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Northern Edge: A cool platform to fly

by Mily Vázquez Harkivi

Venture Capital (VC) investment in a Finnish start-up is on average €745k. According to Kauppalehti, a business publication in Finland, local start-ups have become the most attractive in Europe, acquiring millions of euros in investment. Last year, they attracted €479M, of which 203M comes from VC. We’re witnessing a boom in the Finnish start-up ecosystem. Business Finland, NewCo Helsinki, and services like My Enterprise Finland help entrepreneurs establish and grow their companies.

In the neighboring Espoo (with a population of about 272k), the ecosystem is blossoming around Espoo Innovation Garden and Business Espoo. The Finnish ecosystem offers support during all stages of a start-up, from idea to growth, and beyond. Let’s check out some of the hottest organizations supporting start-ups and business development.

Inspiration is crucial when developing a business idea and for this purpose, the dynamic “Start-up Media” environment is a jewel. This hub of enthusiastic start-up professionals includes actors like Startup100, Arctic Startup, Helsinki Business Hub (HBH), Nordic Start-up Bits, and Start-up Digest. Beginner events are offered by entrepreneurship societies like AaltoES (Aalto Entrepreneurship Society), Aalto Ventures Program (AVP), (Helsinki) Founder Institute, Haaga- Helia StartUp School, Startup Sauna, Lean Startup Machine (Helsinki), and Turbiini Vantaa. In addition, there are many clubs like Start-up Founder 101 (Founder Institute) and Upgraded Life TALKS organized by the Finnish Health Startup Association HealthSPA.

Events have also become popular: Slush, AVP events, FallUp, HUB13 Events,

FiBAN Pitch Finland, and Silicon Vikings’ Startup World Cup. If you’re looking for partners and co-founders, check these out: Arctic Startup Jobs, Founder2be, Startup Co-Founder 101 (Founder Institute), Boardio, The Hub, and NewCo’s In-Search of Team members event.

When the business idea becomes serious, local associations offer funding programs and related services. These include FiBAN (Finnish Business Angel Association), Avanto Ventures, Butterfly Ventures, Conor Venture Partners, Inventure (Nordic Technology Fund), Lifeline Ventures, Nexit Ventures, Open Ocean Capital, and IndustryHack.

Looking across the edge

International collaboration is crucial for start-ups, especially those intended to be born-global. Jochen Faugel, Head of Consulting at ArcticStartup, appreciates intercultural competence in the start-up environment. He says, “Our work environment is shaped by different backgrounds and knowledge; we have developed a wonderful attitude towards respecting each other. From experience, I know foreigners contribute greatly to a powerful and creative work environment.”

Mustafa Salam is the Head of Business Program at Start-up Refugees, an organization helping immigrants find their niche in Finland. They train people of more than 12 nationalities and now they offer the program in English, Finnish, and Arabic. “All of our participants bring something new to Finland, something from their background with a taste of their home country. We give them the tools that help them in keeping this taste while adjusting it to the Finnish culture”, he notes.

The local start-up picture would be incomplete without mentioning Estonia, the neighboring country which is about a 3-hour boat trip from Helsinki. Pilvi Hämäläinen, Director of Enterprise Estonia (EAS) Finland, helps Estonian companies succeed in Finland and promotes Finnish investments in Estonia. “We provide financial assistance, counseling, cooperation opportunities, and training for entrepreneurs, research institutions, the public, and non-profit sectors”, she says.

Upcoming start-up events in Estonia are Start-up Week Tallinn, Start-up Day, and Latitude59. So, is there a national celebration related to this success? Finnish modesty is business as usual: a reason to celebrate is reserved for a world championship, in Hockey of course.




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