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I interviewed Mr Pekka Roine last week about the initiative, that we’ve written here, to take Finnish startups to Israel to learn their secrets of success. Mr Roine has been sitting in numerous company boards both in Finland and in Israel. He also has an understanding of the differences between these two countries many would crave for.

I personally wondered why the initiative was put forward by individuals such as Mr Roine, Mr Juha Ruohonen and Greater Helsinki Promotion and not the members of parliament. After discussing for a good half an hour I understood why.

To understand the backgrounds of this exchange, one must understand Israel and what they have gone through in the last 15 years or so. Israel is one of the leading incubators and accelerators of startups in the high tech industry. During the last 15 years, Israel has “sent” more than 100 companies to Nasdaq. They also have a very systematic way of doing this and it does not rely on assumptions such as the “connections between the jews in Israel and America” or any nonsense of that sort.

However, the story goes further back. In 2004, an event was organised in Finland, followig the signing of an Agreement of Understanding between the two countries on the government level. The agreement creates the framework to work together to increase the chances of cross border co-operation and eventually, success. Needless to say such an agreement did not work very well.

In May 2006, Erkki Virtanen, the permanent secretary of TEM, together with a delegation of business and government executives visited Israel to further deepen the understanding. After the visit the understanding and keys to success began to unfold.

February this year, the chairman of the Israeli Venture Association was over for a visit in Finland and invited Finnish companies over. The visit is timed in sync with the IVA’s annual conference which gathers a lot of people from many areas of business.

The goal of the visit for the Finnish delegation this time is three fold; 1) there are lots of Israeli startups and knowledge to be shared, 2) Israeli investors are present and 3) many international investors are at the event as well.

When the program for the visit was announced in February, Greater Helsinki Promotion received applications from about 20 companies. Seven have been considered qualified for the visit. The companies travelling to Israel are Ball-it.com, Concilio Networks, Eniram, EpiCrystals, Ramblas Digital, SenseG, and Whatamap.

These seven companies will visit Israel in two weeks time. IVA’s conference is held on the 19th and 20th of May. After the conference the Finnish startups will have a chance to pitch to some Israeli startups and investors and get feedback from them, perhaps land an investment deal as well.

The program is primarily funded through sponsorship from Greater Helsinki Promotion and Technopolis Ventures BornGlobal, but there is a lot of work put in place pro bono.

Arctic Startup will be following the event very closely and we’ll be reporting on the outcome of the conference later in May.

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