For years there has been a great divide between startups and corporates. Many big companies had internal R&D departments and would never consider that working with, acquiring or purchasing from startups would make their business better. At the same time, startups saw corporates as giants that are hard to reach or to work with. Both were somewhat afraid to reach out.

Thankfully, the times are changing, and this year we saw a lot of activity in the Nordics and Finland specifically, where larger corporations started to notice startups and figure out ways of working with them.

One case that we are very familiar with is that of GE Healthcare Finland. Just over a year ago, we have met up with Didier Deltort, the president of GE Healthcare Finland and frankly, we were rather surprised by the meeting. Didier not only voluntarily chose to come to Finland, but was determined to change things around here.

Back then, they told us that they wanted to connect to startups and although had a vague idea about what to do, they did it the startup way. They openly said that they were looking for ideas and would take in what startups come up with. This is what we wrote about last year and this is how the GE Health Innovation Village was born.

One year since, they have 20 startup companies, brought GE Ventures to Finland for the first time ever, moved the whole organisation to agile development processes, repainted the whole office (Not just the startup part) and changed their internal practices.

As a result, they announced that they were able to recruit 46 new people and are going to hire another 50 developers right away. According to Deltort, they “..have never received these many CV’s in the past. It’s a ripple effect.”

On top of all of that, GE announced that they will be investing EUR 28.5 million into research & development of mobile and portable communication technologies in Finland. Much of which, according to Mikko Kauppinen, the man behind Health Innovation Village, was due to the buzz created by their reach-out to the startup world.

“It is about walking the talk. We have been trying to execute what we had in mind. Number one – changing the culture on the site. Number two – experimentation with startups, hosting a few and learning from them. This has now been done.” – Didier Deltort.

The process has also been extremely good for the startups. Some companies are already GE subcontractors and others have successfully used the fact that they are a part of GE Health Innovation Village to build trust, credibility and score clients. Not to mention the very affordable office space.

Here at ArcticStartup, we truly believe that corporations should work a lot more closely with startups, as it is beneficial to all parties involved. This is why we have also organised Reverse Pitching together with Hoodie Dude and involve corporates at Arctic15, where they can get involved with the startup world and investors.

The GE case is a great example, as they did what many corporations are afraid to do – they just did it. Without too much planning, without thinking of what should be “the right message”, without being afraid to say: “we are not exactly sure what we want, but we want to give it a shot”. It worked out for them on many fronts: hiring, clients, technology, innovation, etc. Deltort was also recognised as the 7th most influential person in Health sector, by Mediuutiset.

This, is what we believe many corporations should be doing and this year we saw many starting to play the game. Some for the first time, other’s building on-top of what they already had. Some just went out there and openly said that they want to work with startups but do not know how. Other’s took it the “corporate way” and put structures in place in order to reach out to startups. Whichever way it was, we think it is a good thing for everyone and we would like to bring it out.

So here is a list of interesting corporate activities that we have found in Finland (excluding venture arms):

GE Health Innovation Village – Startup space within the GE complex in Helsinki that provides office space and access to GE.

KONE API Challenge – An API challenge for the KONE smart building & people flow solutions.

KONECranes Hackathon – Konecranes also held a hackathon recently. Focusing on cranes.

Samsung Innovation Challenge – Took place in 2014, focusing on building apps for Samsung Gear. The winner was Geasy.

Nordea Innovation Challenge – Together with IBM, Nordea challenged individuals, start-ups and others to reinvent banking.

YLE Nestholma Accelerator – An accelerator for media related companies that was run together by YLE, a Finnish public broadcasting company and Nestholma accelerator. Elisa, another corporation, also was a part of the accelerator.

Sanoma Pro Enhance Edu – A project by Sanoma that aims to work with EdTech statups to make a change to education as we know it.

Reverse Pitching – An event that was organized by ArcticStartup & Hoodie Dude, where Tieto, Posti and Ericsson pitched to startups.

Did we miss one? Feel free to send us more and we will add them to the list, even if they are from the Nordics/Baltics, as we can then build another list.