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Why did you decide to hold Finlanding this year with closed borders? How will these circumstances affect the activity of the participants?
Of course, the restrictions that exist today in Russia and Finland affect all our activities. For example, this year we will not be able to go to Slush conference with Finlanding winners. We will postpone participation to 2021. On the other hand the program and selection mechanism has remained the same, it is just that now it has moved completely online. The volume of our consulting support will not change either, we are even ready to increase it remotely.
It will be very interesting for us to understand how the pandemic will affect the startup community, especially given the closure of borders. And we expect that absolutely new solutions may appear right now that will be useful for the Helsinki region. Therefore, the search for projects in the field of Smart City becomes one of the important areas of Finlanding.
What is the role of Finlanding organizers: Helsinki Centre, NewCo Helsinki and Helsinki Business Hub?
Helsinki Centre is located in St.Petersburg, Russia, so it gets to know the participating companies directly. We understand which company will be more suitable for this or that support institution in Finland.
For Finlanding winners, visit to Slush conference, one of the largest start-up events in Europe, becomes the starting point for exploring Finland. Here we give them the opportunity to establish their first contacts with the Finnish business community. Helsinki Centre organizes another visit ofor startups to consolidate acquired acquaintances: first meetings with potential partners or clients are held, legal support is offered on opening a company in Finland. We usually conduct this part of the support offline. But in the current environment the initial contacts will be online.
All Finlanding winners receive free of charge support by NewCo Helsinki and Helsinki Business Hub. It does not mean that the rest of the program participants will not be able to use the services of these organizations. Their representatives will be among the experts, so any company will be able to present itself to them, get useful contacts necessary for the first steps in Finland.
NewCo Helsinki is an urban structure of the Finnish capital, a support center for small and medium-sized businesses. This is where we direct early stage startups. Helsinki Business Hub works with more mature startups that already have consistently high turnovers and a desire to grow globally, not just test their solutions in Finland. But we do not impose restrictions on Finlanding participants in cooperation with these organizations. For example, if a mature startup wants to undergo acceleration at NewCo, we will also help it.
Maria Hartikainen, Senior Adviser, Helsinki Business Hub
There are over 30 accelerators and business incubators in the Helsinki region, and this infrastructure continues to expand. Among future projects, it is worth noting the launch of the new acceleration program NewCo, funded by the city of Helsinki, as well as the expansion of the Maria 01 startup campus, the largest startup campus in Northern Europe. Innovation hubs Terkko Health Hub, Helsinki XR Center, ESA BIC, IoT Forge Foundation and GE Health Innovation Village offer an excellent infrastructure for promising startups at various stages of development. Many teams from Russia have already used the services of these organizations, which helped them develop their business in Finland.
What criteria will be especially important for determining the finalists this year?
Finlanding has an industry focus. These are projects in the areas of IoT, Smart City, Smart&Clean, MedTech, AR/VR and Mobile Apps. We are interested in companies that already have sales or a working service in Russia, a strong team with marketing and technological competencies, an annual turnover of at least 1.5 million rubles and a willingness to enter international markets through Finland.
Of course, we want to see enthusiastic and bright-eyed participants. An important factor will be the knowledge of startups about the Finnish market, their competitors, understanding the niche they want to occupy. Then we will understand that the project is really interested in the direction in which it wants to develop. If we see the potential for growth in the project or if it presents itself very clearly, but does not meet all the criteria, then it will still be able to take part in the program.
What is especially important during the presentation of projects at the final pitch session, especially this year, when it will be held online?
We ask each team to explain why they need Finland to develop their business. Why they want to go to this country and not another one. Timing is also important. We usually have 3.5 minutes for a presentation, but perhaps this year we will increase the time. Although the finalists always fit into it, as they come prepared for the presentation. Traditionally, during the pitch sessions, we have networking, when you can chat with program experts in a more relaxed atmosphere and get useful advice or contacts. This year we are deprived of such an opportunity, so it would be logical to increase the time of projects presentation.
Learn more about the Finlanding program and apply at the website.
In 2019, 211 startups from 28 Russian cities took part in the Finlanding program. The largest number of projects represented retail and e-commerce, Smart City and industry. Mainly, startups offered artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, building analytical systems and Big Data.