Finland's Kymenlaakso region continues to develop its startup ecosystem forward

    *Ship the Startup Festival, arranged on July 23th, is one of the new startup events in Finland

    *Ship the Startup Festival, arranged for the first time in Kotka this July, gathered together young entrepreneurs from student societies’ summer accelerators from Helsinki, Turku, Lappeenranta, Kotka and Kouvola.

    The event aiming to make Finland’s Kymenlaakso region more visible in a global scale had in total 200 participants and 10 mentors from all around the world, tells the Startup Ecosystem Developer Antti Viitanen from Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences.

    “Ship was a great kick-off event for new startups and also a great place to network. As we’re going to arrange the event also next year, it’s a great continuum for the growing startup buzz in the region,” says Viitanen and adds that this year the event was invite-only but next year they’ll make it open for anyone to participate.

    Viitanen says the Kymenlaakso region’s startup ecosystem is developing constantly as it has been grown around independent actors supporting local entrepreneurship, such as Cursor and Kouvola Innovation, as well as the University’s Patteri Entrepreneurship Society. Also governmental supporters such as the local ELY-centre and Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, have had a major role in strengthening Kymenlaakso’s ecosystem.

    Viitanen describes that especially in Kotka, the startup scene is growing constantly especially among logistics, ICT and gaming. The city has one of the biggest export and transshipment port in Finland, which makes it logistically an interesting spot.

    “Kotka is a smaller city an hour drive away from Helsinki, which means it’s close but still far enough. Our region’s strengths are great transportation connections, cheaper living costs and less competition of the regional support funding, which is tempting especially to new startups,” Viitanen estimates and tells that even Germany’s leading games developer network Remote Control Productions is starting its operations in the city to help in accelerating new gaming companies of the region.

    Connecting, learning and growing

    *Ship was the newest addition to region’s startup events, but the work around developing the startup ecosystem and entrepreneurial opportunities in Kymenlaakso has just began, says Viitanen.

    “We want to make Kymenlaakso a great place for startups to grow and develop – And as we have been doing a lot to reach that goal already in a really short time span, we can see that the competition is growing. This was already seen in our University of Applied Sciences summer education for this year as there were many applicants from universities outside our region too,” says Viitanen and emphasises that both the local and global cooperation are important for region’s development.

    Next significant international event for the region’s actors is this Autumn, when Patteri Student Entrepreneurship Society travels to Cambridge with a group of representatives from Finnish Accelerators to get new ideas and to share their experiences.

    *Ship, the cruise to entrepreneurship, will continue to stay as one of the main yearly events for keeping up the connections between different actors also in international level – But Viitanen says that there’s still a lot to do at the region. Nevertheless, one thing has become clear for him while working inside the Kymenlaakso startup scene.

    “We have a very positive mindset towards entrepreneurship in the region. It’s not only the university students, but already in the secondary school and high-school the students are encouraged to develop their entrepreneurial skills.”

    “And as Kymenlaakso region has been traditionally focused on manufacturing business of big companies. Now when those operations are closing it’s important that we have entrepreneurial education to support them and help them aim high with their ambitions,” Viitanen continues.