Nordic Innovation House, “a co-working space, incubator and resource center for Nordic tech companies”, has now been up and running for 6 month. The new initiative is funded by an alliance of Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Icelandic and Danish governments as well as Nordic Innovation, an institution supported by Nordic governments that works to promote
cross-border trade and innovation.
To give you a better understanding about each bridge organization and what they do in Silicon Valley, we will present a series of articles describing the differences and similarities. First up is Finpro from Finland, and Hartti Suomela.
Finnish companies flock to Silicon Valley
As a Silicon Valley representative of Finpro, it has been great to see and experience the recent influx of Finnish companies in the San Francisco Bay area. 4-5 years ago there were only a dozen companies from Finland operating in here, whereas the recent count of the Finnish companies is over 50. (For more details see this presentation).
It is no surprise that most of these companies are ICT companies looking for partners, customers and even VC funding from here. Interestingly enough, only 2 of these Finnish companies in the SF Bay Area are gaming companies, even though this industry has grown in Finland very rapidly for the past few years (you might have heard companies like Supercell and Rovio to start with :-). According to a recent report by Finnish gaming industry association Neogames there are currently 260 gaming companies in Finland, employing 2,500 people, and with revenues over 1 billion Euros.
But I digress. What are the reasons behind this quick increase of Finnish companies settling in Silicon Valley? Definitely the increased amount of Finnish start-ups in general is one of the main factors. Nokia’s decline has left a talented engineering pool in Finland looking for new challenges and many have decided to start their own company. More companies means also more high-quality companies and more companies looking outside the small, Finnish home market.
Additionally being an entrepreneur has become socially more acceptable in Finland and thanks to a number of successful exits also more desirable. These experienced start-up founders with a number of exits under their belt are now passing the torch and helping the new founder wannabees through mentoring and funding. This positive spiral is not yet as strong as the hurricane of Silicon Valley, but it is definitely improved during the past years.
However no discussion about entrepreneurship in Finland is complete without mentioning the entrepreneurial society of Aalto University - AaltoES. This student-driven organization has boldly done things which no-one thought to be possible in Finland. How about the Europe’s largest start-up conference Slush, which last November draw 14,000 people, 3,500+ companies, and 750+ investors to Helsinki? Or their successful accelerator program Startup Sauna, which has nurtured more than 145 start-ups to raise more than $37 million in funding during the last 4 years? Or the innovative internship program Startup Life, which have created jobs and learning possibilities in Silicon Valley and New York for entrepreneurial-minded Finnish students.
It would be nice to be able to take all or even partial credit for this thriving Finnish start-up community in the Bay Area, but the recent success is really because of the new, more fearless generation of Finnish founders. I am really lucky that in my daily job of helping Finnish companies in their international expansion I am able to work with these great entrepreneurs.
Finpro helps Finnish SMEs go international, encourages foreign direct investment in Finland and promotes tourism. We bring growth to Finland. We manage major national projects including Cleantech Finland, Future Learning Finland and FinlandCare. Finpro is Export Finland, Visit Finland and Invest in Finland. We are a public organization and part of the Team Finland network.