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Europe’s 23 million entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs will be the driving force behind the region’s economic recovery. But it’s not just the range of companies that’s dizzying – it’s the disruptive force of their ideas. By Colin Brown, Suzanne Frost, Erik Jaques, Lucy Fitzgeorge-Parker, Hanan Sher, Trevor Huggins and Boyd Farrow


01 Technology UK

Most of us probably won’t get as excited about quantum dots – the nanoparticles of a semiconductor material, about 80,000 times thinner than human hair – as Michael Edelman or Nigel Pickett, but we will all benefit from the work these two scientists have been doing in Manchester, England.

Semiconductors are the cornerstone of modern electronics. Quantum dots’ conducting characteristics are closely linked to the size and shape of the individual crystal; as they are so small they display unique optical and electrical properties. This means that backlit LCD displays in computer screens – go on, feel how hot your screen is now –television sets and phones can be far more efficient and save energy; in lighting, quantum dots allow the colour of the light from a source to be precisely controlled. Last September, Nanoco signed a joint development deal with a major television manufacturer, and Edelman says the first enhanced models should enter production next year.

With legislation to reduce power consumption stalking the globe, quantum dots could suddenly be very big indeed.

In fact, in order to meet growing demand, Edelman says that around three tonnes of quantum dots will be needed each year by 2012. Having cracked mass production for these little beauties, Nanoco is sitting pretty. What’s more, quantum dots have traditionally been made with metals such as cadmium, which is now banned in consumer products; Nanoco has devised ways to produce cadmium-free quantum dots.

The potential uses for the technology are exploding too. Edelman says quantum dots can also be used in photovoltaic (PV) panels to make solar power more efficient: “It’s all about costs. The energy produced now for solar costs $2.4 per watt compared to 60 cents from a wall socket.“ In June, Nanoco struck its first commercial solar deal, signing an agreement with Tokyo Electron to develop a solar PV nanomaterial film for solar cell manufacturing equipment.

Quantum dots could also build quantum computers, which work in a fundamentally different way to traditional ones; while the potential in various fields of medicine is also massive, with quantum dots being used with fibre-optic probes to distinguish between good and bad tissues.

In its last financial year, Nanoco received a $2m as part of a $10m agreement with a major Japanese manufacturer, which produces LEDs for the general lighting and LCD backlight market. Nanoco expects to get the remaining $8m by the end of 2010.

“We’re experts on materials, not devices, so we strike strategic partnerships. Th e business model is working closely with partners who pay towards development cost, then again at the licence agreement stage and then a small royalty on products sold that contains our patented technology”.

Nanoco’s broker Zeus Capital forecasts that for 2010 and 2011, the company will generate €6m and €12m of revenues before a dazzling leap to €95m in 2012.


02 Security Israel

By 2007, London had 10,524 CCTV security cameras as part of an all-out effort to fight crime. Unfortunately, London Assembly figures show that, over time, police in areas with a heavy concentration of cameras were no more likely to catch off enders in the act, or apprehend them afterwards, than in neighbourhoods with fewer devices.

But it wasn’t the cameras failing to do their job; it was the people who monitored them. And it’s not their fault: the average person viewing surveillance footage has an effective attention span of about 20 minutes. Now BriefCam, based in Neve Ilan near Jerusalem, has developed technology to enhance their eff ectiveness.

“We don’t try to replace human eyes, we just report what we see so that it is more comprehensible,” says BriefCam chairman and co-founder Gideon Ben-Zvi, who describes his firm’s Video Synopsis system as “sort of like a time machine”, tracking objects of interest and superimposing images photographed minutes or hours apart to be viewed simultaneously.

Applications go far beyond law enforcement to include monitoring what goes on in kindergartens, in the care of the elderly or in commercial centres. And, BenZvi says, the potential of BriefCam, whose technology partners include Genetec, Verint, Panasonic and Sony, is growing exponentially. “In 2010, our direct potential market – meaning customers we can sell to, not the entire industry – amounts to $700m–$800m,” he says. “Within five years, it is expected to be $1.4bn.” Which makes BriefCam a firm to keep an eye on.


