www.thenextweb.com just published an interesting article on Finland & Finnish startups. Here:
The article is a nicely written wrap-up of what's going on in the Finnish startup scene and how it could be more internationally successful.
Zee, Editor in Chief of The Next Web summarizes the article with:
"From my experience, there are a number of essential ingredients to a (potentially) successful start up ecosystem, engineers, more engineers and a special few entrepreneurs. Fortunately Finland is stacked full of them, and they’re creative too. This, combined with a supportive community, and natural drive towards global success and innovation means Finland does indeed have what it takes to play a more significant role in the international start up scene that it currently gets recognition for."
I say: agreed. The basic elements are there. Yet we could still benefit hugely from a similar structure to what the entrepreneurs have in Israel: a full "tunnel" for successful startups to get funded, helped into conquering markets, and eventually IPO'd or exited big time, if at all possible. The number of Israeli firms in NASDAQ vs the number of Finnish firms in there is staggering. Luckily the Finns are eager to learn and are keeping a keen eye on Israel and other successful hubs of startup activity, trying to figure out ways to repeat the circumstances, ecosystem and eventually the success.
I am being told that Israel got seriously started on their "tunnel for startups" by the government giving out money for top-notch VCs to place in startups and then seriously upping that money when the gains were apparent. Finland hasn't still done anything that dramatic - and maybe something of the sort would be needed to really kickstart a vibrant and active "tunnel" in here as well.
"That said, the country is still in dire need of more support from its start up ambassadors, the fortunate few who have created a great deal of personal wealth and experience from their own start up successes. From my albeit short time in Finland, it is these role models that can make the difference between mediocrity and supreme international start up recognition."
I'm agreeing with this one as well. Too many Finnish entrepreneurs just disappear from the scene after their first success, or they move entirely abroad. If you take the tradesales and exists and success stories of the past 10 years and start accounting for who is still around and who's not; the picture you paint is pretty obvious. Most them are not around, not angel-funding other startups, not sitting in boards of directors and not starting new companies - certainly not putting their networks and vast experience into good startup-growing use. I can only wonder why? Are we, the entrepreneurs, that satisfied with the first sign of success that it is enough for us to buy a nice car, a nice house and then just disappear from the "scene" all together? Maybe. A lot in Finnish culture drives you to settle down and not to try too much once you have gained a certain standard of living for yourself and your family.
I think most successful entrepreneurs don't do what they do for the money, or for things like standard of living. They do it because they HAVE to do it, because something in their nature DRIVES them to do it. Maybe we just don't have enough of these guys and gals around..
There's also something that can be said about Finnish exists. Here's a very partial list, including only the noteworthy exits that the investors (VCs etc) also made money out of. Please if I am missing something; do leave a comment and I will add it to the list (preferably leave a link to the newspiece on it as well):
IoBox to Terra Mobile in 2000
MatchEm to Mobile Application Holding in 2003 (link in finnish)
Sumea, to Digital Chocolate in 2004
Animoi to Macromedia in 2004
Mr. Goodliving to RealNetworks in 2005
InnoDB to Oracle in 2005
Smartner to Seven in 2005
Hybrid Graphics to Nvidia in 2006
BitBoys to ATI in 2006
Hantro to ON2 in 2007
Jaiku to Google in 2007
Solid to IBM in 2007
Wicom to SAP in 2007 (link to press release in finnish)
MySQL to Sun Microsystems in 2008
First Hop to Airwide Solutions in 2008
Dopplr to Nokia in 2009
Are Finnish startups selling too early and too cheap? Many claim, at least behind closed doors (not publicly), that they indeed are. Exceptions naturally to companies like MySQL who have been quite mature at the time of their transaction. Again: if this were a list of Israeli startups, it would look a lot different.
I am happy to see the "scene" more alive and more internationally connected than ever; but, folks, we still have plenty of work to do before we can claim ourselves to be successful - or ever more work until Finnish society at the general level sees entrepreneurs as champions, or even half-useful. Now entrepreneurs are apparently seen as necessary evil that should not be encouraged: or how else you can explain that the entrepreneur is being taxed more in every instance than a normal employee is taxed? Tax is a way for the government to place disincentives on behavior that the government doesn't want to see more of (for example: the tax on tobacco and smoking); and apparently in Finland this non-wanted behavior includes all entrepreneurial activities.
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