"This will be my fifth Slush event," says Marta Sjögren. "I hate conferences but I love Slush."
Sjögren is a principal at the venture capital firm Northzone in Stockholm. Northzone specialises in innovative technology companies like the music streaming service Spotify and the Finnish gaming company Seriously. She hopes to find yet more success stories to add to her resume at Slush, the largest startup event in Northern Europe.
"Finland is like the Mecca of gaming," Sjögren continues. "There are only a couple of thousand gaming professionals in the industry, so it is a small but high quality network. Finland has mastered the user experience in gaming."
She is paying close attention to the emerging interactive entertainment industry. In particular, Sjögren believes it is time for a rethink in the traditional movie industry. Yet she says there is much more to look for in Finland besides gaming and entertainment companies.
"Finland is good at mobile technology, like the Internet of Things and ubiquitous mobile computing. Also data analytics, media, and financial technology."
Additionally, Sjögren thinks that Finland's strong education system joined with software expertise could yield some great ideas.
"Finns are confident enough to think creatively in this area of education technology," she says. "Think of teaching how to play an instrument via gaming, for example."
Capital in Finland
Sjögren sees some differences in the Finnish venture capital market compared to North America. For instance, she says there are many fundraising rounds for sales and marketing in the States, but in Finland most money raised continues to be focused on product development.
"You can see the strength in the Finnish ecosystem," says Sjögren. "The more winners you produce, the more benefits you have: like more money in the ecosystem. We are seeing more growth rounds in Finland, too, so there is a critical mass for growth stage capital. For seed funding a lot of companies turn to Tekes."
She thinks that Tekes is a fantastic organisation for public financing and admirably fulfils its purpose. Yet there is always room for improvement.
"At Slush I would like to see an easier way for us investors to navigate through startups," she says. "Also, I would like to see more of Tekes!"
Text: David J. Cord