Finland is home to 5.5 million people, which is a relatively small population—yet remarkably, it boasts over 10% of the world's start-up exits. Finland's scarcity of resources and changes in the telecom infrastructure have led to a large body of tech talent. This breadth of talent has produced a vibrant and growing tech community, and companies that the world wants: Finland has produced at least one billion-dollar exit each year over the past 6 years.
With over 500 start-ups in Helsinki alone, Finland's capital has become a hub for gaming start-ups, but is also growing other areas in clean tech, fin-tech, ITC and food services. Slush (Slush connects start-ups & tech talent with top-tier investors, executives and media) has been a big part of this success but many would argue there is more than simple organization behind Finland's start-up prowess. The success stems back to the early 2000's when there was a huge demo scene that attracted thousands of people to ice hockey rinks to see experimental tech nerds showcase their ideas.
The Finns seem to be doing it differently in other ways as well—from a radically different education system, to the ice-cold Oulu-based Polar Bear Pitching process (imaging pitching investors neck-deep in ice-cold water). Here are a few other factors that account for Finland’s success in the realm of technology start-ups.
1) Finland’s attitude to solving problems is simply different to other nations. The Finns are pragmatic, and implement things that make sense quickly. From mentors, to baby boxes, to cutting through 5,610 feet of mountain to improve infrastructure, Finland’s approach to problems is with a long-term view.
2) There is strong government support for start-ups. From public support campaigns, a dedicated funding agency for innovation 'Tekes', dedicated mentor programs and help with structure and recruitment policies, the government is extremely involved in helping new companies get off the ground. Marianne Vikkula, CEO of Slush, is a huge fan of Startup Sauna, a start-up accelerator program, where seasoned entrepreneurs help the next generation. She says Finland’s culture of working together is one of the reasons for its success with technology start-ups.
3) Finnish children seem to be raised differently to those in other Western countries. They are instilled with three key qualities: simplicity, resilience and confidence. And in fact, a lot about Finnish culture in general is about simplicity. People do not over consume. Homes are modest, and people care less about brands. There is a focus on quality rather than quantity. The Finnish education system is customized, with no standardized testing and a focus on happiness. Plus coding is a core part of the curriculum!
Each nation is unique, but Finland in particular seems to be remarkably unique—not afraid to do things differently, and willing to make bold decisions because they are sensible, regardless of what other nations are doing. Perhaps this is what makes it the ‘happiest country in the world’.
Regardless, the Finns are getting it right in the world of tech, and other nations would do well to take a page out of their book.
About Oliver Parks
Oliver Parks Consulting offers search-based recruitment solutions to the technology sector, specialising in the ERP, CRM, CMS, ECM, BI and Open Source Technology spaces. The firm’s multilingual consultants operate in narrowly-defined niche market segments, enabling them to gain extensive knowledge of the people and companies operating in each technology. Oliver Parks has a proven track-record with more than 100,000 candidates worldwide and more than 300 clients globally.