10 reasons why I chose to set up a company in Helsinki as a foreigner
Booncon PIXELS is an experience design agency in Helsinki. Our team of 11 people from 8 different countries creates websites, brands and applications. This sounds a lot like any other web design agency in Finland, right?
Here’s the twist—our company was founded by two guys from Italy, me and my friend Tobias. Why would two foreigners set up a company in Helsinki? Read on.
- It’s easy
From the get go, we knew setting up a company in our home country Italy would be difficult in terms of bureaucracy, cost and time. This led us to start a research process with the aim of finding the best country and city within Europe in which to establish a company.A very helpful tool in this research was a website called doingbusiness.org. It ranks countries based on their characteristics in different areas relevant for businesses. Finland ranks high in areas such as Ease of doing business and Starting a business, and was in the Top 20 for these two areas in 2012.
- It’s cheap
Setting up a company can be very expensive in some countries, like Italy. The required financial resources for setting up a limited liability company in Italy are around EUR 20,000. In Finland, it’s around EUR 3,000.
- Taxes are lower
Another monetary factor we analysed was taxation. In Italy you can end up paying up to 68.3% in taxes on your profit, whereas in Finland the same tax is 40.6%.Right now you might be thinking a comparison with Italy isn’t really fair. You’re right. That’s why we also looked at Finland’s nearest and dearest neighbour to the west, Sweden. Despite similar rankings in other categories, the tax rate in Sweden is 13% higher.
- Everyday life is bliss
In addition to numbers, we considered qualitative everyday issues as well. Things like the quality and existence of public health care, the amount of skilled workforce, support from the government and institutions, and the state of international affairs.Finland picked up points for having a good public health system, being known for having a technically skilled workforce, and having a fairly young government and institutions like Tekes and Finnvera, which support new businesses and innovation. Being a part of the euro zone was also a supporting factor for choosing Finland.
- Helsinki is developing extremely fast
When we decided to go for Finland, Helsinki was a natural choice for the city. It felt like there was a buzz—everything was moving forward. This feeling was strengthened by events like SLUSH and the constantly developing city infrastructure. New restaurants, cultural events and ideas were popping up like mushrooms.
- You can build a skilled international team
Our vision was to build a company where we would be working with friends. This meant that the city we chose as our base needed to have and attract talented and great people. With its vibrant start-up culture and a set of highly evaluated universities combined with our experiences of people from Helsinki, we felt confident that this Nordic capital would be exactly what we were looking for.
- You can break traditional work boundaries
The reason my co-founder and I wanted to start something of our own was always the desire to build things differently, better. We spend most of our lives working and that time should be awesome. It should be enabling, not restricting. Encouraging, not hindering. And fun, not mandatory.Helsinki seemed to have a lot of companies with a similar mindset. After four years here I’m happy to say Helsinki has enabled us to create a work place our team enjoys working in. The required paperwork for the official stuff is minimal and institutions and regulations are quite up to speed with how the notion of work is developing.
- English gets you places
Another very practical reason for choosing Helsinki as our home as non-Finns is the ability to deal with almost everything in English. Even after four years of sporadically learning Finnish, I’m happy about this every day 🙂
- Finns are great
People are really the thing. From the very beginning our Finnish friends and the people we got to know have helped us. We got our first office in Aalto Design Factory in Otaniemi through a great friend. Later, a few amazing Finns joined the company and we now have a sound network of friends, family and partners who make even the long winters in Helsinki enjoyable.
- Helsinki is a great summer city
Summers in Helsinki are quite something. The city starts to bloom in the spring and lures people out after the dark and cold winter. You see smiles and happy faces all around—pure appreciation and enjoyment. Helsinki offers a variety of things to do and see: the services of a capital city combined with an incredible natural environment, and spectacular disc golf courses where I spend too much time 🙂
Wrapping everything up, I have to say I am more than happy to have started our company here in Helsinki. All the reasons that encouraged us to come here have turned out to be true, and along the way we found even more reasons to stay.
I can strongly recommend coming to Helsinki if you are looking for a place to start your company.