03 Water Netherlands

If you crammed all the water in the world into a 1l bottle, only half would be fit for drinking. The rest would be either too saline, polluted or frozen. We desperately need to tap new sources of potable water, and Dutch desalination adventurer Voltea believes it can help.

The company’s technology, which evolved out of Unilever’s R&D department and this April earned the Water Technology Idol gong at the Global Water Summit, is based on a simple principle: when salt dissolves in water it forms positive and negative ions; Voltea uses two electrodes with a small voltage across them to draw these ions out and temporarily store them on the electrodes until they can be discharged to the drain.

Particularly effective for brackish water, and with applications ranging from groundwater desalination to water softening for domestic appliances, Voltea’s approach uses less than half of the energy compared to other technologies. It is also more efficient in terms of water use. “Many of the current technologies discard as much as 50% of the incoming water to produce fresh water; our technology has an efficiency of up to 95%,” says Voltea CEO Michiel Lensink, whose firm is backed by Unilever Ventures and Pentair and is currently closing another investment round with the cleantech venture capital arm of one of the world’s leading banks.


04 Energy Norway

Much as everyone hails wind power as a potent source of clean energy, enthusiasm wanes the moment they realise that giant turbines are coming to their own backyards – or even 20km out to sea. For example, a $2bn plan to build what would be the first wind farm in US coastal waters just off the Cape Cod peninsula in Massachusetts is still being fought over a decade later; although they cite wildlife concerns as the reason for their opposition, the truth is beach-lovers just don’t want their horizons ruined.

A solution to this environmental dilemma has come from Norway’s Statoil. Th e world’s biggest offshore oil and gas company has teamed up with European partners such as Siemens and Nexans to build the first full-scale floating wind turbine.

Drawing on its long history with off shore platforms in the North Sea, Statoil devised a steel cylinder that is filled with a ballast of water and rocks. Extending 100m below the surface, this floating structure is anchored to the sea bed by a three-point mooring spread. Underwater cables link the 2.3MW wind turbine –the Hywind – to the mainland electricity grid. A prototype is currently being tested 10km off the coast of Norway.

Floating wind farms can also be moved to areas where the wind is stronger and steadier. Over time, insists Statoil, such turbines should cost no more than fixed ones, opening the commercial door to viable wind harvesting off the coasts of North America, the Iberian Peninsula and those of Norway and the UK.


05 Music Sweden & UK

Spotify, a free streaming music service delivered via desktop software with social sharing elements, already enjoys cult status in the US – and it’s not even available there.

Restricted so far to the UK, France, Spain, Netherlands and the Nordic countries, this Swedish start-up is seen by the music industry as a counterbalance to Apple’s iTunes. The support for Spotify is so intense, that record labels are starting to believe that cloud-based music may well be the future of music consumption – as opposed to owning audio files or, heaven forbid, CDs.

But, having swept through Europe, there are fears that it will flame out in the same way as Joost, another much-hyped media start-up. Crucial to its long-term success may be its US launch, which has been delayed because of negotiations with record labels; the industry is reluctant to allow Spotify to operate as a free ad-supported service, fearing more cannibalisation. Even if it cracks that conundrum, Spotify faces competition from the likes of Rhapsody, Mog and everyone’s favourite app, Pandora.

Still, that Google was desperate to include the service on its Nexus One phone in the US – even to the point of covering the estimated monthly label costs of $4 per user – speaks volumes about Spotify’s mojo. That deal has failed to materialise, but the force is definitely with Spotify right now.


06 Customer service France

Paris- and San Francisco-based VirtuOz has won three awards from Deloitte as one of France’s fastest growing tech companies by supplying online retailers with “virtual agents” – software that appear to be real people in ‘chat’ dialogues dealing with customer queries.

Unlike traditional FAQs, which assume customers know exactly what they are looking for and are willing to search for it, virtual agents offer a twoway dialogue; the software is programmed to understand what the customer is looking for by asking natural-language questions and then provide an answer. It can draw on information held elsewhere in the retailer’s records (customer details, previous purchases etc), help a customer through a purchase or escalate the matter to a human agent. Agents can also be downloaded onto Facebook or Twitter profiles.

