Finnish startup ecosystem – everything you need to know
Join us on a virtual trip to snowy Finland, the happiest country in the world, to see how startups grow there.
Nokia, Wolt, Angry Birds, Slush... Finland was always a phenomenon with technology innovations and a fascinating startup scene. What makes it so special? Which startups are worth to know? And which local accelerators and incubators help startups grow fast? Check our short guide and listen to the podcast.
4 000 startups founded every year
Considered as the happiest country in the world, the one of a kind. Every year the Fins celebrate National Failure Day and compete in the Wife Carrying World Championship. Heart rate monitors, sauna, cult Nokia cell phones - were invented there. People from Finland are not only famous for their eccentric ideas but also they are the most digitally advanced nation in Europe, friendly for young entrepreneurship. Sounds like a perfect place for a startup business, isn’t? 4,000 startups are being established in Finland each year according to facts delivered by Business Finland, the Finnish government organization.
The most digitally advanced country in Europe
Did you know that Linux was created by Finnish programmer Linus Torvalds? The first version was published in 1991. Eighteen years later, the world went crazy about Angry Birds, one of the top titles in Rovio’s portfolio, a Finnish producer of computer games. The technology is in the DNA of Finnish entrepreneurship
Finland has ranked top as the most digitally advanced country in the 2020’s DESI - the European Union's report of Digital Economy and Society Index. Finland has the highest rates of human capital / digital skills, use of the Internet and online activities, and high in other categories like in e-government initiatives. That’s why IT with various branches is still the key industry in the Finnish startup ecosystem and Digital Health is its largest high-tech export.
The 7 interesting startups from Finland
According to the NewCo Helsinki database, these are top startups in categories such as hiring, impact startups, travel tech, fastest-growing energy, most funded enterprise, most valued food companies:
Wolt – founded in 2014 in Helsinki by Miki Kuusi and Elias Aalto. The startup's product is a food delivery platform that connects customers with restaurants and couriers. Wolt was ranked second in the 2020 edition of the FT:1000 Europe’s Fastest Growing Companies 2020 published by the Financial Times.
ICEYE – the startup that develops micro-satellites used to capture images from space. ICEYE was founded in 2014 by Aalto University students: Rafał Modrzewski (CEO) and Pekka Laurilla. In 2019 the company was awarded the Finnish Engineering Award.
Bob W – founded in 2018 startup offers hotel alternatives – „data-driven, touchless, sustainability and ridiculously clean” apartments in Helsinki and Tallinn.
Virta – delivers the digital platform for electric vehicle charging and smart EV charging points. The startup founded in 2013 in Finland, has become one of the top players in this industry in Europe.
Relex Solutions – founded in 2005 by three supply chain scientists — Johanna Småros, Mikko Kärkkäinen, and Michael Falck, it provides retail planning software which helps „optimize the supply chain, forecasting, space, promotions, and workforce”.
Solar Foods – founded in 2017 food-tech startup that uses renewable electricity and CO2 from the air to produce protein powder called Solein that can be used as a protein ingredient in food production. The latest development of the company announced in March 2020 is the high-protein bread made of thin air: water, CO2, and electricity.
Sensible 4 – founded in 2017 startup made autonomous driving system working all-weather even in harsh Nordic winters conditions. In April 2020 the company started testing its self-driving vehicle fleet in Finland.
The culture of cooperation and sharing
Finland is one of the coolest startup hubs for a couple of reasons - it has:
- the world-class educational system and the culture based on cooperation and sharing,
- friendly business environment,
- government funding support,
- ICT talent pool and mentoring from experienced IT specialists,
- Helsinki is home for events and meetups like the Slush conference dedicated to the startup's community,
- plenty of startup communities, incubators, and accelerators.
The Finnish startup ecosystem seems to be vibrant, friendly, and based on cooperation.
The culture of sharing is extremely strong. We help each other with all the things we can. We cooperate on different projects. When we go to events we usually try to meet each other. That goes special with international societies. We are also quite close to the investor network that exists...
− said Rasmus Basilier, who knows a lot about The Finnish startup ecosystem and he was our guest in the episode of Grow with Tech podcast.
The organizations supporting entrepreneurialism in Finland
In Finland operates plenty of incubators and accelerators, building communities and supporting startups in their growth. In 2019 Helsinki has placed in 3rd place on Top100 the best startup cities in the world and it’s the home for over 500 tech startups. Other cities on the Finnish startup roadmap are also: Tampere, Espoo, Oulu, and Turku. Selected organizations worth to know:
- NewCo Helsinki – supports entrepreneurialism in Helsinki. NewCo Helsinki services are free-of-charge, open to everyone, and have helped create 25,000 companies in Helsinki so far.
- KIUAS – one of the leading accelerators in Finland, intensive, offers fixed-length & free accelerator programs for promising early-stage startups in Finland.
- Gorilla Ventures – Helsinki based VC dedicated to pre-seed and seed investments in Finnish startups
- Helsinki Ventures – boutique accelerator and early-stage investor with startups such as Pibox, Neyra, Oppi AI in the portfolio.
- Boost Turku – Turku-based entrepreneurship society for young entrepreneurs, invoicing in many startup events and organizing a 10-week accelerator program Startup Journey every summer since 2012.
- Startup Sauna – co-working space and a hub for student-run entrepreneurial movement. Every year Startup Sauna organizes a 7-weeks accelerating program for promising startups.
- Vertical – the first Nordic digital health and wellbeing accelerator program.
The European leader in venture capital investments
One of the reasons why it’s good to start your business in Finland is the fact that this country has the most venture capital investments relative to GDP among European countries. „In 2019 a record amount of VC investments was also made: 176 Finnish startups received a total of €293 million in venture capital investments” – Business Finland informs. Last year this organization launched Dealflow Finland, the platform connecting investors with the most relevant Finnish companies. The service is free of charge.
How to boost your startup in Finland? Check out in our podcast
Curious and want to know more? Listen to episode #3 of the Grow with Tech podcast about startups in Finland. We were talking with Rasmus Basilier about among others:
- what were the beginnings of the Finnish startup scene?
- which startups most often investors from the Finnish ecosystem invest in?
- what kind of startups from abroad has the best chance of finding investments in Finland?
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