Oulu: The North Pole Of Innovation And Technology

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Oulu is a northern technology city - strong in social entrepreneurship, gaming and high-tech startups. Learn how to network and start your business!

Oulu’s location is optimal if you like the northern climate, being near nature and still having a good transportation system to other cities and countries. These are also what helped built Oulu to what it is today: one of Finnland’s innovative technology business hub’s. The city itself is quite small, but still big enough to make different types of trials for services and technologies. There is also a good technology infrastructure to support these kind of activities. The awareness of IoT is spread widely throughout Oulu’s entrepreneurs and ecosystem.

Even though Oulu is technology oriented there are lots of different types of innovation and activities, like air guitar competitions, pitching competitions through an ice hole and lots more. The city has serious engineer guided minds – and we all know these kind of activities pop up from an entrepreneurial society.

Technology isn’t the only cause of big companies like Nokia setteling here. Oulu has a general university, the university of applied sciences and the VTT technical research centre of Finland. These give a broad perspective to technology and humanistic sciences and the combination of these provides a good platform for innovation and outside-the-box-thinking. A close cooperation exsits between these parties and the entrepreneurial society. Mixing this with experienced tech and humanistic people, is building the art of sciences with your products and services. The focus at the moment lays on health, greentech, automotive, big data etc. Come look for yourself, and be a part of it.

Oulu: Up In The North

Advantages Of Starting Up In Oulu:

  • Historically telecommunication and manufacturing have been the main indus-tries in the city of Oulu. Due to this fact, Oulu has always been strong in R&D and new technologies. Although, the telecommunication sector faced some challenges, the mobile competence of Oulu is still strong and new technological services are in the ongoing development.
  • The strongly developed telecommunication industry also boosted Oulu’s gaming industry.
  • Oulu is active in multiple projects developing high-tech sustainable solutions, i.e. Hiukkavaara regional center. Due to its location, Oulu is perfect for this kind of research and testing, because it gives the opportunity to develop and test innovative sustainable products for a different climate.
  • There are always a lot of regional and international networking activities and events.
  • Oulu’s partners are arranging a lot of trainings and coaching seminars for different business segments. Trainings are held by business consultants from different cities and countries around the world.
  • Various networking activities are held on regular basis. The advantage of these events is that professionals and young entrepreneurs are working together on the development of projects, what helps young people to understand business better and start thinking creatively.
  • There are multiple open test labs for designing and testing product and services at real environments. Businesses in cooperation with universities have arranged these kind of laboratories for entrepreneurs to ease up the process of developing a product and reach its market.
  • Open entrepreneur society with cooperational mentality.
  • Global business mentality and English as a working language in a lot of companies.

What Startup Founders Have To Consider:

  • Oulu has high competition to find local funding.
  • The Finnish economy is in recession, which creates challenges for entrepreneurs.
  • The Finnish language is not easy to learn, but it is not a big problem, just use English.

Although Oulu is not the capital of Finland, it is one of the major cities for technology and science development. Moreover, there are a lot of local communities working towards the development of entrepreneurship in Oulu. The people of Oulu are friendly, open-minded and always ready to help, so you can be sure that you will get a lot of support when starting your business. Being a small but growing city, Oulu has a huge potential for entrepreneurs and startups. Due to its northern location, Oulu gives you the opportunity to develop a product suitable for northern environment.  Multiple business sectors are developing at Oulu, such as cleantech, ICT, life sciences, creative industry, trade, logistics and tourism.

Get Around In Oulu’s Neighbourhood

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Business Oulu is a consultant organization, that focuses on the development of Oulu’s business infrastructure. It has a lot of good contacts and information on how to manage your business, turn your idea into a company and grow it. Excellent partners often serve as enablers for the companies’ growth, and Business Oulu is happy to help you find them.

There are lots of events, where you can get useful information and at the same time network with entrepreneurs and investors. You can always find different activities, seminars, events and mentoring sessions for any area of business in Oulu.

