new digital age. Blockchain is powerful because of its secure platform connecting capabilities.

New distribution methods like peer-to-peer insurance (P2P) could end up restructuring the entire market. P2P insurance empowers policyholders to a greater portion of the premiums rather than the individual private wealth managers working to produce returns for insurance companies. A number of well-funded startups are already beginning to stake their place in the P2P insurance market. One example, Dynamis, a Wisconsin-based peer-to-peer platform built on Blockchain recently pulled in a $2.6 million investment from Golden Angels. They are looking to build a platform that allows brokers to interactively evaluate plan options for employers.

Enigma, enables different parties to jointly store and run computations on data while keeping the data completely private. In the foreseeable future, specific P2P insurance platforms may begin to use smart contracts to set claims and match demand between consumers in an online market, solving many of the current issues when transferring digital assets or accessing private data.

Parametric insurance

Another use case for Blockchain is parametric insurance. Instead of indemnifying the pure loss, insurers would agree to pay a certain amount upon the occurrence of triggers within preset smart contracts. For example, if an earthquake were to occur in a given region above a magnitude of 5, the smart contract would automatically pay 20 percent of the insurance claim to policy holders. Contracts require mutually trusted third-party administrators (TPAs) to adjust. As parametric insurance becomes popular, its process will likely improve to play a key role in the widespread adoption of smart contracts.

Product-creating startups like Rainvow can be used to create cross-border risk pools, allowing individuals from all over the world to access its exchange protocol via digital currencies. Rainvow’s Ethereum platform facilitates niche coverages to automatically compensate unforeseen transportation costs on rainy days.

The future of insurance could flourish through an intelligent adoption of Blockchain.

Platform-creating startups like Factom* facilitate highly specific insurance policies. These systems allow TPAs to create triggers or oracles for smart contracts, promising to make parametric insurance easier and more adoptable by insurance carriers.

The fast growth of IoT-based technologies and sensors have fueled startups and corporations, giving access to real-time data that may ultimately give way to new methods of settling insurance disputes. Automobiles could be assigned tokens by their manufacturers; rather than having the incident go through an insurance company, vehicles could adopt tech for cars to assess driving accidents automatically. A fender-bender would trigger instant compensation within the smart contract based on sensor and party data.

Microinsurance

Blockchain has several perceived benefits in microinsurance, as well. It can enable trust between peers to increase transparency for populations living in remote regions of the world. Its beauty lies in its simplicity. The virtual nature of the transactions could side-step governmental bureaucracy to make geographic limitations irrelevant within its context. These features make the future of microinsurance very appealing.

Helperbit, an Italian Blockchain startup, uses the Blockchain protocol to enable philanthropists to donate digital currencies to underfunded, hard to reach nonprofits in remote regions of the world. It even allows people to trace their donation and the manner in which it is used. Their risk assessment platform allows Good Samaritans to pool their money while limiting fraud exposure.

Outlook

The future of insurance could flourish through an intelligent adoption of Blockchain, with applications in digital currencies, fraud solutions and smart contracts. Large insurers have the potential to benefit immensely. However, its implementation will mean that insurance companies will have to change their underwriting process, the structure of the policy, as well as risk underwriting.

Blockchain allows for cheaper, more consumer-oriented products to be developed that could chip away at the premiums collected by large insurance companies. An ideal scenario would be the cooperation between Blockchain startups, carriers, brokers, reinsurers, etc. However, most likely many segments of the insurance industry will be subject to disruption and may follow the way of milk men or lamplighters… a precautionary tale for incumbents in the insurance industry.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Dylan Says Nobel Left Him "Speechless"

Via The Local:

Bob Dylan has finally accepted his Nobel prize for literature, the Swedish Academy that awards it said Friday, breaking his silence on the win that he said left him "speechless".

Asked "if I accept the prize? Of course", the US singer-songwriter said in a call to the academy this week, around a fortnight after he was named laureate on October 13.

"The news about the Nobel Prize left me speechless", he told the academy's permanent secretary, Sara Danius. "I appreciate the honor so much"

Dylan had not responded to repeated phone calls made by the academy following the prize announcement, nor had he made any public statement, prompting one academy member to call him "impolite and arrogant".

According to Swedish tabloid Expressen, Danius had at first missed Dylan’s call from New York, but then spoke to the singer for 15 minutes after phoning him back.

“Dylan was very nice, humble and humourous”, she wrote on her Facebook wall.

Danius later told Swedish Radio that Dylan is in no way obliged to attend the ceremony, but that he would be required to hold some sort of lecture or even sing a song.

“I hope he will do what he desires to do”, she said, adding that this could be made possible via, for example, a video link if he isn't able to make it to the Swedish capital in person.

She said the academy would “do everything it can” to adapt the festivities to Dylan's wishes.