By satisfying initial enquiries better and more cost effectively, the system can help drive sales and reduces calls to customer service centres. Founded in 2002, VirtuOz grew 4,186% from 2004–08, with customers including eBay, PayPal and French mobile network SFR taking turnover to around €8.5m last year. Co-founder and CEO Alexandre Lebrun is now planning a speaking agent for mobile devices: “If I’m in the street and want to contact customer service, I don’t want to have to type, I’d rather talk to them.” Further ahead, a possibility is to offer multiple retailers via a single agent on the customer’s social network page.


07 Mobile technology Netherlands

The internet was largely unchartered cyberspace until Google came along and unleashed its potential through instant indexing and search algorithms. Th e same could also be said of augmented reality (AR), a technology that is still awaiting widespread adoption despite media hoopla.

Right now there are dozens of AR applications, for both iPhones and Android devices, that provide smartphone users with an array of useful information that is presented as a visual overlay to their mobile screens. They can see where their nearest metro stations might be, or the most popular bar, or the most deserted beach – assuming they even know that these contextual apps exist in the first place.

Enter Amsterdam’s Layar. Already at the global forefront of AR, Layar is looking to crack open the market through the recent launch of its “augmented reality content discovery engine”. Dubbed Layar Stream, this service lets mobile users find out which AR apps are the most popular in any given location. Calling this the “necessary building block to make augmented reality part of everyday life”, Layar CEO Raimo van der Klein compares this new search index to a TV guide for location-based information.

Given the explosion in geo-tagged social media that is occurring right now and a plethora of copycats now catching the eye of venture capital firms, such a guide may well hold the keys to the mobile future.


08 Health Israel

In the US alone, an estimated 3.6 million suff erers of degeneration of the retina (the membrane that lines the inside of the eyeball and is connected to the brain by the optic nerve) are legally blind. There is no known cure for the loss of function of the retina’s photoreceptors, which may be caused by ageing or diabetes, and it is the second largest cause of blindness after cataract.

Nano Retina thinks it has an answer for them and millions of others. Based in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, the small Israeli firm is developing a bionic retina, which managing director Ra’anan Gefen says “is designed to restore full sight, by replacing the damaged photoreceptors with artificial ones”. The device consists of a tiny imager, similar to that used a digital camera, and an electronic interface with the eye’s neurons encapsulated in a 5mm implant that can be embedded in a 30-minute operation. The only external part is a wireless power source, attached to a pair of eyeglasses.

Development by the firm, owned by Israeli investment firm Rainbow Medical and nanotech specialist Zyvex Labs of Dallas, is in an early stage, but the goal – which Gefen says includes the ability to recognise faces and watch TV – may be in sight. Th e first human trial of an implant is expected within three years, with clinical trials and commercial availability a couple of years more distant. For millions, that’s still an encouraging vision.


09 Statistics Germany

Whoever wins the World Cup this year, bias refereeing decisions will play a part – a claim that now has evidence to support it thanks to data amassed by cutting-edge German media information outfit Impire.

Using Impire data of more than 100,000 fouls – including seven seasons of Germany’s Bundesliga (85,262 fouls) and the Champions League (32,142), and three World Cups (6,440) – two scientists at Rotterdam School of Management have proved that tall players such as England forward Peter Crouch (2.01m) will more often get penalised in a 50-50 clash with smaller players such as German defender Philipp Lahm (1.70m).

Impire captures statistical data on every aspect of a game and turns it into real-time services. Future applications include real-time 3D game simulations, which viewers can follow from any player’s perspective. Add in player avatars and these could offer an enhanced viewing experience, since fans can put themselves in any position on the pitch, making sports truly interactive and immersive.


