How many Finnish tech companies can you name at the top of your head? Nokia, for sure. The two gaming behemoths, Supercell and Rovio, maybe.But there's way more to come from Finland. In recent years, Finland has slowly grown its thriving startup ecosystem: the amount of new startups, funding and general positivity towards startup entrepreneurship. So today, we’ve selected some newcomers and success stories we’ll be watching out for in 2019. Specifically with an emphasis on what Finns do best: wholesomeness, renewables, and sustainability.
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Picture by Jussi Hellsten / Slush 2016[/caption]Firstly, looking at a score that combines GDP per capita, social support, freedom and general generosity, Finland scores super high compared to other countries. This is why it’s considered the happiest country in the world - which surely helps foster innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship.And yes, investment is there to kickstart things:
Moreover, one of the world’s leading startup events also takes place in the country: Slush, which gathers thousands of startups, investors and changemakers yearly. Since 2008, the event has helped Finnish entrepreneurs build bridges in the tech world between Asia, the US and the Nordics. Similarly, Maria 01, the “tech entrepreneur supercluster” has done a lot to help Helsinki become the community’s epicenter - not just of Finland but the whole Nordic startup scene.
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Picture by Helsinki Smart Region[/caption]How can we continue meeting the world’s demand for protein without intensive farming? For Solar Foods, the answer is: electricity and air. Their product, “solein”, is an edible protein produced without any current agricultural systems. Developed thanks to research from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT), Solein’s environmental impact is ten to one hundred times lower than soy or meat.On the commercial side of things, Solar Foods is still in its early stages. However, they plan to start production by 2021. According to CEO Pasi Vainikka, this will give the company enough time to refine their product and establish a strong business strategy, which can be hard with such an innovative offering.
The traditional grocery market creates unsustainable amounts of food waste. This is why Fiksu Ruoka - also known as Smart Food Ltd. - is taking matters into their own hands by selling food surplus batches at huge discounts online.The products are shipped all around Finland and the main goal is to reduce food waste that originates from mistakes in demand forecasting, changes in packages or short best before dates. Plus, customers can get up to 90% reduction in standard prices, so it’s a win win for everyone.
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Picture by ResQ[/caption]Another startup founded to reduce food waste, ResQ focuses on restaurants, bakeries, cafes and hotels. Their mission to “leave no meal behind” saw them rescue more than 2M portions by allowing consumers to discover new restaurants at a 50% discount rate.Since launching in Helsinki in 2015, ResQ has expanded to dozens of cities in Finland, Sweden, and recently Germany. A proof that founder and CEO Sauli Böhm's mission to create “zero food waste communities” could soon become a reality worldwide.
Picture by Opiskelijayrittäjyys.fi[/caption]Have you tried eating crickets yet? If not, Entis is there to convince that insects are the protein of the future. Their bold marketing (Are you ready to get bugged up?), strong design aesthetic, and unconventional product makes them immediately stand out in the world of foodtech - but they also hope their meat substitute will have a positive impact on the agricultural footprint worldwide.Founded by Iida Hokkanen,Samuli Taskila and 3 other students from Turku, Entis successfully acquired more than €200,000 in their first funding round, proof that it’s not just a crazy concept. There truly is a market in insect-based snacks - as their network of retailers will attest.
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Picture by Epic Foods[/caption]With the word epic in their name, you’d expect Epic Foods to have wide ambitions. Their goal is to replace your kitchen, by leveraging blockchain technology to create the smartest, easiest, and fastest delivery service in town.At the time of writing, that town will have to be Helsinki. But the healthy food prepared by Martti Paatela’s team is quickly making waves internationally. Their monthly subscription service is delivered to places like Microsoft, Scandic, and the aforementioned Slush.
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Picture by Roju[/caption]When it comes to shared economies, digital giants haven’t done much in the way of enabling the pooling of resources. Roju, founded by Antti Korpelainen and Matias Merenmies, aims to change that, by creating a rental marketplace that works for everyone. Their platform is therefore designed to help Helsinsky residents rent out and hire consumer items, like an electric drill for €25 / day.There is an ethical mission behind the concept, as Roju points out that the consumption of manufactured goods contributes to 17% of global household greenhouse gas emissions. And while their catalog isn’t currently huge, it’s certainly a push in the right direction to “consume smarter”.
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Picture by DNA[/caption]Have you ever thought about crowdsourcing your wardrobe? It’s essentially what Zadaa offers: a marketplace that lets people connect, exchange, sell and share the clothes they love. Yes, it’s second hand fashion, but with a twist - as Zadaa focuses on pairing users who share the same fit and preferences.The Zadaa app is currently available in three languages and three countries: Germany, Denmark and Finland. They are partners with several logistics companies for delivering the clothes in record time, and recently signed up their 200,000th user. The Zadaa team is led by Forbes 30-under-30 listed founder Iiro Kormi.
