Dear friends, it’s always exciting to start something new. In this case, new means the opportunity to start my work as the CEO of the Startup Foundation. I’m excited to start working with the extended startup ecosystem in Finland and in the Nordics through the Startup Foundation.
The birth and the last ten years of the Finnish startup ecosystem are unique success stories with a tremendous rise in the interest towards entrepreneurship and in the flow of foreign investments to Finnish companies.
It is, however, noteworthy that the development has not happened in isolation but that there has been similar Europe-wide development as was clearly highlighted in the Not Optional webinar at the end of October. Index Ventures and Slush brought together policymakers, founders, investors and ecosystem builders to discuss the practical steps that Europe must take to become the best place to start and grow world-changing startups.
The pandemic indeed provides us an opportunity to stop and check at how we can grow together. Increasing our understanding of the ecosystem is crucial. To support this, the Foundation will be happy to take an initiative to find effective ways for gathering, reporting, and publishing data on the startup ecosystem, similarly to FCVA and FiBan that for their part already do so well for the investments. How many new startups are founded, how many jobs created and exactly what kind of talent is missing are examples of questions waiting to be answered.
What’s next for the Startup Foundation?
The Startup Foundation was founded in 2012, in a situation where the financial crisis and its aftermath had plagued Finland for years. 57 private persons invested in the Foundation and its projects, giving a guarantee of continuity for the local startup ecosystem.
This continuity has helped to build a new kind of startup culture in Finland during the last ten years. We’ve witnessed the massive growth of Slush, followed by the building and expansion of the Maria01 startup campus. In 2015, Junction was born out of Startup Sauna with the Shortcut established in 2016 in Helsinki. Latest in the family we welcomed the student-led Wave Ventures.
Finnish startups are reaching more and more global VCs by the year, enabled by the growth of Slush. The number of investments into local startups has skyrocketed with companies like Wolt, Swappie and Supercell, reaching 244 million euros in the first half of 2020 according to FVCA.
Startups and growth companies are more important than ever for Finland’s success, renewal of the whole economy and the well-being of Finns. Startups are also doing better than ever. For these reasons, it is important to recognize that startup culture still has characteristics of a one-sided culture. As the importance of startups continues to grow, the challenges in the ecosystem must be addressed.
Therefore, the Startup Foundation wants to encourage the emergence of diverse startup communities and support the common aspirations of diverse startups. We can currently see several interesting development paths for the startup ecosystem:
Attracting new talent to the ecosystem is crucial for Helsinki. We need to invite and be open to people from all walks of life to build their own startup, to work in tech, and to invest in it. In 2030, we see Helsinki as an international startup hub that attracts entrepreneurs and investors from abroad – and in this, diversity and inclusion will serve as a powerful tool.
Instead of just plain growth numbers, purpose deserves our attention. A new generation of founders and talent is knocking on the doors of the European ecosystem, ambitious to solve the most important issues of our time. We want to encourage building companies that can tackle global challenges and provide meaningful new jobs. Therefore it’s also important to find new ways to increase the number of yearly created research and science-based startups. This means we need to work even closer with universities and other science-led initiatives in the ecosystem, such as VTT.
There is already a lot of hands-on-experience on exceptional startups in the ecosystem, and we believe there is a lot more knowledge sharing we can achieve through mentoring, peer-to-peer support and open sharing of knowledge. Accelerating learning to support new generations of entrepreneurs and investors will be one of our core focus areas.
As far as the Foundation’s part in these developments, we want to take an active role in building the ecosystem in the coming decade. The Startup Foundation’s task still remains to be the ground, where you can build the next big thing. This idea still remains: in the future, the Startup Foundation is looking to direct grants to startups that embody our vision for the future.
How can we make the ecosystem stronger together? Please send your ideas and comments on our way – we invite all of you to join us in building the Finnish startup ecosystem further.
CEO of Startup Foundation
Psst. Check out also our new newsletter, where we catch up with the Foundation’s community and share also other interesting picks from the ecosystem.