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf usually hands out prizes and cheques to all the Nobel winners at a banquet on December 10.

In an interview with Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper published late on Friday Dylan said that if his busy schedule would allow him, he would be more than happy to pick up the prize in Stockholm.

"Absolutely. If it's at all possible".

Dylan told the paper that the award was "amazing, incredible", saying:"It's hard to believe".

He added: "Whoever dreams about something like that?"

Asked why he did not respond to the academy's calls, Dylan said: "Well, I'm right here".

Dylan, whose lyrics have influenced generations of fans, is the first songwriter to win the literature prize.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Swedish Fintech Startup: Norwegian Banks Are Blocking Us

Via Business Insider:

A fintech revolution is sweeping across Scandinavia. People are downloading apps to send money, pay without credit cards and to structure their finance management.

Small, autonomous startups are hoping to disrupt a multi-billion dollar market traditionally dominated by a few large banks.

Not everyone is taking kindly to this development.

The Swedish fintech company Trustly, founded in 2008, is offering payments online without the use of a credit card. According to the Swedish news paper Dagens Industri Trustly has been partially blocked in Norway by some elements in the banking sector.

Trustly's troubles in Norway started already in 2014, when they launched in the country. According to the CEO of Trustly, an important certficate for verification, Bank-id, was revoked for those who used Trustly.

Today mobile users of Bank-id can use Trustly to pay. Desktop users however, cannot.

Things have gotten so bad that Trustly has fielded a complaint with the Norwegian competition authority.

Finance Norway, an organization representing the financial industry in Norway, says that Trustly's trouble with Bank-id stems from security issues. Trustly's CEO, however, denies the allegation, telling Dagens Industri that their view is that this is a question of competition.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

HBO Is Finally Looking To Film Game Of Thrones In Sweden

Via Business Insider:

Swedish Game of Thrones fans could soon be in for a treat after news emerged that the producers of the epic series are looking into filming in Sweden.

Nothing is yet set in stone, but local newspaper Hela Gotland revealed on Tuesday that Game of Thrones producers HBO expressed an interest in filming on Swedish island Gotland back in August. The network got in touch with The Line Gotland – a Swedish company which assists film and TV productions – last summer via a third party, one of The Line’s founders told The Local.

“The Stockholm film region contacted us and said Game of Thrones had been in touch and were looking at Visby. They wanted to have some official pictures from the town. So we took new ones of the town and the island and sent it on to them. That’s how it started”, The Line founder and executive producer Olivia Munck explained.

HBO must have liked what they saw, as they followed up with requests for two more rounds of location pictures, including shots of old farmhouses and images from across the picturesque Swedish island. “It started in August and the last pictures were sent a few weeks ago. So we’re waiting to see what will happen”, Munck revealed.

The Swedish company is optimistic that the series will eventually commit to filming on Gotland, but did say that a lack of tax breaks in the field could be a hindrance.

“A lot of other countries in Europe have production tax reductions. That’s a big part of whether they’ll shoot or not. They like the location of course, but it’s 50/50 I think”, the executive producer said.

“I think international companies are very interested in filming in Sweden. But there is a problem when you want to shoot here. If you then have Norway, which has tax breaks, and Iceland which does too, they become more attractive than here, even if our locations are great. Money talks”.

A quick glance at Gotland’s scenery makes it easy to understand why the medieval fantasy series would be interested in filming there. The Baltic Sea island’s mixture of dramatic coastline, rolling fields and its very own medieval walled town Visby make for an attractive proposition, according to Munck.

“We have the historical buildings, World Heritage sites, everything. That’s a big part. There’s also the varied landscape. It’s a very unique place”.

For the moment, The Line are doing exactly what every Swedish Game of Thrones fan will be doing after learning the news: keeping their fingers crossed.

Gotland locals and film professionals in Sweden should be too, as the large-scale production could mean hundreds of temporary jobs being brought to the country, just as it did in previous locations like Spain. Written by: Lee Roden, The Local

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Nordics Have The Best Pension Systems

Via Business Insider:

The Danish pension system ranks the highest in the world, according to a report published by Mercer Global. Finland comes in fourth place and Sweden in fifth.

The Mercer pension index is based on three parameters; adequacy, sustainability and integrity of the government in question. 27 countries were included in 2016’s study.

Denmark, and runner-up Netherlands both have pension systems described as, “A first class and robust retirement income system that delivers good benefits, is sustainable and has a high level of integrity”.

Meanwhile the Finnish and Swedish pension systems had the following description: “A system that has a sound structure, with many good features, but has some areas for improvement that differentiates it from an A-grade system”.

All of the three Nordic countries included in the report have declined in comparison to last year's index values. Sweden saw the largest decrease, which is explained by a reduction in the level of household savings and the assumed level of funded mandatory contributions.

