Startup City Guide Helsinki

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Finland is one of the most cutting-edge economies in the world and that makes its capital a center for innovation. Thus, Helsinki region is full of potential for growth-seeking companies that break new ground.

Helsinki and its metropolitan area is a thriving business hub located in the heart of Baltic Sea Region and next to Russia. It has the fastest route from Europe to Asia as well as only an 8-hour flight to New York. Helsinki has an extremely well-functioning business environment; it boasts one of the world’s most talented workforce and has impressive figures to show in regards to investments made in R&D.

In addition, Helsinki is a beautiful city famous for its design, architecture and high technology. It’s also a clean, stable and secure region with a very high standard of living and welfare. What makes the city really special are its nice, friendly and easily approachable local residents. The city is peaceful which makes it easier for entrepreneurs to focus on their work. Helsinki also hosts some of the most notable startup events in Europe and offers endless networking possibilities for entrepreneurs. These are some of the many reasons why Helsinki is the place to be for startups.

Helsinki: Finland’s Capital And Largest City

Advantages of Starting Up In Helsinki:

  • International accessibility: Helsinki is a thriving business hub between East and West, smoothing the way for people and goods transportation to and from the European Union, be it by air, sea or the railway.
  • Talent pool: Helsinki boasts one of the most highly educated workforces in the world. It ranks consistently in European Top10 for productivity and global competitiveness.
  • Easy business environment: The well-functioning business environment is supported by effective logistics, ubiquitous telecommunication networks, state-of-the-art R&D facilities and high quality public and private services.
  • Quality of life: Helsinki is a clean, stable and secure region, with a very high standard of living, excellent social security and welfare. The World Happiness Report lists Finns as one of the happiest people in the world.
  • Key business ecosystems: Helsinki is highly suitable for knowledge intensive businesses. The business ecosystem is varied and holds strengths especially in the areas of cleantech, ICT, life sciences, logistics, design & creativity and knowledge intensive business services.
  • Setting up a business is easy: Transparency, effective infrastructure and straightforwardness make the process of establishing a business in Finland quick, involving very few procedures and taking only 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Language is not a problem: Almost every piece of information can be found in English which is also the second working language in several companies. In addition, most people living in Helsinki are able to communicate in English fluently.
  • Various funding possibilities and even governmental support for startups.
  • Global business mentality and excellent possibilities to go global.

What Startup Founders Have To Consider:

  • The current situation of the Finnish economy can bring challenges for entrepreneurs.
  • Taxation – Personal taxes are on the higher side but corporate taxation is average.
  • Weather. You can be sure to experience all four seasons here – from the warm and sunny summer to the cold and dark winter.
  • Considering the population of Finland, the target audience for your startup might be small, if not intending to go global.

However, as a conclusion, it can be said that Helsinki offers a vibrant and innovative ecosystem for startups. One that you could be a part of.

#1 Step: Discovering Helsinki’s Community

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You can always find events, pitching sessions and networking possibilities in Helsinki.

NewCo Helsinki is a service entity established by City of Helsinki and Helsinki Enterprise Agency. It offers a wide range of entrepreneurship support services from basic entrepreneurship education to how to create a global high potential growth company. It has events and trainings running daily.

News, Community & Event Information:

  • ArcticStartup is an independent, technology blog that reports on digital startups and growth entrepreneurship from the Nordic and Baltic countries.
  • Good News operates as an interface between international media and Finnish industry, innovation and business.
  • AaltoES is the Entrepreneurship Society of Aalto University. It is the largest and most active student-run entrepreneurship community in Europe. AaltoES organizes many events and is a main contributor to Helsinki’s startup community.
  • Boardman2020 is a network for people interested in growth companies. It organizes events, seminars, panel discussions and trainings, as well as publishes on best practices for growing a successful business.
  • Haaga-Helia StartupSchool helps UAS students to develop their business idea and organizes various events which are open for everyone.
  • Helsinki Think Company is a network and meeting place for entrepreneurship and learning aimed for students, researchers, partners and enthusiasts. It is a scene of many events and a passage to services. It offers support from developing your project, course or business idea to finding the right contacts and a coworking space.
  • HealthSPA is the Finnish Health Startup Association creating events and projects to foster matchmaking between startups, corporates, public sector & universities. If you’re a health startup looking for the right connections, or other player who wants to engage with the health startup community, HealthSPA is the right contact.
  • FiBAN, Finnish Business Angels Network, organizes over 100 events annually, most of which are pitching and matchmaking.
  • FINAC Open is a new frequent pitching event which connects entrepreneurs, investors and talent. Latest news from investment field are presented and special guest speakers attend in each event.
  • Helsinki Startup Digest lets you know what’s happening in Helsinki.
  • Also keep an eye for HUB13’s events.
  • And Startup Grind’s.

