One of the first general Finnish startup accelerators is opening its doors in Kotka, in South-east Finland in January.
The LevelUp accelerator is taking in applications until December 6, as it seeks to take in 5-8 teams for the 15-week programme which starts on Jan 23.
Kotka, a one-hour drive from Helsinki, offers an interesting mix of local skills: it hosts the largest export harbour of Finland, there is a number of fast-growing gaming firms and a lot of forestry skills in the area. One of the classic mills in Summa, next to Kotka, has become a central hub for Google, which has invested some 350 million euros in
turning the mill into high-tech data centre.
“We used to produce paper for writing the data on, now there is one of the largest data centres of Google in Europe,” said Heidi Sjögren, Head of Programme at LevelUp. “Whatever industry the startup is from we can find them mentors from their field,” she said.
The main organisation behind LevelUp, Kotka-Hamina Regional Development Company Cursor has run several international programmes for students and future entrepreneurs. It has teamed up with Courage Ventures, Pöyry, and Osuuspankki to launch the accelerator.
LevelUp does not make investments into the startups, and hence does not take equity stakes in the teams – lowering the threshold to apply.
Kotka is located between Helsinki and Saint Petersburg, only some 60 kilometres from the border of Russia – making it an ideal hub for Russian teams or for teams searching to tap the Russian market.
“We have a lot of collaboration networks in place in Saint Petersburg area,” Sjögren said.