Tag: angry birds

Angry birds funder shuts fund for Eurotech

Investment outfit Atomico has closed Europe’s largest standalone tech venture fund claiming the situation in the EU has changed and its services are not needed as much.

For the last ten years the fund has provided $765 million to help tech companies start outside the US.  The London-based venture firm was started by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom.

It has invested in around 60 firms since it was established in 2006 and backed Supercell and Angry Birds maker Rovio Entertainment.

Most European start-ups to be acquired rather than holding out for stock market flotations of their own in order to build powerful global tech franchises.

Mattias Ljungman, an Atomico partner, said that thinks were changing in the region both in the maturity of entrepreneurs and business models. The outfit will still invest in Europe but will be interested in other regions now.

Some of Atomico’s recent investments included Scandit, a Zurich-based barcode-scanning software supplier, and Lilium Aviation, based near Munich, which is developing an electric jet with vertical takeoff capacity that could be used as a flying car.

 

Atomico is the latest in a succession of European-centered venture firms raising record amounts of venture capital. The trend reflects the growing size of individual funding rounds for the hottest start-up firms and the entry of new sources of capital from outside the world of start-up financing to compete for those deals.

But others are now providing funds too. Global VC firm Accel Partners last year raised a new $500 million European fund, while Index announced two joint U.S. and European funds – a $550 million fund for early-stage seed investments and a $700 million fund for later stage companies.

Previously, Balderton Capital raised $305 million in its latest European fund in 2014, while Lakestar raised a 350 million euro ($371 million) fund in 2015.

Rocket Internet last year announced a $1 billion Rocket Internet Co-Investment Fund in conjunction with a range of outside funders that is largely designed to take bigger stakes in its previous investments.

 

Angry Birds descend on London

0204b1c0e42878a13d3222610b989234Finnish mobile games and animation company Rovio , which is known for its Angry Birds game, is stepping up its hunt for new hit games by opening a studio in London.

The big idea is to focus on multiplayer games that would not rely on the company’s Angry Birds brand.

Privately-held Rovio has struggled in recent years as profits from the Angry Birds franchise dropped, prompting deep job cuts and divestments.

Last year Rovio launched an animated Angry Birds 3D Hollywood film that it said did well at the box office and yielded new licensing deals.

Rovio wants to build a team of about 20 people in London to create “massively multiplayer online” (MMO) games that support shedloads of players simultaneously, with a focus on new characters.

Wilhelm Taht, head of games said that “MMO is a genre that is growing in mobile, but it is not fully saturated. We are not looking for a niche position but a very wide, inclusive game.”

The original Angry Birds game, in which players use a slingshot to attack pigs who steal the birds’ eggs, was launched in 2009 and it remains the top paid mobile app of all time.

Rovio exploited the brand early on by licensing its use on a string of consumer products. But the company’s failure to bring out new hit games resulted in falling profit, prompting Rovio to cut more than 300 jobs in 2014 and 2015.

“In the long term, our new characters may generate intellectual property and even a brand,” Taht said.

Rovio has a series of smartphone games based on Angry Birds characters. In 2015 it published a puzzle game called Nibblers and it will soon put out Battle Bay, a real-time multiplayer game.

He added that that Nintendo’s hit smartphone game Pokemon GO, put augmented reality (AR) on the gaming map and his outfit would be looking into AR as a technology and a tool.

Rovio has around 200 employees spread between its four game studios in Finland and Sweden and about 400 in total.

Angry Bird called in to save new Nokia

bird_bombThe outfit which is the proud owner of the Nokia  brand has hired the bloke who created the the Angry Birds franchise to give it some street cred.

Nokia signed an agreement that essentially licensed its brand to HMD Global Oy, a newly founded Finnish company that planned to create phones  which would be manufactured and distributed by Foxconn.

Now HMD has hired Pekka Rantala, the one-time CEO of Angry Birds creator Rovio, who stepped down in 2015 after tough time with the mobile gaming company. He actually did a lengthy stint at Nokia from 1994 to 2011 and knows his onions.  Apparently he will be signing up as the Chief Marketing Officer for the company.