Yearly Or Major Events, Festivals, Conferences:

  • Slush is Europe’s leading startup event where founders and tech talent meet with top-tier international investors, executives and media. One of their five stages is purely dedicated for pitching. The others are filled with experts sharing their stories and sparking a dialogue on the future. Nowadays, Slush has become an entire week of exciting program around the Helsinki metropolitan area. Slush conference is organized every November.
  • Ultrahack a part of the biggest hackathon in Europe is held alongside Slush.
  • Arctic15 is a two-day conference bringing together entrepreneurs, investors, corporate acquirers and international media. In terms of matchmaking, there are plenty of opportunities for making valuable contacts. A pitching competition is also held at the conference.
  • Nordic Health Invesment Day, a matchmaking event aimed for health tech startups, is also organized by Arctic15 and HealthSPA.
  • Hackjunction brings together hackers, designers, the best partners and hardware for one weekend of hacking.
  • FallUp is the largest student entrepreneurship event in Europe.
  • Upgraded Life Festival (organized by HealthSPA) is the biggest health startup and innovation event in the Nordics with more than 1200 attendees and 80 exhibitors in 2016. It brings the health and well-being ecosystem players together including startups, corporates, investors, healthcare professionals, researchers and public sector.
  • Restaurant Day is a food carnival where anyone can set up a restaurant, café or bar for a day. Originating from Helsinki, the concept has gone global and is currently the world’s biggest food event. It is organized four times a year, every three months.

#2 Step: Finding A Work Space In Helsinki

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Free Co-working Spaces:

  • Startup Sauna coworking space is the meeting point for aspiring entrepreneurs in Northern Europe. It connects the most promising startups from Nordics, Eastern Europe and Russia with experienced serial entrepreneurs, investors and others. The 1.500 sq. meter industry hall is open for everyone to work in.
  • Microsoft Flux is an entirely new community space for startups to network and explore their business ideas. They help startups succeed by giving them access, among other things, to free network, meeting rooms, high-tech devices such as 3D printers, coaches, networking events and advisory boards. It’s open on weekdays from 9am to 9pm.
  • Helsinki Think Company has multiple coworking spaces around the city. It is funded by the University of Helsinki and run by students, researchers and entrepreneurially-minded people.
  • NewCo Helsinki offers startups coworking spaces, partner networks, events, consultancy and acceleration services.
  • Korjaamo The Third Space offers public coworking spaces in an artistic environment. There are six work spaces each of which has its own theme. Open on every weekday.
  • The Federation of Finnish Enterprises has a coworking space for everyone. It is the entrepreneurs’ meeting place which offers information, events, special theme days and networking possibilities to entrepreneurs and those interested in entrepreneurship.
  • Hoffice Helsinki aims to create a network of free temporary workplaces. Homes as offices – no strings attached. It is a flexible solution for anyone starting out and looking for a workplace.

Paid Co-working Spaces:

