Northern Europe’s Silicon Valley – Hannu Hamari’s insights on the startup scene in Oulu
September 14, 2018
Last week, the FiBAN board and office headed 610 kilometers north, to the city of Oulu. Although the majority of FiBAN’s members and activities are within the capital city region, the network has active angels, surrounded by vibrant ecosystems elsewhere. Oulu is a prime example of one of them.
Hannu Hamari, a local angel investor and man about town, hosted FiBAN for our two-day visit, which culminated in a local Pitch Oulu event, where 13 startups pitched in front of local investors, and the FiBAN board. The expectations towards the companies where high, yet they were exceeded. The jury which consisted of FiBAN board members, selected five companies as the winners, all of which will be participating in the national PitchFinland event in November: Mekiwi, Suomen Vesitieto, Goodwiller, Peilivision and Kipuwex.
“A lot of exciting events and things are happening in Oulu, and many of them are flying under the radar. There are a lot of ready, high quality, and moderately valuated companies, in need of wings to help them fly. There are many of these cases here.“ says Hannu.
One of the contributing factors to Oulu’s success, Hannu sees as Oulu being the “the right size”: not too big and not too small. The population of the city is 200,000, making it the fifth largest city in Finland. There is a lot of activity and community spirit. The locals feel that it’s nice to do things together. This hustle and bustle has earned Oulu the nickname of being considered one of Europe’s “living labs”, where residents experiment with new technology at a community-wide scale. The mentality is that, “tell me what you would like, we have the competence to build it”.
Oulu has always been a city which, from the days of exporting tar, has its eyes set further than the Finnish borders, and this international feel is visible in all companies. And the international interest goes both ways, FiBAN’s visit to Oulu coincided with visit of the royal prince Albert of Monaco, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the President of Germany. The technological know-how and entrepreneurial spirit has earned Oulu the reputation as Northern Europe’s Silicon Valley, Hannu says.
Hannu sees Oulu’s future, as a city with even broader technological shoulders. Currently new companies are popping up like mushrooms in the rain. Companies of good quality, technically advanced and with a positive trend. The concern is whether there will be enough support to help these companies thrive forward. FiBAN will keep its eyes on the city in Northern Finland, which will soon have the largest University campus in all of Finland, has a consistently successful ice hockey team, has many local talented investors, and has remarkably advanced high-technology knowledge.
Read more about FiBAN’s visit from Kaleva. (In Finnish only)