I have been working in the Finnish business development and startup ecosystem for 20 years and during that time I’ve started two companies with internationals. In 2008 I worked with Dr. Ahmed Shalaby from Egypt and in 2016 with Dr. Keir Finlow-Bates from the UK. I want to share some of my findings on international talent integration. You may agree or disagree: my target is to raise at least one new point of view or angle to the discussion.
How it is to start a business with a non-Finn in Finland
Over the years founding a company (limited) has become easier and easier. It is also true when starting it with a Non-Finn. You might still need some patience with the permits and paperwork, but a decade ago there was hardly any information in English or even sufficient electronic services such as today. It took me a lot more time to do the administrative tasks necessary for starting a company. As the whole Finnish society has changed, the general attitude to help internationals to start a business in this country has gone forward. Nowadays there are so many non-Finn startup examples, that Tampere doesn’t have to look back hundreds of years, back to the famous Scotsman James Finlayson or the Baltic-German Carl Samuel Nottbeck for examples. Still, as an international it is still good to have a Finnish speaking friend, mentor and supporter. Google translate in business administration is definately not accurate enough.
How Finns and non-Finns differ as co-founders
I have evaluated thousands of business ideas, and also met with tens of international teams just this past month. Every team and person is different but I still dare to make some generalizations.
a. Internationals are more entrepreneur minded
The internationals I have met have come from different cultures, and have adapted to Finnish weather conditions and the strange bureaucracy in business (coming back from Russian rule from 19th century). Foreigners in Finnish business have motivation and adaptiveness which I can clearly see when I compare Finns and non-Finns in general.
b. Internationals have difficulties in basics
Finns go through our national education system, which creates the groundwork for many simple but wonderful things. Financials, literature and critical thinking come naturally. It is not the same with a wide variety of internationals. Therefore, I always have a check-list and some basic questions in my mind about different business situations that will, or might occur. This is to be sure that we are all in the same boat when talking about running a business and making decisions as co-founders.
c. Internationals, well, think more globally
Almost every business idea I recall from a foreigner has an international aspect, whether it’s import/export from one’s home country or using international skills and mindset to go abroad as soon as possible. Finns look more into the comfort zone of Finland and would rather start something here first.
d. Internationals still need support
Business in Finland and everywhere else for that matter is about Trust, and Trust only. I must admit, that even in today’s business market, if the company founder or owner has a foreign name, it may create doubts or a question mark of trust. Therefore a foreigner might need a good Finnish co-founder and a good Finnish network (like accounting, a lawyer or communications agency) and so on.
What is the role of internationals in the Finnish Business Ecosystem
From my own experience internationals in Finnish business are fundamental when looking for potential to go international and to get innovative ideas to the Finnish Ecosystem. Still, do not take my word for it – these are my own opinions.
I’m always in the search for better and more reliable statistics on the meaning of international talent in entrepreneurship, as the statistics that I’ve found are still not consistent enough to be used as a reliable source. Most of the information regarding foreign talent in business and entrepreneurship are just singular references or articles. But I know that academic students and internationals in big companies are extremely potential entrepreneurs. According to YLE news* about one third of clients in the Helsinki area Uusyrityskeskus are immigrants. These individuals, full of enthusiasm and potential just need someone to analyze and find out how to harness their skills and how to put them into use.
The author Kimmo Rouhiainen is a Tampere Ambassador, a hardworking businessman and an enthusiastic startup community member in Finland. In his own words he is happily married with startups. He discribes his passion as to co-develop disruptive and digital earning models. The numbers speak for themselves: this father of two children has been engaged with over 2000 startup evaluations, more than 300 company founding advice services, more than 20 fund raising cases both in Finland and abroad, and has founded two startups of his own. Kimmo is eager to do his best every single day, but also willing to learn from his mistakes: ”a lot of mistakes and more to come.” In order to contact Kimmo go to http://www.kimmorouhiainen.fi/
Text edited by Eero Miettinen, Talent Tampere. Originally published in https://businesstamperemagazine.com/blog/why-internationals-are-so-vital-in-finnish-startups