DFJ Esprit's Scott Sage Shares his Thoughts on Finland, the Nordics

    DFJ Esprit recently promoted Scott Sage to Partner, giving us a good opportunity to get in touch with him. We haven’t covered too much DFJ Esprit news, but they’re a larger global VC firm with about 30 offices around the world with $7 billion in funds under management. In the last three years, DFJ’s exits have generated more than $2.3 billion.

    DFJ Espirit’s two investments in Finland include Tampere-based M-Files and Helsinki’s Bitbar, but Sage tells us he’s got his eye on the scene in Copenhagen and Malmö as well.

    “I don’t know what it is about the Nordics, but they tend to be more creative and bold. It feels more like America where you feel free to explore things that interest you and mesh up with friends that interest you. But they still have a Nordic execution mode.”

    When asked about sectors he finds interesting in the Nordics, Sage mentions that mobile payments are fascinating at the moment, pointing to how companies like Starbucks have moved a significant volume of purchases to mobile.

    Education technology is also another sector he has his eye on, saying he’s totally baffled why the next Coursera or Codeacademy isn’t coming out of Finland, given Finland’s top-ranking education prowess.

    The future of the European startup scene is looking positive to Sage as well, after successful companies like Supercell and Rovio start more spinoffs. “It’s the beginning of Europe having multiple startup hubs. Which means in Europe, not just one billion company a year, but multiple one billion companies.”

    Sage tells us that once he was on a flight to Helsinki, and was looking at the map on the screen on the seat in front of him. “You know how it pans out to the 100 mile, 500 mile, and then world map. When we got closer to Helsinki it was weird, because I noticed Helsinki sits in the center of the modern world, right between the US and Asia.

    “It was interesting seeing Helsinki sitting in the middle there, sitting in this precipice above Europe. I wonder how many more modern tech companies will be located there – sets of executives can fly to both places. It’s geographically well positioned to build the next Billion dollar company,” says Sage, pointing out how Rovio is one of the first european tech companies to really nail their China expansion.

    You can follow Scott Sage on Twitter at @scott_sage