After a busy year the iEER project culminated to a peer review visit to Helsinki on 29.11.-1.12.2016. The three day visit included an overview of entrepreneurial activities and support systems in the Helsinki-Uusimaa region as well as an introduction to the local startup scene. The highlight of the trip was Slush, a student-led initiative which has grown to Europe’s main startup event attracting more than 17 000 participants from around the world.

In Helsinki iEER partners were introduced to the main entrepreneurship actors and support systems in the region. Thanks to an active push by student entrepreneurship societies, the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Helsinki-Uusimaa region has blossomed in the past years. Vocal and successful startup entrepreneurs have been leading the way and acted as role models to budding entrepreneurs. The success of Slush has been a key factor in raising the profile of startups and promoting entrepreneurial culture in Finland.

“It’s not how much you spend but what you’re doing with your time”

The central benefit Slush brings to Finnish companies are international networks and contacts with investors and Silicon Valley. It is estimated that 20 percent of early stage venture capital investments to Finnish startups in 2013-2015 were thanks to companies and investors meeting at Slush. Committee of the Regions president Mr. Markku Markkula, whom the iEER partners had the pleasure meeting during their time in Helsinki, emphasized the important role young people and students have in the creation of entrepreneurial culture. “It’s not how much you spend but what you’re doing with your time” Mr. Markkula advised, "Being with others, that's how you energize yourself and get ideas".

iEER participants learned about the region’s entrepreneurial activities at Maria 0-1, a former hospital transformed to a startup hub opened this fall. Maria 0-1 has received funding from the European Regional Development Fund and once finished will be the biggest startup hub in the Nordics. It offers spaces to both startups and investors, bringing funding and companies to the same location. One of the support services presented was Tekes (the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation).  Tekes is the main government agency offering funding for startups, SMEs and large companies aiming to grow their business and willing to go abroad. In 2015 Tekes financed 702 startups and granted 140 million euros for young growth companies. NewCo Helsinki  is an agency founded by the city of Helsinki. It offers entrepreneurship support services for approximately 1500 new entrepreneurs and over 1000 companies a year. Over 80 percent of the companies NewCo supports are in operation after five years.

Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional kick-off was organized together to the peer review visit to enable iEER partners to meet local stakeholders. The kick-off was also a Slush side-event, and attracted over fifty participants to Maria 0-1 to hear speakers lay out their vision for the future of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Helsinki-Uusimaa region.  Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Government shared what kind of new entrepreneurial services the reform of regional government in Finland will bring, and startups shared their ideas on how to improve the ecosystem. One good idea was the creation of practical guides for startups to help with different themes, for example how to write shareholder agreements or how to prepare for a startup conference.

Christmas is soon here, and iEER activities are slowing down momentarily. Next year will bring many interesting happenings, and we are looking forward to heading to Northern Ireland and Ireland in March 2017 to learn about supporting entrepreneurs in rural areas.