Today me and Lasse Männistö published a finnish language proposal about renewing the growth company / startup financing in Finland.
As any experienced startup entrepreneur in Finland knows; the state is heavily involved in giving grants and loans etc various kind of direct and indirect support to companies. All together there are about 100 different instances, giving out over 1000 separate instruments of support, that total over 2 billion EUR annually. This is quite complex and quite confusing.
One interesting stat from the "support jungle" is that there are approximately 4-5 thousand government officials involved in this machinery (by a wide definition) - and arguably Finland has less than 4-5 thousand strong growth companies; so in essence we have a system that has more than one person working it for each growth company we have.. Doesn't sound very efficient, now does it?
Our finnish language proposal can be downloaded from here.
And the associated press release from here.
What we are proposing is just a good start - something to get things moving. Naturally there would be more action following these initial steps. We formulated our proposal to be politically easy to accept and realistic. It is designed as an expense neutral program: meaning that it would not increase government expenditure; in fact there's a rather high chance that it would produce money instead of drain it.
In brief, we propose:
1) Tax breaks for innovative R&D activities. Finland is just about the only western country in the world that doesn't use these kind of tax breaks. Even Germany started using them recently. Many others like Norway and the Netherlands use them extensively and with very good results.
2) Incentives for angel funding and other seed funding. This kind of model has been successfully implemented by Singapore, Israel and to some extent (with very heavy tax breaks) by Canada as well. We would need incentives for business angels, and for grass roots level funding from the groundswell. The state needs to get into market driven asymmetric funds and let commercial free market mechanisms decide what kind of innovations to fund - encourage growth by other means than government official decisions.
3) The support jungle machinery needs a reform. It is too inefficient and too massive for its own good = there are not enough good results coming out of it per cost of running it.
The job creating power of startups is amazing; when it comes to new jobs they are not the major thing; they are pretty much the ONLY thing. They drive job creation and growth more than anything else out there. They drive prosperity and wealth. We don't need another monolithic Nokia in Finland; we need a thousand Angry Birds and a lot of things we can't even predict yet - that will raise up from the mists of creation to conquer the world!
If you agree with this proposal; expand on it, champion it, talk about it to political decision makers and make noise about it in general! With the elections at our doorstep there is a genuine chance to get positive things done in this very vital and important field as well!
I'm also very interested to hear how the proposal could be even better?
Edit (20.3.2011 18:48) Petteri Koponen has good commentary on this, here: