Finland still trades off its Nokia heritage, it acts as a cast iron currency immune to depreciation. Across the globe people still think fondly of an all-too-European brand that played a significant part of whatever was happening in their lives in the early 2000s.
Even in 2014, for the fresh startups that are coming thick and fast out of Helsinki, the cell-phone pioneer still looms large. That’s not because citing Nokia as inspiration is a useful PR exercise (it partly is) but because of the impact it had on tech companies in the area. Generous severance packages for laid-off Nokia employees and direct startup help moved things along quickly. But so did the collaboration of businesses, universities, schools and the government – all of which had a stake in replicating some of the magic that Nokia once held.
That’s why you can easily find government investment vehicles for startups like Tekes, which has an annual budget of €500m, or startup organisations like SLUSH and Startup Sauna – not to mention a highly incentivised foreign investment structure.
We all know that there’s a global arms race when it comes to tech clusters. Governments recognise the importance of home-grown technology and attracting foreign investment. Because of this, every tech cluster has to have a USP. Helsinki’s? Its geography. As Marko Vanninen, MD of TelecityGroup Finland explained to me:
“Due to its cool climate, Finland has the ideal environment to run high-class data centres extremely efficiently, while being ideally placed geographically to allow easy connectivity into existing telecom connections to neighbouring countries. What’s more, Finland’s national energy grid is one of Europe’s most effective and electricity rates are highly competitive making high-powered computing environments extremely cost effective.”
From tacking electronic waste to the new angry Birds, which companies should you be keeping an eye out for? Here I’ve rounded-up 5 Finnish startups that are destined for big things.
Holvi, an online bank for small businesses, is slowly expanding across Europe. It touts itself as a banking sector disruptor, which it just might be if it continues along the same path. What sets it apart from traditional banks is its simplicity – with it only taking a couple of minutes to set up an account. From there you’ll have a range of tools available to run your business that are traditionally only offered by online accountancy services. There’s no monthly fee, but Holvi does take €0.90 for every incoming/outgoing transaction. It’s also completely independent of typical banks and is independently regulated. So far, Holvi has raised $2.7m.
Established in 2007, ZenRobotics isn’t necessarily a startup. But its work in robotic recycling technology is a growth industry that it’s at the forefront of. ZenRobotics has built a robotic recycling system that’s designed to tackle 900 million tons of construction and demolition waste created every year in Europe. Electronic waste is becoming a more pressing issue and it’s slowly making its way in to the news and political agendas, Zenrobotics already has a head-start and it’s likely to continue its success. ZenRobotics has raised $17m to date.
Kiosked is an “in content advertising platform”, which allows users to virtually buy anything they see on the web. Using visual recognition software, it matches items in YouTube videos, webpages or anywhere else on the web and allows the user to buy them – providing the brand is participating in the programme. So far Kiosked has raised $12.7m in funding.
Healthcare company, Mendor, has developed an all-in-one blood glucose meter and accompanying app for diabetics as a daily diabetes management solution. It worked closely with Finland’s Brain & Mind technologies Research Centre and it’s the first product of its kind in Europe to be granted clinical approval. To date it’s raised $26.5m in funding.
Three former Rovio employees who worked on the immensely popular Angry Birds left in 2012 to form their own games startup, Boomlagoon. The defining principle is that the startup will focus on making character-driven causal mobile games that have a clear monetization strategy. Boomlagoon has received $3.6m in funding since 2012.
Source: Forbes.com/ Jay McGregor