Independent start-ups are responsible for some of today’s best innovation and the resulting new services and products. SanomaVentures was created to support them and bring out their potential.

SanomaVentures manager Herman Kienhuis reveals that in addition to acquiring existing businesses and developing its own products, Sanoma considers it prudent to innovate and grow differently. Investing in start-ups is an excellent method of connecting with entrepreneurial talent. This was the impetus for Sanoma Digital to start up SanomaVentures in 2012, with the aim of facilitating low-cost experimentation, creating growth potential and applying Sanoma's expertise and media power to help start-ups to expand.

Great promise

Several companies discovered by SanomaVentures show great promise. Finnish start-up Nosto, for example, offers a plug and play engine for webshops and is now selling it to retailers all over Europe. In 2014 a big UK investor also decided to support them. Then there’s Virtuagym, a fitness platform with paid programmes for fitness clubs and trainers and free consumer apps that have been downloaded by millions. In 2014 it acquired major fitness company Basic Fit as a client. In 2014 SanomaVentures invested in new companies like holiday-home search engine Roomlr, social-referral site Socialshop and fashion retailer LocalsUnited. It also increased its interests in four other companies, including Brandkids and Scoupy. And like Nosto, product-sharing marketplace Peerby managed to attract another international investor.

Education

Initially SanomaVentures focused mainly on consumer media and e-commerce, but last year it took decisive steps towards supporting education start-ups. In an event called ‘Sanoma Start-up Challenge: The Future of Learning‘ the best EdTech start-ups in Europe were selected and five finalists were invited to Amsterdam, where a winner was chosen. This generated many contacts with education start-ups, giving them lots of exposure. "We’ve made two investments so far in education, but we’re now seeing many more EdTech start-ups and we’re currently in the process of closing two further deals," Kienhuis says.


Herman Kienhuis: 
"We’ve made two investments so far in education, but we’re now seeing many more EdTech start-ups and we’re currently in the process of closing two further deals"

Revenues doubled

For SanomaVentures 2014 was indeed a dynamic year. Of the 15 companies in its portfolio many of them realised growth and some secured new financing. On average they doubled their revenues. Meanwhile the SanomaVentures investment team expanded to five people, and opened an office in Helsinki to look for investment opportunities in Finnish start-ups. The ambition is to amass a portfolio of 24 companies with substantial revenue growth and add five successful enterprises to the Sanoma portfolio, concludes Kienhuis. "We started with a six-year plan and now, in year three, I can confidently say we’re well on our way."