As they say, preparation is the key to success. And when you are planning to move to a new country and immerse yourself in its business life – like the participants of the 90 Day Finn program –, you want to guarantee your success. Therefore, Helsinki Business Hub is organizing virtual events for the 15 participants to equip them with the information that helps them integrate in the business ecosystem in Helsinki upon their arrival in August.
The first of the sessions introduced the participants to the startup ecosystem in Helsinki. Speakers were invited from different sides of the ecosystem: Pia Santavirta, managing director of Finnish Venture Capital Association, Ekaterina Gianelli from Inventure, Ville Simola, CEO of startup campus Maria01, and Emma Lehikoinen, Expansion Lead at Swappie. Watch a snippet of the virtual event below and get a feeling of what the 90 Day Finn participants are experiencing!
The bright present of Finnish startups
Wolt, IQM, Swappie, Wirepas, Spinnova, Sulapac. Pia Santavirta has listed some of the recent successes among Finnish startups in her presentation slides. Together, they have raised over €1 billion in funding in 2019–2020.
And they are not isolated cases. Santavirta confirms that Finnish startups are doing great: they attract the most venture capital in Europe adjusted to GDP, two times the European average. Foreign capital plays a key role here as half of the investments in Finnish startups comes from outside of the country.
Investors in Finland are also a diverse group. The VC companies range from private to public and from general to sector-specific, and investors are looking for interesting startups in all stages, from seed to venture. There is also an active angel investor network. “All these investors are really important to boost the ecosystem of the Finnish startups,” Santavirta says.
An easy-going startup ecosystem
“Finland is a great place to start a company,” affirms Ekaterina Gianelli. She lists reasons that simplify the founding process: there’s lots of capital, no bureaucracy, plenty of talent, English is widely spoken, and the public sector supports new companies. She remarks that the small domestic market can also be an advantage for Finnish companies as they have to aim for global markets and solving global problems from the beginning.
The startup ecosystem in Helsinki is also a pleasant environment. Emma Lehikoinen mentions a few reasons: the availability of international talent means that hiring staff with specific skills – e.g. speakers of minority languages – is easy, the city is family-friendly, and the small ecosystem is easy to navigate. “Everyone’s eager to help. There’s this sharing and learning aspect, it’s easy to talk to people,” she says.
Ville Simola agrees. “We’re a community first,” he states, describing the Maria01 campus. With its focus on impact and responsibility and a mission to help early-stage startups, it is only fitting that the campus is located in the old premises of a hospital.
Responsibility and success go hand in hand
Both environmental and social responsibility surface in the discussion repeatedly. Maria01 has taken concrete actions to promote diversity, and it is one of the evaluation criteria in company applications. “It can be seen in statistics that teams that have more diversity – different knowledge, cultural background, expertise – can make better results,” Ville Simola says.
Ekaterina Gianelli agrees. “People are realizing that diversity is a sign of good business,” she says. She finds that the companies creating a positive change in the society are the most interesting ones. They address issues such as the pressures of an aging society, loneliness, and climate change.
“We feel it’s our responsibility as investors to support the positive change of the society and these types of companies we are looking at,” she says. “In the Nordics, we have a lot of solid companies.”
The mainstream interest in the environment is one of the reasons Swappie, who sell refurbished consumer electronic products, has remained in Helsinki. “In Finland, people are very focused on sustainability,” Emma Lehikoinen says, “so that has made Finland a very good test market for us.”
Making a positive contribution in their environment is important for the 90 Day Finn participants. They will undoubtedly help the startup ecosystem in Helsinki develop, and benefit from the relationship in turn. Next fall, we will see what shape this cooperation takes when the participants arrive – well prepared.
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Director, Invest in
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