10 Social networking Russia

Mark Zuckerberg was just 20 when he created Facebook out of his Harvard dorm room. But even his overnight rise pales against that of Andrey Ternovskiy, a 17-year-old Moscow teenager who has managed to disrupt the media world with an online sensation that took him two days – and two nights – to code last November. Six months later and there are at least 1.5 million regular devotees of Chatroulette, a website that pairs random strangers from around the world for webcam-based conversations that can be conducted by video, audio and text. At any time, either user can simply switch partners for another random connection.

Backed by an initial $10,000 (€8,500) from his parents, Ternovskiy is now the much-pursued darling of Silicon Valley venture capital firms eager to help finance an expansion whose only limit right now is the escalating costs of adding servers that can handle that global traffic. Among those also spotted wooing him in New York in May was Digital Sky Technologies’ chief Yuri Milner (see p48), a fellow countryman who has also backed Facebook.

The website, which deliberately keeps advertising to a minimum, is not without its controversy. An estimated one in eight spins yields a live image of (mostly male) genitalia. That sense of dangerous thrill is, of course, a key reason why Chatroulette has proved so popular in a saturated world where sensation is becoming harder to contrive. That and a great name inspired after Ternovskiy watched The Deer Hunter.


11 Shipping Netherlands

While transporting a full container may be cost efficient, moving and storing an empty one certainly isn’t. However, Rotterdam-based René Giesbers may have the answer.

Cargoshell is a collapsible container made from fibre-reinforced plastics, which weighs 25% less than a steel container, and can fold down to a quarter of its size in 30 seconds. This not only has benefits for sea transport but also for onward transit by HGV; the company claims that if all steel containers were replaced by Cargoshells it would result in a 75% saving on transport kilometres, and the resulting CO2 emissions and costs.

The company also claims that if fitted with float bags, a Cargoshell will not sink if lost overboard; and, because composite material doesn’t interfere with GPS, tracking systems can be installed in the containers themselves if this should happen. However, the material has further benefits than just its weight: it’s resistant to corrosion; it doesn’t need repainting; and it off ers good insulation, potentially reducing some of the need for climate-controlled containers. Cargoshells also have roll-top doors instead of outward-opening doors, meaning they can be stacked closer together when full.

A certified Cargoshell is currently being developed; but, with a potential price tag three times that of a traditional container, we may be some way from universal uptake.


12 Construction Italy

As any LEGO demiurge knows, the holy grail is to scale those ramshackle plastic creations up to life size. Th at satisfying, unmistakable clack as the brightly coloured bricks seamlessly interlock. The thrill of realising the creation is restrained only by imagination. Th e creative safety net of being able to raze mistakes to the ground and start again. Imagine living in a LEGO house of your own making. Just imagine….

If Ecomat Research gets its way, such dreams may soon be made plastic. Stealing the show at this year’s Milan Design Week, the Italian company unveiled what can only be described as giant LEGO bricks – building blocks created from 100% recycled plastic that can be used to create sturdy, thermally and acoustically sound structures for both permanent and temporary use. No mortar is required, nor are expensive, heel-dragging, invoice-happy builders, and the product’s weight means significant CO2 savings are made during shipping. Astonishingly, an Ecomat structure is also said to be earthquake resistant.

While the best, and most realistic applications of the technology will clearly be in developing nations and areas in need of emerging housing, there will no doubt be healthy niche market to satisfy the architectural whims of hardened LEGO fiends.


13 Banking UK

Anyone who has taken a taxi into central London from Heathrow this year is likely to be familiar with the name Metro Bank – it’s emblazoned in eye-catching blues and reds across the side of a building in Earls Court, with the slogan “Love your bank at last”.

In a country where bank advertising is usually restrained and – particularly since the financial crisis – reassuring, this brash display is a clear statement of intent. Metro Bank, founded by colourful US entrepreneur Vernon Hill, is designed to capitalise on consumer dissatisfaction with the tarnished and rapidly shrinking high-street banking sector. Its branches – initially comprising just two central London locations, Earls Court and Holborn, with eight more planned for next year – will be the first in the UK to offer seven-day opening, late hours for city workers, and crowd-pleasers such as children’s games and dog biscuits.