Sweden could, by increasing the pension age to reflect the increasing life expectancy, improve its position in the index, according to the study. In Denmark and Finland life expectancy is also rising, and their index values could be improved by increasing the labor force participation rate at old ages.

Norway's pension system was not included in the report, but on the other hand Norway has been proclaimed the best place in the world to retire.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Finally, A Genuine UFO Mystery To Report

Via Unknown Country:

Your Out There editor has been enduring a real drought of genuine UFO reports, but finally a good one has appeared. These are not drones or sky lanterns and this video is not a CGI effect.

In fact, this is how it looks, and how people react, when a real unidentified aerial event takes place. No fancy logo, no demand to subscribe, no dreadful music. Just ordinary people face to face with a real mystery. The event was recorded in Charlotte, NC on October 15.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Richard Branson: Donald Trump Told Me He Wanted To Spend The "Rest Of His Life" Getting Revenge

Via Business Insider:

Billionaire and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson published a blog post on Friday recalling his first interaction with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, in which he reportedly vowed to spend the rest of his life seeking revenge on five people who had refused to help him.

Branson said their encounter had taken place years ago, after Trump had invited him to a one-on-one lunch in his Manhattan appartment.

"Even before the starters arrived he began telling me about how he had asked a number of people for help after his latest bankruptcy and how five of them were unwilling to help", Branson wrote.

"He told me he was going to spend the rest of his life destroying these five people".

Branson then compared the interaction to one with Hillary Clinton, in which the two discussed issues such as women's rights and education reform.

"As she understands well, the President of the United States needs to understand and be engaged with wider world issues, rather than be consumed by petty personal quarrels", Branson wrote.

Branson previously wrote a post declaring Trump "irrational", "aggressive", and "unfit for office".

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Finnish Spare-Time Bug Bounty Hunter Found An Error Worth A $22.000 Reward

Via Business Insider:

Good news! Nowadays you don't need a metal detector to find treasure and you don't have to chase wanted criminals to be a bounty hunter. You can hunt rewards comfortably from your computer.

After putting his one and three-year-old boys to bed, 35-year-old Teemu Kääriäinen starts his search for bugs. He’s a father on child care leave during the day time – but at night he’s a hacker.

Kääriäinen has been doing evening time hacking for a year, in a program that awards programmers for finding bugs. After 30 hours of work for the insurance company LähiTapiola he discovered a significant bug. Kääriäinen was rewarded with $18.000. LähiTapiola’s CSO Leo Niemelä officially thanked Kääriäinen on Twitter: “This is Bug Bounty at it’s best. Thank you Teemu!”

On the question as to how there could be such remarkable errors in the system, Leo Niemelä answers to Kauppalehti: “It is humans who build the systems and however much we try, there will always be talented people in the world who can get through and find errors. That's why these type of bounty-programs exist”.

Other companies to use these type of initiatives are Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, according to Helsingin sanomat. Teemu Kääriäinen also hacks for Pay-Pal and says that he will keep hacking despite having a day job now.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Nordics Have The Best Rule Of Law In The World

Via Business Insider:

The Nordic countries have the best justice and integrity in the world. At least according to the World Justice Project's newly released Rule of Law Index 2016. Rule of law is a fundamental condition for liberal democracy.

More than 100.000 households and experts were surveyed to measure rule of law in 113 countries. The index is based on the primary factors of: constraint on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, and criminal justice.

Denmark turns out to be the best rechtsstaat in the world, followed by Norway, Finland, and finally Sweden.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are Venzuela, Cambodja, Afghanistan, and Egypt.

Here are the top four performers in each of the index's main categories:

Constraints on Government Powers - Denmark, Norway, Finland, Netherlands

Absence of Corruption - Denmark, Singapore, Norway, Finland

Open Government - Norway, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands

Fundamental Rights - Norway, Finland, Denmark, Austria

Order and Security - Singapore, Finland, Sweden, Denmark

Regulatory Enforcement - Singapore, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden

Civil Justice - Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Singapore

Criminal Justice - Finland, Norway, Austria, Singapore

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

This Simple Psychological Trick Can Jump-Start Relationships And Turn Enemies Into Friends

Via Business Insider:

Sometimes people will dislike each other without really having any reason to do so. And when you're new at a workplace some colleagues take a long time before warming up to you. The good news is that there is a simple physchological trick that can jump-start relationships and turn negative ones around in an instant.

It's as simple as asking for a favor.

Basically, the 'Ben Franklin effect' posits that getting someone to do something for you is a much more effective than trying to win their appreciation by doing something for them. So in frosty relationships, put yourself at the other's mercy by asking for some sort of assistance.

The method was named after the famous American statesman, ambassador to Sweden, author and inventor, Benjamin Franklin, who described it in his autobiography: "He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged".

