In 2019, more than 100 promising startups in Korea accompanied President Moon Jae-in on his trip to Finland. It was to experience the Nordic startup ecosystem and seek opportunities to enter the market. Finland is a small country with 5.5 million people, but it is a startup powerhouse that has produced the largest number of startups compared to its population. Korea also refers to the successful case of Finland to create an innovation ecosystem. The tour made a cooperative link between startups of the two countries, and since then, it has become easier for Korean companies to enter Northern Europe.
Maria01, a startup campus located in downtown Helsinki, directly nurtures Korean startups this year. It will support 5 content startups to help their entry into Europe through the launchpad program. Ville Simola, CEO of Maria01, said, “In the process of increasing cooperative partners in Asia, we got connected with KOCCA and participated in this program.” He highly appreciated the technological potential of the Korean technology ecosystem and Korean startups. Through this program, it plans to partner with Korean startups to connect them with investors in the Nordic region and to help them settle in the market.
Finland has a unique startup culture in which the government, academia, and private companies cooperate closely with one another. There are many R&D programs supported by the government, and the initial startup funding has also increased recently, making a better environment for startups. While the government plays a great role, Finland has its own bottom-up approach to create success in startups. Maria 01 is also a government-funded startup support organization supported by Helsinki City, but it is run in cooperation with various startup members led by the community. Currently, more than 185 startups and 10 venture capitals reside in Maria 01.
“Content companies have high chances of success in Finland, the game powerhouse.”
Shimora said, “Finland has an environment where content startups are highly likely to succeed.” Taking unicorn game startups like Supercell and Rovio as examples, he added that the game and entertainment market are huge and promising in Finland. It is in line with the purpose of the launchpad program, which supports content companies’ global expansion.
Maria 01 recently selected five finalists among several teams that have been pre-accelerated through the Launchpad program based on three criteria: capability, product/market fit, and business model. Bluesignal is a company that develops solutions to reduce traffic problems and the risk of accidents based on traffic prediction engines and algorithms. Fontho serves Chelec, a clothing brand for plus-size women. Video Monster makes a short-form video-making platform and AI editing tools for long-form video, while Sam corporation creates an AI-based storyboard production platform named Story Creator. Letsee provides web-based AR software development tools without installing an app.
Shimora selected two startups, a story-making platform Sam Corporation and a traffic prediction solution Bluesignal, as likely to succeed in Finland. “At a time when video consumption is increasing, storyboards are a good tool for producers to use. It is an item that can succeed at the global market beyond the Nordic region,” he commented. Execution and team competency were also cited as strengths of Sam Corporation. Blue Signal earned high scores on the technical side. Its market size is expected to enlarge as the mobility market is growing.
Maria01 does not spare any support for global startups to settle locally. First, it provides visa and housing support through Business Finland, a government-affiliated organization. In addition, it provides nurturing space, helps secure corporate clients through local networks, and supports step-by-step connections with investors.
The CEO advised on preparations for entering the local market to establish their strategy and look into regulations through market research. He also asked to stick to the basics and check if the product is being exposed in the proper local language. Afterward, he advised that it would be helpful to gain experience working with local people and investors who know the market well. “Finland has a high percentage of English speakers,” Shimora said. “It is another advantage that there’s no need to learn an additional language to settle down.”
Finland has a small domestic market. As a result, cooperation and collaboration with global companies along with advancing into the global market have become a way to survive. It is not awkward for them to expand the market in partnership with various startups as well as Korean startups. CEO Shimora, who intends to serve as a good link to Korean startups through cooperation with the Korea Creative Content Agency and this launchpad program, said, “Despite COVID-19, Europe’s largest startup event, Slush will be held offline on a small scale. I hope Korean startups will also participate and get various opportunities.”