As Britain’s first new retail bank in more than a century, it’s a bold venture. Th ere’s no question the industry is ripe for a shake-up: consolidation over the past decade has restricted consumer choice, with Spain’s Santander buying up a string of banks and building societies including Abbey and Alliance & Leicester, and LloydsTSB and HBOS coming together in a crisis-inspired shotgun wedding that at any other time would have raised competition issues.

Whether Metro Bank will be the beneficiary of this unease remains to be seen; many experts say established names such as Tesco and Virgin Media, which have also declared an interest in entering the market, have a better chance of success. Yet Metro’s expansion aims are modest, its backers – including fund managers Wellington and Fidelity – are solid, and its marketing approach fresh. Travellers along Cromwell Road should watch this space.


14 Motoring UK

Revered British carmaker Lotus stole the limelight at this year’s Geneva Motor Show with its concept car, the Evora 414E Hybrid. The fact that Lotus was entering the electric vehicle (EV) arena was not the surprise here, after all, Lotus already provides the chassis for Telsa’s all-electric Roadster; no, what caught the attention were two features designed to fool those both inside and outside its gorgeous matte-copper finish into believing that the hybrid is actually a traditional petrol-powered sportscar – albeit one that can accelerate to 100km/h in less than four seconds.

First, there’s a gadget to give the Evora the feel of a seven-speed transmission. The simulated paddle shift gives owners an enhanced feeling of control over the vehicle’s rate of acceleration and braking. More ingenious still is another trick of make-believe called HALOsonic sound synthesis. Co-developed with audio experts Harman International, this feeds a stream of artificial sound both into and outside the cabin. Not only does this create a more visceral sense of feedback for the driver (who can choose between a V6 or a V12 vroom), it also ensures that this otherwise silent beauty does not run over unsuspecting pedestrians. Apparently, most of our danger signals when it comes to oncoming cars are cued to sound.

Even if the concept car never makes it into production, you can expect both innovations to make their way into other EVs. Th ink of them as the auto equivalent of fake fur.


15 Social media Russia

Yuri Milner, former Moscow physicist and now a key investor in social media, has a novel way of evaluating companies. “I divide the age of an entrepreneur by the market cap of their company,” he told a TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York recently. “For Facebook that ratio is one: Every year of his life [Mark] Zuckerberg has been making $1bn for investors.”

And no one is more pleased with that than Milner himself, who owns at least 5% of Facebook, having invested up to $400m in the social network. His and DST’s shrewd investments don’t stop there: his fastest growing investment has been Zynga, maker of the hit Farmville social game, and he also has a stake in Groupon, the Chicago startup that offers discounts on things to do if enough users sign up for a deal en masse.

A “late-stage investor” – he only places $100m bets on companies that are already valued around $1bn – Milner is now scouring Asia, Australia and the UK for candidates. Twitter is also said to be on his radar.

Milner has earmarked Russia, China, South Korea and Japan as areas for internet expansion, and DST recently entered a partnership with Chinese internet giant Tencent. “Facebook is the next step in the creation of a huge human brain that will embrace possibly billions of people” he says. “Right now it is facilitating an exchange of information never seen in history. I think Facebook is important globally because it going to be the social graph that unifies all civilisation – with perhaps two or three local social networks able to sustain competition long term.”


16 Consumer electronics UK

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the technology showcase that serves as the media oracle for What’s Next, was supposed to be all about 3D televisions and tablet computers. Instead it was a tiny projector developed by Light Blue Optics, a firm spun out from Cambridge University in England, that really caught the eye.

Dubbed the Light Touch, it is more than just a hand-held device for showing movies, photo slideshows and powerpoint presentations on the fly. Using proprietary holographic laser technology, it turns any flat surface into a 25cm touchscreen. Turn this baby on and, presto, the table in front of you is transformed into a virtual iPad. Th e whole metaphor of the “desktop” computer has come full circle.

For the moment, the Light Touch is only a “reference product”. LBO has no plans to commercialise its breakthrough product, but is looking instead to license its technology to other manufacturers. Pictures released by the company envisaged restaurant diners using the technology to place orders from projected menu directly to the kitchen. Th e company believes that other points-of-sale such as clothing stores could also benefit, with shoppers surveying other items while in the dressing rooms.

