The epicenter of Northern Europe, Finland is the only Nordic country that uses the Euro. The country’s membership in the European Union allows a gateway into international trade. A mix of land, governance, resources, and cunning makes Finland a lucrative startup breeding ground. The following article delves into the Finnish unicorns and Finnish soonicorns leading the country’s economy.
The land of lush forests, pristine lakes, and islands, Finland’s scarce population values the preservation of nature. Fittingly, the country’s silent economy was based on agriculture and forestry, but the tide is changing. Finland is Europe’s “New North” and is redefining itself as the global center for technology and design. It’s a rather simple game: lesser people, more facilities, higher literacy, and thus, individual success-- and what is the global economy if not individualistic? Finland ranks high in education, quality of life, competitiveness, and “democratic” transparency. Excellent infrastructure, specifically in Helsinki, opens routes to Tallinn, St. Petersburg, and Stockholm, enabling international trade that accounts for a third of Finland’s gross domestic product. In 2021, Finland’s GDP was $271 billion with a per capita GDP of about $48,871-- significantly higher than Canada or the United Kingdom. As of 2022, Finland counted 3,871 startups. The thriving startup ecosystem is owed to a supportive government, which provides a range of support for startups including tax incentives, funding, and mentorship.
Finnish goods exports largely include chemicals, non-electrical machinery, petroleum and coal products, paper, and transportation equipment. A strong focus on research and development has led to the creation of futuristic technologies and startups that are changing the game. You can see how Finland’s startup ecosystem compares to that of the Nordics, including Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Helsinki has emerged as a startup hub. Usually, by virtue of research facilities, successful startups belong to the fields of gaming, healthtech, clean energy, and mobility. Read on to learn about the success of Finnish unicorns and soonicorns!
A unicorn startup refers to a privately held company that has achieved a valuation of over $1 billion. Soonicorns are companies on the cusp of achieving unicorn status. We explain the. Finland has produced several such unicorns in healthtech and mobility, specifically. Coined by venture capitalist Aileen Lee, “unicorn” represents the rare and exceptional nature of such companies that are disruptive, innovative, and rapidly growing. Achieving unicorn status reflects the company's potential to become a significant player in its industry and attract substantial investments.
MaaS Global is revolutionizing the way we travel with their innovative Whim app. By combining all urban transport services into one easy-to-use platform, they're offering users the freedom to choose how and when they travel. MaaS, short for Mobility-as-a-Service, provides a true alternative to car ownership, catering to the changing needs of consumers. With population growth and urbanization on the rise, global passenger transport spending is expected to reach €8 trillion by 2030. MaaS Global's purpose is to promote sustainability and freedom of mobility, offering a happy life without the need for car ownership. They aim to build a global mobility ecosystem, collaborating with partners to create a positive impact. Their values of openness, innovativeness, and sustainability drive their mission to provide a greener and more accessible future of transportation. With MaaS and their Whim app, they believe in decarbonizing transport and offering the most sustainable alternative to owning a car.
Aiven, based in Helsinki, is a company that understands the importance of continuous innovation and data-intensive applications. Founded in 2016 by Hannu Valtonen, Heikki Nousiainen, Mika Eloranta, and Oskari Saarenmaa, who have extensive experience in managing critical data infrastructure, they saw the need for a reliable and open-source solution in the cloud industry. They recognized that existing infrastructure options were either proprietary or lacked the ability to deliver tangible business results. In response, they created Aiven, a true open-source data cloud that empowers organizations to build modern and scalable data infrastructure. With Aiven, companies can seamlessly transition from prototyping to global expansion, driving innovation at incredible speeds. Currently valued at $2.00B and with a team of 250-500 employees, Aiven has secured $209.93M in funding through five rounds from seven investors.
Supercell is a Finnish unicorn, a gaming company that has achieved the status and is one-upping the industry. Their games have amassed over 100 million downloads and have garnered numerous awards. Founded in 2016, Supercell has expanded its reach to multiple countries, solidifying its global presence. It is noteworthy that Supercell has received investment from the corporate investor, Supercell itself, which was established in 2010 and is based in Helsinki, Finland. The fund primarily invests in startups aged 2-3 years, with a preference for those with a smaller number of founders. Supercell has been involved in 2-6 deals per year, with significant activity in 2019. Supercell has been the largest single corporate taxpayer, paying 153 million euros in taxes. With total funding of $143M over three rounds, Supercell has attracted investment from prominent investors like IVP and Index Ventures.
Relex Solutions is revolutionizing the retail and supply chain industry with its integrated planning system. Founded in 2005 in Helsinki, Finland, by three visionary supply chain scientists, Mikko Kärkkäinen, Johanna Småros, and Michael Falck, Relex has become a leader in enterprise software, retail technology, and software. With a valuation of $5.70B as of February 2022, Relex has attracted significant funding of $804.05M across five funding rounds. Their market-leading platform helps retailers and consumer goods brands optimize demand, merchandise, supply chain, and operations planning, resulting in increased sales, improved sustainability, and maximum customer satisfaction. Trusted by industry giants such as Dollar Tree, Rite Aid, and PetSmart, Relex is committed to driving efficiency and adaptability in the consumer goods value chain. With continuous investment in research and development, Relex aims to push the boundaries of supply chain and retail planning for years to come.
