7 reasons why Helsinki is the city for impact-driven founders

Are you a purpose-driven scale-up founder looking to break into the European market? Look no further – Helsinki is your best option. But don’t just take our word for it! Hear from five international founders about their experiences of Helsinki’s startup scene.

4 min read

  • Join a dynamic community of over 2,200 startups and scale-ups, supported by 1,300 corporates and 1,087 investors.
  • Finnish startups secured a record €1.8 billion in funding in 2022, offering substantial support for growth.
  • Benefit from significant investments in R&D and collaboration with renowned institutions like the University of Helsinki and Aalto University.
  • Helsinki’s ambitious climate targets and strong public support make it a leader in sustainable business practices.

Apply for Founders to Finland

Founders to Finland is 7-day deep-dive into the New Nordics business ecosystem. It’s designed for international scale-up founders to build a highly relevant network in the Nordics and gain fast access to the European market. The program is free of charge, participants only need to cover the cost of their expenses.

1. A vibrant and expansive startup ecosystem

Helsinki’s dynamic startup ecosystem is bustling and inclusive, home to over 2200 startups and scale-ups as of 2023 with a combined enterprise value of over $31 billion. The ecosystem is enriched by more than 1,300 corporates and 1,087 investors, adding to the city’s strength, scope of potential, and prosperity.

Slush, held every November in Helsinki, attracts leading venture capitalists, startups, and scale-ups from around the globe, making it a pinnacle event in the startup world. At the heart of this ecosystem is Finland’s highly educated and tech-savvy workforce, known for their commitment and independent work ethic.

“Helsinki has a very diverse pool of talents and the Finnish people have a very strong sense of commitment and dedication to their work. For us, it is very important that people are independent and complete their work tasks responsibly without much supervision. Everyone’s in this together and they understand the entrepreneur culture,” says Crystal Koh, Founder of Chanceupon, and Xanne Leo, COO of Chanceupon.

2. Record-breaking funding for growth

In 2022, Finnish startups secured a record €1.8 billion in funding, highlighting the substantial support network available for burgeoning businesses. Helsinki offers an ideal blend of public funding, private investments, and access to international venture capital.

“Finland is the epicentre of the New Nordics. The first things that come to my mind about Helsinki are the words helpful, happy, and hopeful. With deep tech environments and emerging new ideas, the ecosystem is growing rapidly, attracting many investors,” praises Linn-Cecilie Linneman, Impact Investor, Venture Capitalist, and Board Member of North Venture et al.

3. A global standard for research and innovation

Helsinki is renowned for its significant investments in research and development, supported by institutions like the University of Helsinki, Aalto University, and VTT.

“From a researcher’s point of view, Finland has an amazing ecosystem for researchers to make an impact in the world. The University of Helsinki, Aalto University, and VTT are all strong supporters in bringing powerful research into the world and the best innovations that come along with that,” notes Shilpa Karkeraa, Group CEO of Myraa Technologies and participant of the Founders to Finland Summer 2024 program.

Matthew Hicks, Senior Investment Analyst at VC Funds, adds, “What we’ve seen is really strong technical talent. It’s important to play to our strengths and tell the story of what the ecosystem can offer.”

4. Commitment to green transition and carbon neutrality

Helsinki and Finland’s ambitious climate targets require companies to implement serious decarbonisation strategies, making them forerunners globally. Finland aims to be carbon neutral by 2035 and scores 86.8/100 in the Sustainable Development Report 2023, with 86% of its electricity coming from fossil-free sources.

Rhythm Jolly, CPO at FlocCare, praises Helsinki’s green credentials: “I thought I’d seen some green places in my travels, but Finland tops them all.”

5. Robust public support for future-proof businesses

Ranked sixth in the 2022 Green Future Index, Finland’s commitment to sustainable, low-carbon businesses is evident. Helsinki provides substantial governmental support to help companies become future-proof enterprises.

“The ecosystem here is truly impressive. It carries the capacity to see projects from the research phase all the way to commercialisation,” notes Arvin Tang, General Manager at AKIN.

Companies relocating to Helsinki will discover how sustainability can serve as a powerful competitive advantage. Through connections and partnerships with Finnish firms, they can gain valuable insights into integrating green practices into their core strategies. Additionally, the sustainability efforts of larger Finnish companies will positively influence their operations. In Helsinki, businesses can leverage the city’s robust commitment to sustainability, making it an integral part of their growth and success.

6. Community, high quality of life, and inclusive culture

Finland, the happiest country in the world, offers an exceptional quality of life, with Helsinki ranking number one among the happiest cities globally. The city’s high English proficiency and the use of English, Finnish, and Swedish as business languages make it accessible for international founders.

Companies in Helsinki, such as Rovio and Supercell, embrace Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion, fostering an inclusive business environment.

“I relate to equitability. The kind of gender balance that I’ve seen over here. Equitability in the corporate life, of young parents. I think this is a place where balance in life and work together in a very equitable way,” says Rhythm Jolly, CPO at FlocCare.

7. Tailored services to discover how Helsinki can impact your business

Want to experience the impact-driven spirit of Helsinki and Slush yourself? Join the Founders to Finland Slush 2024 Edition that takes place from November 17th to 23rd, offering a unique, seven-day deep dive into Helsinki’s dynamic business ecosystem.

Participants will receive complimentary tickets to Slush 2024, Europe’s leading startup event, along with a tailored itinerary of meetings with potential partners and investors.

“During my nine years helping companies expand in Helsinki, what I’ve witnessed is that Helsinki is the easiest place for first-time entry to the Nordic market,” notes Program manager and Senior Advisor Xin Wang.

Founders to Finland Slush 2024 Edition

The program offers 15 select participants the chance to experience Helsinki’s community vibes firsthand with a complimentary ticket to Slush 2024—the world’s largest gathering of venture capitalists and scale-ups. Participants will be matched with relevant contacts and have access to over 300 side events.

Program details

Dates: November 17–23, 2024

Over the course of seven days, participants will engage in a variety of activities including:

  • Tailored matchmaking sessions
  • A free Slush 2024 ticket and curated side events
  • Seminars on the Finnish startup ecosystem, public funding, and private investment
  • Company visits and networking events

The program will cover topics such as:

  • The benefits of the Finnish startup ecosystem for international scale-ups
  • How to access public funding and private investment in Finland
  • Strategies for entering Nordic and EU markets via Finland.

Apply now for the Founders to Finland Program

Take the first step towards expanding your business in one of the world’s most vibrant startup ecosystems. Apply now to join Europe’s top founder program and accelerate your journey into the Nordics and beyond.

Apply for the Founders to Finland Program

This scale-up focused program offers purpose-driven founders an immersive experience in the Helsinki ecosystem. Participants connect with potential partners and explore the unique business culture of Helsinki, the capital of the happiest country in the world. 

Our 6-day program is designed for international founders to deep-dive into the Nordic business ecosystem, get relevant connections, and offers a free ticket to Slush, Europe’s biggest gathering for startups and venture capitalists. 

Tuomas Uusiheimo