The Comprehensive Guide to Finnish Startup Ecosystem – P1/2

Finnish Startup Ecosystem

At the beginning stage of a startup, as a startup founder, you have to deal with many challenges, from top priorities like developing successful products, finding core team members, attracting funding, and finally, covering necessary details like finding a place to work or designing company’s website. All of these tasks can be a burden to fulfill, but they are unavoidable.

According to a Forbes article,  execution accounts for 98% success of a startup. Getting an idea is not simple, but putting that idea into action and scaling it up is another story.

For all kind of resources that a founder can get, a startup ecosystem can be a great place to start. This comprehensive guide to Finnish Startup Ecosystem is dedicated to all passionate startup founders and all other entrepreneurial minds who are burning with new business ideas and are looking for an excellent place to plant a new seed.

Few words about the Finnish startup ecosystem in general and in the Uusimaa region (including Helsinki, Espoo, and Vantaa), first and foremost, Finland is the happiest country in the world  (UN Report 2019)… just kidding. Generally speaking, the quality of living is a big plus for startup in Finland, but it is not the case here. Finland has been ranked the best in terms of other indicators for the business environment. Honestly, there are many different reasons to start your startup in Finland, some to be counted, such as accessibility to information and guidance, active support from the states, reliable connection to funding sources and availability of various accelerator programs. Moreover, doing business in Finland provides a shortcut to step into other Nordic countries because these countries share many cultural similarities and are economically connected.

Nordic countries

Nordic countries share cultural and economic similarities

About the Uusimaa region: Helsinki is the capital of Finland where gathers most of the crucial factors for a startup ecosystem. Helsinki, with the nearby startup hub of Espoo and the growing city of Vantaa, together form an economic area which provides full facilities and opportunities for new business. Especially Espoo – the city has successfully built a startup ecosystem and now become one of the most dynamic business hubs in Finland.

With availability of factors necessary for a startup ecosystem such as: universities, funding organizations, support organizations (like incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, and etc.), research organizations, service provider organizations (like legal, financial services etc.) and large corporations located in both specifically Uusimaa region and Finland in general, are a great place to start a business.

In this section, we will try to cover all the aspects that founders need from the Finnish startup ecosystem. Most organizations are in the Uusimaa area, but there are ones operated across the country or in cooperation with other EU countries. Go through this article, you will know:

  1. What the Finnish startup ecosystem is about and what to expect
  2. Having an idea, where to start?
  3. Best events and meetups to keep an eye on
  4. Most visible financial sources and investment funds to keep an eye on
  5. Popular angel investors worthy to follow  
  6. Hottest companies emerging from the Finnish startup ecosystem
  7. Special sessions for startup founders from outside Finland

What the Finnish startup ecosystem is and what to expect

Build up connections

A startup ecosystem is a hub for talents and like-minded people. Joining the startup ecosystem offers founders an excellent opportunity to find core team members.

According to a startup survey by Silicon Valley Bank, 91% of startup founders in the US replied that finding talents with necessary skills set for growing a business is challenging or extremely challenging.

In the early stage of a company, the nature of employment may differ from in a well-established corporation. For example, a startup hardly attracts talents based on salary, employment benefits or reputation in the job market.

Working in a startup is another challenge because of its unstable and fast-paced nature. Therefore, recruiting people for a company in this stage is finding a committed teammate to build a future for the company together instead of just taking on an employee.

The startup ecosystem offers a platform, where entrepreneurial minds gather to share ideas and interact with each other. Founders can get to know potential candidates from different backgrounds, and then by interaction, can evaluate their skills and expertise.       

Access to funding

The Finnish startup ecosystem is built to connect founders and investors. The strong network of a startup ecosystem can be utilized for startup founders to access different sources of funding. Activities like pitching sessions and accelerator programs offer startup founders an excellent opportunity to present their ideas to investors. Besides, being part of a community allows founders to improve their social network and have an excellent excuse to start a conversation with investors or C-suite executives.  

Exchange knowledge

Failures seem like an essential part of a startup life cycle.

"Great entrepreneurs probably fail more than anyone else, but they relentlessly search for solutions while at the same time being unafraid of the consequences of short term failure."

Derek Andersen, the founder of Startup Grind

The Finnish startup ecosystem is there as your fingertips to get the best practice without yourself paying the price to learn the lesson. From other startups actions, you may decide what works and what doesn’t work for your own business. The knowledge can be transferred from experienced entrepreneurs to less experienced ones within the community. By learning from the past, you can save most of the headaches that a founder has to be through. From the community, you can find someone to be your mentor during tough decisions or you can become a mentor of others yourself. The exchange of knowledge creates trust and bonding within the community. In exchange for sharing and learning from other members, you can deepen your connections within the community.

Reduce basic costs

Founders could save quite a lot of basic costs by utilizing the common facilities of the startup community. Most of the time, these kinds of places offer facilities such as co-working spaces, meeting rooms, Internet, and amenities, like tea and coffee, for free or at a small price. In terms of maintaining everything to business standards,  it is highly encouraged that founders use the address of their company’s workspace versus the address of their apartment or their parents’ garage. All these little things are crucial to most of the startups in their early stage to consider when trying to save operations costs is one of the challenges. When basic needs are covered, startup founders can then focus on taking more essential tasks, such as developing new products or acquiring new users for their products.

