Over the past few years, the GSD team has ventured to all corners of the globe, both physically and digitally, and has added 72 talented companies to our portfolio. They hail from 36 countries, with 40% minority-led/from an emerging market and 16% women founded. Continuing our #GoGlobal tour, we recently landed in Finland in search of bold, resilient entrepreneurs building the next unicorn.
Some may be asking, “Why Finland”?
Finland is a verified hub for technology, responsible for innovations like Linux, text messaging, Nokia, and Angry Birds. In 2020, Finland startups raised close to a billion Euros, which is the highest amount of EU funding relative to GDP in Europe. And in case you missed it — every year, Finland hosts the largest founder-centric startup conference in Europe called Slush.
Finland has the talent and experience to use Silicon Valley as a Bridge to the World.
Though Finland has its own language, many citizens speak fluent English, helping founders to find global/English-speaking customers. Additionally, (though some may be too young to remember) Finland-founded Nokia was the largest cell phone company in the world and the Nokia/Finnish engineering pool has educated an entire second generation of engineers. To me, the Finnish culture combines the discipline of Germans with the flexibility of the English mixed with Silicon Valley ambition- a deadly combination that can truly put a dent in the universe. It was amazing to see.
Finland’s Intriguing History
The independent country known today as Finland has a long and intriguing history. Finland belonged to the kingdom of Sweden starting in the 13th century. In 1809 the Finnish War, between the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Sweden, forced the area now known as Finland to become part of the Russian Empire. Just over 100 years ago, on December 6, 1917, Finland officially declared independence from Russia.
The secret to Finland’s success can be found in the resilience of the Finnish people, deriving from its unique ability to combine boldness with flexibility in dealing with its much larger and unpredictable neighbor for over a century. As a result, they were the only country to stand up to Russia and become independent.
GSD Supports Startup Growth In Finland
During my trip, we hosted a GSD Event in Helsinki at Löyly with several Finnish startups, some of which are up and coming GSD portfolio companies. We discussed the hacks, hustles, and tricks that we have deployed to help young companies #GoGlobal. You can see more pictures here.
Choicely is a no-code app-building company and GSD portfolio company based in Helsinki, currently raising $3M. The Choicely no-code app development platform allows companies to build apps in a fraction of the time and cost, increasing customer loyalty, engagement, and retention. Already achieving an $800K ARR in 2021, a 4.7% increase from 2020, the future of Choicely is promising.
The Choicely team has deep roots in native app development, and they are the successful pioneers of no-code mobile app technology development in Northern Europe. Co-founder Heikki Rotko is the former CEO of MTV3, Finland’s largest broadcaster, and former CEO of Satama Interactive. He grew from 0 to 450 global employees and IPO’ed just one day before the downfall of tech stocks.
AISpotter creates automated video highlights for the sports industry. The AISpotter technology pinpoints the most important parts of any recorded and even simultaneous live-streamed videos, from any camera, with any setup, making production-ready highlights available instantly. The result is better decision-making, delighted fans, and future predictions. Anri Kivimaki is the proud founder of AI Spottr, combining passion in sports and AI in a unique way. With a $150K run-rate in 2021 and 75% margins, this Finland-based startup is raising $600K.
DeskMe is another promising startup we met with at the GSD event with a unique and viable business model. DeskMe helps companies capitalize on empty desks and office space, offering hybrid, flexible work solutions for remote workers. A lucrative and timely solution to the remote working lifestyle, DeskMe allows remote workers to sign up and pay for a desk anywhere they are, on the go. They already have over 50 businesses in Finland with hotdesking and meeting room options.
Partnerships, Partnerships, Partnerships
A GSD trip would not be complete without collaborations and partnerships with entrepreneurial organizations and local change-makers to make an impact on the ground. We are excited about many partnerships made and thrilled to announce our partnership with local fintech company Calqulate. Calqulate is on a mission to become the single source of a startup's financial data and will provide GSD portfolio companies the financial resources they need to #GoGlobal.
GSD will combine efforts with Calqulate and their global fintech integrations with such companies as Stripe, Gusto, Xero, and more.
GSD is also pleased to announce the addition of our latest partner Thomas “TJ” Jackson. Although American-born, he is a long-time Helsinki resident dialed into local startups and resources and will help GSD local, bold, resilient entrepreneurs get ready to #GoGlobal.
GSD Labs & Finland Fund
We will continue to invest time and effort in Finland and hope to return soon. My trip further solidifies our belief in GSD’s thesis: that there is nothing magical in the water in San Francisco. If you get out of the bubble of Silicon Valley, you can find exceptional talent and companies all over the world. While there are many initiatives to support founders in Finland, we believe our accelerator GSD Labs can add value, giving founders the opportunity to #GoGlobal. Additionally, we are establishing a Nordic-specific fund, just as we started in Nigeria, to raise money for the most promising ventures in Finland. More to come! Stay tuned.
“By investing in deep-tech innovations that are already establishing roots throughout the country, our mission to build bridges for global startups will continue in Finland.” - Derek Distenfield