Three of our 90 Day Finns have come to Helsinki looking for investment opportunities. They’re interested in promising local companies working with sustainability, fintech, medtech and video games.
UK-citizen Sophie Winwood works for Anthemis, an early-stage investor in fintech and insurtech startups. The company has a portfolio of some 130 companies, split approximately 50-50 between the United States and Europe. It has very few investments in the Nordic region though, so Sophie has come to Finland to work on changing that.
“Last year I was on a call with one of our portfolio companies in New York and someone mentioned the 90 Day Finn program. I applied on a whim and was happy to get accepted,” says the 32-year-old Londoner. “If you want to make investments in Nordic countries, then you need to be here for a bit. Ways of working are different and the culture of trust is very important.”
There is a strong sustainability component to the Anthemis portfolio, and Sophie sees potential investment opportunities in Finnish startups doing carbon-tracking work. She’s interested in companies involved in smart city and urban planning applications too.
Sophie also has a very personal reason for wanting to swap the hectic backdrop of London for a more laid-back lifestyle in Helsinki. In the spring of 2018, she was involved in a bicycle accident and sustained a serious head injury. Her symptoms of post-concussion syndrome persist to this day.
“I had to take three months off work as I couldn’t even look at a screen without becoming exhausted,” says Sophie. “My old life was completely stripped away from me. I was having to slow down and be very careful with everything. This is difficult in London, where the pace is really fast. I realized that things like being in nature are helpful on the path to getting better.”
In recent years Sophie has taken up ultra-running, doing races as long as 100 kilometers. She’s looking forward to some competitions in Finland, where the routes for ultra-running are considered to be more technical than those in the UK.
A boost for Finland’s video game sector
Alli Óttarsson has come to Finland looking for investment opportunities in the video-games industry. The Iceland-born resident of Los Angeles works for a global venture capital company called Makers Fund. It invests in video game studios and other interactive entertainment companies.
“Helsinki is the undisputed mobile games capital of the world,” says Alli. “It’s getting challenged these days by Tel Aviv and Istanbul, but Finland remains a vast video game hub with a thriving ecosystem and lots of investment opportunities.”
Makers Fund already has investments in four Finnish gaming companies: Redhill Games, Lightheart, Superplus and Savage Game Studios. With Helsinki as a temporary base, Alli also wants to get to know game developers in Tallinn, Copenhagen and Stockholm.
“Gaming companies in Helsinki tend to have good connections with developers across the Nordic region, so I’m hoping they’ll be able to introduce me to some new players,” he says. “I want to be helpful on the local scene too, bringing my connections and experience in the industry, as well as opening up opportunities to work with LA-based studios.”
Big plans for big data
Fernando Ferrer is a big data expert and serial entrepreneur. Since selling his healthcare data company in 2016, he has been working as a consultant, business mentor and angel investor. Fernando works 100% remotely and is in Finland with his wife and two young children. Over the past few years, the family has also spent time in Canada, Estonia, Spain and the United States.
“One of the venture capital funds I advise in San Francisco wants to start investing in Finland,” he says. “I hope to meet some great founders and learn more about the local scene. Maybe I will also get some ideas on starting a new company of my own here.”
Fernando is deeply connected with the tech ecosystem in Toronto, the city his family moved to upon leaving Venezuela some decades ago. While attending Ontario’s Queen’s University, he developed a licensing system for clinical research. This knowledge formed the basis for a big pharma and medtech business intelligence company he founded with four partners in 2013. Today, Fernando focuses on data management for three sectors of tech: health, finance and advertising.
“At heart I’m an engineer who specializes in getting insights out of data,” he says. “I’ve always been passionate about technology startups, and I like to invest in people and companies that are outside of the norm. I have founded a B2B company in Spain and I have a share in a healthtech venture in Portugal. I also advise a company in San Francisco founded by South Africans who are developing software for using autonomous drones to improve agricultural yields.” “I’m a big believer in technology democratizing the world. My overarching goal is how to achieve this by bridging the gap to less developed countries,” says Fernando.
Writer: Andrew Flowers