Apple and Samsung continue to reduce their smartphones revenue forecasts, while the second hand market is thriving. This is great news for Swappie, the startup that is slowly but steadily building one of the strongest markets for refurbished smartphones in Finland. Swappie was founded in 2017 by Sami Marttinen and Jiri Heinonen.Launched only in 2017, the company made a whopping €8.1M in 2018 which explains why investors are lining up to help them grow. This year, Inventure , Lifeline Ventures and Reaktor Ventures all invested in the startup, and it is rapidly expanding across all of Europe.
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Picture by Vantaan Energia[/caption]We’ve already listed Finnish startups solving waste in the food, retail and agriculture industry. But one culprit remains: the terrible footprint of the packaging industry. This is where RePack comes in. The service allows retailers to return their shopping bags made of durable and recycled materials, and reuse them up to 20 times - reducing C02 emissions by up to 80%.Supported in part by Climate KIC, a body the European Union’s main body for promoting climate innovation, RePack is winning new fans with a wide range of retailers. In 2019, the service started in Helsinki expanded to Amsterdan, Hamburg, and Salt Lake City - we predict it will reach a lot more cities in the years to come. The company is led by Jonne Hellgren.
The fashion industry wastes around 800,000 tons of leather annually. You might have heard the saying that one person’s trash is another one’s treasure. This is exactly how Lovia operates: repurposing fashion waste to turn it into stunning items. They specialize in making the most of excess furniture leather, salmon skin (byproduct from the food industry) and even the very Nordic elk leather. The company was founded by Anna Lehtola and Outi Korpilaakso.You’ll need to pop into their Helsinki Concept Store to view the products, but Lovia also operates as online store - which is quickly becoming a go to place for fashionistas doubling as ecowarriors.
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Picture by Helsinki Challenge[/caption]The Ioncell process, which gives its name to the company, is a technology that turns used textiles, pulp, or even old newspapers into new textile fibers sustainably and without harmful chemicals. It could be revolutionary.In fact, industry insiders believe Ioncell could be a serious alternative to cotton or viscose in the years to come as it’s not only greener, but also low-cost and easy to produce as it means you’ll be able to wear clothes made from trees.
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Picture by Maaseudun Tulevaisuus[/caption]Yes, the name Paptic is a portmanteau of paper and plastic, the two materials it’s trying to replace. The kicker? It’s got the best properties of both, by being flexible, robust, and easy to print on. It’s also renewable, recyclable, biodegradable, and reusable.In short, it’s not surprising to see Paptic has been the darling of innovation and renewable events. Winner of Bio-based Product of the Year 2017, ExpoLive Innovation Award Grant and Finalist of LVHM Innovation Award, amongst others, confirm that Paptic has got a bright future ahead. Paptic was founded by Tuomas Mustonen who also operates as the CEO of the company today.
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Picture by Aamulehti[/caption]Another Finnish startup determined to rid our lives of plastic. Sulapac has developed an award winning material from wood chips and natural binders, a process developed by two academics turned entrepreneurs, Suvi Haimi and Laura Kyllönen. That career reconversion turned out to be a winning one. Sulapac raised €1M in 2017, and is currently backed by the French fashion powerhouse Chanel - which will go a long way in helping the startup position itself in the luxury segment.
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Picture by Fashion for Good[/caption]While some startups aim to replace our reliance on clothing fibres, others, like Infinited Fiber, want us to keep reusing the ones we already have. It’s all made possible thanks to a technology that extracts cellulose from old fibers to create new ones, over and over again without any degradation over time. What started as a crazy idea from a research professor to turn newspapers or banana into new fibers could soon become a very profitable technology. In 2019, The company raised €3.7M in funding from investors like H&M, Fortum and Virala. The company was founded by Petri Alava.
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Picture by Keskisuomalainen[/caption]Turning wood into fabric isn’t actually a new concept, but it has never been this green. With Spinnova, CEO Janne Poranen believes they have found the greenest way to replace cotton. This is all thanks to Finland’s high-class expertise in pulp and paper research and a technology that creates the most sustainable fiber in the world. Spinnova transforms cellulose into textile-ready fiber without dissolving processes or harmful chemicals, using 99% less water than the cotton value chain– a technology. Earlier this year, Spinnova won Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Award.
It’s worth noting that we didn’t select these startups because we think they’ll all become the next Finnish unicorns. However, we do hope all of these startups succeed. With their uniquely Finnish focus on sustainability, ecology and social responsibility, we believe these startups have what it takes to become not only profitable and gaining traction worldwide, but also reach their goals and ethical missions.Did you enjoy this read? Subscribe now to our Entrepreneur Self-Growth Guide!