The week after Slush, time to breathe and collect some thoughts. The two Slush days (and some before that) our whole team was going full steam ahead. Slush was full of interesting conversations, matchmaking, and finding new business opportunities for our old and new friends.
This year Helsinki Business Hub was hosting guests at our HBH Secret Garden Lounge at Slush. During the Slush days, we hosted six events and two happy hour sessions. Our topics included Proptech, AI, Medtech, Smart Mobility, and Fintech. We already knew Greater Helsinki has an excellent ecosystem for all these, and that all the ecosystem partners work closely together. Still even we were surprised how unique these opportunities are on a global scale. Thank you for all our speakers and panelists for sharing your insights at the HBH lounge. If you didn’t make it to all sessions, here are some highlights of each event.
Construction industry on the verge of disruption
On Thursday we took a closer look at the digitalization of the Finnish property industry, or proptech as it is widely known. Finland is one of the leaders in the field, having the highest concentration of proptech companies in Europe, according to Unissu (a global platform for proptech). The Finnish government has also actively driven the sustainable digitalization of the built environment sector with various programs, like KiraDigi which now continues under Kirahub association.
Finland is one of the leaders in the field, having the highest concentration of proptech companies in Europe
Unissu, a global platform for proptech
The startup scene in proptech is booming in Finland. Currently, there are over 100 active growth companies around property and construction industries. This is partially due to the strong public-private startup culture. Our event started with showcasing some of the innovative digital solutions Finnish startups offer for the built environment sector. Hannu Rantanen from Assetti, Jukka Kettunen from Cityfier, Rick Aller from 720 Degrees, Paula Viinamäki from Duuers and Natalia Rincon from CHAOS Architects gave strong examples of the Finnish proptech expertise, which in general is especially strong in 3D design, robotics, BIM, AR and VR, AI, cloud-based solutions and IoT.
To stay on top of the game all companies need to seek innovation within or outside their company. For startups, the natural direction is to look at corporations. We brought together a panel to discuss how to get startups and corporates and investors to find each other even better than before. Representatives from startup and corporate side, as well as non-profit proptech association, joined the discussion: Risto Kankaanpää from Pontos, Teemu Lehtinen from KiraHub, Hannu Rantanen from Assetti and Jukka Kettunen from Cityfier. The panelists were all in agreement that the somewhat traditional industry is changing, but when the big change will happen is still open. But nothing will happen without a tight ecosystem. The digitalization of the built environment sector is a joint effort for the public and private sector, startups and corporations, ecosystem builders and citizens. The event was co-organized with Proptech Finland, an association launched in 2018 to create a community for proptech.
Fintech Crash Course
The afternoon continued with Fintech Crash Course which was organized in cooperation with Fintech Finland Association. The event was sold out and the lounge filled up with both international and local fintech entrepreneurs, financial industry players, and investors interested to hear, where the Nordic fintech industry is it going and how to get onboard. All the speakers agreed that Finland has all the prerequisites to become a technological hub for the financial sector. We have strong expertise, a steady business environment, a thriving startup scene and a large number of financial companies relative to the population.
Why Finland for Fintech? We have strong expertise, a steady business environment, a thriving startup scene and a large number of financial companies relative to the population.
The crown of the afternoon was the panel discussion on Where’s the Nordic fintech industry heading to and how to get onboard with Mikko Riikkinen from 52nd Ventures, Hanna Johansson from Revolut, Alexander Yin from ePassi and Heidi Hurskainen from Prasos, moderated by FinFin’s board member Anni Salo. The discussion went on lively about why should any fintech go to the Nordics, what should this fintech be aware of, how to scale up considering the regulatory burden and how to productively co-operate with bigtechs and incumbent banks.
A world-leading ecosystem for practical and user-centric AI development
Thursday afternoon we were diving into the world of AI. Helsinki has a strong and long reputation as the hi-tech hub of Europe – all thanks to the talent and technological innovation originating from the region. In addition, the Finnish government has ambitious goals related to AI and we have all the basics of becoming the world-leading ecosystem in practical and user-centric AI development. But where do we stand in Artificial intelligence? The target of the afternoon panel discussion was to find out do we have what it takes to be the global leader in practical AI development? And the simple answer is YES.
The panelists included participants from public, private and research sectors. Anni Harju (Futurice), Pekka Sivonen (Business Finland), Arto Klami (Helsinki University), Jussi Poikonen (Awake AI) and Vesa-Pekka Grönfors (Aito Intelligence) shared their thoughts on the AI opportunities that Helsinki offers. One true asset that almost all the speakers mentioned was Finns and their attitude. We truly are early adopters and ready to try new solutions.
Finns have a great attitude. In Finland, the trust is built fast, which is an important factor when you are developing new services and products
Vesa-Pekka Grönfors, Aito Intelligence
Other strengths that were listed in the conversation were open data, governmental support, and excellent talent pool and world-class research. Even the size might be a disadvantage, some panelists saw that as an opportunity.