  • HUB13 provides a unique ecosystem to catalyze innovation across small, medium and large sizes companies, organizations and institutions. The hub consists of a coworking, meeting, and events spaces as well as an accelerator program.
  • Startup Hub Maria is an upcoming startup hub built at a former hospital complex in downtown Helsinki. It aims to bring together the most promising startups of the region. Opening in August 2016, the 6.500 sq. meter hub will become the biggest start-up cluster in the Nordic countries. The hub is currently looking for residents and companies are offered different kinds of premises, from coworking spaces to private offices, whose sizes can be varied according to their needs.
  • Mothership of Work, voted as the best office place in Finland in 2016 by Nordic Startup Awards, offers a flexible out-of-the box solution for startups and freelancers. You can choose between fixed or continuously changing working spaces. Fully equipped meeting rooms, a premium restaurant and morning yoga…what else does one need?
  • Damnation Hub is a relaxed startup environment and has coworking space to offer.
  • Minimum Viable Office is a coworking space run by ArcticStartup and other partners where like-minded people can work together on different projects and ideas.
  • UMA Esplanadi labels itself as a top-notch workspace with a great location. There are various working zones and the coworking space provides meeting rooms, an innovation room and workrooms.
  • Quja Startup Space at Nokia’s R&D campus is an open layout co-working space where Nokia invites startups to come accelerate their ventures in an exciting environment with likeminded entrepreneurs.
  • Cohesion is a work community located in the core of Helsinki. The wholeness that has been built in the attic premises offers inspiring, open light spaces where the companies and individuals can meet creating new possibilities. Cohesion offers work desks, offices, meeting rooms and many necessary services from bookkeeping to coding for startups.
  • Urban Mill is a coworking and co-creation space for Urban innovations.
  • Deck is a co-working space in a convenient location in Helsinki. From a short walk to tram and metro station its facilities offer 12 personal desks, a workshop area and a quiet room.
  • Magasinet Creative Hub is a working space and a creative collective located at an old magazine. For entrepreneurs and freelancers, it offers 24/7 access office spaces and meeting rooms with a network of top-notch creative professionals.
  • YritysVantaa may be suitable option for those looking for a space close to Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport.
  • Turbiini offers coworking spaces for everyone involved in its projects. In addition to the coworking spaces there are meeting rooms and a mini library where professional literature can be found.
  • Kontoret provides premises and meeting rooms with ease at the very center of Helsinki. All free working spaces are available without further reservation.
  • Kenno Lounge provides stylish easy access coworking spaces at a relatively cheap price.

Want more? Check Regus’ fully furnished offices for coworking in various other locations in Helsinki for your business.

#3 Step: Boosting Your Finances In Helsinki

Helsinki_guide_financing.

Below you’ll find the list of the various funding possibilities Helsinki has to offer for your startup.

Incubators:

  • Startup Hub Maria’s premises will have development teams of big companies and other actors that produce communal services working alongside the best start-up enterprises.
  • Spinno Enterprise Center aims to identify most promising business ideas in the Helsinki Region. It delivers award winning pre-incubation and incubation programs for technology and knowledge based start-ups aiming at rapid growth and international success.
  • NewCo Helsinki offers a Business Development Coaching program.
  • Protomo provides an agile development process, tools, facilities and a multi-disciplinary community to support innovative product and service development and market entry.
  • Health Innovation Village at GE is an ecosystem of health tech startups who want to innovate, grow and network. It is currently the home of 30 health tech and digital health startups and looking for more.

Accelerators:

  • Startup Sauna helps promising early-stage startups to get ready for taking the next step, be it entering their market or raising a seed round of funding. Their coaches are some of the most talented serial entrepreneurs, investors and other industry experts in Finland and the surrounding region.
  • Aalto Start-Up Center is a successful and fast developing business accelerator operating within Aalto University. It helps start-ups accelerate their growth with an excellent combination of commercial, technical and design know-how.
  • HUB13 offers a StartSmart Startup Management Mentoring Program.
  • NewCo Helsinki can take your startup to the next level and help it grow internationally.
  • Turbiini is an accelerator that provides various services for startups.
  • Nestholma is a venture accelerator powering the collaboration between startups and large corporations.
  • The Founder Institute is an early-stage startup accelerator that aims to globalize Silicon Valley. Their mentors and global network helps entrepreneurs create meaningful and enduring technology companies in Helsinki and worldwide.
  • Vertical helps startups and corporate teams to accelerate health & happiness ideas. They are constantly looking to support and collaborate with young, trend-setting entrepreneurs and teams to evolve their health, wellness, wearable and smart home ideas for increased health and a happier life.
  • FINAC, Finnish Business Acceleration Network Association, is dedicated to offer knowledge, operation models, capital and networks in order to drive the growth and quality to the Finnish startup and SME ecosystem.
  • xEdu is a private accelerator that is primarily focused on educational technology startups. From product development to market entry, participating companies gain access to various resources and network of industry leaders. The accelerator is located just next to Helsinki city center, in Kruununhaka.