To clarify, here's an anecdote of when Benjamin Franklin used the method to get on the good side of a professional rival who was rather disinclined towards Franklin: "Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return'd it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favor. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death".

The psychological mechanism behind the effect is called 'cognitive dissonance'.

There are a couple of forces at work when you ask someone for a favor. For one, you're recognizing the other's importance and capabilities and thereby flattering and respecting them. At the same, a request for help or a favor is an act of humility, which effectively sidesteps rivalry.

More importantly, the Ben Franklin effect is also a special case of a psychological phenomenon called cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is a phenomenon which describes how humans retroactively change their attitudes so that they are congruent with their actions. If you help someone, your mind will adapt by becoming more inclined towards them so that you can explain the help by the fact that you like them. Similarly, wronging someone will make us more disinclined towards them, to deal with the dissonance between the action and our attitude.

In Benjamin Franklin's example, asking for a favor - which is clever because it is rarely socially feasible to decline doing someone a simple favor - creates cognitive dissonance in his rival because the action of doing Franklin a favor isn't congruent with the attitude of disliking Franklin. To resolve this tension the mind adapts by liking Franklin - then it's a lot easier to explain the favor.

Cognitive dissonance has many other applications.

Premium products are an excellent example of cognitive dissonance at work. In response to regret aversion and in order to explain why one bought something which is more expensive than it merits, the human mind will exaggerate those merits. Most things we make big investments in will therefore seem even better after the fact.

Someone who buys an expensive Tesla, will immediately become a lot more assured of the importance of driving an electric car for the sake of the environment, and will suddenly have no worries about the range of the battery and the prevalence of charging stations. It's not smugness - it's cognitive dissonance.

The same is true for children, for example. Children represent a huge investment in time, money, and self-sacrifice. Cognitive dissonance retroactively inclines the mind to think the investment was well worth it. So we love our children and think they are the best, and don't worry about what life could have been like without them.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Multiple Bomb Threats All Over Denmark

Via Business Insider:

Numerous bomb threats were made in Denmark today causing two airports to close, and two shopping centers to be evacuated along with the Copenhagen Business School campus, Reuters reports.

The threats were made against Roskilde airport and a shopping center outside Roskilde along with the following locations in the Copenhagen area: Copenhagen airport, Copenhagen University, Rigshospitalet, the Fields shopping centrer, Fisketorvet, Frederiksberg Centret, and Copenhagen Business School.

The police explain in a press release that there was reason to believe the threats were hoaxes early on, but that in recognition of the severity of the situation it was still deemed prudent to close the airports and evacuate the shopping centers as a precaution.

The police believe many or all of the threats were made by the same culprit, but the perpetrator has not yet been identified.

Rigspolitiet writes on Twitter that bomb threats have been occuring all over Denmark lately.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Hans Rosling Slams The UN's "Post-Fact Era" Practice Of Using "Fourfold Inaccurate" Statistics As The Basis For Aid Distribution

Via Business Insider:

Swedish celebrity statistician Hans Rosling has criticized the UN and policy makers in a new, myth-busting article.

Rosling, who has given TED talks, became an unlikely global phenomenon in recent years and videos of his lectures have chalked up millions of views on Youtube.

His new piece, written with Karolinska University public health assistant professor Helena Nordenstedt for medical journal The Lancet, examined a claim that 60 percent of maternal deaths today come from “humanitarian situations like refugee camps”.

According to Rosling and Nordenstedt, the figure first gained prominence in aid advocacy in late 2015 when the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) cited it, and it has since been quoted in a report by the UN’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health, and even made its way into policy documents.

But after investigation, Rosling and Nordenstedt discovered that the stat, which originated in The Lancet, was based on poorly carried out calculations. According to the writers’ own calculations, it is a “fourfold” inaccuracy.

Nordenstedt told The Local that the continued use of the “60 percent” figure by major organizations could even be considered a lie.

“If it had been two times wrong you could perhaps call it carelessness, but the figure is at least four times too high, and I think that has crossed over into the boundaries of lies, regardless of whether it was negligent or deliberate”, she said.

“The effect is still the same: aid money designed to reduce maternal mortality is wrongly directed to refugee camps and crisis areas instead of the grey, boring, extreme rural poverty in areas in sub-Saharan Africa or in India”.

The article noted it is “surprising” that the inaccurate figure managed to make its way into a highly qualified panel at the UN, and warned that global health has entered a “post-fact era”, “where the labeling of numerators is incorrectly tweaked for advocacy purposes”.

Nordenstedt reiterated that sentiment in her comments to The Local:

“The strange, scary thing is how the figures, just by slipping into The Lancet and being given credibility, then spread and spread because it suits the narrative we see much of today in newspapers around the refugee crisis and migration, and the hope is that through connecting maternal mortality to humanitarian crises it can attract more money”.