Founded in 2004 by four students studying physics and engineering, LBO has already raised more than €35m from the likes of Robert Bosch Venture Capital. They are already working on shrinking their technology into a space occupying no more than 8cm3 – small enough for holographic projections to be embedded in the next generation of camcorders, smartphones and car windscreens.


17 Clothing Sweden

Ah, polyester. Lovely, durable, chemical-, shrink- and wrinkle-resistant polyester. The sartorial hit we’d take for coping without its pluralistic properties doesn’t bear thinking of, yet there’s a rub. And we’re not just talking chafing from your cycling shorts.

Manufacturing the stuff is a hugely energy-intensive process requiring obscene amounts of crude oil, and results in emission nasties including volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride. Thank goodness then for Sweden’s Houdini Sportswear, which boldly claims its apparel is “not just saving your butt – saving the world”.

The derring-do company formed when a group of mountaineers stared death in the face. “We were stranded in what most people would call an impossible situation,” goes the story, “our backs against the wall. It was a do or die time… that day [Houdini’s] spirit came and helped us through. He’s been with us ever since.”

As the first European partner to team with Japanese company Teijin, it has access to the Eco Circle polyester recycling system that reduces CO2 emissions by 77% and energy consumption by 84%. When you are finished with Houdini products – which range from underwear and insulation to shell garments and accessories – you can pitch it back into a virtuous manufacturing loop. Helping the planet to escape runaway climate change: a staggeringly ambitious escape act the old master would surely approve of.


18 Manufacturing Israel

Not that long ago creating a prototype was a long and painstaking expense. Drawings were sent to craftspeople who would then deploy expensive machinery and tools to turn that blueprint into a wooden model. Today, pretty much anyone can shortcut the entire process by using a 3D printer in their own industrial garage.

Pioneering this field is Objet Geometries, an Israeli start-up that is now a global player in 3D printing. By jetting photopolymer materials in ultra-thin layers and then immediately curing each layer with UV light, Objet’s patented technologies transform computer-aided designs into models in record time and with extreme precision. At the top end are its Connex systems, the world’s first to allow simultaneous printing of several materials with diff erent mechanical and physical properties. But there is also the more aff ordable Alaris30, a desktop rapid prototyping system that brings manufacturing within reach of anyone with an idea.

Beneficiaries of these machines have included filmmaker James Cameron, who relied on Objet-created figurines of each blue-skinned humanoid character in Avatar to test lighting for every camera shot in the movie, as well as Adidas. Th e German sports apparel maker had long hankered after a complete digital process to enable it to create and share three-dimensional data back and forth from its Herzogenaurach, Germany, HQ to its Portland, Oregon, facility and all its contract factories in Asia. Th e final piece in that puzzle was Objet’s Polyjet inkjet technology that is now used in the design of almost every new Adidas sole.


19 Travel Switzerland

In a world where seamless connectivity is becoming vital for business travellers, it’s surprising that it has taken so long for in-flight mobile services to arrive. But in March this year, for the first time ever, passengers on an Oman Air flight were able to make calls, use their Smartphones and get Wi-fiaccess at 30,000ft, thanks to ground-breaking technology from OnAir.

Founded in 2005, the Geneva-based company today helps travellers stay in touch on more than 10,000 flights a month. Connection is via a tiny picocell antenna attached to the plane, which routes phone and internet signals to the fourth-generation Inmarsat SwiftBroadband satellite network, and allows for up to 24 simultaneous voice calls as well as unlimited texting and smartphone usage.

Many frequent fliers will be wondering why they are still waiting for this service, when the technology is available. Th ere are several reasons: some airlines were put off by early-stage development glitches, while others are still agonising over whether their customers really want ringtones and conversation on their planes. Adoption may also have been slowed by crisis-inspired cutbacks, and, as the system is easier to fit on new planes than old, some airlines are waiting for their new fleet to come on-stream before offering the service.

