Sisu. A Finnish concept which does not have a direct translation in any other language. According to Emilia Lahti, who has been researching the concept, Sisu is “extraordinary courage and determination in the face of adversity.” Even though there is no such word in any other languages, the countries which share a common history and a similar culture have the same concept in one way or another. That is what makes Nordics so special in aiming high and achieving the extraordinary.

Sisu refers to overcoming the difficulties and having the determination to find solutions even though they are against the odds. It is no surprise that this concept is very similar to the entrepreneurship spirit. The rise of Nordic startups has several reasons, but it comes mostly from the centuries-old collective mindset.

If you look closely at the Nordic startup ecosystem, you can see all sorts of collective activities such as; events, co-working spaces and conferences with very open, reachable actors. Collectivism and the “giving back” culture in the ecosystem empowers the entrepreneurs and inspires many people to take risks in their lives to start something new; this is also partly because failure is seen as an opportunity. Workplace culture and flat hierarchies in organizations encourage people to concretize their ideas. According to “Report: The Impact of Nordic Founders” by the Nordic Web and Founders, “for every Nordic startup that raises $10 million+, 3 new companies will be born from”. It creates a competitive advantage in the global state due to the reputation, know-how, and experience. Successful stories also inspire next generations to adopt entrepreneurial mindsets and perpetuate this tradition.

Sisu is also a part of entrepreneurs’ personal journey. Sometimes entrepreneurs face certain problems in their personal lives which make them work on later to help other people with the same issues.

Startups like Coachilla, which enables people to solve problems with the right mentorship, or Superlaiffi, which help people manage their lives better with community support are good examples of that. In both cases, the entrepreneurs started with their own problems in life. Many of them are also craving to solve issues with disruptive innovations. Their motivation is rarely about just money. They are driven by the purpose of creating something novel which makes it highly personal and passionate.

The Nordic startup ecosystem is unique in many ways. The cultural and historical background of the region makes people act and share collectively while keeping personal goals and passions at a very high level.

by Alkan Hazal

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