Rosling and Nordenstedt’s article concluded that the use of inaccurate numbers in global health advocacy “can misguide where investments are most needed”, and on Friday, the Karolinska assistant professor advised that more fact checking is needed in the area:

“This example shows that there is a need for fact checking within global health to guide the right prioritization. A lot of aid money is going around, and to achieve the best result (in this instance to reduce maternal mortality as effectively as possible) that aid money must be distributed correctly”.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Sweden May Be The Best Country To Be A Girl - But 90% Of VC Investments Still Go To Men

Via Business Insider:

This week was International Day of the Girl, and to mark the occasion Save the Children released a report stating that Sweden is the best country to grow up in as a girl. This shouldn’t come as a surprise – with low levels of teenage pregnancies, generous maternity leave and high proportion of female MPs, Sweden ranks consistently high in most gender equality studies. The private sector is also doing well – the number of female business leaders has more than doubled from 17% in 1998 to 37% in 2015.

Things are a bit gloomier in our tech industry.

Half of Sweden’s listed tech companies don’t have a single woman on the board. And while female business owners fail a lot less than their male counterparts, they only received 8% of all Swedish VC last year. And then there’s the female tech entrepreneurs whose businesses don’t get exposure as tech ventures, presumably because they solve what’s perceived to be “soft” issues. As a business developer I’ve seen numerous male VCs reject female tech entrepreneurs on the basis of them not having a tech background, as if that determines a great business idea.

Pretty ironic, considering how tech pioneers pride themselves on being at the forefront of positive change.

For this to be true, the Swedish tech scene needs to adopt a more inclusive language as well as mindset. Our strength does not only lie in our five unicorns, but equally in the tech companies solving issues that are faced by predominantly women. Natural Cycles and Linas Matkasse spring to mind - rarely mentioned as tech startups in media, both use tech to solve everyday issues.

This is not to say all is lost.

There’s a steady increase of girls in Sweden applying to do tech and programming on both college and university levels, incubators such as Minc offer entrepreneurs parental leave as to encourage more mums to explore the entrepreneurial route, and although 90% of all venture capital investments in Sweden still go to men, more than ever before is going to women.

Nevertheless, tech is about power.

And if we only consider tech solutions that have been brought forward by men to be worthy the epithet tech, we’ll inevitably see fewer investments in tech solutions by women, for women, and as a result girls will have fewer role models in tech. Tech is the future, and so are our girls. Excluding one from the other, in rhetoric or otherwise, benefits no one.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Nordic Startup Organizations Just Started A Joint Fund - To Turn The Region Into "A Global Startup Ecosystem"

Via Business Insider:

As part of the second #NordicMade trip to New York, the delegation of prominent entrepreneurs and central figures within the Nordic startup ecosystems rang the bell to open Nasdaq yesterday morning in New York. In doing so, a new $1.67 million fund for the promotion and support of the Nordic startup ecosystem was inaugurated.

The fund is fittingly called Rising North - the $1.67 million is to be used 'to support the internationalization of the startup ecosystem in the Nordics over the next three years'.

The Nordic region is already known for spewing out successful startups and and a disproportionately large amount of tech unicorns, but with increasing collaboration between the national startup ecosystems the plan is to cement the Nordic region's status as world leading. The Rising North will fund projects that boost the region towards 'a global startup ecosystem'.

“In the Nordics we work hard, we are extremely loyal to our company or our cause and we love technology. It is therefore no surprise that the Nordics have produced a string of very successful technology companies. During the last five years, the Nordics, which account for only 4% of the European population, have produced over 25% of all European exits”, Helga Valfells, CEO of NSA Ventures, Iceland, and Steering Board Member at Rising North said in her keynote speechat the launch.

There is an increasing tendency towards internatinal cooperation on the Nordic startup scene. Slush, the biggest player, notably supports the organization of other events in the region, like Denmark's biggest tech event, the TechBBQ.

Slush is also the main organizer of the #NordicMade trip, but many of the other central organizations for the national startup ecosystems are also on board: Aaltoes and Startup Life from Finland, SUP46 from Sweden, Icelandic Startups from Iceland, #CPHFTW from Denmark, as well as MESH Norway and Startup Norway.

But beyond strengthening ties between those organizing the trip is also an opportunity for eleven entrepreneurs to come to New York and accelerate their businesses by showcasing them to US East Coast venture capitalists and tech media.

