I have been following Finnish growth companies from a Tekes viewpoint for almost four years. Previously I've worked as CEO of a nanotech startup and over 10 years in venture capital. Although Finnish businesses have been going through turbulent times, I can also see many positive indicators. We are in a situation where we have to focus on the financial big picture and successes. SMEs are one of the cornerstones of our economy, but we need more international business experience, courage, enthusiasm and midsize stars. The most successful startups will quickly grow into expansion phase.
Startups are not just fun and games. Young growth companies play a key role in creating new jobs and developing new skills. They bring fresh ideas and challenge corporations to re-invent themselves by role modelling flexibility, risk-taking, opportunity seeking and growing business operations.
The core of startups are the many talented, fearless and hard-working people. Many of them have made enviable careers in corporations but have made the brave decision to jump out from the box and work in a startup with no guarantee of success.
The US startup guru Steve Blank defines a startup as "... a temporary organization used to search for a repeatable and scalable business model." In Finland, a startup is usually defined as a company less than six years old and aiming for the global market with scalable products.
All startups take high risks and some of them fail - inevitably. Our job at Tekes is to share this risk and support the best startup teams to reach excellence and growth. We aim to help teams to cut three years from the first six and thus reach their international market faster than their competitors.
In 2014, Tekes evaluated some 2,500 funding applications submitted by companies, roughly half of them by companies less than 6 years old, and about 36 per cent of Tekes R&D funding went to startups – in total € 134million. These figures show well how the importance of startups has increased in the Finnish innovation field, as just a few years ago startup funding by Tekes accounted for only a fraction of what it is today.
This shift has also required a lot from us at Tekes. We have spent a lot of time talking to growth companies and developing our service together with our Team Finland partners such as Finnvera and Finpro. In 2016, we are renewing our online application service and are trying out an advance payment of SME's small projects and to minimise the need of external bridge funding.
Our young growth companies have got off to a good start. International VCs and large corporations interested in the expertise of young companies are now keeping a close look at Finland. We cannot afford to let this opportunity slip through our hands.
Executive Director, Startup companies, Tekes