April 25, 2016

Microsoft’s new startup hub fosters dialogue in Helsinki

Drazen Dodik and Denis Cepun, the two men behind Microsoft Flux, hid nearly 60 little surprising secrets to Flux to inspire people to learn and innovate.
Drazen Dodik and Denis Cepun, the two men behind Microsoft Flux, hid nearly 60 little surprising secrets to Flux to inspire people to learn and innovate.
Heidi Höök

Finland’s dynamic startup scene was further boosted in April when Microsoft opened up its Flux space for startups and other aspiring entrepreneurs in the heart of Helsinki.

Flux’s operating model is based on the new startup concept launched by Microsoft in San Francisco. Designed as a stepping stone for new businesses in particular, Helsinki’s newest startup space is the world’s first successor to the US version.

Stepping stone for startups

“We are not merely a workspace and we did not want to create yet another accelerator,” says Drazen Dodik, one of the two developers of the Microsoft Flux community in Helsinki. “We are somewhere between a playground and a café equipped with a 3D printer.”

Jakamo, which improves information sharing between companies, values Flux’s open culture. Pictured here are the co-founders, Anssi Uitto and Jarl Matti Anttila.

Jakamo, which improves information sharing between companies, values Flux’s open culture. Pictured here are the co-founders, Anssi Uitto and Jarl Matti Anttila.

Heidi Höök

The vision was to make Flux an inspiring and flexible space that is open for everyone. It is a good place for new entrepreneurs to start playing around with their ideas and meet other entrepreneurs struggling with similar problems.

“We want people to utilise open spaces,” says Denis Cepun, the other man behind Flux. “The most dangerous thing startups can do is lock themselves in a boardroom to hone their idea.”

In the startup space, two permanent employees provide technical support and advice on how to transform an idea into business.

Flux’s broad technology offer ranges from 3D printers to laser cutters. Startups can test or borrow different technological gadgets to see if they suit their needs.

The space also serves as a venue for various events and training sessions. More than 40 events have already been booked before midsummer. In addition, Flux offers meeting facilities for its users: for example, an entirely yellow boardroom can be booked for a 30-minute meeting.

Open community space

Vulpine Games, a company developing social mobile games whose Last Planets game runs on a Microsoft platform, has found its way to Flux.

According to Toni Nylund from a mobile game company Vulpine Games, it is easy to book a boardroom for meetings at Flux.

According to Toni Nylund from a mobile game company Vulpine Games, it is easy to book a boardroom for meetings at Flux.

Heidi Höök

“We want gamers to be able to form a gaming community and have social interaction also when playing mobile games,” says CEO Toni Nylund. “To date, this has only been possible with PC games.”

Last Planets has been soft launched in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Iceland and South Africa.

“We have received a lot of good and constructive feedback,” Nylund says. “I dare to say that we will have a global launch by the end of 2016.”

Another company using Flux and its meeting rooms is Jakamo. The company has developed a day-to-day tool for industrial companies to share information in an easy way.

“We do have our own office, but here we can ask others for their opinion,” says Jarl Matti Anttila, Jakamo CMO and co-founder. “This place fosters a culture of sharing and we can also bring our customers here.”

Jakamo also engages in technology collaboration with Microsoft. However, those who do not use Microsoft technology are also welcome to Flux.

“This space is really meant for everyone,” says Dodik. “A busload of retirees provides an excellent opportunity to test one’s pitches!”

Microsoft attracted by Finland’s startup boom

The idea for Flux comes from San Francisco, where Microsoft designed and launched its new startup concept, Reactor.

“We looked into how we could best support the local developer communities,” says Microsoft’s Andy Gammock, who was involved in developing Reactor. “We wanted to create a space that is open to everyone free of charge and to be as flexible as possible. Because technology develops quickly, the needs of startups also change all the time.”

Microsoft plans to open up similar spaces around the world and create collaboration between the companies using them.

Microsoft was attracted by Finland’s vibrant startup ecosystem.

”Finland has fantastic engineering skills, fantastic education, and it has advanced technologies,” sums up Didem Ün Ateş, Global Partnerships Director of the Microsof Acceleratos programme.

Flux has been designed to offer high flexibility and can host events for up to a hundred people.

Flux has been designed to offer high flexibility and can host events for up to a hundred people.

Heidi Höök
Two Flux employees guide the entrepreneurs using the space. Mohammad Bakharzy provides technical support and Annie Talvasto, who knows the Finnish startup scene inside and out, provides support on the business side of things.

Two Flux employees guide the entrepreneurs using the space. Mohammad Bakharzy provides technical support and Annie Talvasto, who knows the Finnish startup scene inside and out, provides support on the business side of things.

Heidi Höök

Text: Heidi Höök

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