All five Nordic countries were represented by the startups: Leadfeeder, PromoRepublic and Solu from Finland, Iris AI and DXTR Tactile from Norway, Corti and Zigna from Denmark, It’s My Styl and Optolexia from Sweden, and Watchbox and Sling from Iceland.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sweden, Finland, And Norway Are The Best Countries In The World To Be A Girl

Via Business Insider:

An report by the Save the Children organization contains a 'Girl's opportunity index' which ranks 144 countries based on five factors that are used as measures for the societal conditions of girls: prevalence of child marriage, adolescent fertility, maternal mortality, percentage of female members of parliament, and rate of lower-secondary school completion.

Sweden ranks number one in the index, followed by Finland and Norway. Denmark comes in sixth place, after the Netherlands and Belgium.

Because of the nature of the indicators used for the index, most rich countries score high marks, but some still perform relatively poorly.

The most common weak point is the number of female members of parliament. Amongst the rich countries, Sweden leads that category with 44% female members of parliament, closely followed by Finland and Spain. But there are countries that are placed much lower on the index overall but that have a higher percentage of female MPs. Rwanda, for example, has 64% female MPs but because of the other indicators holds place 49 in the index.

The US is a country which performs particularly poorly with regard to how developed its economy is, ranking at 32nd place. The US only has 18% female MPs, a high prevalence of teenage pregnancy, and high mortality rates for women giving birth.

Monday, October 10, 2016

MIT's Bengt Holmström And Harvard's Oliver Hart Just Won The 2016 Nobel Prize In Economics

Via Business Insider:

Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström just won the 2016 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.

They were given the prize for work on contract theory, which is the study of how contracts and incentives influence decision-making and business relationships.

The two economists provided "a comprehensive framework for analysing many diverse issues in contractual design, like performance-based pay for top executives, deductibles and co-pays in insurance, and the privatisation of public-sector activities".

Oliver Hart is currently the Andrew E. Furer Professor of Economics at Harvard University,where he has taught since 1993.

Bengt Holmström is the Paul A. Samuelson Professor of Economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he also was head of the Economics Department from 2003-2006.

"An eternal obstacle to human cooperation is that people have different interests", a paper on contract theory published by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said. "In modern societies, conflicts of interests are often mitigated – if not completely resolved – by contractual arrangements".

The prize is given to an economist who has made a substantial contribution toward the subject, with an award of 10 million Swedish krona.

Unlike Nobel honors in other sciences and areas, the economics award is a collaboration between Sweden's central bank, called the Sveriges Riksbank, and the Nobel Foundation.

The prize has previously gone to such major names as Milton Friedman, Paul Krugman, and Friedrich von Hayek. Political scientists whose work has influenced economics as a discipline have also been honoured in the past.

Last year it went to Deaton was given the prize for his work on "consumption, poverty, and welfare".

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Greece Complains To NATO Over Turkish Submarines In Aegean

Via Ekathimerini:

The Greek Foreign Ministry and the National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) last week submitted to NATO a detailed complaint regarding the presence of Turkish Navy submarines in Greek territorial waters during the month of September, along with provocative statements by Turkish officials disputing the borders between the two NATO allies, Kathimerini understands.

In its complaint, Greece notes that the Turkish submarines covered much of the Aegean in their movements, including Greek territorial waters close to the inhabited islands of Lemnos, Samothrace, Chios, Lesvos, Rhodes, Karpathos, Kastellorizo and the waters north of Crete.

Greek authorities reacted to the presence of the Turkish submarines by dispatching six Greek ships but vessels cannot be chased off in the same way as fighter jets are, sources said.

In its complaint, Greek authorities noted that the activity of the Turkish submarines in the Aegean came as officials in Ankara questioned the Treaty of Lausanne, the pact that defined the borders between Greece and modern Turkey following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Taken together, the presence of Turkish submarines in Greek territorial waters and the disputing of territorial borders point to an “escalation” of tensions and to possible “instability” in the region, Greek authorities said in their complaint.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Top-Performing Finnish Media Stock Rose 152% The Past Year - But Analysts Aren't Buying It

Via Business Insider:

Sanoma Oyj's performance over the last twelve months goes to show that traditional media still has some vitality. The stock price has increased by 152%, making it the top-performing media stock in Europe, but analysts remain unswayed, according to Bloomberg.

The increase in value, reflecting successful efforts to return Sanoma to profitablilty is met with skepticism from analysts. As of September 30, four out of eight analysts covering Sanoma rate it 'underperform' or 'sell', according to the Financial Times. Only one in eight thinks it will outperform the market. Taken together that means analyst sentiment towards the stock has deteriorated over the past year.

The question is, even if Sanoma Oyj has reversed the negative trend by cutting costs and increasing advertising revenue, how long can it last? Will it be long enough to motivate the share price trading of EUR 8.65 - 17.3 times the year's estimated earnings?

