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Tampere: The fastest developing startup city in Finland and its first visionaries

Tammerkoski rapids and Finlayson factory

Atacan Ergin / Visit Tampere

Tampere has been home to innovative and visionary entrepreneurs since the 19th century. Today, over 200 startups follow in the same footsteps. “If you are a risk-taker with an open mind, dedication, vision and dreams, it is easy to fit in here,” writes Margarita Khartanovich, CMO at Platform6.

Bold innovative thinking, risk-taking and determination. These are the key features and driving forces behind the growth of a small Finnish city called Tampere. These are also the characteristics that form the much talked about startup mindset, which seems to be naturally and historically built in the DNA of this whole region.  

The number of young, innovative companies in the Tampere region has grown from previous years despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Image: Carolin Büttner

Let’s rewind history a couple of centuries. King Gustav III of Sweden founded Tampere in 1779 with an idea in mind to make it a vibrant town for international communities. Thus, he decided to build four churches representing different religions right in the city centre. Whether this particular trick worked or not, we don’t know. But we know that eventually Scottish yarn spinning machine expert James Finlayson came to Tampere. His cotton factory became Finland’s first large-scale industrial company, Finlayson.  

Actually, James Finlayson could be seen as Tampere’s first startup founder. He could envision a roadmap for his business, grabbed the opportunity, ran an MVP and kept scaling his company, paying particular attention to its culture and impact. As a result, the factory grew into a city of its own and had its own bank, schools, churches and even currency.  

Another remarkable founder, Gustaf Adolf Serlachius, moved to Tampere in 1858 to run a pharmacy. As a side project, he helped to run Fredrik Idestam’s groundwood mill and quickly grasped how profitable this business could be. Consequently, Serlachius bought the western bank of Mäntänkoski Rapids, together with a share of the hydropower rights, and built his own groundwood mill. Three decades of intense work later, Serlachius’ industry and unyielding resolve had brought two groundwood mills, two steam sawmills, a paper mill, a cardboard converting factory and a bag factory into being.  

Margarita Khartanovich describes Tampere as a vibrant startup city with plenty of support services and events. Image: Carolin Büttner

“If you are a risk-taker with an open mind, dedication, vision and dreams, it is easy to fit in here.”

Following these unique success stories in manufacturing, Tampere could not but continue its brave take on entrepreneurship. Today, the city is home to over 200 startups, according to Business Tampere’s latest survey. Most of these startups operate in the field of software technology. Other growing fields are healthtech, manufacturing, technology, circular economy and gaming. Furthermore, 54 of the region’s startups are categorised as L-size (turnover over 250 000 euros) or XL-size (turnover over one million euros) companies.  

The survey also shows that startups have succeeded in surviving the pandemic with fairly small consequences. The number of young, innovative companies in the Tampere region has even grown compared to previous years. 

James Finlayson could be counted as one of Tampere’s most notable startup founders. His cotton factory grew into Finland’s first large-scale industrial company in the 19th century. Image: Atacan Ergin / Visit Tampere

According to many studies, Tampere is Finland’s most attractive city to live in. It is a city of technology and innovation. The first electric light in the Nordic countries was lit in Finlayson’s factory in 1882. Other notable world-firsts include the first biodegradable implant in 1984 and the first GSM phone call received in 1991.  

Tampere never slows down its attempts to take risks and grab the right opportunities. The city keeps attracting investments, embarking on ambitious projects (like Nokia Arena and International Tampere) and providing more support for local and international startup founders. If you are a risk-taker with an open mind, dedication, vision and dreams, it is easy to fit in here. And as history shows, it is always the right time to act and fulfil your entrepreneurial dreams.  


Margarita Khartanovich
CMO at Platform6