Helsinki, Finland, is known for having one of the most highly educated workforces in the world. In this week’s Tech Center Roundup, we take a look at how the European city that continues to land at the top of rankings for productivity and competitiveness is using its assets to climb the global FinTech ladder.
Before we jump into the post, here are a few quick facts about Helsinki and its tech scene:
- Helsinki is the capital of Finland, as well as the largest city, with an estimated population of 1.4 million.
- Approximately 40 percent of Helsinki’s population has higher education, and nearly 80 percent speaks English.
- Finland has Europe’s highest level of venture investment in relation to GDP.
- Helsinki is home to more than 500 established startups.
- The region is considered to be one of Europe’s fastest-growing, with an upward trend of both entrepreneurship and tech talent.
- Helsinki is ranked number four out of 60 cities on the European Digital City Index, with high scores for entrepreneurial culture, skills, lifestyle and early-stage support.
- The city is considered to be the commercial, political and cultural capital of Finland.
For many years the strength and presence of Nokia had a significant influence over the tech and business environment in Finland, but even with the decline of a tech company that was once the most widely recognized name in Finnish technology, the region has continued to flourish.
Finland’s capital city of Helsinki is well-known for its enjoyable quality of life, extensive tech-related talent pool, international access, key business ecosystem and friendly innovation policy environment.
Mikael Lauharanta, COO and cofounder of employee communication, advocacy and engagement app Smarp, described having fond memories of starting a tech company in Finland.
“When it comes to entrepreneurship, there is a culture of giving back in Finland where successful entrepreneurs with exits and/or a wealth of experience give back to the community and transfer their knowledge to the next generation of entrepreneurs and startups,” Lauharanta explained.
He added that the country boasts an exceptionally good educational system and language skills, as well as talented, multicultural people and a government that supports startups.
While the demise of Nokia and a prolonged economic downturn have certainly had an impact on Finland, Lauharanta said it’s forced the government to take action and encourage people and companies to create jobs and their own opportunities.
“Finland is a small country. With a population of 5.5 million people, the home market is too small for any growth company. Our startups are international from day one,” Thuong Tan, director of Tekes Silicon Valley, the biggest public Finnish funding agency for innovation, told PYMNTS.
“They often have to look for larger VC funding rounds from investors outside of Finland. In general, our startup culture started to emerge about 10 years ago, so we have been on a steep learning curve. We are starting to have plenty of experienced serial entrepreneurs, which have learned their lessons and can make real breakthroughs,” Tan added.
Helsinki Airport Welcomes Alipay
Helsinki Airport in Finland is now one of the first airports in Europe to enable Alipay, a move that has come in response to an increase in the number of Chinese passengers at the Helsinki Airport. By enabling Alipay, the airport’s operator, Finavia, said it will improve the service experience at the airport for Chinese travelers.
“Chinese passengers are the most rapidly growing customer group at Helsinki Airport and the group that uses the most money. We work hard to offer them the best possible service experience. Familiar and easy payment options increase the feeling of smooth and safe travel for Chinese passengers,” Finavia’s Elena Stenholm, director of commercial services at Helsinki Airport, said in the press release.
In Helsinki Airport, seven commercial services points have adopted Alipay, with a lot more interested. China’s UnionPay is already available at most of the outlets within the airport, the company said.
The FinTech Capital Path
Financial services group Nordea is on the hunt for the next big AI and blockchain innovations in the Nordic and Baltic region.
According to The CoinTelegraph, the company recently launched a FinTech accelerator in Stockholm and Helsinki. The three-month program, which is being led by Nordea and its partners, including IBM, Tata Consultancy Services and Nestholma Venture Accelerator, had more than 200 startups apply.
“The idea is to learn and find new business and partnership opportunities through collaboration and, ultimately, provide better digital services for Nordea’s customers. One of Nordea’s challenges for the startups is to come up with good ideas within emerging technologies, like cognitive computing, artificial intelligence in banking and financial usage of blockchain technology,” Jan Sirich, head of experimentation and learning at Nordea, explained.
“But Nordea is interested in several other areas, which opens good opportunities to attract many different startups to the program and provides synergy and diversity.”
The CoinTelegraph noted that there are also other financial institutions making investments into Finland’s growing FinTech ecosystem, including JPMorgan Chase, HSBC and Citi.