Helsinki Takes its Role as a Platform Seriously, Says Jan Vapaavuori — Mayor of Helsinki

A series of stories co-written with YIT, behind the faces of the future Maria 01 startup campus. Let’s get to know more about Helsinki as a hub for innovation as explained by its Mayor, Jan Vapaavuori.

Helsinki Takes its Role as a Platform Seriously, Says Jan Vapaavuori — Mayor of Helsinki

You can read this story in Finnish here. Read more about the future campus here.

Helsinki aims to be one of the most intriguing destinations for innovative startups and growth companies. Furthermore, it wants to become an attractive cluster of expertise for companies and individuals who strive to make the world a better place.

“Helsinki’s strengths, reliability, safety, and openness are valued now more than ever. We have been consistently developing the most functional city in the world. We want it to be like that for those who come from elsewhere.

Helsinki has excellent education and strong technological skills. The city’s low hierarchy structures offer a unique platform for testing innovations in a very agile manner,” Vapaavuori says.

Helsinki, a city that is exactly the right size

“Helsinki is the right size for attracting international experts and companies. It is small enough for us to experiment but big enough to produce scalable results. The city’s compact and skilled ecosystem offers entrepreneurs benefits you can’t find elsewhere: specialized incubator services, trial platforms, talent, and a community where you can find the right partners easily.

The Helsinki startup culture is known for its community spirit. Thanks to which we do not compete against, but support one another. We want to keep it that way.

Our goal is to make moving to Finland as easy as possible bureaucracy-wise – the State of Finland has a lot of work to do on this. In the future, we also want to make better use of the international talent that is already staying in Helsinki, such as students. We are also actively maintaining international collaboration by being present in other countries’ ecosystems.

In a short time, Maria 01 has grown into one of the largest startup hubs in the Nordics. The growth of Maria 01 also supports the growth of Helsinki, as it brings together the city’s best features.

The success of Maria 01 is proof of the city’s appeal, the vitality of the startup community, and the capability of the ecosystem. Other areas of the city benefit from operational models that were tested in developing Maria 01 is also utilized to create them. Also, there is a lot of international interest towards Maria 01,” says Vapaavuori.

The expanding campus area aims to be one of Europe’s most massive growth and technology centers

“The future campus for growth and tech companies, that will be built on the Southern part of Maria 01, aims to be one of Europe’s largest centers for growth companies. 

A more massive campus enables creating a supercluster of growth and tech companies. That means bringing together plenty of talents such as startup entrepreneurs, tech companies, investors, and researchers. That brings positive multiplicative effects for the city, and a possibility to attract more foreign talent and investors.

Finland’s strong startup and growth company culture is thanks to several things.
One of them is the cultural shift that has been inspired mainly by Aalto Entrepreneurship Society, the tech-event Slush, and Aalto University.

The fall of Nokia unleashed experts in the ecosystem, and the excellent education system I mentioned before has also affected the culture. The gaming industry has had a crucial role, as well. The locals in Helsinki also like to speak English, which is not the case in all parts of Europe.

We have also consciously invested in this industry for years. Helsinki takes its role as a platform seriously.” 

Helsinki wants to support the unbelievable stories of growth companies.

“Growth companies mean a great deal to Helsinki’s industrial policy. They create new jobs and often offer employment possibilities to immigrants. For example, with a significant effect on the city’s brand and ability to attract both experts and big companies.

Venture capitalists from other countries are often interested in growth companies, and they bring more capital aimed at new and growing businesses to Helsinki.

To support the unbelievable growth stories such as the gaming company Supercell, Helsinki has to make sure in the future that our innovation and
entrepreneur ecosystem is in shape.

That means maintaining high-quality education from preschool to university level, supporting the emergence of high-level research and stable clusters of expertise, providing quality services to new businesses, possibilities for collaboration surpassing industry limits, and promoting cooperation between startups and more traditional companies.

Being systematic, all-encompassing, and becoming persistently international is critical when Helsinki aims to support the development of the Supercells of tomorrow,” the Mayor concludes.

The current Maria 01 community reacts rapidly.

Maria 01 is an active player in society, and when something happens, it reacts quickly. 

As the global corona crisis hit Finland, Maria 01 surveyed to determine the impact of the crisis in the Finnish startup ecosystem. According to the survey, almost 70 percent of the startups are facing decreased sales. Only 16,5 percent of the respondents see that they will survive over a year in this situation. About 20 percent of the startups are facing layoffs because of the crisis. 

Despite the difficult situation, the community keeps on taking care of its members. The vast majority of respondents stated that they have offered their help to fellow entrepreneurs or have been developing ways to support others.

Read more about the survey and the rest of the results here.

Maria 01 is the Nordics’ leading startup campus expanding into one of Europe’s largest startup clusters. The future campus is developed by YIT. Follow Maria 01’s growth journey with these series of stories.

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