Sanoma Oyj's CEO, Susan Duinhoven, thinks the company has a few advantages over the online competition. For one, content in Finnish is still very unaccessible to international competitors. Another advantage is that Sanoma has a presence in many different kinds of media. That has turned out to be an attractive selling point for advertisers, and is something that is difficult to replicate for competitors that are only digital.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

This Guy's Brilliant Campaign Got Sweden $147 Millions Worth Of Free International Promotion

Via Business Insider:

From the beginning of April to midsummer Sweden had a special phone number that the curious could call to ask questions to random Swedes. Unfiltered and uncensored. In a widely spread video for Vanity Fair, Hollywood star Alicia Vikander was one the many who called the number. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was one of the Swedes that answered incoming calls.

The phone number called The Swedish Number was part of a marketing campaign produced by the PR-firm INGO on behalf of the Swedish Tourist Association. The campaign was a huge success to say the least and was praised at the world championship in advertising, Cannes Lions. News outlets and TV channels all over the world showed interest and US President Barack Obama even mentioned the campaign in one of his speeches.

In total, The Swedish Number accrued the equivalent of $147 million in international media coverage. Completely free.

According to Björn Ståhl, creative director at INGO, it’s probably the biggest Swedish campaign ever made. The number of media impressions – the industry unit for counting interactions – amounted to 9.3 million.

”We had no idea whether this would fly or not. The idea had two critical points. Would we be able to get enough Swedes to answer and would the world call in? In darker moments I thought ‘this will never work’ and I almost regretted embarking on the project”, he says.

But the fears proved unfounded. Soon there were so many people calling that the system almost crashed. And Swedes happily volunteered as phone ambassadors.

What did you like about the idea?

“It’s simple and straightforward. Everything is so digital nowadays and in some ways that makes it very impersonal. But here we’re creating a real old-fashioned meeting between people. At the same time the campaign fits Sweden and Swedes because we like to talk about our country. Especially when we’re abroad. We feel pride and we want to promote Sweden and Swedish values”.

Another reason for the great spread is that the idea is very media-friendly, Björn Ståhl concludes.

“It’s easy for a TV show or a radio station to make a live call. Thousands of TV stations around the world, from Good Morning America to the biggest news channel in China, talked to Swedes live. That’s how the campaign achieved such great penetration. Generally, media is choosy about what they pick up from the world of advertising. But this is about normal people and normal meetings. That meant that mainstream media were eager to feature it. Otherwise it’s often difficult to spread campaigns outside of the sphere of the industry".

Another success factor is that it was easy to partake in the campaign and close to 35,000 Swedes signed up to be phone ambassadors.

”The only thing required to call in was a phone. It didn’t even need to be a cellphone. You could call from an old telephone rotary dial”, Björn Ståhl says.

Were you worried people would give bad answers?

”We discussed it. But this was about Swedishness and Swedish values and in that context freedom of speech is central. We didn’t want to try to control anything, people were to give their own view of things. We can’t control if a Swede goes abroad and says bad things about Sweden. People were allowed to relate and express their opinions completely uncensored. I think that’s part of the charm of the idea”.

What are your takeaways for the next campaign?

“If you’re not really nervous while you’re working with it, it’s probably not a good idea. We were already uneasy while doing the preparatory work. This applies to the customer side as well. When everyone is comfortable and cool and calm, then the result will be mediocre at best. There has to be some nerve in it. Then you might be on to something”.

Is it possible to know what will take off?

“No, you don’t have a clue. You have to fulfill certain fundamental prerequisites to do with relevance, originality and courage, for example. Then you have to have the guts to try and hope that what you do gets good spread. This time a lot of things were right”.

INGO is also behind an award-winning campaign for the discount supermarket chain Lidl, in which Lidl arranged a rip-off of The Nobel Banquet with their own “Le Bon”-party in Stockholm’s City Hall (were the Nobel Banquet also takes place). The confectionary company Delicato’s successful campaign that makes use of the current health hysteria is also INGO’s creation. Björn Ståhl says successful campaigns like that have something in common.

”We want to make campaigns that normal people want to participate in. We ask ourselves what the upside is for our customers and what the upside is for our customers’ customers. It’s really difficult to make consumers spontaneously engage in a communication idea”.

Three smart aspects of The Swedish Number:

1. The idea is easy for others to get on board with, and make something of their own from, like what Vanity Fair and Alicia Vikander did. When media used the Swedish Number they also helped spread the campaign.

2. The users created the content. The Swedish Tourist Association supplied the digital telephone exchange but it was volunteers who took the calls.

3. Even though the campaign is digital it was built around the power of direct contact between people.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

What Is With These Strange Mars Images?

Via Unknown Country:

Your Out There editor has been watching Mars imagery for years, combing through it and evaluating the various claims made about it. 99.9% of the claims of UFOs, old shoes, armadillos, turtles and so forth are nonsense.

