Yearly Archives

2014

What #slush14 means for Finland.

Helsinki Events

Hey guys! Today I’m going to pen my thoughts about what #slush14 really means for Finland.

Before the event, I read a couple of facebook statuses saying that Slush is really a “bubble”. On one extreme, one Finnish guy actually wrote that it is just this hyped up event where everyone feels good about being an entrepreneur, because everyone else there (entrepreneurs or otherwise) says so.

So–is it true that entrepreneurship in Finland is just “hype”?

My view: Yes, it is possible to see Slush as “hype” because it could potentially take Finnish legislations (especially for startups) eons to change! This is a clear case of “the heart is willing but the body is weak”. Taxes still remain a core issue for small and medium sized Finnish entrepreneurs, and sky-high wages are definitely another factor.

Finland is also currently still in recession and not as global as many would like it to be. Well, an evidence is Aalto University making all their Asian students take the compulsory English test for admissions to masters while exempting EU/EEA folks from it, with the assumption that all EU/EEA people can speak/write fluent English solely based on geographical area of origin. They have also ignored previous Western colonies such as India, Singapore and The Phillipines, where people do have English language as “native”. Personally I had read some badly written text by EU/EEA people–nothing I can call of high academic standards at all.

That sort of ignorance is very appalling to me when an institution is blatantly branding themselves as “international” and wishes to be “global” by 2020. I’d since provided feedback about it to the higher management and we shall see if they change such a baselessly discriminatory rule. If a school acts like that and change is still a huge question mark (till this date nobody explained to me why this compulsory English test for Singaporeans is so), then I think it is quite safe to assume that some people in Finland still think that

  • (1) Asians = charity; and
  • (2) Asians can’t speak or write good English.

Obviously, this is definitely not a global outlook.

But I do think Slush is a good effort in helping Finland become more global. As Stubb says in his opening speech–“Slush is the third reason why the world should invest in Finland”. Slush14 was extremely impressive in terms of showcasing of the designs and technologies Finland has. I think Finland is without a doubt a technohub–there are really legitimate engineers here who are so cool! They also have really IT gadgets which have high quality. I should also mention that Finland regards its education as top priority, and invest huge amounts of money to produce highly-qualified workers and thinkers, so the infrastructure for innovation is there.

Yet honestly, if more Finnish companies want to target the Asian market, they have to put in more effort to understand Asian cultures. Just entering the market because your region’s economy is bleak–and you therefore need another market for survival–does come across as opportunistic. (Remember the Asian= “charity” hidden assumption?) If I own various Asian companies, why should I work with a Finnish start-up when there are alternatives all over? Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan are all pushing startups rather aggressively in recent years too.

In this light, I think Slush14 is good because it positions Helsinki as an European start-up hub. It sends a signal for potential investor all over the world to look at Finland, because there is an emerging and promising startup culture here. Also, from my conversations with some officials at Slush, it is clear that grants are also available to non-Finns, if they were to set up a company here and pay taxes to Finland.

Before I end this short reflection piece though, I want to list (explicitly) three ongoing challenges in Finland related to entrepreneurship, in the event that Slush really creates a bubble in the minds of people:

  • Entrepreneurship is not “following your dream”. It is MAKING your life your dream. It’s not going to be easy, you have to give up shitloads of things, but it is DAMN WORTH IT.
  • The opportunity cost of entrepreneurship in Finland–a “proper” 9-5/flexi-hour job– is pretty high. Why do I say so? If you become an entrepreneur in Finland, you give up various labour rights and paid holidays. Is this what you really want?  Correspondingly, if you are in entrepreneurship just because you can’t get a “proper job”, I advise you to continue applying for proper jobs because entrepreneurship should and can never be second choice.
  • Various research has shown that as a most liberal estimate, only 10% of startups succeed and last beyond 7 years. Are you prepared to be part of the 90% of failures? Sometimes failing not once, not twice, but tens of times and you have to pick yourself off the ground fast without giving up?

Yep–so in a nutshell this is what #Slush14 means for Finland: A good start for international branding for entrepreneurs, but a heap of salient challenges still abound. One of the fundamental rules of business is still “follow the money”, and if profit margins are eroded by ridiculously high taxes, then why should anyone be an entrepreneur here? Remember– we are not only talking about Rovio and Supercell when we are talking about startups in Finland–we are also talking about small and medium sized companies. And what if you are not in the gaming industry–which happens to be Finland’s strength (and recent successes) in the startup environment?

I’d love to hear from you–so: Feel free to email me or leave a comment!

#Slush14: An Overview!

