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Summary:

A new startup is hoping to breathe new life into the MeeGo project let loose by Nokia — just one of a rising number of companies breaking out as the Finnish mobile giant stumbles. That’s what happens when you let 40,000 people go inside two years.

Nokia N9 running MeeGo

As Nokia nosedives, there’s no doubt that things are looking pretty grim. And I don’t just mean its finances: forget all the numbers, all the poor sales and the missed revenue targets: in raw human terms, the company’s cut 40,000 jobs since Stephen Elop took over in 2010. That’s a lot of heartache for a lot of people.

But not everybody is taking their fate lying down.

In fact, more and more of the engineers, are starting to look for ways to build — and rebuild — a new identity out of the ashes of Nokia’s burning platform.

The Verge reported this weekend that a small team of former Nokia staff have linked up to work on Jolla, a startup that’s looking to extend the life of MeeGo — the mobile OS cut loose by Nokia and Intel. It’s pulling together a team of former MeeGo executives to do what Nokia decided it couldn’t.

The Jolla team is formed by directors and core professionals from Nokia’s MeeGo N9 organisation, together with some of the best minds working on MeeGo in the communities.

Together with international private investors and partners, Jolla Ltd. will design, develop and sell new MeeGo based smartphones. The Jolla team consists of a substantial number of MeeGo’s core engineers and directors, and is aggressively hiring the top MeeGo talent to contribute to the next generation smartphone production.

And they aren’t the only ones looking for something positive out of Nokia’s implosion.

A couple of weeks ago we reported on a team of engineers who were now looking for work after building the company’s secret Linux project for low-end phones, Meltemi. Fired en masse when the company closed its research facility in Ulm, Germany, they had banded together to under the name of “Kyvyt” to try and find new jobs (it’s Finnish for “talent” in case you were wondering).

In fact, there are actually dozens of startups coming out of Nokia over the last few years, either from those who were forcibly moved on or those who chose to get out. Some are more traditional spin-outs like enterprise mobility service Newelo, others are more consumer-focused, like Tellyo and Skimm.tv, two different sorts of interactive TV services.

Among the most interesting is Uplause, a Helsinki startup that creates games meant to be played by huge crowds on big screens at a stadium — effectively taking the joystick to the Jumbotron. It was founded by a duo who took the chance to leave Nokia at the start of its cutback programs in 2009.

And then there are those who have turned into an opportunity. Mobile Brain Bank was founded by Petra Söderling — who previously worked on Nokia’s Symbian team — to help mobile industry workers who lost their jobs find something new.

Earlier this month she told local newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that she couldn’t have started without Nokia’s help — but that there are plenty of people crying out for the kind of knowledge and experience that former staff at the company have acquired.

Let’s not blow this up too much: it’s still very much early days, and it will take a few successes of huge proportions to make up the gap that Nokia has created. But in the end, the company’s struggles could be opening up the door to a generation of entrepreneurs who would otherwise have remained locked inside the business.

  1. good move Nokia!

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  2. Chuks Onwuneme Friday, July 27, 2012

    A new Seattle based startup, Personify.iT, is also founded by ex-Nokia engineers. Personify aims to create a marketplace for social good, where people who are looking for meaningful ways to give back their time are matched with causes requiring action that they can do with their friends. It’s like Craigslist (or Kickstarter) for social good, albeit a social version. More information at http://personify.it

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