Finnish healthtech is on the verge of becoming the Next Big Thing, thanks in no small part to Health Spa.
Hundreds of Lego pieces lie in a pile on the table; a pyramid and a helicopter are among the constructs in various stages of assembly. The green leaves of Natur Vention’s Fresh Wall act as a backdrop, purifying the air that is fueling innovation. First impressions are bright, fresh and energetic. Welcome to the office of Health Spa.
Times have certainly changed in the past couple of years for the Finnish healthtech community. Nowadays, we are greeted with news of significant investments and developments in the sector on a regular basis. Companies such as Suunto, First Beat and Nordic Hug are becoming household names.However, in 2012 it was a different story, with mobile gaming the darling of the start-up community.
“There was no hype about this scene,” recalls Kenneth Salonius, Health Spa’s co-founder. “We noticed there was nobody who brought together the Finnish health and wellness start-ups scene in Finland. We decided that let’s put something together.”
The ‘we’ that Salonius refers to includes fellow entrepreneurs Sébastien Gianelli, Christian Lindholmand Pekka Sivonen. Launched as a hobby, Health Spa quickly swallowed up their spare time as they set about fostering an open environment that would strengthen the local ecosystem.
“We created a platform to help people take their ideas or business forward,” Salonius explains. “We try to function as the voice for the start-up scene and merge all the news and promote the startups.”
In less than three years the cluster has exceeded expectations, helping over 200 startups find media exposure, investors and one another via a range of matchmaking events. The effect has been palpable. The growing tidal wave of interest in heathtech now reaches all the way to the Finnish Government. National turnover within the sector is currently 3 billion euros.
“Something is happening here,” Gianelli observes. “We are not the only people talking about Health and Wellbeing in Finland anymore.”
Fresh developments are rapidly emerging. Every Samsung smartwatch and heart rate monitor now utilises Firstbeat algorithms for monitoring information. Clothing+ has developed a sports bra with Victoria’s Secret containing a monitoring sensor. Synoste has been making significant advancements in creating a pain-free bone-lengthening device. The list keeps growing.
One significant piece of recent news was the announcement of Vertical Startup Accelerator. Focussed on boosting the fortunes of healthtech startups, the accelerator is partnered with Samsung. So, where was the Health Spa quartet in the midst of all this? Front and centre, of course.
“Based on the learnings we got from Health Spa we decided to go full in and create a business accelerator,” Salonius explains. “We have been doing this for the past 2.5 years so we understand quite well how the sector looks like and what the needs are for the start-ups and other players.”
However, the quartet is keen to emphasise that this is a separate entity. They will continue their work with Health Spa, developing the ecosystem towards a prosperous future.
Having added three new members to the team, the next stage for Heath Spa involves shifting the focus away from the capital region, shining the spotlight on the rest of the country. An event inTampere on 6 March was their maiden voyage, with Oulu, Turku and Kuopio to follow.
“Although Finland is a small country, the diversity is extremely rich,” Gianelli enthuses. “Finland can be the world’s hub for health and wellbeing. We tell people to forget about Silicon Valley, forget about Tel Aviv, think about Finland.”
Text: James O’Sullivan
Article first published in Good News from Finland.