Slobodan Stanić, Serbia, Founder and CEO of a new tech startup
Slobodan Stanić, originally from Serbia, moved to Finland after joining the international youth organisation AIESEC when he was 25. He already had a few years of work experience but was ready to accept an internship to travel the world and step out of his comfort zone. As a result, he received a four-month contract offer from Finland, which lasted from November to March.
"The best time to be in Finland," Slobodan comments now sarcastically. Fast forward to almost ten years later, and "my then-girlfriend has become my wife, and now we have two children here that speak Finnish way better than I do," he says.
Becoming a parent changed Slobodan's life forever, but he couldn't be happier that it happened in Finland.Slobodan Stanić
Slobodan worked several years as a developer but didn't give up on his dream of building a company. It just never seemed to be the right time to make that move: "Being an immigrant can impact your sense of security, and you might feel scared of the unknown, especially around regulations and things like that," he admits.
Despite the initial fears, when a small opportunity arose, Slobodan seized it, started a company and has never looked back. Now his startup has developed a trade portal to link suppliers and buyers worldwide and provide transport-related data.
At first, Slobodan struggled to acquire funding for his enterprise but eventually received it from a Silicon Valley-based accelerator. He was among the one per cent of applicants, and only a few from Europe, selected for the fully remote accelerator programme. It gave Slobodan the necessary support to scale up his business.
Slobodan's basketball team get plenty of support from their loyal fans.Slobodan Stanić
What I find surprising about working in Finland is… that people are less stressed at work and get things done anyway. They are also very supportive and trusting. This came as a surprise to me because trust and support are something that is often lacking in my home country's work culture. There it is considered that you need to work longer hours to get more things done.
If I could change one thing about Finnish working life, it would be… being more open. It is never a bad thing, in my opinion. Sometimes there are elephants in the room that no one is addressing.
People here are also often too modest and don't want to stand out. This is often a disadvantage in international business. So brag some more and take chances!
“I truly believe that entrepreneurship is a state of mind, it’s hard to get into it but even harder to get out.”
My favourite thing about Finland is… work-life balance! There is plenty of time for family, and there are many services to support you in this. It is also one of the safest places in the world, and every block of buildings has at least one children's playground.
What I enjoy most about being an entrepreneur is… the freedom to make my own decisions for better or worse. I think I can make a much more significant impact working that way. I truly believe that entrepreneurship is a state of mind. It's hard to get into it, but even harder to get out.
Slobodan's children enjoy outdoor playtime in nature.Slobodan Stanić
The Finnish startup ecosystem is… getting better. There have been many positive developments in the startup ecosystem in the past years, including many communities, successful companies and a lot of capital. On the other hand, I would still like to see more openness to take chances with foreigners and marginalised groups. I'm happy to represent Finland abroad as best as I can.
The piece of advice I would give to anyone considering starting a company in Finland is… there are so many that I could only be writing about them.
Don't fear the regulations and bureaucracy, even if you don't speak Finnish. There is a lot of information available in English, and there is always someone willing to help. I've seen how this works in some other countries and can confidently say that Finland is in the top two per cent regarding simplicity and digitalisation.
Also, don't get stuck on the Finnish market but think big. Finland is a great place to build a team but be ready to go global quickly.
Friday is a basketball day with friends from the Balkan community.Slobodan Stanić
The Finnish word that best describes working here is… pizzaperjantai! This came first to mind because we used to get pizza every Friday without question for a couple of years in one of my previous companies.
The best way to enjoy the weekend after a working week is… spending time with the family in nature and still having some time left for yourself because nature is at your doorstep. Also, don't forget to do some sports, it's necessary to get through the winter.
According to Slobodan, nature is always at your doorstep in Finland.Slobodan Stanić
What has changed about Finland since I have lived here is… Helsinki, at least, has become even more international. It has had so many new areas built and projects developed. Many new shopping centres, better transport connections and everything is quite digitalised. We have had a metro extension every few years since I have been here, and I didn't even notice what was all the fuss about that.
What is good to know when doing business with Finnish companies is… that trust is very important, and Finnish people assume the best intent more often than not. They are very proud of their country and are people of their word. Also, they often think that the rest of the world is the same.