Helsinki Events

Hey guys~ Wow, the past three days had been nothing short of crazy and amazing at #slush14! My feet are utterly sore now from running around in heels for the past three days. 🙁 Well what to do, I’m very short and most Europeans are on average quite tall–it’s a brick-or-sea choice between feet or neck ache. I am happy that I chose to look good, at least!

I want to begin with a heart of thank yous to two parties: Firstly, I want to thank the crazily efficient #slush media team for approving The Hieno!’s media all-access pass even though I sent in the application at 2am on Monday. In all honesty, I had been so busy recently with the setting up of my new company (more details later) that I had completely lost track of happenings in Finland. It is with a grateful heart that I thank everyone in the slush media team for such the positive spirit, energy and vision:

media team

In particular,

  • Thank you Tiina for granting the pass so efficiently. You’re an awesome leader. Please catch up on your sleep deficit; I’m pretty sure you’d been working round the clock for the past three days or more!
  • Thank you Mia for being super professional even when you’re not feeling well, and catering so well to the media/press folks in the media lounge;
  • Thank you Vilma for being the first #slush press volunteer I met at Monday’s press conference–again, randomly! You have no idea how much your presence always makes me happy somehow! 🙂
  • Thank you Shan Qiu for letting me know that the above photo is precious!! 🙂 You know, I always believe that the media/PR team is connected by a strong yet invisible thread of mission that makes us endearing to each other.

Next I want to thank Sari–my super smart Aalto University friend– for mentioning this #slush14 to me haha! 🙂 I think Finland is still largely a “forest economy” and I really do appreciate when people randomly mention events to me–because I’m tend to be overwhelmed with work most of the time!

Good job, the #slush14 team! ^-^

Carinantarina♡

Finnish Companies/ Finnish Brands, Helsinki Shopping

“Ever since linen discovered me I have cherished the thought of using this material to bring happiness and light to those around me.

The tradition of treating linen fibre to thread, and from there on to a fabric, dates back thousands of years and remains intact until this day. At times forgotten then discovered anew. The same familiar fabric, as used by our foremothers, dyed with care and gentle respect for the fibre.

My guiding principle is “intuitive dressing”. Combining tradition with the winds of modernity. Present the chance to enjoy a symphony of colours and the harmony they create.

Designs and colours arise from my heart. The sewing is cared for by masters of Finnish handicraft.”

— Carina

I really love this shop– “Carinan Tarina”–which means “Carina’s Story”. I think Carina expressed her life mission very eloquently in the quote above. You can tell how much I adore the shop from the number of pictures I took–with close to no edits! Everything in this shop is made-in-Finland, so I personally view it as a MUST-GO if you are in Helsinki. If you are a fan of vibrant colours, linen fibre and wood like myself, this shop is made for you.

今日は、「カリナンタリナ」というすごくいい雰囲気店を訪ねた。「CARINANTARINA」は、「かりなの物語」の意味です。店を踏み出したとき、「あれっ、森が出た」という不思議な感じがあった。

Unsurprisingly, they are endorsed as a Helsinki Design Destrict Store!

Here are the accessories:

I love the bold usage of colours. Vibrant, striking, much love!

“Oi, kun hieno!”

They also have this really exquisite set of jewelry that uses precious stones. So pretty.

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Oh yes, and according to Heidi, ceramics is used to make them. And it needs to be placed into the oven for a few hours, and then taken out to be hand-painted. Super creative.

And here’s Heidi, the maker of these accessories!

I really adore Heidi! We had such a happy chat. One of the conversation went along the lines of–

“You have such BEAUTIFUL collections! How come I can’t find much about Carinantarina online???? Why don’t you write stuffs online that you are good???”

She replied–

“Well, it isn’t very long ago, perhaps 100 years back, that Finns still stayed in forests you know? And they stayed alone or in small groups, and are extremely shy. It really isn’t that long back. We are shy!”

That’s too cute! :DDDD Indeed, a tranquil narrative true to the spirit of the shop–life, forest, light, nature.

But it’s OK, whatever PR they are too shy to do, I’d have part of the honour of doing for them via this post!! ^-^ That’s an honour 🙂

Anyway I bought a ring from Heidi:

The ring looks like this. So magical, somehow! You can use it as a scarf ring too! I named it: “Rachz”. I don’t know why, but the dark and azure blue reminds me of hope.

Anyway, check out their website www.carinantarina.fi too! And here’s the shop front:

Address:

Carinantarina
Eerikinkatu 7
00100 Helsinki

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri 11-18
Sat 11-15

Like them too on facebook! ^-^
If you have any questions, feel free to email them at: carinantarina@gmail.com.

They would LOVE to hear from you! 🙂