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Finland attracts global talent with Startup Permit

Finland is luring international entrepreneurs to strengthen its startup ecosystem. Coinciding with this, Maria01 in Helsinki is soon to become the Nordics’ biggest startup and growth company campus. AOR Architects

Finland’s Startup Permit has managed to attract over 100 applications in its first year, with the most interest coming from tech entrepreneurs. 

The initiative was kicked off one year ago to recruit more international talent and ideas to the fast-growing Finnish startup ecosystem.

Foreign startups have two options available to them, depending on their location. The Startup Kit is available for everyone, whereas the Startup Permit is intended for eligible non-EU citizens who are equipped to build international success stories in Finland.

“The demand for international experts is increasing in Finland,” commented Kai Mykkänen, Finland’s Minister of the Interior. “Even though we cannot improve the weather, there is a lot we can do to make the country more attractive for international specialists. A swift and easy permit process for specialists and their families is an important part of this.”

The permit is granted for two years and thus also covers the recipient’s family. An extension can be applied for in the same way as the original permit.

The startup scene is thriving in the city of Tampere, which holds events such as the Startup Meetup Tribe to help build the local network. Image: Laura Vanzo

Digital attraction

So far, 23 applicants have been granted residence to set up shop in Finland. The biggest number of applications have come from Russia, China and Iran, and, according to FIS, most of the applicants are highly educated or professionals in their own field.

“Over half of the applications’ business ideas are related to digital services or software,” explained Annamari Soikkeli, senior advisor at Business Finland. “In these fields, the beginning is often easier and better scalable. Bigger investments are not necessarily even needed.”

Nonetheless, startup teams in Finland have been punching well above their weight in venture capital investments. In 2018, Finland ranked first in European VC investments per capita.

A team that has been granted residence permits can also apply for a separate governmental grant of 50 000 euros from Business Finland to develop their business further. Image: Mikael Ahlfors/KEKSI/Slush

Russian pioneers

One of the startup teams to have been granted residence permit is the GlobalTech Group, which manufactures speciality equipment for cargo machinery. After receiving the green light from the Finnish Immigration Service late last year, the team registered the new company in January 2019. Its journey to Helsinki started back at a training course in St. Petersburg, Russia.

“We won a pitch session, visited a startup forum in Finland and all that strengthened our decision to start a business in Finland,” explained Vyacheslav Volkov, co-founder of GlobalTech Group. “We were advised to apply for the Business Finland’s eligibility statement and startup residence permit. In a month, we got a positive statement and filed for residence permits and company registration.”

An additional month later and the team received their residence permits. Now the company is off and rolling with its promising load control system that enables the monitoring of lorries’ cargo.

“Currently, truck manufacturers offer similar systems only for their own vehicles, whilst trailer producers rarely offer such solutions,” Volkov said. “Through our system, the truck and the trailer form a unified chain where the driver can track the total load on all axles in a road train.”

GlobalTech is planning to open up an office in Helsinki and a manufacturing unit outside the capital area. Its goal is to manufacture 1 000 sets in 2019 and ramp up production to 1 000 per month the following year. Image: Globaltech/Twitter

Sharing insights

Volkov’s team consists of seasoned experts who have worked with freight transport software for over 10 years. Having now successfully gone through the application for Finland’s Startup Permit, the co-founder has a few points to share to younger entrepreneurs hoping to take the same path.

“The startup permit online application template is great, it helped me a lot with sorting out my plans and adapting them to Finland and its day-to-day business practices,” Volkov stated.

“Finding the right bank was crucial. We do understand that the bank needs to do a profound check in order to ensure security, and young international startups should not get frightened by these procedures. There are always challenges along the way and things like finding a place to stay with a reasonable price might take some time and patience,” he added.

By: Samuli Ojala