European carriers in particular are proving resistant to mobile services – although BA teamed up with OnAir to provide connectivity on its premium-only service from London City to New York – but Middle Eastern carriers are enthusiastic early adopters and Asian airlines are rapidly following suit. Like it or loathe it, it can’t be long before mobile use is as ubiquitous in the air as it is on the ground.


20 Environment Norway

Forget ditching your gas guzzler for a Prius; if you really want to make a difference to global warming it’s the teak decking on your yacht that you should worry about.

According to UN estimates, around 17% of global CO2 emissions are caused by deforestation – more than cars, trains and planes combined – much of which is due to demand for tropical hardwoods, such as mahogany and teak. So with much riding on the recent Oslo Climate and Forest Conference – and Norway donating $1bn each to Brazil and Indonesia to help protect ‘the lungs of the world’ – it seems fitting that it’s a Norwegian firm at the vanguard of reducing domestic hardwood use.

Kebony is a sustainable alternative to hardwoods, made by impregnating softwoods from managed sources with furfuryl alcohol, an agricultural by-product. The wood is heated, to bring about the polymerisation of the alcohol, and dried. The result is a long-lasting, decay-resistant, non-toxic, environmentally friendly wood with the look and hardness of teak. Kebony has already won fans among Scandinavian boatbuilders, and gardeners – scooping a Silver Gilt award at this May’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London, as part of the first ever Norwegian entry at the illustrious annual event.


21 Telecoms Finland

Nokia may be going head to head with Apple in the battle for the smartphone market but the Finnish mobile phone manufacturer has gone decidedly low-tech for its latest offering for users who need to keep their handsets charged while on the move – a pedal-powered battery charger.

The handlebar-mounted charger – which is connected to a dynamo that harnesses electricity from the wheels – has not been designed as the latest look-at-me gadget for the ostentatiously environmentally conscious but for developing countries, where access to electricity is limited.

“Bicycles are the most widespread means of transport in many markets around the world, so this is just one more benefit to be gained from an activity people are already doing,” Alex Lambeek, Nokia vice-president, said at the recent launch in Nairobi, Kenya.

It would take two-and-a-half hours for a cyclist riding at 15km an hour to fully charge a battery, the Finnish group said. Th e device will be available by the end of the year at a retail price of about €15.

The bicycle charger highlights eff orts by Nokia to consolidate up its dominant position at the lower end of the market in the developing world, amid rising competition from cut-price Chinese handsets. China and India were Nokia’s two biggest markets last year, accounting for 20% of total revenues, and the group is also strong in Africa, the Middle East and Russia.

Phones, in many cases, represent users’ only way of accessing the internet; in India, Nokia has launched a service that allows farmers to access weather forecasts and crop prices using their phone, while it is also developing financial services that enable users without bank accounts to pay bills and transfer money through their handsets.


22 Advertising Poland

The democratising promise of the internet is true of almost everything on the web except online advertising. If you are a small business and want to target a particular blog’s audience with your marketing message you have to negotiate through layers of middlemen and understand the difference between cost-per-thousand, cost-per-click and cost-per-action.

For this long tail of advertising, buying 1,000 impressions that go away in a couple of minutes can seem like a scam. But SMEs had no choice until AdTaily arrived on the scene last year with a Polish self-service advertising platform that has now gone international. Simple and disruptively cheap to use, this is aimed at those who understand paying, even a few hundred euros, for a two-day advertising campaign on a website tailored to their target.

Suddenly publishers both large and micro have a frictionless way of selling ad space directly to their readers. By embedding an AdTaily sales widget on their website, ads can be bought with as little as three clicks. And customers don’t even have to know about design: AdTaily will automatically generate a square banner based on whatever text has been entered.

Oh, and publishers get to set the price and keep 100% of the proceeds if the sale came directly through the widget. With so few downsides is it any wonder, as co-founder Jakub Krzych pointed out recently, that “many of our advertisers launch their first online campaign with AdTaily”.


