“Traditionally it hasn’t been cool to be an entrepreneur—at least not in the university world,” says Miki Kuusi, a 20-something Aalto University student who also runs an entrepreneurship society for fellow students.
Kuusi draws parallels between the Finnish university startup community and the mood at world-renowned Stanford University in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley.
“When you ask the smartest students at Stanford what they want to be when they grow up, the answer isn’t 'I’m going to work at Google or Facebook next door.' They want to build their own companies,” he explains.
Serial entrepreneur Timo Ahopelto of Lifeline Ventures, a startup accelerator, is on the same page as Kuusi. He notes that startups are crucial for Finnish job creation.
Ahopelto says Finnish growth companies fare well in international comparisons. In addition to the gaming and app industry, Finns have found a niche in healthcare technology.
Kuusi says Finns often wax nostalgic about Nokia.
”Nokia is an exception—such a large company in a very small country. We don’t need a new Nokia, but we do want a dozen new companies like Spotify and Skype."