It’s cold, it’s dark, and it’s full of heavy metal.
Welcome to Finland.
I’m in the Nordic country’s capital, Helsinki, which has a population of just 600,000 people but is home to Rovio and Supercell, two of the world’s hottest gaming companies, and a host of other exciting startups – including Grey Area, Kiosked, Thinglink, and a bunch of others I’m yet to discover – that a country of this size really has no business having.
So what makes it all happen? Why does this country of 5 million have such outsized tech performers? What does it have to do with Demoscene? What warmth is to be enjoyed from a burning platform? What effects do nine-month winters and days of 18-hour darkness have on a national psyche? And where do all these genius PhDs come from?
If I knew the answer to all that, I wouldn’t have filled the first half of this post with questions. The good news is I’m fast getting to the bottom of it, thanks in part to the hospitality of Startup Sauna, a student-led incubator that is helping to coordinate Finland’s startup ecosystem and send new companies out into the world. So far they have proven to be an able chaperone to my experience, ferrying me from startup to startup and educating me on the history of the entrepreneurial community, perhaps laboring under the delusion that it will result in favorable coverage. Note to Startup Sauna: I can only promise you a kebab.
They’re also the people behind this week’s massive Slush conference, which will host more than 2,000 people and a range of speakers that includes the founders of MySQL, Rovio, Supercell, SoundCloud, Wrapp, and a lot more. Startup Sauna, I should explain, is named for one of Finland’s most popular pastimes, a steamy leisure activity that apparently frequently sends its people onto the streets of Helsinki in a state of undress. (In America, that state is called “California.”)
So, Pando people, watch this space for my reports on Scandinavia’s quiet over-achiever as I delve into the secrets behind Finland’s aviarian intemperateness, its hard-coded hackery, and its ability to turn darkness into light.
And now, please stand for the Finnish national anthem.
Your lips are taste of wine, Finland.