HMD  is currently run by Nokia vet Arto Nummela who has not said how he will save the mobile company. The Nokia deal provides the company with naming and patent rights, in exchange for royalty payments. Nokia is providing some oversight via a position on the company’s board, though it’s not investing directly in HMD, as per the deal.

Angry Birds grass you up to James Bond

One of the dafter spying moves from Her Majesty’s Secret Service included monitoring users’ Angry Birds games.

Quite what James Bond would learn from your High Score is anyone’s guess, but it is more that the apps tend to leak data and that could be interesting to the spooks.

The New York Times took time out of its busy schedule of praising Apple to release some more of the intelligence documents given to it by Edward Snowden. It claimed the UK Government Communications Headquarters, had tried to exploit increasing volumes of personal data that spill onto networks from new generations of mobile phone technology.

One of these new intelligence tools were “leaky” apps on smartphones that could disclose users’ locations, age, gender and other personal information.

The US and British agencies were working together on ways to collect and store data from smartphone apps by 2007.

The agencies have traded methods for collecting location data from a user of Google Maps and for gathering address books, friend lists, phone logs and geographic data embedded in photos when a user posts to the mobile versions of Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter and other services, the Times said.

The Times report said the scale of the data collection from smartphones was not clear but the documents showed that the two national agencies routinely obtained information from certain apps, including some of the earliest ones introduced to mobile phones. 

Angry Birds makers plan Irish move

Finnish games company Rovio is fed up with having to pay so much of its profits to the government that that it is considering moving its headquarters to Ireland.

Chief executive Mikael Hed, of the company which brought the world the Angry Birds game,  said Rovio’s turnover grew to €75 million last year from €10 million the previous year, and less than €1 million the year prior to that.

The only problem is that the Finnish tax man is extremely interested in getting a slice of the action to help his country pay for health, welfare and education.

Hed told The Irish Times that the company’s profits before tax and other charges was more than 60 percent of its income.

Rovio employs 400 people, mostly in Finland, but apparently is in talks with the Irish government to see if it can establish headquarters there. That way it would not only save money on its tax bill, but would get sweeteners from the government to move over.

Hed said that the Irish authorities have been very active and Rovio had been promoting that idea.

Speaking in Monaco, where he is a contestant in the Ernst & Young International Entrepreneur of the Year awards, he said that for now Rovio has stayed in Finland but a move to a wetter, if warmer climate is high on the company’s mind.

The plan is that that only some of the company would move. It would be natural to have some production in Ireland, but it would be mostly the companies head office.

The corporation tax rate in Finland is 24.5 percent, while Ireland’s rate is 12.5 per cent. Google and Facebook, have set up European headquarters in Dublin so as to benefit from Ireland’s low corporation tax rate. 

Barclays' PingIt app will 'certainly' be targeted by criminals

Barclays has announced its money-sending app, PingIt, which the bank claims is as safe as any other banking transaction.

While many may be concerned about sending money via their smartphones, Barclays believes that mobile payment will “revolutionise” the way money is passed around.

The free to use PingIt app will, at first, only send money from a Barclays account – but will mean that anyone will be able to register to receive money from a sender’s smartphone.

The money is sent using Barclay’s Faster Payments service, and the bank chain says that with a five digit PIN code needed to send payments it is as safe as a regular bank transaction.  However, in order make the transactions quick, full bank details are not required.

Barclays is playing down the amount of money users can send, painting it as an opportunity to quickly send a tenner to a friend or family member.

But the possibility to send up to £300 using the service – more than many standard accounts let you withdraw as cash from the bank each day – there will be concerns about the security.

Rik Ferguson, Director of Security Research & Communication at Trend Micro believes that there is serious potential the system could come under attack from criminals.

“It will certainly be a target,” Ferguson told TechEye. “Criminals follow consumer behaviour and if consumers begin to move money around on mobile devices that will be of distinct interest for criminals, and they will try and exploit it.”

Mobile users are already fairly lax with security, Ferguson says. “There are still far too many people who are not in the habit of locking their phone with a PIN,” he continued. “Obviously there is a PIN for the app itself but if you are not using the PIN on your phone you are increasing your risk.”

There is also the real possibility that criminals could create malicious software to target PingIt.

“We are already seeing increasing number of malicious apps out there,” Ferguson says. “Replica versions of the official apps available in app stores are already common tactics – for example, Angry Birds or Cut The Rope.

