Nokia and Microsoft are offering app developers up to € 70,000 if their ideas are accepted for a new program
DAVID J. CORD
EIGHTEEN million euros have been granted by Nokia and Microsoft to AppCampus, a program administered by Aalto University that aims to boost the mobile ecosystem of Windows and Nokia platforms. App developers are being invited to apply to the program for funding and coaching.
“The ICT industry and knowledge base in Finland is one of the most competitive in the world, particularly in the mobile technology field,” said Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen at the launch ceremony in March. “The partnership between Microsoft and Nokia is a critical investment in this growing ecosystem and represents an exciting opportunity and access to global markets for our local start-up community.”
“We want to turn a new leaf in the mobile industry and foster Finland’s role as a centre of excellence for mobile technology,” Microsoft Oy’s General Manager Ari Rahkonen said at the ceremony. “Such investment into early-stage concepts has rarely been seen in this sector, and this demonstrates how highly both Nokia and Microsoft value Finnish mobile expertise.”
Expanding the ecosystem
“The purpose of AppCampus is to accelerate the adoption of the Windows phone and some Nokia platforms,” explains Will Cardwell, the head of the Aalto Center for Entrepreneurship and one of the driving forces behind the project. “We want to expand the developer ecosystem, so it is not for existing applications on the Windows phone. The idea is that we want a first run, unique, innovative application for the Windows phone and beyond that to other Nokia platforms.”
AppCampus has invited students and entrepreneurs around the globe to apply to participate. The submission process is simple, asking applicants what is new, interesting, or different about proposed apps and inviting them to provide demos and videos.
Successful applicants will be granted between 20,000 and 70,000 euros, depending upon the size and scope of the project. Once formally admitted, participants will receive thirty per cent of the funds. The remainder of the money will be granted when the final product is certified and launched on Windows Mobile Marketplace or Nokia Store. AppCampus doesn’t seek any equity stakes, revenue sharing or intellectual property rights, but they do want exclusivity for six months, meaning a similar application can’t be placed on a competing marketplace.
The program could help develop Finland as a hotbed for mobile application development. In addition, a thriving ecosystem would help Microsoft and Nokia in their partnership. Because it is so important to the Finnish economy, organisers have been delighted in the reaction to the program.
“The response has been excellent, as you would expect,” continues Cardwell. “There has been a lot of excitement about this, and we received many more applications than we expected. It has basically been a ‘soft launch.’ It won’t be October before we are really up and running.”
Organisers hope to be quick and agile dealing with the flood of applications, so their goal is to deliver decisions to applicants within one month. Similarly, they want celerity on the part of the applicants. Simple apps are expected to be done within two months, while more complex ideas are expected to be completed in about four months.
The entire program is planned to operate for the next three years. Applications will be accepted, funds granted and coaching provided until 2015, at least.
“We’ve built a good, international team,” Cardwell enthuses. “We have three Finns, a Frenchman, Spaniard and Italian. Many have a Nokia background but have been entrepreneurs for several years. Pekka Sivonen, the head of the project, is a great addition. He was a founder at Digia.”
Sivonen said that between March and May they attracted the interest of over 4,000 individuals and a great number of service providers and system integrators from thirty-one countries. Since mid-May, when applications began to be formally accepted, interest has continued to grow.
Wealth of partners
A great deal of money and effort has been placed in the program. Nokia and Microsoft are advancing the funds, but other organisations are also involved. Aalto University is providing premises, coaching services and access to business and academic networks for new app developers.
Other partners have been brought in for diverse reasons. AppCampus recruited Audiocraft to host a crowdsourced effort to create a unique soundtrack to complement its video materials. Many others have been busy behind the scenes.
“In some ways, this would not have been possible without Greater Helsinki Promotion,” concludes Cardwell. “They have provided many intangible benefits and given moral support. They helped with the working relationships with Nokia and Microsoft, and making sure the Finnish Mobile Association was at the table. They provided market research, which was very useful in the negotiations. They researched key applications, what’s hot and what’s not. In a way, we are looking for ‘what’s not,’ because if it is a hit other people are already doing it.”
What apps are wanted?
• Innovative. First-to-Market.
• Differentiated, unique apps not already in other marketplaces.
• Supports key features as they become available. (Maps, camera, accelerometer, in-app purchasing, in-app advertising, for example.)
• Design elegance, technical quality and performance.
• Potential to drive momentum.
The First Round
• 900 ideas were submitted.
• 36 apps were approved.
Some Approved App Ideas
• Sihti, a mobile job-search and application service.
• Modz, which lets kids measure their blood sugar.
Recent news about AppCampus in here.