Last week, I had the pleasure of being invited out to Finland by Finnfacts on a whirlwind tour of new and established Finnish start ups. I was also delighted to attend the renown Nordic Technology Conference MindTrek, joined by other prominent figures from the international web and technology scene.
Over the next few days I’ll be sharing thoughts and details of some of the companies we visited, these include Floobs, RuntoShop and Muxlim. Though, for the moment, I’d like to share my perspective on the Finnish startup scene and community as a whole.
First and foremost, visiting the country, there is no question the weight of the country’s most famous technology company – Nokia – is an overbearing one. While it provides jobs and a great deal of pride, it also appears to be a heavy load on the start up community who need more small and nimble company’s to look up to.
That said, in recent years with the acquisition of companies like the Google acquired microbloging service Jaiku (still held in high acclaim), MySQL and more recently the (Nokia) purchase of Finnish/UK travel community Dopplr, there is a richer source of start up inspiration than ever before.
Nordic blogs like Arctic StartUp share news and reports about the regions finest, and provide a much needed source of promotion and support through events and the blog itself.
Ville Vesterinen, Arctic StartUp’s editor, sat with us to share some of his insights and experiences. Amongst many other facts, a notable one is the sad fact that the majority of the country’s entrepreneurial successes rarely return to the country, but rather choose to move abroad and invest their financial rewards in stocks and mortar.
While the migration of successful entrepreneurs has hampered the country’s growth, there are signs that is beginning to change and entrepreneurs like Jyri Engeström (Jaiku founder) are reportedly returning home to help nurture the community and support aspiring internetpreneurs. While others like Taneli Tikka are already there and continue to play a pivotal role within the start-up ecosystem.
In regard to financial support and investment, the most notable fixture is the support the government gives its fledgling start ups. Through programs like Tekes and Finnvera, the Finnish state provides sizable investments equal to the amount you can find through VC’s and angels. This means, if you are able to find €1 Million in investment through a VC, the government will match it with a loan at favorable rates. This can be repeated through further rounds of investment.
One significant characteristic of the start-ups we were able to visit is their international outlook. Clearly, success in Finland isn’t enough. Companies have an almost ingrained international perspective, a huge positive.
From my experience, there are a number of essential ingredients to a (potentially) successful start up ecosystem, engineers, more engineers and a special few entrepreneurs. Fortunately Finland is stacked full of them, and they’re creative too. This, combined with a supportive community, and natural drive towards global success and innovation means Finland does indeed have what it takes to play a more significant role in the international start up scene that it currently gets recognition for.
That said, the country is still in dire need of more support from its start up ambassadors, the fortunate few who have created a great deal of personal wealth and experience from their own start up successes. From my albeit short time in Finland, it is these role models that can make the difference between mediocrity and supreme international start up recognition.