Vigo Accelerators:

Vigo is a new type of acceleration program launched by the Finnish Ministry of Employment and Economy. It is designed to complement the internationally acclaimed Finnish innovation ecosystem. Vigo Accelerators are private companies that are run by experienced entrepreneurs. The Accelerators offer their proven business expertise, funding and extensive contact networks to the target companies.

The following Accelerators have been selected from the best applicants in their respective fields in a public procurement process:

  • Helsinki Ventures is a boutique accelerator and early-stage investor.
  • Cleantechinvest invests in startups that save natural resources.
  • Avanto Ventures provides funding, expertise in all things digital and a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.
  • Icebreaker is a seed stage investor operating with a community-based model.
  • Veturi Venture Accelerator provides seed funding, strategic guidance and hands-on participation for startups. It also provides access to government grants for funding R&D and go-to-market activities.
  • Gorilla Ventures is a business accelerator that helps entrepreneurs make their dreams come true by making seed investments and participating in the operational running of the company.
  • Newentures aims to offer global opportunities for startups in the areas of Clean, Energy and Applied ICT.
  • Royal Majestics invests into fashion, design and lifestyle start-ups usually during seed rounds.
  • Vendep is a startup accelerator and a startup fund. It helps innovative web-based services to achieve rapid growth and success internationally.

Grants & Subventions:

  • TEKES, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, offers various types of funding for startups aiming at the international markets.
  • ELY Centres can provide grants for business development and internationalization.
  • Finnvera provides financing for the start-up, growth and internationalization of companies and for protection against export risks. It supports Finnish enterprises by offering loans, domestic guarantees, venture capital investments, export credit guarantees and other services associated with the financing of exports.
  • Finnish Startup Grant ensures income for an aspiring entrepreneur during the estimated time taken to launch and establish a full-time business, however for a maximum of 18 months.
  • NewCo Helsinki‘s Growth Support assists Helsinki-based startups with high growth potential by co-funding the purchase of expert services directly related to the acceleration of the international growth of the company.

Crowd Investing Platforms:

  • FundedByMe is currently the fastest growing crowdfunding platform in Europe. It offers crowdfunding through equity or loan.
  • Invesdor is a pioneering equity-based crowdfunding platform. It provides an online investment matching service where entrepreneurs looking to raise equity financing can easily connect with investors who are seeking to discover and invest in exciting growth companies.
  • PocketVenture is a Finnish crowdfunding platform for investors and early-stage companies that are looking for funding.
  • Fundu offers a creative solution to financial challenges of growth companies through loans. Fundu loans are divided into two categories: bridge loans and normal company loans.
  • Mesenaatti is the biggest Finnish reward and donation based crowdfunding platform.
  • Venture Bonsai is an equity crowdfunding service for European startups and growth companies.
  • Innovestor is an innovative investor and provider of equity funding solutions in Northern Europe.
  • Vauraus is a modern Finnish operator which offers loans for startups through their Yrityslainat and Kansalaisrahoitus crowdfunding services.

Angel Investors:

  • FiBAN, Finnish Business Angel Network, is a non-profit association which acts as a link between growth companies and investors by providing companies with direct visibility to investors and aims to facilitate investment rounds in general. It is one of the largest and most active angel networks in Europe. FiBAN guide book for entrepreneurs interested in raising angel investing can be found here.
  • Business Angels Finland, is a key connector of Finnish startups and business angels. Their platform offers an easy access to multiple investor networks world-wide.
  • Suomen Bisnesenkelit is an association of private capital investors.
  • AngelList has many investors interested in Helsinki.

