Slush and the Metamorphosis of the Finnish Startup Ecosystem

The time was December 2008, the place was Le Web seminar, France. The Finnish startup scene was sitting in a small sauna, built inside a truck in the center of Paris. We have come a long way since that day.

The scene has undergone a significant transformation since 2008. Startup companies are the new hope of Finland, and startup founders have become almost like rock stars: magazines write about them and children want to become the next Angry Birds creators.

Next week on 18 and 19 November, Slush, the biggest startup event in the Nordics, will be held in Helsinki. The history of Slush dates back to 2008, when the entire event was held in a single hall at the Korjaamo culture factory. This year’s Slush is one of the biggest seminar productions in the history of Finland, and one of the biggest festivals in Finland.

The Startup Scene is All Grown up Now

Besides all the hype and media interest, the event clearly shows the increased interest towards the technology ecosystem. These days, the technology scene is no longer just about multinational corporations. Rather, it is a vibrant ecosystem with actively participating companies of all sizes.

We all know that entrepreneurship is all about hard work, but for years the startup scene has been regarded as a creature of its own. With Slush and other large scale startup venues, the startup ecosystem is no longer considered a counter-movement to corporate life, supported by hoody-wearing geeks who never want to grow up. Instead, the startup ecosystem has grown to be a serious business that is no longer just for the entrepreneurs themselves but also for media, investors and even lawyers.

From a lawyer’s perspective, this expansion has meant a boom in seed funding and exits (see our previous posts regarding exit strategies and shareholders’ agreements). Startups are increasingly aware of the opportunities that legal arrangements can bring.

Lawyers Learn to Innovate with a Little Help from Our Startup Friends

Cooperation with startup companies is also extremely fruitful for lawyers. New kinds of setups force us, as lawyers, to rethink established practices and urge us to foster creativity. This new generation of startup companies brings with it enormous benefits in many ways.  As lawyers, leadership in the technology field can only be gained by constantly working with the latest technological innovations. Such innovations are often developed by startups.

One might ask: what do we need all these small companies with little income for? Entrepreneurship is a wonderful thing, even though not all founders will become extremely successful and make millions. It is a hard fact of the free market that many companies will fail, and only a fraction make it. The US, for example, has a celebrated startup scene, yet over half of their startups are gone within five years. Nevertheless, the fear of failure should not hinder entrepreneurship.

What startups are doing today is what listed companies will be doing in five years’ time. Small companies are a great way to experiment and innovate. They are also an excellent school for future leaders.

Festivals are all about joy and hype, and good music festivals often  offer something besides the music itself. Similarly, Slush is an important event for us all. Startup culture has enriched Finnish business life and developed the Finnish technology industry.

The Finnish startup scene is something that we Finns can be proud of. Slush and the startup scene have changed the way we think, in many different ways. And that goes for lawyers too.

Jaakko Lindgren

Maiju Klemola