This post complements and extends the recent post on Nordic Venture Funding and focuses on some recent developments in Finland (and the Vigo Program) and puts this in a broader context of Finnish entrepreneurship developments.
No sooner had I finished my last blog post, before a newsletter from Tekes—the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation—arrived in my e-mail inbox with some news related to startup funding (and more) in Finland. The newsletter announced that “Building on the success of the first batch of accelerators, the new funding and sweat equity firms extend Vigo's reach to a higher number of promising ventures in a wider variety of focus areas.” (http://bit.ly/IihCMZ)
And it added “Vigo Program, a pioneering Finnish public-private initiative to encourage serial entrepreneurs and experienced business leaders to establish private venture accelerators, has appointed five new accelerators. Established to address the key market deficiencies limiting the growth and internationalization of promising startup companies in Finland, the Vigo Program has significantly increased the availability of early-stage funding and experienced hands-on expertise. Privately owned and operated accelerators invest private equity and business know-how into ventures of their choice” [My underline]
Vigo was indeed one of the 9 programs that my friend Pekka Pernanen (the head of Finpro in Silicon Valley) listed when I asked him what was being done on this front in Finland, and Pekka noted that Vigo was more of an acceleration program, but that many of the accelerators have seed funds and both government and private money is involved.
For anyone interested in entrepreneurship and learning—as those of us involved in the Silicon Vikings SIG on Entrepreneurship and Learning obviously are—it should also be noted that Finland is also one of the more interesting Nordic countries for other reasons, including:
- Leading student entrepreneurship. In a presentation at Stanford in the spring of 2011, we heard that Altoes (http://aaltoes.fi/) --which was founded in early 2009—had 5,000 members by spring of 2011!! (This apparently is the largest and most active student entrepreneurship organization in Europe, and, as far as I know, none of the other Nordic countries have any student entrepreneurship club that comes close to having this membership size).
- Aalto Venture Garage—which Pekka Pernanen also had on the list he sent me—is a co-working space for student entrepreneurs as well as being a “seed accelerator” according to Ramine Darabiha, from Aaltoes, who spoke at Stanford.
- Boost in entrepreneurial activity as Nokia’s role diminishes. Nokia used to suck in the bulk (or at least a large part) of technical and business talent in Finland, but since Nokia’s fortune started to turn, more Finnish talent is now choosing not to go to Nokia, or leaving Nokia to start companies. A number of articles have described this development over the last year or more. The result could well be a more diversified economy of Finland and much greater numbers of entrepreneurs bringing innovations to global markets, similar to what we see in Silicon Valley.
The Vigo press release also noted that the new accelerators were selected from “tens of applicants” but nothing was said about what the selection criteria were used to pick the winners, or what industries or technologies the losing applications were focused on. The winning applications will focus on the following: BioAssetInvest (health technologies), Gorilla Ventures (ICT-enabled disruptions), Newentures (energy, cleantech, applied ICT), Royal Majestics Helsinki (desing and fashion innovations) and Vendep (mobile solutions, network based services). And it was noted that a major goal was to increase the diversity of focus areas of Vigo.
I would (of course) have loved to see an accelerator focused on educational/learning technologies (such as Imagine K-12 in Silic on Valley (http://www.imaginek12.com/) as I suspect Finland may soon bring education and learning innovations to the rest of the world, based on its superior performance of its educational system (based on PISA evaluations and others). So let’s see if an education/learning accelerator will find support next time Vigo expand its reach and scope. In the meantime, perhaps the Gorilla Ventures accelerator will bring some innovative ventures that can help disrupt our current educational and learning systems.