Venture Capital Investors:

  • Inventure is a leading early-stage venture capital company in the Nordics. They invest in innovative and fast-growing startups and high tech companies willing to disrupt their industries.
  • Reaktor Ventures invests in seed stage companies and helps them create new markets and become global leaders in their industry. They have a team of 300 professionals who can provide support in design, engineering, recruiting, marketing, and more.
  • Butterfly Ventures focuses on early-stage technology companies with high growth potential. They do both pre-seed and seed investments. In the business model, they look especially for customer acquisition and retention logic, monetization logic and scalability.
  • Conor invests in high-ambition, early-stage technology companies with the potential and drive to become global winners in their industry categories.
  • Courage Ventures is a boutique advisory and seed investment fund with global networks. Their main focus is in education, health & wellness and environment.
  • Vision Plus invests in SaaS-companies, apps and Internet services.
  • Straightforward Capital is a venture capital company that invests into companies that are in their early growth stage and considers Finnish high-tech sector as their home market.
  • Lifeline Ventures specializes in startups, growth capital, and early stage investments. The firm seeks to invest in healthcare, games, web-based and general high-technology sectors.
  • Finnish Industry Investment is a government-owned investment company. They invest in Finnish companies, both directly and through private equity funds.
  • It is recommended to check Finnish Venture Capital Association where you can search for the most suitable venture capital investor for your startup from over 50 members.

Other Investment Opportunities:

  • Sitra, The Finnish Innovation Fund, is a future-oriented organization that invests in domestic early stage companies mainly through venture capital funds.
  • WallStreet provides various financial services for companies at different stages.
  • Takeoff Partners are experienced growth advisors and private investors. Its main focus is on B2B software and service businesses.
  • Startup100 ranks the most prominent startups in Finland on a monthly basis. It is an interesting benchmarking tool for startups and can be a way for investors to find about your startup.

#4 Step: Seeking Extra Advice In Helsinki

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Thinking about starting a company? NewCo Helsinki offers advice on company founding. Licenses, necessary documents and finances seem too hard to handle? Not a problem, becoming an entrepreneur has never been easier.

Enterprise Finland’s Helsinki section has all the necessary details on running a business. It provides info about permits, services, tools and financial guidance, and it even has a thorough checklist for start-up entrepreneurs for key issues which entrepreneurs should bear in mind when setting up a business. My Enterprise Finland is an online workspace where you can deploy tools for starting your business and it can be customized for your needs.

TE-services provides also information about starting your business and employment. ELY Centres support the establishment, growth and development of startups by providing advisory, training and expert services in addition to funding support.

Helsinki Business Hub is the regional development agency for Helsinki region and can help startups in various ways. Turn to them, if you are looking for deal flow from Finland, searching for the best location for your R&D activities, interested in our renowned startup environment, or looking to grow your business in and from Helsinki.

Boardio connects companies with highly skilled advisors. Their service grants access to a global pool of candidates with over 1600 advisors who are willing to help entrepreneurs and startup companies. Moreover, Boardio collaborates with Tekes, Finpro and multiple universities.

Perhaps your aim is to go global? There are many organizations in Finland and Helsinki area that can help your startup go global:

  • Team Finland brings together all state-funded internationalization services.
  • TEKES internationalization services help especially small and medium sized enterprises to grow their business into international markets.
  • Finpro is a part of Team Finland and helps Finnish SMEs go global. Their networks provide unique support for Finnish companies seeking international success.
  • Land In Chicago is a 12-week market-entry program designed to help Finnish growth companies to launch their market entry to the US market using Chicago and its premium technology hub 1871 as its base of operations. It run by international serial entrepreneurs who can provide coaching and mentoring, too.
  • Mustakarhu is a non-profit association that can help Finnish startups. It offers accommodation and support for startups, looking for presence in the Silicon Valley.

For more information about taxation check the Finnish Tax Administration’s website.

Here you can find additional information about living in Helsinki and the City of Helsinki.

The Federation Of Finnish Enterprises has gathered a list of useful links for entrepreneurs on their webpage. Successful business is a website that has gathered everything one needs to know about starting up in Finland. Some of the information might be partly overlapping but at least we’ve got you covered! ☺

Last but not least, you can always contact entrepreneurs and founders in Helsinki area, many of whom are eager to help and give further advice.

The next step is yours. Helsinki welcomes you! 🙂

 

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Special Thanks to Haaga-Helia StartupSchool!

Last updated: August 25th, 2016

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