However, there are now a substantial number of images that suggest that something is going on there that is outside of the context of the known or the believed.

Two recent images shown are both unexplained and both deserve more than silence from NASA. The first one, of the snake-like form curving around inside the crevasse has been identified by one of our photo experts as a definite unknown and by another as an illusion created by the way the light is hitting a crack. Look closely, and you may or may not agree with his observation. The "crab" image has been identified by all of our experts as an unknown.

So a question must be asked, which is why NASA absolutely never addresses any of these unknowns, except the ones that can be explained away? It could be that this is simply an effect of the culture of planetary science, which is hostile to any claims that fall outside the realm of accepted theory, or doing any research that doesn't match expectations. Of course, it's also possible that NASA is hiding something.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

This Swedish Company Was Working With Autophagy Before The Nobel Prize Made It Cool

Via Business Insider:

When the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to the Japanese researcher Yoshinoru Ohsumi on Monday, the not so widely known phenomenon called autophagy came into focus. The term is constructed from the Greek ‘auto’ meaning ‘self’ and ‘phagein’ which meas to eat – so autophagy means ‘self-eating’.

It has nothing to do with cannibalism, however, but with a fundamental physiological process that breaks down and recycles the cell’s own constituents.

If the autophagic function is defect, nerve cells can’t function properly, for example. Experimental studies have also shown that such defects mean that embryos don’t develop normally. There are also strong links between autophagy and cancer. In early stages of cancer the cellular process has a beneficial effect, but in later stages autophagy can actually help cancer cells survive.

This poses a challenge which has been taken on by the Swedish company Sprint Bioscience, led by a former researcher at Astrazeneca and Pharamacia/Biovitrum. Sprint Bioscience, listed on Nasdaq First North has earned a name for itself by securing two big deals: one with Bayer and the other with Petra Pharma.

What does this year’s Nobel Prize imply for you?

“It goes to show that we have a good sense for project selection”, says Anders Åberg, CEO and one of five co-founders of Sprint Bioscience.

“It also creates some buzz for the research area and shows that the Nobel Prize hasn’t lost its credibility despite the problems at Karolinska Instutet”.

The project that Sprint Bioscience is currently pursuing involves inactivating a protein called vps34, which is involved in initiating autophagy in cells.

”When you start treating cancer cells, their defense against treatment is usually autophagy. Tumor cells will sometimes also send signals to cells in their vicinity so that the autophagy is initiated in them as well and cause the cancer to spread”.

Sprint Bioscience has conducted research on the vps34 protein for five years and is currently doing toxicity studies to prepare the project for clinical testing on humans.

The Japanese company Takeda is the largest in the field, but according to Anders Åberg many big companies have already tried unsuccessfully.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

America Is Running Out Of Apartments

Via Business Insider:

America is running out of vacant apartments.

Rental apartment occupancy in the US reached 96.5% in the third quarter according to RealPage, a provider of property-management software. That's just under the all-time peak of 96.8% reached during the tech boom in 2000, according to the firm.

The flip side of occupancy - vacancy - also shows a strained picture. According to the Census Bureau, the rental-vacancy rate remained near a 30-year low of 6.7% in the second quarter. Third-quarter data will be released later in October.

The apartment shortage, coupled with strong demand, is also contributing to rising rental costs at a time when incomes aren't keeping up. RealPage found that monthly rents for new-resident leases now average a record $1.292.

The main problem is that too many millennials are chasing too few apartments.

"You have an awful lot of young adults who are in a stage of their life where renting an apartment makes sense", said Jay Parsons, vice president of MPF Research, a division of RealPage.

Also, not enough people are moving out and buying their own places. A RealPage report published early in September showed that a record number of renters were opting to renew their leases because it was harder to find an affordable apartment to rent or buy.

"With loss of renters to home purchase holding below the historical norm, the limited churn of residents is helping keep the occupied apartment count high", said Greg Willett, RealPage chief economist, in a press release.

The apartment crunch is mostly in two types of apartments, Parsons said: so-called Class A apartments, which are high-end buildings often downtown or near central business districts, and Class C apartments, which are cheaper and have fewer perks.

"While an upturn in high-end [apartment-unit] deliveries is yielding more product availability in select spots, most new projects are moving quickly through the initial lease-up process", Willett said.

Meanwhile, it's getting tougher for builders, Parsons explained. That's partly because land is more expensive, skilled-worker shortages have driven up labor costs, and building materials are pricier, too.

And builders have fewer incentives to build apartments that will charge affordable rents.

"The math just doesn't work to build anything other than a Class A, high-rent property unless you have tax credits or government subsidies", Parsons said.

"Our national housing policy is very much geared towards stimulating home purchases not towards supporting renters, and so we just aren't building hardly any of the designated affordable, income-restricted housing where there's also just an awful lot of demand".