Ladies and gentlemen,
As a small nation, with limited natural resources, we Finns have always known that our success will (or won’t) be based on innovation and talent. Those are the ingredients to make it or brake it.
I dare to say that the investments we have made on education, research, development and innovation since the 90’s have paid up pretty well. The strategy we chose was to invest heavily in these, even if we had to save on almost everything else. This is also our strategy for the future.
The key is to encourage and give tools to our businesses – big and small, to innovate and renew themselves.
That is why I am really pleased to see so many of you present here today in Helsinki. For me, it’s also a proof that we have done right quite a many things here.
We in Helsinki strongly feel (and we also wrote it in our strategy), that also the success of our city is dependent on smart people, who decide to live their lives here. Helsinki’s objective is to be one of Europe’s most captivating locations for innovative start-ups and the most attractive knowledge hub for companies and individuals wanting to make the world a better place to live in.
Our model of strengthening our city really is all about people. It used to be, that urban economic development focused on retaining industries and luring new businesses with incentive packages. But now, as businesses have also become more mobile and the world more connected, a different and far more effective approach has emerged: focusing first and foremost on creating the conditions that attract people – conditions for best possible urban life.
That is why Helsinki is aiming to become the most functional city in the world. Cities are competing which of them can offer the best schools, best health services, most luring cultural life, safest streets, most extensive mass transit and for example, the cleanest air.
Luring the best people is also the best business policy. Do you know why? Because talent attracts capital more effectively than capital attracts talent.
Our strength really lies in creating the best possible conditions for urban life, but our challenge is in marketing it also in international context, where competition is fierce. Usually people don’t know much about Helsinki when they first arrive – but when they come here, they never want to leave.
I am really proud of the strart-up community in Helsinki. The best thing about is is that according to numerous surveys, Helsinki has the most interconnected start-up community in the world. It’s a community more than a competition. Part of the reason why is that our market is so small that usually startups need to look for business opportunities beyond our borders.
What we have done consistently in Helsinki is, that we have built an attractive ecosystem for startups to lure more talent in. Key drivers have been our policies on open data (Helsinki has opened more public data than any other city in the world, maybe in exception of NYC), and the entire city being developled as a platform for experimenting and creative business activity.
City of Helsinki opened Maria 01 startup campus in an old hospital quartier. The big idea behind the area’s development is that world-changing solutions are created through encounters, cooperation and high-speed experimentation.
Since its birth, Maria has been growing in size but also in effect. The Maria 01 brings together startup companies developing their ideas, growth companies, investors looking to fund the best players, and major corporations providing startups with international development opportunities and partnerships. At Maria, world-changing players will find not only premises, but an effective and unique community and services that support their operations in the various stages of the growth life cycle.
In 2023, when Maria 01 project will be ready, it will be the biggest startup hub in the Nordics.
Being a politician and facing the media practically every day, I need to sincerely congratulate you, the angels, for being so smart to have the name angel describing you and your activity. We, the politicians, are criticized – mostly for the right reasons – but I cannot imagine anyone who would dare to have negative feelings about angels. Purely from the PR point of view, you have been able to illustrate your action in a perfect way by using only two words!
Seriously speaking your activity has become more and more important for young companies.
When it comes to renewal, start-ups are important agents of the new growth. Start-ups are pioneers in using new technologies and bringing them quickly into the market. For a small, technology-driven country like Finland, start-ups and their impact on the national economy is very important. Over the past years, some 90 % of the new jobs in Finland have been created in small and medium-sized enterprises. In the face of global economic challenges, start-ups serve as the building blocks of future competitiveness in Finland and Europe.
Even if the role of business angels is growing and there is a good reason to stress the importance of your financial investments, perhaps there are other elements of your involvement that are even more important. Young companies need guidance, skills and advice. I trust that competent and experienced business angels are very capable of providing all these. It is undoubtedly challenging to sell new innovative products and services in international markets. Your value-added involvement makes it possible to increase the chances for success.
I hope that the contacts you make here in Helsinki, will eventually lead to new global success stories.
I would like to thank you for all the good work that you do, and wish you all very nice and profitable conference in Helsinki!