Helsinki promotes start-ups, business investment in and via Singapore

Following the ‘Meet Finland in Singapore’ week that took place during the Singapore Week of Innovation & TeCHnology 2018 (SWITCH), and also included Helsinki’s very own Slush tech start-up event concept (held for the third time also in Singapore), the Finnish organisers’ initial evaluation in a press release was positive and upbeat. They said that the effort had drummed up significant interest among the business and investor community.

Networking events, dialogue and investor receptions as well as the “Coolest tech hub” booth at SLUSH Singapore, and the Finnish Singapore showcase at Techinnovation 2018 had all been successful.

“From the positive feedback received, our Meet Finland in Singapore platform certainly offers excellent opportunities for Finnish and Singapore companies to exchange innovative ideas, seal partnerships and explore new collaborations. We are optimistic that more business deals and even closer working relationships will flourish in the years to come,” commented Finland’s Ambassador to Singapore, H.E. Paula Parviainen.

It has opened up new Singapore-Finland collaboration opportunities in healthtech, travel tech, edutech and Virtual Reality and Augmented innovations. Finland introduced new healthtech and immersive technology opportunities for Singapore businesses and start-ups.

The cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Turku participated in the effort that brought in a total of 120 Finnish delegates comprising innovators and tech companies to promote awareness and business collaboration between Finland and Singapore.

For instance, several enabling and ready-to-market technologies in health and wellness found ready demand in Singapore as the country seeks to adopt Smart Health solutions to deliver enhanced healthcare services more effectively and efficiently to the public.

Some from these technologies came from start-ups within the Helsinki-based iCory project, which is funded by Business Finland and backed by a consortium comprising Finnish health and wellness companies, universities and hospitals. The iCory project uses the latest technologies such as machine learning and robotics for personalization. Finnish participants of the iCory project are exploring collaboration with two hospitals in Singapore.

Another example is Helsinki-headquartered VR company, Zoan, that gave visitors a preview of Helsinki, its digital buildings – i.e. apartments and commercial spaces before they are built; and a virtual tour of Finland.

Helsinki, ‘the most functional and sustainable city in the world’, provides a platform for entrepreneurship and supports businesses to innovate and create new while remaining sustainable. Joint efforts of the city, its citizens and businesses are turning Helsinki into the world’s leading test bed for solutions that tackle global problems. The unique mix of Helsinki combines functionality, reliability, holistic view on sustainability, arts and culture offerings, hi-tech skills, great use of open data and a comprehensive understanding of human-centric design.

NewCo Helsinki engaging with Singapore

One of Helsinki City’s six representatives in Singapore, Tommo Koivusalo Head of Economic development unit, NewCo Helsinki. explains why Helsinki is engaging so strongly with Singapore.

Tmmo Koivusalo, NewCo Helsinki.

“The unit I am heading is responsible for having as many new businesses founded in Helsinki as possible. We’re also responsible for helping start-ups to grow internationally, and to build the start-up community, the ecosystem in the Helsinki area, which means that we are naturally very interested in the other best-in-class cities and their communities. We try to interact and exchange talent, and learn from each other,” says Tommo.

“And I see a lot of similarities between these two cities; the level of technical skills and the level of ambition are about the same. I’d say Singaporean people are better in delivering right away, while in Finland we may take a little bit longer time to get started but when we do, we really deliver.”

“We work closely with local Helsinki start-ups and also financially help them to come here and do sales and find investors and see what the competitors are doing.”

But it has to “work” in both ways to make sense in the longer run: “It’s pretty O.K that we facilitate start-ups from Helsinki going to Singapore and even staying and finding customers and investors here. But we also want to see traffic the other way around, so that investors and start-ups from Asia come to Helsinki.”

Seeking partnerships is also on the agenda: We are very interested in the good academic organisations here and potential collaborations with those. The universities, for example, have own entrepreneurship programmes, excellent innovation programmes and departments.”

Slush Singapore is part of the reason why Helsinki returns to Singapore: “The City of Helsinki and Slush have a deal that it’s not only about Slush in Helsinki but also the other Slush events taking place in Asia and we participate in them all. But we see Singapore as a good benchmark and reference case to Helsinki because of that the level and quality of things here are high enough.”

Needless to say, Helsinki promotes itself very heavily at the main annual Slush event back in Helsinki too.

“I would say that what we have done in Singapore last year and this year shows that we really value Singapore pretty high and for example our involvement in Slush Shanghai was not this big.”

And, even more important, says Tommo, are the other events arranged by Finland during SWITCH where start-ups can meet investors and other players that can help them and generate something.

“Last year there were many start-ups from Helsinki that were able to find an investor or make a good deal here in Singapore. Singapore is a capital-rich city, so there is a mutual interest; we have good business ideas and start-up teams. Singapore also has this but also capital.”

“And I do think we need to have consistency; it’s not good to go to some place only once – to build successful relations takes time. You have to have a longer perspective, especially in Asia, and this is why we come here every year.”

The efforts in Singapore are also bearing fruit in terms of Singapore coming to Helsinki. “I’ve been hosting a couple of professors from Nanyang Technological University, and there have been a couple of investors coming to Helsinki. This year one specific world-leading technological company from Singapore has also visited Helsinki, following the SWITCH week. There are things happening at the grassroots level. But the way we see you need have to have both levels; the high level with the vision and city-government level and the grass roots level. If you have both you will be successful.”

Anna Ratala, Slush Singapore

About Joakim Persson

Freelance business and lifestyle photojournalist

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