Related: Are You A DIY SaaS Startup Owner?

Having an idea, where to start?

The following organizations offer different activities to facilitate the process of starting a business, from the very first beginning to the growing state of a startup or for companies looking for new opportunities.

Aalto Startup Center runs different pitching events and mentoring programs for startups in the Uusimaa region. You can find various services at the beginning of your startup journey regardless you are an Aalto university student or not.

The Shortcut is a non-profit and community-driven organization owned by Startup Foundation. You can find many gatherings, workshops, training and programs that help to explore ideas, share knowledge and develop skills for the startup life.

The shortcut

The shortcut organizes many workshops and training programs in Helsinki. Credit: here

The Founder Institute works with both entrepreneurs and teams at all stages such as an idea, prototype, and early company stage. Many of the world’s fastest-growing startups have used FI to raise funding, get into seed-accelerators, generate traction, recruit a team. Founder Institute operated globally, but you can find a specific chapter for the startup ecosystem in Finland.  

Startup Digest is a platform for entrepreneurial people can find connection with the startup community through events and top-notch content.

Maria 01 is a community located in the center of Helsinki where you can meet venture capitalists, established companies, and the extended ecosystem to help each other succeed in the competitive startup environment. At Maria 01 you are at the heart of the Nordic startup and tech scene with access to the know-how, tools, and people needed to grow your business.

Helsinki Business Hub is an international trade and investment promotion agency. You can find support to set-up, grow and develop business in Greater Helsinki (which consist of the cities of Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo, Kauniainen and the rest of the Uusimaa region.

The Startup Sauna is a focal meeting point in Northern Europe for entrepreneurs and investors alike located in Otaniemi right by the Aalto University campus. It’s a 1500 square meter industry hall open for everyone – no membership or previous ties to Startup Sauna are required. It’s a regular event space for founder talks, pitching competitions, and hackathons, hosting nearly 100 events a year related to startups and entrepreneurship.

ArcticStartup is a media agency providing information about the economy and business opportunities in Nordic countries. Besides, ArcticStartup organizes other events and project to promote starting a startup in the area.

NewCo Helsinki is a state organization providing services to promote business in Helsinki. You can find support services if you are planning to open a company or seeking an opportunity to grow your business.

A Grid is a startup community in Aalto university serve as a vibrant space for entrepreneurial expertise, services, and events. A Grid hosts all kinds of startups, accelerators, such as the European Space Agency and Aalto Startup Center, as well as partners and established companies, like Fortum.

a grid

A grid is a part of Aalto University startup ecosystem along with Design Factory and Startup Sauna. Credit: here

The Hub is a free-of-charge community platform tailored to the needs of growth startups. From here you can have an overview of the Finnish and Nordic startup community. Via the platform, you can get assistance with recruitment of talent, connection with investors and access best practice tools.

Most of the Finnish startup ecosystem gather in Helsinki region, but there is a growing environment in nearby cities. One of them is Tribe Tampere which is located about 2 hours from Helsinki to the North East. Tribe Tampere is an open community serving Tampere startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Tribe operates as a platform connecting organizations with individuals and provides useful value for the community.

SparkUp is a startup community located in Turku Science Park offering services for startups and entrepreneur-minded persons in the Turku region. You can walk your way in here from idea to teaming up, starting a business, and growing internationally.  SparkUp offers almost 800 m², 9 offices for teams, a big event space, cafeteria, and 3 meeting rooms – plus free open office space and two open meeting rooms without booking required.

Best events & meetups to keep an eye on

Slush is a student-driven, not-for-profit movement originally founded to change attitudes toward entrepreneurship. In 2018, Slush was organized in Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore and Helsinki with different activities such as Hackathon, networking, workshops.

Credit: here

Junction is an umbrella platform of different hackathons, speaker events, coding workshops and other tech events around the year intended to empower people to create new applications with technology. You can find new ideas or create new applications by yourself through these events.

Kiuas is another accelerator hub voted as Finland’s Best Startup Accelerator in 2018. You can find from here different concepts ranging from weekend-long boot camps to co-founder matching and a year-long incubator program. Kiuas have two core programs (Kiuas Start & Kiuas Accelerator) yearly with a unique combination of coaching, networks, tools, free office space. The best part is that all the programs and activities are free.

This group hosts numerous free events throughout the year where you can learn the best practices of starting a company from people who have been there and done that. You’ll have the opportunity to meet local founders and investors, exchange ideas with experts, get feedback on your plan.

Nordic Founders is a group for anyone interested in practical aspects of running a startup or a small business in Finland (registration, accounting, shareholders agreement, funding, taxation, insurances, etc.). The group exists to facilitate the discussion and share know-how between all kinds of entrepreneurs.  

In the next blog post are coming how to look for financial sources and investment funds, angel investors, and list of hottest young companies in Finland as well as special sessions for founders outside of Finland.

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