Nordicum - Real Estate Annual Finland 2013 - Page 12

Photo: Tourist and Convention Bureau of City of Helsinki / Kaisa Luukannel company now as it used to,” says Blank who got his start in Silicon Valley in the late 70’s. Creating a start-up ecosystem requires more than a few growth-minded companies, however. Blank acknowledges that while the Finnish start-up scene has given the world quality companies – the list runs from F-Secure and MySQL to Rovio and Supercell – it’s not clear yet whether the number of startups in Helsinki is sufficient to truly ignite. “I feel like it’s getting there: the ecosystem is taking shape, being built from the ground up.” The Shadow of the Nanny State Still, Blank doesn’t hesitate to calls this blossoming cluster “a miracle” since what makes Finland such a wonderful place to live and 10 Nordicum raise a family may, in all likelihood, work against its efforts to become a start-up hub. How come? Blank explains that Finland’s culture makes risk-taking and sharing difficult. The built-in safety nets in nearly all parts of a Finn’s life – health insurance, free college tuition, unions, collective bargaining, fixed work hours – makes entrepreneurs afraid to take a gamble and fail; and failure is the key to building a start-up. Blank gives an example: employees in an early stage start-up expect to work normal hours, to get paid a regular salary, and they wouldn’t dream of asking for equity. (The same as mom and dad in their nine-to-fives.) “Here in Silicon Valley, we encourage risk and accept failure. You know what we call a failed entrepreneur here? Experienced,” Blank says. Cut the Net Another trend Blank observes in Finland is the national tendency to rally around one company and imitate everything it does. In Finnish business, for the longest time, that company was Nokia, but as the mobile phone giant has hit hard times, the torch has been passed on to Rovio, the maker of Angry Birds. “Companies trying to mimic what someone else is doing are bound to fail. Look at Rovio, they didn’t set out to be the ‘next Nokia’,” he points out. “The next success story will always be something nobody’s thought of yet.” Sami J. Anteroinen