Saturday, August 26, 2017

5 reasons why Finland is the best place to become an entrepreneur

After having worked in the startup scene in Helsinki for a couple of years now, I thought it would be time, to sum up, why this is such an amazing surrounding to work in and the best place if you consider setting up your own company.

Here are five reasons why you should have Finland and especially its capital Helsinki on the top of your list if you are excited to make your dream a reality and live the life of an entrepreneur.


1 Someone's always there to help


For years Nokia was the economic engine of Finland. At some point, it made up for 5 percent of the country's GDP. No wonder that, after the downfall of the company, it did not look quite so great for the Finnish economy. Since Finland is not particularly blessed with natural resources (at least not the ones that make a lot of money), Finns had to rely on what they have a lot of: excellent education, know-how, and Sisu, which is pretty much the secret sauce of Finnishness (You cannot translate it but it pretty much incorporates bravery, determination, and resilience).

The state started investing heavily into an effective startup infrastructure. The aim was to give creative minds the support they need to turn their good ideas into successful businesses.

For setting up your business, developing a business plan and learning about the dos and don'ts as an entrepreneur Enterprise Finland as well as NewCo here in Helsinki are always available to help and give advice.

To make sure you have some bread on the table during your first hard months with your new business TE Toimisto can help you out with a personal startup grant. Later on, if you have things figured out and a solid business case, get in touch with the guys at Tekes or Finnvera for a more substantial grant, a loan or even investments.

And the system seems to work pretty well. Rovio and Supercell are just two examples that show that you can conquer the world from up here in the North.


2 You never work alone


What good is a brilliant idea if you have to set up the whole business on your own? But how to find potential co-founders that are as excited about the startup life as you are? And how do you find sparring partners to share your ideas with to see if they are any good? Surely not by working from your kitchen table at home. But fear not, Finland has you covered. The capital region provides several excellent co-working spaces where you can work, meet new people and discuss new ideas and business concepts. Many of them are even free of charge such as Microsoft Flux, Startup Sauna, and Helsinki Think Company. And also in other cities around Finland co-working spaces sprout like mushrooms.


3 In each other we trust


"But what if someone steals my idea? I'd rather keep it all to myself.", is what you might think after reading the last section. That is not the way things go here in Finland, though. The business culture, especially among startups, is built upon trust. Whereas in other countries you first have to build trust, here in Finland you have it from the beginning and only face the risk of destroying it.

Sharing is caring. And helping each other out has proven to work quite well among Finnish startups so far. Especially since the country is after all quite small with only 5.5 million people, entrepreneurs and startups live by the motto "together we are stronger".

4 Expanding your network is easy


Even after living here for six years, it still amazes me every time, how easy it is to get in touch with people. The circles are pretty small after all. Once you have made a few first connections, you pretty much know everyone through someone. Finding the right people to meet and talk to gets pretty easy after a very short time. And even if you happen to not have a common connection, just give the person you want to reach a call. You most likely will find their mobile phone number from their company website. No matter if you are trying to reach the marketing trainee or the CEO. Secretaries that schedule a call two weeks from now are not a thing in Finland.

Oh, and since there is so much happening in the startup scene, there are constantly events around the city. My theory is that you could go to some startup or business event pretty much every day if you just had the time. And there is some awesome stuff happening. Most important of course Slush in the end of November, the biggest startup conference in the Nordics. I'd call it the highlight of every Finnish entrepreneur's year.


5 No Finnish? No problem.


Many people see the Finnish language as a big obstacle to live or work here. I say that's nonsense. Sure, it is one of the harder languages to learn. And I myself am still struggling with it. But the good news is, that pretty much anyone speaks English here. Almost anything startup related is in English anyway. And even for all the administration work that comes along with moving here and setting up your business, you will always get service and support in English.

Nevertheless, I would always encourage you to make an effort to learn Finnish. You might not need it to survive but it is always nicer to be able to communicate with people in their native language. And if you plan to stay, it's totally worth it. Actually, you can even get support for language courses. Get it touch with the helpful people at TE Toimisto. I attended one of those courses targeted towards entrepreneurs myself and have it say it's totally worth it.

All in all, Finland is the place to be if you have always been dreaming about your own company or have some kick-ass idea for founding the next Facebook or Google. But don't take my word for it and find out why Helsinki even beats San Francisco and Berlin.

Those are my 5 reasons for starting your own company up North. Do you have comments or other questions about becoming an entrepreneur in Finland? Or do you have a business here yourself? Then share your thoughts and experiences and let me know what you would add to the list below in the comments.

This post has been supported by a cooperating with the Labour Mobility in Europe ESF-project. More info here. Thank you!


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