Info About Upcoming Events, Meetups & Other Occasions:

  • Business Oulu’s event calendar contains info about local and global events for different business areas, where you might participate cooperating with Business Oulu Organization. You can also find info about trainings, meetings and informational meetups.
  • Business Kitchen is the universities’ entrepreneurship hub for students and business people providing lots of activities and events.
  • Oulun Yritys Takomo offers a service for individuals who want to develop their business idea. There are weekly activities helping to develop your own business and lots of informative meetups with companies and professional people.

Regular Events And Meetups:

  • Technopolis Business Breakfast is an informative meetup, where specialists provide up-to-date information on different topics. At the same time it provides good opportunities to network with like-minded people, professionals and entrepreneurs whilst having good breakfast.
  • Njetworking events are informative networking meetups.
  • IGDA Finland Oulu is arranging networking meetups for the gaming industry, where you can meet lots of Finnish game makers.

Yearly Or Major Events, Festivals, Conferences:

  • Polar Bear Pitching is an arctic pitching challenge for entrepreneurs. There is no time limit, you get to pitch as long as you can in the freezing cold water to top-tier international investors, executives and media. Pitch your idea and win prize that helps you develop your startup. The event is streamed online.
  • Midnight Pitch Fest is a summer pitching event, where you can present an idea of any business sector. It provides a great opportunity to get direct access to investors, the brightest startup founders and international companies. Some event parts are streamed online.
  • Northern industry event is a gathering the professionals from the mining, steel-, paper-, pulp- and chemical industry, machine shop and decision makers of other fields of industry in Oulu under the same roof.
  • PrintoCent events are held to boost the industrialization and commercialization of printed intelligence. During these events new technologies and lots of companies of this industry are presented.
  • Industry summit is the biggest industry-related event in Northern Finland, and is aimed especially at industry practitioners, experts and leaders.

Enhance Your Productivity Oulu’s Co-working Spaces

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Oulu offers a lot of good co-working places for innovative activities. Moreover,  there are also some open laboratories, where you can develop your product and test it.

Co-working Spaces In Oulu:

  • Business Kitchen is an open innovation space for everyone who is interested. The place is open from 8:30am till 4pm, but if you need more time, you get a mobile lock system access. Business Kitchen has a lot of meeting rooms, which are used mainly for their organizations, partners and customers, but can be used by other members if booked in advance.  It offers a selection of interesting business, startup and entrepreneurship literature. You are free to read these resources while being in the Business Kitchen, but the books should not be taken out of the office long term. The main idea is to provide inspiration and get the latest news.
  • Oulun Yrity’s Takomo is offering meeting and group working rooms. Takomo provides its members with free facilities, training, know-how and support to help them develop new services and products for the market with no immediate risk. You can access these premises if you sign a contract with Takomo and participate in pre-incubation activities. There are no fees for pre-incubation.
  • Njetworking Inn is providing work desks and rooms. If you need a small office place and want to share a workplace with like-minded entrepreneurs and companies, this is the perfect place for you.
  • TellUs innovation arena is located at the heart of Oulu’s university campus. It is an open innovation space and is built for learning and collaboration of all open-minded explorers from inside and outside the university.
  • Oulu Health labs provides your product with a unique, integrated health test and development environment – including professionals’ feedback – for every phase of your R&D process. Oulu Health Lab services are provided by the region’s top organizations, such as Oulu University Hospital, Oulu University of Applied Sciences, and the City of Oulu’s Health and Social Care Services.
  • Oulu University FabLab is a small-scale workshop offering digital fabrication. It is comprised of off-the-shelf, industrial-grade fabrication and electronics tools, wrapped in open source software.

Look For Budget Securing Chances In Oulu

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At this point you want to have something that enables your idea to becaome a real vision and a business. Unfortunately, money won’t fly into your wallet spontaneously. If it does, you’re lucky, but that is not usually the case in business. You should have been pre-incubated to get your idea into a form that is  sellable to you customer, it doesn’t matter if that is family or friends, a bank, a business angel or investor. You know which one is best for you and your business.

In the Oulu area schools and universities are enabling entrepreneurship knowledge and support it to turn an idea into business. There is a close collaboration between these institutions and incubators. Incubation is parted into two phases, pre-incubation and incubation phase. Pre-incubation is where you not yet have started any official business and might be doing so with an unemployed status in Finland. At incubation phase you start or already have started something and you register your business ID.

