No doubt the best known startup hub is Silicon Valley – the place is as famous as Michael Schumacher in Formula 1. Just like plenty of Finnish drivers competed with Schumacher (and won!), Finland’s capital Helsinki is on the top of the game in the startup world and successfully challenges the status quo.
In the sink or swim business environment, the region has quite an opposite reputation. When talking about Finnish startup life, the key elements are supportive ecosystem and attitude of wanting to help each other.
Too good to be true? To find out how Helsinki has grown into an innovative stronghold, we contacted Helsinki Business Hub representatives – the people whose daily task is to support acceleration of business growth in the area.
A lot of cities are telling us that they are the most amazing destinations. However, Helsinki Business Hub is stepping up the game with actually providing a FREE 90-day relocation package, so talent can come and see themselves what Helsinki is all about. How does this opportunity work in real life? Who is the 90 day Finn targetgroup?
Thanks for bringing this up! It’s a fun campaign we launched especially the founders, investors and techtalent in the US-Silicon Valley in our mind. For years, the Finnish worklife has had a strong focus on empowering the employees. This means flexibility with combining work and family, working hours and remote work for example. This model has worked really well for us in Finland. The pandemic was the last push that encouraged us to take this thinking even further. Perhaps work from home could mean work from anywhere?
The 90-day relocation package is limited to max. 15 chosen applicants, but there is a lot of support we can offer to founders and tech talent planning to relocate, starting from meaningful connections and industry specific information all the way to introductions to ecosystem partners. And do note, this offer is available for everyone, with or without application.
Now we just have to jump straight to the main question: why should innovative entrepreneurs and curious talent choose Helsinki?
The quality of life is something I can’t emphasize enough.
The winter is slushy, dark and long, and can sometimes get overwhelming, I get that, but click your day light on and listen to the positives: Four different seasons, each with distinct attributes. Clean nature on your doorstep. Fresh air. Safety and trust – for the society, democracy, business environment.
Friendships that start slowly but are for life. Work-life balance, you can pick-up your kid from daycare at 4pm. In addition to these come the secondary aspects: innovation-savvy society, closely-knit startup ecosystem, strong public support, lack of hierarchies.
We would gladly avoid talking about C-19 altogether, unfortunately it disturbs our life significantly. How has the pandemic situation affected the HBH?
There’s a C-19 joke of Finns having difficulties keeping the newly advised 2 meter distance from each other as the distance we are accustomed to is 4 meters….
Well, jokes aside, the pandemic has hit Finland as it has every other country in the world. HBH was no exception, we closed our office and have mostly been working remotely since March. As the gravity of the situation became clear to us, we had to rethink ways to support our clients and owners through this period. The usual way of working was out of question, so we have done test runs with different virtual event concepts ranging from Q&A sessions to pitching events.
The reception has been good. Our highlight of the year, Slush, has in the past years secured its position as the international meeting point for tech innovation and growth capital. So, this year was definitely different with no actual, physical event taking place, but Slush once again was able to nurture the connection between the founders and the investors through their NODE platform.
It is said that Finland has the most helpful ecosystem for scaling business. What role has Helsinki Business Hub in this notion?
One of the reasons why Helsinki is great for testing new innovations and scaling up is its size: it’s a modern European capital city, but it’s not too big, just the right size. Finns are tech savvy and interested in trying new things, a nation of early adopters and society built on trust, respect. transparency and low corruption.
Helsinki region has the most locally connected startup and innovation ecosystem in the world (according to Startup Genome report). Decision makers are relatively easy to approach and open for a dialog, there is low hierarchy and power distance.
HBH connects foreign investors and tech companies with the key ecosystem players, helps to efficiently launch business in the Finnish capital area and provides quality deal flow from Finland for venture investors.
What is the most significant success story of HBH that pops in mind first?
Our work is to promote Finland and the Helsinki region as an investment location, tech hub and a great place to work. Every year for six years in a row Helsinki has attracted most investment projects in the whole Nordics.
Also positive response and enormous amount of applications, which we have received for the 90 Days Finn program show that Helsinki is no longer seen as a remote corner of Europe, but is interesting, relevant and appealing to tech talent.
Our success is defined by the success of our clients. There are many interesting cases, all of them significant in their own way, but probably Muji and Zalando are the names well known to everybody. It’s great to see how Zalando’s office in Helsinki has grown over the years from a small team to the tech hub with more than 100 employees. HBH has been supporting Japanese design company Muji in their flagship store project in Helsinki and in collaboration with the Finnish tech company Sensible4 on the first self-driving all weather bus shuttle Gacha. This was very exciting!
Insightful comments from Helsinki Business Hub experts:
You have a pretty detailed insight of what talent needs and companies have to offer. Do the majority of companies prefer remote work (working from abroad) or talent relocation to Finland?
Panu Maula: This depends on the needs of the company and the situation of the talent. Traditionally companies have tried to relocate the talent but remote working has been around for a while already, especially within startup companies.
Remote work has become the latest trend which comes with its own advantages as well as challenges when the company needs to be aware of the laws and legislations of the country where the person is hired.
One of Finland’s uniqueness is being the global seafaring hotspot. How is smart maritime and Helsinki connected? What are the growing possibilities in that field?
Maria Hartikainen: Helsinki region is one of the leading marine technology and maritime innovation hubs in the world. The ecosystem is diverse and well connected – from headquarters of large tech companies like Wärtsilä, ABB Marine, Cargotec and Helsinki Shipyard to growth companies like Norsepower, Iceye, Fleetrange, Seaber and many others.
Aalto University is one of the best engineering schools in Europe and it has a major input in Finland’s exceptional engineering talent pool. And I’m especially pleased to see more and more women studying engineering, Finland offers great opportunities to build a successful career in tech.
Speaking about future drivers of technological development in the maritime industry I think biggest opportunities are in digitalisation and sustainability
It is rather rare that such a company like Helsinki Business Hub is owned by the city of Helsinki. What are the main benefits and goals of that ownership?
Sonja Malin: There are a lot of cities in Europe that provide support for companies planning to invest in that particular region, however what separates Helsinki from the others, is that the city has a strong vision of becoming the most functional city in the world. Sounds grand, doesn’t it?
The plan includes a lot of tech, sure, but more importantly it’s about enabling people, the citizens, to influence decisions that improve their everyday lives. This mindset is something that can also be seen in the way the city of Helsinki works with founders. For us working at HBH this is a huge benefit and means we are able to provide our clients an easy access to testing their gear or service, as the whole city acts as an urban platform. A great example is Testbed Helsinki.
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