“The ecosystem scale is enabling a lot. It is very easy to get close to different stakeholders and work together.” Anni Harju mentioned.
As in many other sectors, also in AI development, Finland’s asset is in cooperation. Speakers brought up many example projects where public and private were working together for the same goal. When panelists were asked, whether “Do you believe that Finland will be the place to develop AI Solutions?”, there was no hesitation: Everyone raised the green sign right away.
Will AI Transform Medtech?
On Friday our lounge program concentrated on Medtech and Smart Mobility. First, the stage was for health experts as Erno Muuranto (GE Healthcare Finland), Timo Heikkinen (Top Data Science), Charlotte Clarke (NVM), Pekka Kahri (HUS), Eric Elam (Stryker Corporation) discussed about will AI transform Medtech and how it can improve the review of medical imaging, facilitate large-scale data analysis and otherwise make healthcare more efficient and effective.
There is no question that the topic raised a lot of interest as the HBH lounge was packed during this session. The aspects of the different panelists really brought up the different roles of different players and all are really needed for effective solutions. To get the proof of concept startups are ready to move quickly forward and get results fast, but mostly they are not medical experts but AI experts. That is where health corporations and hospitals step in. They know the healthcare environment and the challenges where AI can bring solutions. But they are not as fast organizations as startups.
“Hospitals are a very complex and hectic environment. The ways to cooperate has to match with the hospital environment. If you want to do something in a hospital, you need to convince the clinical experts.” Pekka Kahri revealed at the panel discussion and presented the different mechanisms of how companies can work with HUS. This interested even the fellow panelist Eric Elam.
“I have to say there are pretty amazing things going on in the Nordics” he commented.
The whole panel was convinced that AI will enable better healthcare, support decision making and prioritizing patients and give new tools for the training of the fresh doctors. All this will take time, so it is better to start earlier and Finland is a great place for that.
I have to say there are pretty amazing things going on in the Nordics.
Eric Elam, Stryker Corporation
Bridging smart mobility ecosystems
Friday afternoon was all about collaboration and working together to spark innovation and disrupt the current mobility industry. Finland and Greater Helsinki are global pioneers in creating new solutions and services for future mobility. We invited a group of local and global experts to share their views on how to collaborate successfully across borders, be it between nations or companies.
The program was divided into two parts. In the first part, we concentrated on the benefits of collaborating between ecosystems on an international level. Greater Helsinki region offers excellent opportunities to test and pilot innovative mobility solutions also for international companies. Two concrete programs how smart mobility companies can accelerate their business in the region are through the Jätkäsaari Mobility Lab and the Israel-Finland pilot program, which were presented by HBH’s Marko Tamminen. The first is Helsinki’s testbed for all smart mobility solutions and the latter a pilot program launched in Slush 2018 to explore cooperation opportunities between the two innovative regions, Israel and the Finnish Capital Region.
To give an idea of how cross-border innovation is done in practice, we heard three different case examples. First, Harri Santamala from Sensible 4, an Espoo-based mobility company explained how their collaboration with a Japanese lifestyle retailer MUJI came about in 2018. The partnership’s first milestone was reached in March 2019 when the company launched GACHA, the first autonomous driving bus for all weather conditions.
Second, Aviv Frenkel from Enroute, an Israeli startup developing personalized shopping platforms integrated into mobility and mass transit applications shared their story. Enroute’s solution is now integrated into the on-board wifi of Deutsche Bahn trains in Northern Germany.
From the corporate side, we heard Ramboll’s Jukka-Pekka Pitkänen’s examples how they create liveable and smart cities with ecosystem partners. The user-centric approach, which is familiar in Greater Helsinki’s development projects, is integral in the creation of smart cities. Integrating all ecosystem players in the development project creates the best results.
The second part of the session concentrated on bridging startups and corporations. The cooperation is not always so straight forward, and the event’s panel discussion focused especially on how startups and corporations can co-operate and overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of co-creation. The importance of ecosystems was highlighted also by our panelists Anna-Stina Tähkävuori from Metropolia, Galit Lev-Ran from Sonarax, Timo Valtonen from Drivenow, Patrick Holm from Veho, Aki Aapaoja from VTT and Nicolas Autret from Samsung Catalyst Fund. A consensus was reached among the panelists, that startup-corporate collaboration is needed to spark innovation. One important message from the startup side to corporations was: be brave. Be brave enough to take the leap and believe in the startup but at the same time manage expectations how big and how fast results can be achieved. The importance of ecosystems was emphasized by the mobility panel as well. And these ecosystems should look beyond their own industry to find disruptive innovations. Innovation hubs hosted by multi-discipline universities like Metropolia offer an easy way to collide startups, corporations and academia to spark innovation.
Be brave enough to take the leap and believe in the startup, but at the same time manage the expectations how big and how fast results can be achieved.