Who are the serial entrepreneurs these days

Finland's startup ecosystem now global

Just a few years ago, the Finnish startup ecosystem was relatively modest and withdrawn. Today, it attracts the most brilliant high-tech gurus and innovative companies from around the world. Slush Helsinki takes place on November 18th and 19th, 2014.

Jerome Chang is on his way to Finland. He is the managing director of iCubis, a small high-tech company headquartered in Anyang, South Korea. For thousands of companies around the world like his, Finland is the meeting place every autumn where you just have to go. We're talking about Slush Helsinki, one of the leading tech and startup events in the world.

In an iCubis smartphone app, children learn English with a fox and an elephant. Screenshot: iCubis

Slush brings entrepreneurs, investors and high-tech executives together, combining business with pleasure for two days. Participants hope that Slush will provide funding for their company or partners for their projects, or simply to get in touch with others in the industry. In 2013, 7,000 visitors from 68 countries took part in the event, and in 2014 a total of 10,000 people are expected.

Slush fits Chang perfectly into the concept. iCubis has already created a smartphone app that kids can use to learn English by following the adventures of a fox and an elephant named Easy and Elly. But Chang has loftier plans for the future and hopes to find partners for them at the slush event.

“We offer meaningful content,” he says. "Our education app got a lot of attention, and now we'd like to start producing animation as well."

The coolest tech event

"Finland and Japan are actually very close in many ways," says Boris Milkowski of Goodpatch. Photo: Goodpatch

Boris Milkowski works for the Tokyo-based software company Goodpatch. As head of corporate development and overseas expansion, Milkowski visited Slush in 2013 and liked it so much that he put it on his calendar for 2014.

“I'm really proud that Helsinki was able to manage such a cool event,” he says. “It is very different from other events. The atmosphere is very informal, yet professional and focused on doing business. The organizers have thought of everything to make it the coolest tech event there is: parties, catering, sauna and whatever you want. "

Goodpatch helps design user interfaces and dashboards for applications. The company also serves entrepreneurs in other ways, for example with its rapid prototyping tool Prott for mobile apps.

"Japan has a big market, but it's not growing," continues Milkowski. “So many startups fail in Japan because they think in too small dimensions. You have to assert yourself again in global competition. Many are interested in Silicon Valley, but culturally Europe is a better fit for them. Finland and Japan are actually very close in many ways, from culture to the fact that trust plays a big role in us. "

Goodpatch went to Helsinki for slush, but the company also took slush with them to Tokyo. The concept has proven so plausible that organizers are arranging satellite events around the world.

“We had eight teams who advertised their companies and ideas,” says Milkowski. "The winners of the pitching competition received a flight to Helsinki."

Start-up sauna abroad

Goodpatch had traveled to Helsinki because of slush. Then the company took Slush with them to Tokyo. Photo: Goodpatch

“We want to make Finland one of the best locations for starting and developing businesses,” says Juuso Koskinen from Startup-Sauna, a non-profit foundation that aims to improve the start-up ecosystem in the region. "That is why it is so fantastic to show other countries what we have in Finland and to set our international presence apart from other countries."

In addition to the organizing force of the slush conference, the startup sauna also functions as an accelerator program and helps students to do internships in high-tech companies.

"The international activities of the startup sauna have so far mainly consisted of one-day coaching events in the various cities in our core region of Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Russia," says Koskinen. “But this year we also held events in Nairobi, Kenya and Seoul, South Korea. The aim of the events is to promote encounters and support for local startups and to be informed about what is going on in the local ecosystem. "

“In the past five years, Finland's culture has turned into something called happiness or pay-it-forward,” he says. “That means that serial entrepreneurs and investors are helping new businesses these days. The ecosystem is generally very tight; So you can really approach someone and get help pretty easily. "

 

By David J. Cord, November 2014

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