“It would be quite a simple matter to make a copy of the app and have people download it, and have it look like it is acting as normal but actually stealing information and finding out what the PIN is.”

Ferguson believes that there are plenty of ways in which PingIt has the potential to be exploited: “There is the possibility of key logging, so Barclays need to look at this as well as potential vulnerabilities or flaws in the code,” he said.

Ballmer's bonus suffers again

For the second year, the shy and retiring Microsoft CEO, Steve “There’s a kind of Hush” Ballmer has not collected a bonus for his efforts in running the company.

According to Reuters, Ballmer showed up at the board meeting with his cap in hand asking for something nice to take home to Tiny Tim, but the board was decidedly Scrooge-like.

Ballmer, 55, did get a bonus but it was just a miserly $682,500 for the latest fiscal year, matching his annual salary. Under his bonus scheme, he was eligible to receive between zero and double his salary.

Last year he got the same amount of dosh, and that was due to the fact that the Kin phone was a disaster and he had failed to keep up with the Jobsies.

Ballmer took over from Bill Gates in 2000, and has been a lightning rod for criticism of the former technology leader’s static share price. So far at least one shareholder called for him to be removed but he appears to have superglued his back end to the CEO’s chair.

According to a Volish regulatory filing, Ballmer’s performance review for fiscal 2011 took into account lower than expected sales of Windows Phone 7 software and “the need for further progress in new form factors.”

There had also been a two percent dip in sales at its key Windows unit, which was in line with global personal computer sales.

However Vole’s compensation committee recognised that he had been successful in launching the Kinect hands-free gaming system for Xbox and the online Office 365 product, while building up the Azure cloud computing platform and Bing search engine.

They also liked the way be bought the online chat company Skype, which has not yet been completed, and partnerships with Facebook and phone maker Nokia.

Ballmer does not receive no stock compensation. If he had, he might have had a dramatic boost to his pay packet. But he owns 3.95 percent of Vole and is the 33rd richest person in the world with a fortune of $14.5 billion.

Ballmer’s is one of the lowest-paid leaders of a major US company. 

Rovio plots console Angry Birds, NFC, novelty pop

TechEye took a tour around Rovio’s offices here in Helsinki. Those guys really, really like birds.

Rovio also has a cook book coming out and a new videogame which should arrive later this year. It’s called Angry Birds Magic and it seems like it might be more of the same. If it ain’t broke…

There will be a twist, though – Rovio is getting big on NFC.

While Nokia’s around it’ll be the first to market with a ton of NFC enabled phones. The idea is you’ll bump your phone with an NFC sticker for rewards and such. We saw a demonstration with a plush toy that earned you the Mighty Eagle character. After the Nokia release you can expect Android. If the rumours about the iPhone 5 having NFC are true don’t be surprise about an iOS release. Hopefully, the NFC will be cross platform. For the brand faithful it could be a money spinner.

Actually, there will be a couple new games this year.

Angry Bird watchers may be interested to hear that a social element will be incorporated. Even in “countries that don’t use Facebook.” That’s China, then – wouldn’t it be an odd turn if the jasmine revolution wormed its way through Rovio’s physics puzzler?

The game will also find incarnations on other platforms. Gentle prodding from the room revealed a positive reaction to Nintendo consoles and motion sensing technology. It’d make sense.

Although us in the West could be forgiven for letting out a collective sigh at the next pig fortress, the brand is really gaining more traction in Asia. Nokia recently shelled out a bunch of money to shut down an entire street in Kuala Lumpur to promote the brand.

There was a Guinness World Record attempt, too, which saw the longest line of people playing a mobile game back-to-back. In fact, China’s growth really is solid. While considering the overall population the product target of 100 million by the end of the year might seem like pittance, it’ll be the high end phone users Rovio will go after and it’ll all be revenue from there. As long as the consumer dodges the faux Angry Birds knock-offs – Miffed Sparrows? Pissed Off Parakeets? Maudlin Macaw? – of which there is plenty in, for example, Kuala Lumpur.

By the way, Rovio’s looking for an IPO. But it’s “not rushing” anything, according to bird whisperer Ville Heijari. What’s the brand worth then? Hard to say. Very high, Heijari tells us. 

TechEye asked if people are going to get sick of the whole deal. “Of course people are fickle,” we’re told. Rovio will have to look where to go following Angry Birds, but while it builds it is confident.

One area Angry Birds will probably flap into is novelty music. We despair and begged the company not to take that route. Ed Chester, of Trusted Reviews, said any Crazy Frog inspired escapades are a sure fire way to kill off prospects of longetivy. We’ll see. Rovio didn’t confirm or deny, but nods of agreement from other hacks did not go questioned. Don’t do music! we pleaded. “Why not?” chirped the whisperer. I mean, reasons Rovio, the Angry Birds Rio theme made it to number six in the Latin section of the US iTunes shop.

Really, Rovio’s goal is to build as strong a cross-platform entertainment brand as it can. The brand is more important than the game now as it flogs its plush toys and… a cookery book full of egg recipes. There’s no pork or chicken to go with those cracked eggs. Eggs are the glue which holds the birds and the pigs together says Rovio.

Celebrity fans: there’s David Cameron and Justin Bieber. Zynga had Gaga. Our bird whisperer told us we don’t have to worry about any Angry Biebers. Phew!

Is the bird whisperer and marketing man Ville Heijari any good at the game himself? Nah, not really. He does like it, but there’s not enough time for dedicating to toppling pigs. “I only go to the toilet so many times a day,” he tells us. 

Microsoft board stands behind Ballmer

Microsoft’s board of directors has indicted to Rueters that it is standing behind its CEO – the shy and retiring Steve “sounds of silence Ballmer.

There had been calls by influential hedge fund manager David Einhorn for Steve to be fired from his job after he failed exploit the move to mobile and had kept the outfit’s share price static for ten years.

However the board has announced it is standing behind Ballmer. If they had their way, we suspect, they would like to stand behind him and several miles away in a sound proof bunker.

But Reuters said that Microsoft’s nine-person board, including Chairman and co-founder Bill Gates, supports Ballmer, although the company officially refuses to comment on Einhorn’s remarks.

Gates is the largest shareholder with 6.6 percent of the company’s stock and is believed to be backing Ballmer and keeping him in place.

Some shareholders think that this means that Gates knows something that Einhorn does not. Reuters found one shareholder who described Gates as a ruthless capitalist who would run Ballmer out of town if he thought the CEO was costing him cash.

Gates, who spends most of his time saving the world from the mosquito, has given no indication he is considering a change

Eric Jackson, at hedge fund Ironfire Capital, said that the board was firmly behind Steve, and the only way Steve was going to leave was if Steve wanted to leave.

This was not one of the reasons Ironfire flogged its shares in Microsoft last autumn. Jackson could not see anyone better on Microsoft’s throne than Ballmer. Ironfire flogged its shares because the company would not increase its dividends. 

TechEye shares a cab with Rovio's Bird Whisperer

Speaking to TechEye, Rovio’s “Bird Whisperer” and temporary Cab Whisperer Ville Heijari says a rough estimate for Angry Birds’ sales in 2010 is €6.5 million. 

Heijari admits that revenues are small by global standards, relatively, but operators in his native Finland mostly wouldn’t be able to muster the money to invest. For now most of the profits are being pushed back into Angry Birds so they can build and develop some more. 

We shared a taxi from C/O Paris, where other Finnish companies held a breakfast with journalists. TechEye unfortunately missed it, in a morning panic that isn’t exactly atypical. Heijari also said his company is not that far off from getting a licence for a film – if you think about it. Talking of the Angry Birds partnership with 20th Century Fox for bird-related CGI film “Rio,” he says “An Angry Birds movie is not a great jump from that.”

Rovio is at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to pitch to every operator they can and they are beyond busy. Angry Birds will soon, Rovio hopes, feature an in-game banking system where you can purchase, with real dosh, bits and pieces, called Bad Piggybank.

The Rovio CEO has a policy with his staff that they’re not to wear suits or be stuffy. At a high profile awards event, Heijari says he told organisers to bog off when they demanded a black tie event.

They’re hoping to shake up MWC, too – planning their own booth perhaps for next year, with live action Angry Birds. That’s throwing plush toy birds at fortified pigs, by the way.