The Nordics’ First Venture Builder to Breed Reindeers, Not Unicorns

Deer with beautiful big horns on a winter country road

Sure, unicorns are cool but can you imagine a herd of them roaming around here in the cold wind and snow? The Nordics are naturally suitable for strong, persistent and fuzzy creatures – like reindeers. And then some of those reindeers can eventually pursue their dream to become unicorns.

As of the beginning of July, the capital requirement of the limited liability company in Finland has been EUR 0. A new player is now striking this seam when the first Nordic Venture Builder, 52nd Ventures, starts operations.

What is a Venture Builder?

The idea of a ​​Venture Builder is to produce startups with entrepreneurs and companies. The founders of the company include Taneli Tikka, one of Finland’s best known startuppers. “I see that there is a demand for this in Finland because the world has good examples of the success of the business model. But nothing comes for free, so our goal is to build a global player right from the start – including the necessary capital to start successful growth companies.”

“The Finnish startup ecosystem has everything other than the startups” – says one of the 52nd founders, Mikko Riikkinen, who is one of the leading FinTech experts in the Nordic countries and a doctoral researcher at the University of Tampere.

“We have expertise, coworking facilities, accelerators, subsidies, investors. But if a billion euros invested did not generate more than eighteen startups exceeding 10M EUR in revenue, then perhaps it is high time to try something new” – Riikkinen continues.

Now, more than ever, Finland needs new startups to support economic growth. Keeping experts in Finland is also challenging.

“Finnish talent is constantly flowing abroad, so I want to show myself that there can be another direction,” said Stefano Mosconi, one of 52nd co-founders, native Italian and former co-founder & CTO of Jolla mobile phones.

“Finland is a fantastic place to live, society pays a lot of attention to work-life balance and there are plenty of growth opportunities for young talent. Especially for entrepreneurs” continues Mosconi, “the country is already trying to address talent shortage with programs like Talent Boost, an ever growing international exposure of events like Slush and Arctic15 and a stronger networking between international Angel Networks – and it also has one of the most active angel networks locally.”

“What needs to be done more is to streamline the process of creating and scaling global companies. If we are able to show that Finland can become a launchpad and growth engine for future entrepreneurs we believe we can attract more people here. Also having one of our partners, Mikko, commuting back and forth from Berlin and knowing very well the environment there, is a key element of our strategy.”

Mikko Riikkinen, Taneli Tikka, Stefano Mosconi

Learnings from Germany

The Venture Builder model is also known as startup studio or startup factory. Similar to gaming studios, the idea is to develop a process that can test and scale ideas quickly and efficiently. After that, either Venture Builder itself or its partners invest money in the established company and it begins to live its own life.

The systematic model is common in other parts of the world, including Germany. “One of the best-known venture builders is probably Rocket Internet, which has built big companies like Zalando. Our model differs from other Venture Builders in two ways; firstly, the co-founders are offered a fair share of the pot in addition to their fair share. So even if their own start fails, the success of a fellow will benefit everyone. Second difference is that we do not waste resources on poorly performing startups for too long, but are able to transfer the founders, learnings and resources to the next project within 52nd” – Mosconi comments.

“We don’t really search for startups within a certain industry, instead, together with entrepreneurs and partners we build brand new companies using Lean Startup methodologies. Rather than having entrepreneurs that start from scratch and follow a dream of success we base our decisions on data and the more companies we start the more data we will have. The more data, the more efficient we will be in recognizing which startups are going to have bigger chances of success” – says Rikkinen.

A large fund at sight

At the moment, 52nd is in talks with a number of investors and partners. The long-term goal is to raise its own fund which will then secure the seed funding for all founded ventures.

“In order to truly talk about the Finnish unicorns of the future (startup with over 1 billion valuation), we must first have tens of startups with 10+ M EUR revenue. We call these “reindeer” since reindeers are not that unique but at least real. However, reindeers need herding which means capital and the support of the whole community to challenge the rest of the world” – Riikkinen smiles.

“52nd wants to create a systematic way how to build global scale startups from the Nordics. This understanding provides new opportunities to the community of entrepreneurs, corporations and investors. Our soft launch has created a nice buzz and the partnership discussions are ongoing at the moment. We will publish them as soon as all the details are hammered with each partner.” – he adds.

The founders see that Venture Builder is the best way to bring impact to the startup industry in Finland and the best time to start is right now.

“We want to create a culture of testing and collegial learning to build startups that Supercell has succeeded in doing for games. This requires not only large financial resources but also a large community of experts. We believe that in Finland we have the opportunity to both, and that foreign investors and experts can complement good starting points” – comments Taneli Tikka.