Earlier in June AaltoES organised a highly inspiring week full of events that hopefully sparked numerous other discussions elsewhere on the status of entrepreneurship in Finland (the event being focused on Finland and taking fully place in Finland). Founder's Week, as it was titled, saw four world class entrepreneurs debate and promote entrepreneurship in numerous panels of which I had the privilege to moderate one.
The panel discussion was titled around "Making Helsinki the startup hub of Europe". We touched on numerous topics during the debate, but almost all points came down to the fact that most issues related to successful entrepreneurship are related to the incredible people who build the companies.
Most of Silicon Valley's best companies have been built by immigrants. Even though the US visa approval process was stated horrendous by all panelists over and over, people still want to overcome it to have their chance at changing the world and financial independence.
No European country enjoys similar pull and interest towards them, compared to Silicon Valley. Still, our immigration laws are sometimes hard to understand when we really should be investing in those incredible people in wanting to settle down in our country.
Coincidentally The Economist ran a couple of great stories on immigration challenges entrepreneurs face in a few different countries. While Silicon Valley is commonly acknowledged as the startup Mecca of the world, United States has some of the toughest immigration laws for entrepreneurs looking to setup shop in their country.
In a table shown in the Economist's article comparing the requirements for visas granted for immigrating entrepreneurs, it is clear that Chile (of the four countries in the study) has the most favorable conditions for new immigrating entrepreneurs. Chile does not require any amount of capital while the government actually invests $40 000 to the new company in granting the entrepreneur a one year visa to have their go at it.
Singapore requires $40 000 in capital while Britain requires $77 000 and Ireland, considered the most corporate tax friendly country in Europe, wants new entrepreneurs to have $95 000 in the bank before granting a visa.
All of these policies have been put in place in 2008 or after (Singapore being the first mover, which is explained by their proactive approach to wealth creation).
We have covered some of these issues in the past and while Finland's immigration policies don't require a lot of capital in the bank, it is highly cautious of business ventures by foreigners. Visas for immigrating entrepreneurs are basically decided in the same manner that some Finnish organisations decide on entrepreneurial grants for Finnish entrepreneurs.
Why not just require a certain amount of money (or better yet, support the companies of the most talented serial entrepreneurs with an government grant that takes no equity) and let the markets decide if the business works or not. So instead of going through governmental organisations and letting them decide if a business plan is worthy or not of a visa, give the entrepreneur a chance to try.
While being just one issue to solve, visas given for economic reasons can be the real game changers of any society that understands the true value of those incredible people. They are not crooks coming to drain resources and capital away from the country - they are the ones that build the infrastructure to run a welfare state.
If all those businesses fail, at least we would have a hub of serial entrepreneurs, who have built their lives in the region, looking to work with exciting new ideas. Isn't that as close to a startup hub as it comes?
Maybe we should start letting the entrepreneurs in.
Image by skinnylawyer.