23 E-tail France

As Europe continues to crawl out of recession, shoppers are increasingly turning to the internet for their retail – or should that be e-tail – therapy. And with up to 70% off designer items in member-only shopping clubs, it is easy to see why. But it’s not just shoppers eyeing the latest offerings – venture capitalists have invested more than €300m in the sector over the last three years.

The undisputed king of the clothes pile remains Vente-Privee – the French company, launched in 2001, which now has more than 9.7 million European members (up 38% on 2008) and last year posted a turnover of around €690m (a 33% increase on 2008), and expects to turnover €900m in 2010 with profits of more than €60m. In a bid to secure its dominant position, the company last year opened subsidiaries in London, Barcelona and Düsseldorf, and will shortly open another in Milan, and plans to employ another 350 people this year to add to the existing 1,250 employees.

However, Vente-Privee’s overseas success is perhaps not as immediate as some would have expected given its strength in France; while Germany, Spain and the UK are all posting growth, French sales still made up 85% of all turnover in 2009. Ironically, it is the very companies created in Vente-Privee’s image, such as Madrid-based BuyVIP (founded 2006) and Berlin-based Brands4friends (2007), that are providing the stiff est competition; both outsell Vente-Privee in their home markets – BuyVIP by 60%. For a company seemingly not short of cash but dogged by rumours of a potential takeover by Amazon, perhaps the more astute deal would now be consolidation in an increasingly crowded shopping club market place.


24 Banking Netherlands

Not all bankers emerged as the tainted villains of the global financial meltdown. Some, like Triodos, the pioneering “ethical” Dutch bank, actually prospered. During 2009, in the depths of economic despair, Triodos saw its banking business swell by 30% to €4.9bn as individuals and businesses alike sought sanctuary in a bank that only lends to operations judged to benefit society and the environment. With a customer base that grew to reach nearly a quarter of a million, Triodos now reaches well beyond the granola fringes.

With branches also in Belgium, Spain, Germany and the UK, Triodos lends to hundreds of organisations including fair-trade initiatives, community health clinics, organic farms, and other social and green enterprises, while also supporting microfinance programmes across the developing world. If even 5% of a firm’s business is deemed “non-sustainable” – think fur or genetic engineering – those companies are struck off its lending list.

In keeping with the Marxist-anarchist leanings of its CEO, Peter Blom, Triodos’ rule-breaking philosophy extends to publishing an annual list of the loans it has made – something no other commercial bank does in the UK, for example.

Triodos’ claim to be “the world’s most sustainable bank” is backed up by numerous awards including the Financial Times Sustainable Bank of the Year Award in 2009. Its next step: to persuade an alliance of global banks to abandon their short-term trading instincts in favour of this so-called “triple bottom-line” ethos. After all, there’s real money to be made.


25 Lighting Netherlands

How many companies does it take to change a light bulb? Well, just one – and what an important change it could be. At May’s Lightfair International Tradeshow in Las Vegas, the Amsterdam-headquartered electrical giant launched what could be the greatest innovation in illumination since the discovery of fire. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but Philips new 12W EnduraLED could be the beginning of the end of lighting as we know it.

We may have dabbled with compact fluorescent lamps, but, to date, the incandescent bulb has remained a household favourite because of its quality of light and the speed at which it attains it. However, Philips is hoping to change that; and with the EnduraLED off ering potential energy savings of up to 80% and lasting 25 times longer than a standard 60W bulb, its confidence may be well placed. No price data has been released, but with a 25,000-hour life span – equivalent to three years’ continual use or 10 years’ normal use – the EnduraLED may be able to justify its inevitable higher price tag.

But will it win over fans of the incandescent? Well, they may have no choice. Standard 60W bulbs are the most common household light bulb, with 425 million sold every year in the US alone, but with governments intent on phasing incandescents out, their days are numbered. However, Rudy Provoost, CEO of Philips Lighting, believes the EnduraLED may soften the blow: “We challenged ourselves to answer the consumer call for an LED alternative that can mimic the traditional incandescent in light quality, shape and use….We have been able to show people that LED lighting can deliver energy efficiency and the warm white light people desire for their homes, without compromise to quality.”

From CNBC Magazine Published on July 2010