When you have your business ID, you can file for a Finnish grant for new startups. This is only supportive money and it’s not for carrying your business. You can gain access to the business side of My Enterprise Finland service’s where you can get more information and help to bring your startup forward. There are also national funding possibilities for different phases of your company (you can get more information about these from TEKES).

Business Oulu is a consultancy organization and it is arranging most of the local training’s and giving their expertise to find and network with proper instances depending on your entrepreneurial phase. Business Oulu is also evaluating the needs of the startup scenery to find proper operators to different entrepreneurship needs. That’s why some operations can change from time to time, so follow Business Oulu’s site to stay updated. There are also lots of other focused services at business Oulu, like business idea and model, productization, funding, sales and export’s. Still there are private operator’s for business development, so network yourself into Oulu’s startup scenery.

Incubators:

Accelerators:

  • Nestholma startup accelerator program is a free, intensive three-month program in Oulu, run in collaboration with Business Oulu. The accelerator takes advantage of Nestholma’s Lean Startup-driven venture accelerator model that has been developed to help startups and large corporations to work together.
  • Starttaamo is a community of high-tech startup entrepreneurs that accelerates the creation and growth of new innovation and companies. The community is a non-profit background organization that serves as a platform for interaction between companies, for the promotion of entrepreneurship and for other activities supporting entrepreneurship.

Grants And Subventions:

Crowd Investing Platforms:

  • 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.
  • Funded by me isthe leading crowdfunding company. It offers reward, equity and loan based crowdfunding and is currently building the best crowdfunding service ever.
  • FUNDU is a creative solution to financial challenges of growth companies.
  • Kansalaisrahoitus Oy is a funding platform providing services for companies and funders.
  • Mesenaatti is the biggest Finnish crowdfunding platform.
  • PocketVenture is a Finnish crowdfunding platform.

Angel Investors:

  • Business Angels Finland Ltd is the key connector of Finnish startups and business angels. If you are looking for new investment targets, you can browse interesting companies whenever you want. For companies this platform offers an easy access, world-wide investor networks.
  • FIBAN, Finnish Business Angels Network, is a Finnish, national, non-profit association of private investors that aims to improve the possibilities for private persons to invest in unlisted potential growth companies. The association’s work is based on the activity by private investors and cooperates with networks supporting high-growth goals.
  • Suomen Bisnesenkelitry is a Finnish business angel association.

Venture Capital Investors:

  • Vision + is a Finnish investors platform for apps, internet and Saas services.
  • Teollisuussijoitus is investing in growing companies with internationalization.
  • Novweco partners is formed by two regional venture capital companies: Teknoventure Management Oy from Oulu and Oy Wedeco Management Ab from Vaasa. The focus of investment are management buyouts, generation change, reorganizations and growth companies.
  • Butterfly investment focus lays on early stage technology companies with high growth potential.

Other Investment Opportunities:

  • Sitra is a future-oriented organization that promotes Finland’s competitiveness and the well-being of the Finnish people. It anticipates societal change, tries out new operating models and accelerates business activities aimed at creating sustainable well-being.
  • WallStreet Finanssipalvelut provides different types of finance services for small and medium-sized companies.

Seek For The Best Advisers In Oulu

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There are a lot of funding opportunities in Oulu, both local and global, but before you are starting your own company familiarize yourself with the Finnish living and working standards. TE-palvelut is a service where you can find info about employment and how to start your company as citizen of Finland. Information about tax legislation you can find at the governmental Finnnish tax administration office. You can also find information about living in the city of Oulu and its business perspective there.

Always being the northern trading center, Oulu developed into a high technology hub inhabited by motivated and hard-working people. Do you need this kind of support and co-operating mentality? Come to Oulu, complete pitching in an ice hole and get what you  want!

Despite northern and cold weather, Oulu has a friendly atmosphere and provides great opportunities for building your future company. Start networking and build your own future in Oulu.

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Last updated: August 25th, 2016

The guides are like startup communities – they constantly change and grow. Make sure to check for updates and if you have something to add to one of them or want to publish one for your city, get in touch right away! And don’t forget to enrich the startup ecosystem by creating your company profile at StartUs!

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