In Finland, we think he’s a fool who thinks he’s better than everyone else, disrespects the rules and is probably Finnish-Swedish.
Entrepreneurs are the same. They are opportunists and idealists. In its original French, the word means: somebody who will attempt to create something.
On one hand it’s a risky, lonely and difficult endeavor. But on the other hand, it’s thrilling, challenging and potentially offers great returns (value, jobs). I believe we Europeans, and especially in Finland, spend too much time focusing on the former and not enough on the latter.
This country has its share of negativity. We’re often happy to complain about our bureaucrats and consultants, lack of experience and money, the failures, the taxes, the weather and the suicide rate. The culture here promotes equality, so we defend ourselves when we try to differ. In an “I told you so” mindset, we’re happy to point out the others who tried and failed.
It is a telling thing that the most commented stories on this blog are about the failures of Fruugo, Nokia, and our tax system.
Yes, people fail. So what?
Even the best do: Google has failed with Wave and Buzz, Apple with the Apple TV and the iPhone 4 antenna, Facebook with Beacon and privacy. But this is not what we remember and praise them for.
I have no lesson to give to Finns about determination. But just as you can’t raise children without ever encouraging them, we need to inspire people and give them hope if we want great things to happen.
We have to recognize success.
I salute our public funding organizations, particularly Tekes and Tuli for fostering young innovation, Sulake for restructuring, Muxlim for receiving a prize from the president, Audiodraft on their media coverage, Arcticstartup for creating a blog scene in the country, many local startups on their recent rounds of funding, the local scene for becoming more international and pushing to the Baltics, the media for their increased interest. We must recognize success, not only when it fits our agendas, and not just when it’s a big thing.
We need to educate young people.
Tell them about how rewarding it is to have your first prototype, your first users and paying people, your first failure, funding round, conference and maybe even exit.
I thank the entrepreneurship societies in Helsinki, Tampere, Turku and soon Oulu, as well as the coaches at programs such as Bootcamp, Summer of Startups and Garage48 in Estonia, for telling the new blood that it’s doable and giving them an environment to experience this.
We must discuss with the media and our politicians on these matters.
Explain them why it’s important to focus on small and medium size companies, rather than emulating the next Nokia. Talk about success stories of startups and the amounts of value that can be created. Tell them about the changes that are happening right under their noses.
The deficit of the Finnish budget for next year is 8Bn euros. I say that’s only 2 Skypes or 8 MySQLs. As Tom Keller said: “One thing that is wrong with the Finnish startup ecosystem: that people think that there is something wrong with it.”