Government Backed Accelerators Chosen – March On Finland!

    vigoVigo, a Finnish government run program to strengthen the currently rather dismal foundation of Finnish risk capital ecosystem and to create international venture accelerators and investors in Finland (see our previous story here), has come to an end and now it’s time to see what we got. And it does not look that bad at all.

    In total, three venture accelerators where chosen by the steering board, which was lead by Mr. Risto Siilasmaa, Chairman, founder and former Chief Executive Officer of F-Secure Corporation, Member of the Board at Nokia and a prominent business angel among other things. It seems that the Vigo steering board was looking into finding teams to cover various different industries and compliment each other instead of creating competition into the Finnish venture capital scene. They seems to have found three such ‘mutually exclusive’ teams to fit the bill, namely Lifeline Ventures, Lots and Veturi Venture Accelerator. Here’s a short description of each in turn.

    The first accelator that got chosen is Lifeline Ventures. Lifeline Ventures is run by three serial entrepreneurs “co-creating growth companies in life sciences information technology and telecommunications area.” The accelerator proudly claims on their website that they have lifeline ventures

    • built four life sciences and telecoms companies to global market leaders,
    • raised in excess of €100 million in venture capital and angel investor funding,
    • built the best-performing venture-funded life sciences IT company in Finland, and
    • worked in all the startup CxO roles in Europe, the US and Asia.

    The team is headed by Jarkko Joki-Tokola who has a strong experience of building and running technology start-ups. Lifeline Ventures will disclose more about their team and company in September 2009,

    The second accelator, Lots, or Love of Technology Strategy, focuses on “commercializing media technology products and services. For example gaming, graphics technology, user interfaces, and all digital content creation are media technologies.” The background of Lots is no less impressive than that of Lifeline Ventures: It was founded by the core team of Hybrid Graphics Ltd, the Finnish pioneer in computer graphics technology. Lots is headed by Ville Miettinen, Harri Holopainen and Panu Wilska. Lost has probably the most experience out of the three as it had been ‘accelerating’ growth companies already for year and a half.

    Last, but not least, is Veturi Growth Partners. Veturi is a “venture accelerator that helps entrepreneurs turn innovative ideas into growth businesses. Veturi focuses on innovation-based B2B ICT or ICT enabled growth businesses.” Just as Lots, Veturi is already busy at work with young entrepreneurs. Veturi, run by Moaffak Ahmed and Jussi Harvela, has especially strong ties with the new Finnish Aalto University and aims to help out many of the young guns coming out of the university to test their wings in start up life. If all goes as well, I’m personally hoping to see the Aalto university drop out rate in hockey stick rise in a couple years.

    I heard that performance of these accelerators will be measured ‘surprisingly closely’ as a member of one of the chosen teams told me. To him, and to us, this comes as a positive surprise. This tells something about the emphasis and attention the program is getting within the government. The program will run in total of six years (3+3).

    All this might not look that extraordinary in Silicon Valley, but is quite impressive for coming from Finland and can potentially make a big dent in what kind of companies this small Northern beacon of light will be producing in years to come. Even if the startups have a great team, amazing product and a curve jumping technology, it many times takes a great investors to understand the context and help the startup to navigate in the right direction or create the right market. This happened with Google and Michael Moritz of Sequ0ia and it surely happens again. Even in Finland.

    Effectively all of these accelerators have the fast lane to much of the funding that Finnish government has put out there be it through Tekes or Finnvera. So it really is one of those ‘million dollar’ opportunities for Finnish entrepreneurs. Literally!

    Congrats to all three new startup engines! March on Finland!