Oura is the innovative company behind the Oura Ring, a smart ring that brings personalized health data, insights, and daily guidance right to your fingertips. Founded in 2013 in Oulu, Finland, by Kari Kivela, Markku Koskela, and Petteri Lahtela, Oura has become a leader in apps, health care, wearables, and wellness. With a valuation of $2.55B as of April 2022, Oura has secured $148.30M in funding across nine rounds from 39 investors. The Oura Ring is designed for accuracy, measuring vital signs from the palm of your finger, and providing health information and actionable guidance. Joining the Oura Membership enhances your experience, offering continuous health monitoring and personalized recommendations that improve over time. Oura's mission is to empower individuals to understand and optimize their health through daily practices, starting with the foundation of good sleep. By wearing the Oura Ring, you become part of a movement that inspires people to be more in tune with their minds and bodies, taking meaningful action to live life to the fullest. Oura envisions a future where everyone can access accurate health information and personalized guidance, enabling them to unlock their inner potential.
HMD is a Finnish startup that designs and produces quality mobile phones, combining advanced technology with excellent craftsmanship for the best user experience. With a valuation of $1.00B and $330.00M in funding from six investors, HMD focuses on delivering thoughtful, purposeful designs across all budgets. They prioritize trust by guaranteeing access to the latest applications and security updates for up to three years after purchase. HMD also follows rigorous manufacturing standards, subjecting Nokia phones to extensive testing parameters, ensuring durability and minimizing electronic waste. Committed to providing phones people love, trust, and can keep, HMD embraces Finnish roots, Nordic design, and a dedication to sustainability.
Soonicorns are companies on the cusp of achieving unicorn status, or the scaleups soon to be valued at $1 billion. Finland sees a trend of successful companies in SaaS, mobility, and real estate.
Smartly.io is a Finnish soonicorn leading SaaS digital advertising platform that manages nearly $5B in ad spend for over 700 brands worldwide. With a team of 650+ Smartlies across 24 locations in 13 countries, they deliver end-to-end technology and exceptional customer service. Their platform helps brands like Walmart, L’Oreal, and Disney/ESPN reach audiences, engage creatives, and optimize performance across major media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snap, Pinterest, TikTok, and Google. Since its founding in 2013 by Kristo Ovaska and Tuomo Riekki, Smartly.io has expanded from Facebook advertising to multi-channel social advertising, including Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Google, providing a comprehensive digital advertising solution.
ICEYE, originating from the Aalto-1 university nanosatellite group, is a pioneering company in Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technology. They embarked on a learning-by-doing journey, becoming experts in every SAR design and implementation aspect. Over the years, ICEYE secured funding from various sources, including the EU's Horizon 2020 program and True Ventures. They achieved significant milestones, such as launching the world's first under 100 kg SAR satellite (ICEYE-X1) and expanding their satellite constellation. ICEYE's latest accomplishments include successful launches of multiple SAR satellites, commercial availability of high-resolution radar imaging, and a $136M Series D funding round led by Seraphim Space. Their continuous growth positions ICEYE as a leader in SAR technology and persistent monitoring.
Born out of a hackathon in 2014, AppFollow provides mobile teams with the tools to respond to user feedback, build beloved products, and optimize app store performance. Co-founders Anatoly Sharifulin and Pavel Yurkevich initially developed a tool to monitor app store reviews, which won the hackathon and sparked the idea for AppFollow. Today, AppFollow offers a comprehensive product with a range of features that support all major app stores. It integrates seamlessly with popular business systems, empowering teams to unlock valuable insights from user feedback. As a global and fully remote company, AppFollow continues to foster innovation through hackathons and proudly counts VENDEP Capital among its investors.
Formerly known as Kodit.io, the company is focused on redefining the home buying and selling experience. Rive has a clear mission to make the process of buying and selling homes fast, simple, and safe. They offer instant purchase offers, brokerage services, and move-in ready city apartments to facilitate seamless transactions. With a team of experts and the support of AI technology, Rive ensures efficiency and peace of mind throughout every step of the process. With offices in Finland, Spain, and Poland, Rive has a dedicated workforce of approximately 300 professionals. The company, backed by venture capital, was founded in 2017 and recently secured a substantial deal amounting to $23.4 million to further fuel its growth and innovation.
Basemark, headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, is a leading provider of software and tooling solutions for advanced automotive augmented reality (AR) application development. Their flagship solution, Rocksolid AR, offers a complete software and toolchain solution specifically designed for creating automotive AR applications. Basemark also offers the Basemark Automotive Test Suite (BATS), a performance evaluation tool for assessing graphics and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) performance in automotive systems. Basemark Oy, a privately held limited liability stock corporation, was established in April 2015.
Introducing Swappie, Europe's leading online hub for buying and selling refurbished iPhones. Founded in 2016 by Sami Marttinen and Jiri Heinonen, Swappie arose from a personal incident where Sami fell victim to an online scam while purchasing a pre-owned iPhone. Committed to ensuring safety and reliability in the refurbished smartphone market, Swappie's mission revolves around creating a circular economy for technology. They believe that tech shouldn't have an expiration date and employ a meticulous 52-step testing and refurbishment process for all iPhones they sell. With over 1 million satisfied customers, Swappie offers affordable, environmentally friendly options, backed by a 24-month warranty for added peace of mind.
Quoting the CEO of Supercell, Ilka Paananen, “We want to build a company that people all over the globe will look back in 30 years and talk about all the great games that we developed and the impact they had on people’s lives”. The passion to create a long-lasting impact on industries and users is what renders Finnish entrepreneurship refined.
Finland's startup ecosystem is thriving, and its innovative companies are changing the way we perceive the world SaaS and B2B industries. With its supportive government, skilled workforce and futuristic technology, Finland is an attractive destination for entrepreneurs, especially in technology. Aside from our list, the country has produced several unicorns and soonicorns, which cumulatively make a dent in the world economy. Finland should be on your radar if you're an entrepreneur looking for a supportive ecosystem to launch your startup.
On that note, consider this article Finnish-ed.